An interview is conducted in this regard with Mr. Shahram Nikoo, an Iranian Christian and the spokesman and manager of the Iranian Church in Europe.
Q- Do you have any evidence to show that the acceptance of Christianity is growing in Iran?
Yes, the wave of acceptance of Christianity in Iran is increasing on a daily basis. We know this from Christian television networks which are being broadcast through satellite signals and also the feedback people give from inside Iran regarding these programs. It's also obvious from the view rates on our websites. All these factors show that many people in Iran are interested in committing their lives to Jesus Christ.
Q- How do you evangelize these groups of people? Do you do it freely or in a secret way?
We do nothing in secret and everything is completely open. All evangelical television programs are accessible through satellite channels and/or internet. Praise the Lord that today we are living in a world which gives us the opportunity to communicate with people around us. Of course the people themselves are eager to discover the gospel and study it. Some other people also come to the faith through dreams and visions.
Q- Is the internet the only way to support the people who want to know about Christianity or are there also books and other literature available for this purpose?
No, there are no Christian books or literature available in Iran. The only resources available to the people who want to know about Christianity are the internet and satellite television.
Q- Are the websites active in this field being subjected to filtering?
Of course they are being blocked. but there are also ways to overcome the filtering.
Q-Geographically, are there any areas in Iran in which more people convert to Christianity?
There are more people coming to Christ from the religious cities like Qom and Mashhad in comparison to other cities.
Q- Are the people who believe in Christ only from the Shi'ite Muslim background or are there people from other backgrounds as well?
At this time there are people from various religious backgrounds who have converted to Christianity including Baha'is, Sunni Muslims, Zoroastrians and so on.
Q-It's being said that the security authorities of Iran have undertaken contradictory behaviors towards Christians who have been arrested. In a statement recently published by some Human Rights organizations it's explained that when they arrest someone, one of the first things they do is to make a false financial or moral allegation against the arrested person and then tell the individual that if you repent and return to Islam then all your crimes will be pardoned. Please speak about the treatment of arrested Christians at the time of their arrest.
I'm not living inside and I've never faced this issue closely but the reports that I have heard confirm your words. Unfortunately, inappropriate behaviors are being used against Iranian Christians, especially those who have an Islamic background. It's really surprising that the Islamic Republic is pressuring Christian converts to this extent. These people really have nothing to do with politics and they're not trying to change the regime. These people have just changed into different and better people. It's so puzzling why a regime is trying to persecute its own people rather than encouraging them.
We have people who were addicted to drugs before they believed in Jesus and now that they've accepted him as their Savior, their lives have been totally changed. Now they are sharing their faith with other addicts around them and encouraging them to give up drugs. There were situations in which couples were losing their family life and after believing in Jesus they were both living happily together and had started a new life in their Lord.
What's the problem if people who had a ruined life change their lives and share this better life with others?
Q-Generally, what are the main problems that Christian prisoners face after their release?
During the past seven or eight years I've met with some Christians who had been jailed for their faith. The main problem they had was with their landlords. When the landlords realized that they were arrested for being Christians he/she would force them to vacate their house. Also, in their workplace they faced problems with their employers who fired them from their job because of being jailed for their faith. Actually, the Christian prisoners in Iran lose their right to have a house or a job and as a result they have a really difficult life. The attitude of society toward them would change and they'd be considered as criminals among their community.
Q- Do you mean that people reject them or is this from the authorities?
People reject these Christians as a result of fear of the authorities. It's kind of an indirect pressure from the authorities.
Q-What kind of sentences do the judicial authorities issue for Christian prisoners? What is their crime?
Mostly, Christians who are arrested get released after signing a commitment to not evangelize and paying a prescribed amount of bail. But I've heard that these people are subjected to various other pressures for converting to Christianity.