By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent for the Assist News Service (www.assistnews.net)
IRAN (ANS – Dec. 29, 2017) — Because converting away from Islam is illegal in Iran, house churches meet in secret and Christmas is an “inner celebration” that takes place in people’s hearts, explains Mojtaba Hosseini, who became a Christian as an adult.
In a report by World Watch Monitor (www.worldwatchmonitor.org) he remembers one year when he and other members of their small congregation decorated the house and shared some food together.
But they made sure the decorations were not Christmas-themed. “If police carried out a raid – which often happens at that time of year – we could say we were celebrating a birthday.”
In February, 2012 the police raided his house church meeting and later that year he and another member were sentenced to 44 months in prison.
Mojtaba was found guilty of ‘disrupting national security’ and ‘propaganda against the regime,’ which related not only to his leading a house church, but also to evangelism and contact with Christians outside Iran. After three years he was released from Shiraz prison on parole.
“Christmas had always been an inside celebration for me, so inside the prison I could celebrate it just the same. I would feel the joy of liberation in my heart,” which, he said, the government “is never, ever able to quench” despite separation from his family, interrogations he endured, uncertainty about the future, and sharing in a cell with “men who had committed the most terrible crimes.” Iranian leaders have been relaying their customary Christmas goodwill messages, but behind the tweets and statements the regime in Tehran continues to be accused of persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.
Watch a YouTube video of Mojtaba here: https://youtu.be/g8R_pjejGO4
Over recent days, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has posted several tweets relating to the birth of Jesus Christ – some including an underlying political message about undefined “oppression” and “arrogant powers.”
“The birth of Jesus marked the birth of mercy & blessings in world for people drowning in darkness, ignorance, corruption, deprivation & discrimination, due to domination of arrogant powers & pressures of degrading systems. Jesus’ message was to save humanity from all this …” Khamenei tweeted to the 413,000-plus followers of his English-language account.
In another tweet he said, “The sufferings that the divine Prophet Jesus endured were all on the path of fighting oppressors and the corrupt. It is expected that his followers and all those who admire him follow his model.”
In a message reproduced on an official website on Christmas Day, Khamenei also made a political point, evidently aimed at the United States and its support for Israel: “Today, some of those who claim to follow this great divine messenger act like the very Pharaohs and tyrants that Prophet Jesus Christ was up against.”
Photo captions: 1) View World Watch List here: www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list . 2) Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Photo: Office of the Supreme Leader). 3) Michael Ireland of ASSIST New Service.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister, and an award-winning local cable-TV program host/producer who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. You may follow Michael on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MichaelIrelandMediaMissionary , and on Twitter at @Michael_ASSIST. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael
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