Iran is approximately 99 percent Muslim – at least 90 percent of the population follow Shia Islam, the state religion, and 5-10 percent are Sunni. Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism are officially afforded a protected status, but the Baha’i religion is not recognised by the government. Proselytising by any non-Muslim group is punishable by death.
While Armenian and Assyrian churches are tolerated, they are tightly controlled. Other congregations may see their services raided and their members arrested; since 2010, more than 550 believers have been imprisoned. Churches are banned from serving those from Muslim backgrounds. Amazingly, many are coming to faith in Iran, and a growing network of underground churches meets secretly.
Iran, known internationally as Persia until 1935, was once the seat of the Persian empire, one of the most powerful empires of the ancient world. Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion until the area was invaded by Islamic armies in the 6th and 7th centuries.
In 1979, decades of rule by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi were ended by the Iranian Revolution, which installed a conservative Islamic regime led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The same theocratic constitution remains in place today, although relations with the West have improved in recent years.
More than 40 percent of Iranians are under 25, and this young population is crippled by a lack of opportunity. Many seek work overseas. Others turn to drugs; because of its proximity to Afghanistan’s poppy fields, Iran has one of the world’s highest rates of opiate addiction. The country is also home to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan refugees, and reports of human trafficking have increased in recent years.
Farsi, Azeri Turkic, Kurdish, Gilaki and Mazandarani, Luri, Balochi, Arabic
- Pray that Iran’s human rights record will be improved and for justice for those imprisoned on religious grounds.
- Pray for encouragement and protection for the country’s Christians.
- Pray for those struggling to make ends meet and that Iranians who are gripped by addiction and depression will find freedom in Christ.