Cross on Simon the Zealot Church in Shiraz. Iran (World Watch Monitor)
Simon the Zealot Church in Shiraz, Iran (World Watch Monitor)

A church in the UK has survived closure because of attendance by a growing number of asylum seekers from a Muslim background, reports the BBC.

In the past two years 324 asylum-seekers have been baptised at Tredegarville Baptist Church in Cardiff, the capital of Wales. Now 95 per cent of the congregation are immigrants

“Tredegarville would have closed but for this opportunity to join the Lord in his work of reaching these people,” Phylip Rees, the church’s leader, said.

The majority baptised at the church are Iranian. Daniel*, 31, fled to the UK after the authorities in Iran discovered him attending a  secret “house church”, meeting in a private home.

“If I went back, the authorities would arrest me. They would put me in jail and I would be killed, I would be hanged,” he said.

In 2016, a UK church leader described the growing number of Muslim refugees seeking conversion to Christianity as a “microcosm of what is happening across churches in Europe”.

Last year, over a dozen Christians – most of them converts to Christianity – were given prison sentences of between 10 and 15 years for “acting against national security”. Among them were three men, Amin Afshar Naderi, Hadi Asgari and church leader Victor Bet Tamraz, whose appeal hearing was due to take place yesterday (4 February), but was postponed. Bet Tamraz’s wife, Shamiram Isavi Khabizeh, and their son, Ramil, have been similarly charged by the state. Isavi Khabizeh was given a five-year prison sentence in January.

The Church in Iran is under “constant threat” and, in the last couple of years, the persecution of Christian converts has “intensified”, according to Michael Bosch, an analyst at Christian charity Open Doors.

However, while persecution of Iranian Christians is “severe”, Iran slipped down the rankings of the Open Doors 2018 World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian. Bosch explained why this could be misleading: “There are a couple of reasons. The situation for Christians in other countries has worsened, in other countries Christians have been killed (this has not been the case in Iran), and Iran remains a state under the rule of law and without the visible presence of violent extremists groups.”

*Not his real name