Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Christians Running in Place


Following Monday’s Beacon about the energy of American Protestantism and the Catholic response, here’s a Los Angeles Times piece on how Protestant Persians in Sunnyvale, Calif. are reaching out to their brethren and sistren in Iran:

Spreading Christianity is the mission of the Iranian Christian Church, which has affiliated with three other congregations in Northern California that primarily serve former Muslims.

The churches, which have a combined membership of about 450, produce six hours of Farsi-language Christian programming Mondays through Fridays in a television studio under the same roof as the Iranian Christian Church. Those broadcasts, as well as the Sunnyvale church's Sunday service, are transmitted by satellite to Iran and other parts of the Middle East.

The weekday program, "Mohabat TV," instructs viewers in such things as how to find the Bible on the Internet and recommends studying Scripture for at least a year before starting a home church by sharing the faith with a spouse, then children, then relatives — all in secret.

Does the ICC want Iranian converts to flee West, where they’d be safe and free to practice their faith? Not quite:

[Pastor Kamil] Navai hopes that the new converts will influence other Muslims.

"We're not in the business of bringing people from Iran to the United States," he said. "Iran needs these new Christians. We teach them to start home churches and to be leaders."

Unfortunately, conversion to Christianity is a capital offense for Iranian Muslims in Iran, and one interviewee was stabbed in the stomach after his acceptance of Christ became known. This doesn’t seem to deter worshippers at the Iranian Christian Church, however:

The high-tech evangelical Christian service is aimed at worshipers in Sunnyvale, with few reminders that it also is intended to gain converts abroad. But once during the service, two huge video screens at the front of the church displayed a map of Iran overlaid with a cross.

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