(International Christian Concern) – Iran is gripped within the most challenging crisis since its inception 41 years ago. The consequences of COVID-19 are profound. Iran is the epicenter of the virus in the Middle East. Within the country, the authorities and civilians alike are equal before the virus. It has created a crisis of government. Fissures between the authorities have deeply widened over their pandemic response, and citizens are plunged into deeper despair through the government’s mismanagement.
Caught in the middle of this environment are Iran’s Christians. Though the country is quarantined, Christians are no strangers to stay-at-home orders. The regime bars the public practice of their faith, forcing Iranian Christians to worship secretly in their homes. They already understand what it means to experience social isolation and have church denied to them. Because of Iran’s insistence at jailing Christians, they already know what confinement means.
But COVID-19 is also something different, a new experience. The pandemic means that Iran’s government lacks the resources to continue persecution in the same way as before. Indeed, the Judiciary issued an order stating that “any unnecessary summoning or arresting of persons shall be avoided.” Some Christians have been furloughed from jail. Others told there is no need to complete their sentence, all because of the virus. In some ways, it is a pause from persecution.