Religious Transformations in Iran: The Growing Influence of Christianity

Farrukh Saif

September 25, 2023


A senior Iranian cleric has expressed concern about the declining attendance at mosques in Iran. He revealed that approximately 50,000 out of the country’s 75,000 mosques are currently closed. This trend indicates a decreasing interest among Iranians in participating in religious activities.

Mosque Attendance Decline:

Mohammad Abolghassem Doulabi, who acts as the link between Ebrahim Raisi’s administration and the country’s seminaries, shared his regret regarding the drop in the number of worshippers. He stressed that these statistics are troubling for a nation founded on Islamic principles.

Doulabi, a member of the Assembly of Experts, a group with the power to appoint the Supreme Leader, highlighted how the practice of religion in Iran has caused many people to distance themselves from religious beliefs. He emphasized the diminishing religiosity within society, which, in turn, weakens the legitimacy of a government relying on religious doctrine for governance.

He stated, “When people evaluate the results of religious practices, they decide whether to embrace or abandon religion.” Several factors contribute to this shift, including “the mistreatment of individuals in the name of religion,” “misinterpretation of religious principles and teachings,” and “the imposition of hardship and poverty in the name of religion.”

These remarks come at a time when an increasing number of Iranians, spanning various age groups, are becoming disillusioned with the regime’s use of Islam to justify its authoritarian rule. This sentiment has been particularly evident through months of protests, beginning in September, following the tragic death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of morality police—an incident that started with her arrest for not adhering to hijab regulations.

The Islamic Revolution of 1979:

In 1979, Iran underwent a dramatic political and cultural shift that led to the establishment of an Islamic Republic. Before this transformation, Iran was ruled by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was perceived as a Western-backed authoritarian monarch. Dissatisfaction with the Shah’s regime, seen as corrupt and oppressive, had been simmering for years.

The pivotal moment came with the Iranian Revolution, which began in earnest in 1978. Widespread protests, driven by a diverse coalition of groups including students, intellectuals, religious leaders, and workers, demanded an end to the Shah’s rule and the establishment of a more just and religiously oriented government.

The revolution culminated in early 1979 when the Shah was forced into exile. Following his departure, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a prominent Shia cleric who had been living in exile in France, returned to Iran and assumed a leadership role in the revolution. Khomeini advocated for the establishment of an Islamic Republic based on the principles of Sharia law.

On April 1, 1979, in a national referendum, Iranians voted overwhelmingly in favor of transforming their country into an Islamic Republic. This marked the formal adoption of a system of government based on Islamic principles and Sharia law. Subsequently, a new constitution was drafted, and Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was appointed.

The adoption of Sharia law in Iran significantly impacted various aspects of society, including the legal system, education, and social norms. It brought about changes in family law, criminal law, and the overall governance structure, with religious authorities playing a central role in decision-making.

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Iran has maintained its status as an Islamic Republic with Sharia law at its core. However, it’s important to note that interpretations of Sharia law and its implementation have evolved over time and can vary within different segments of Iranian society.

Christianity’s Rise:

Christianity has been steadily growing in Iran in recent years, signifying a significant religious shift in a predominantly Muslim country. While most Iranians still identify as Muslims. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of Iranians converting to Christianity, especially among the younger generation.

Several factors contribute to the growth of Christianity in Iran:

  • Spiritual Exploration: Many Iranians, particularly young adults, are on a spiritual journey and are open to exploring different religious beliefs. Some are drawn to Christianity as they seek answers to life’s questions and a deeper connection with God.
  • Easy Access to Information: The digital age has made it easier for Iranians to access information about different faiths and belief systems. Online resources and social media platforms allow Iranians to learn more about Christianity and connect with Christian communities.
  • Dissatisfaction with Islam: Some Iranians have grown disenchanted with the practice of Islam in their country. Citing concerns about government interference in religious matters and a desire for greater religious freedom. This dissatisfaction has led some to explore alternative faiths, including Christianity.
  • Christian Missions: Christian organizations, both inside and outside of Iran, are actively involved in missionary work and outreach efforts. They provide resources, support, and a sense of community for Iranians interested in Christianity.
  • Underground Worship: Due to the sensitive nature of religious conversion in Iran. Many new Christians gather in underground or house churches to worship and study the Bible. These small, close-knit communities provide a safe space for worship and fellowship.
  • Media and Outreach: Christian satellite television channels and radio broadcasts in Farsi have reached a wide audience in Iran. Allowing Iranians to learn about Christianity in the privacy of their homes.

While the exact number of Iranian Christians is difficult to determine due to the secretive nature of conversions, estimates suggest that the Christian community in Iran is growing steadily. This growth has not been without challenges, as religious conversion can face opposition from family members and authorities. Nevertheless, the growth of Christianity in Iran reflects ongoing religious diversity and exploration within the country. Even in the face of societal and political pressures.

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Farrukh Saif

Farrukh H. Saif, a courageous Christian human rights activist, established the Farrukh Saif Foundation in 2009 to confront religious discrimination, blasphemy laws, and bonded slavery in Pakistan. His dedication to liberating bonded laborers from brick kilns and advocating for blasphemy victims and asylum seekers has garnered international acclaim. Despite encountering threats and fatwas, his impactful work persists in supporting marginalized communities. In 2018, the foundation merged with The Emergency Committee to Save the Persecuted and Enslaved, enhancing its global outreach.


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