Iran: ‘a Church without martyrs would be like a tree without fruit’
Archbishop Ramzi Garmou of Tehran, the president of the Iranian bishops’ conference, spoke with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the situation of Christians in Iran. A native of Kurdistan, Iraq, the archbishop has been living in Iran since 1976 and is head of the numerically small but very ancient Iranian Chaldean Church.
Are Christians in Iran particularly discriminated against?
Archbishop Ramzi Garmou: They are forbidden to occupy certain posts, such as school directors for example, but the historical Christian communities are generally well integrated within Iranian society. Our roots go down a long way! The Chaldean community, which is at present reduced to a tiny flock of some 4000 souls, dates back to apostolic times.
But just look back at our history! Christians have known persecution ever since the earliest times, under the Persian Sassanid empire, right up to the seventh century. The Gospel corresponds to the deepest aspirations of man, but its proclamation is accompanied by persecutions. And that has been the case ever since the time of the first Pentecost and it will be so until the end of the Church’s pilgrimage on earth. A Church without martyrs would be like a tree without fruit.
But do you not fear quite simply the disappearance of the Christians of Iran?
Of course, it goes without saying that the mass exodus of Christians, and in particular of our young people and our most active members, is a cause of concern for us.
Can Muslims convert to Christianity in Iran?
This is an extremely delicate question for us. And we should point out at the outset that conversions to Christianity are largely the work of evangelical Protestants. As for us, we are under close surveillance.
It sometimes happens that a Muslim wishes to join us, but they face serious harassment, first of all from their own families, and then from the regime.
To give you an example, we have two seminarians who have both spent time in prison, precisely because they are both converts.
Continue to the whole interview here