LAKE FOREST, CA (CR) — Norm Nelson, President of Compassion Radio, returned recently from an important “assessment trip” to Iran. On the way home, he stopped in Marrakesh, Morocco, where he did an interview and was hosted by staff personnel at Marrakesh Regional Radio, a government-owned station in Morocco’s most famous city.
In Iran, Norm visited the cities of Tehran, Yazd, Shiraz and Isfahan and was able to make contact with Christians in two of the major cities. In one of those cities, he was told, the Christian population has decreased by 1,000 in the past two years – from 5,000 to 4,000. The reason given for the decrease was immigration out of Iran, due to pressures applied by the current regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This decrease in the Christian population is happening in other cities as well
Note: In the Iranian political system, President Ahmadinejad’s power is secondary to that exercised by the unelected cleric, Supreme Leader Khamenei and his Council of Guardians.
According to Norm, this exodus of Christians from Iran is cause for concern, and resembles the Christian population reduction presently taking place in Israel’s Palestinian Territories and in Iraq. “Christians have been present in Persia since the earliest days of the Christian movement,” he said. “It is tragic to see the reduction of the Christian presence in Iran. They have been a faithful witness to the Gospel for centuries.”
At the same time, there are also many conversions to Christ taking place in Iran of the type described in the New Testament – conversions growing out of spiritual encounters through experiences such as dreams and visions. As Norm comments, “It is difficult to quantify this sort of conversion growth in Iran. But it is happening, and it is significant!”
Norm also conferred privately with several young Iranian scientists and journalists, spent time with Muslim clerics at the Khan Theological College in Shiraz, had a surprisingly friendly meeting with members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, and conducted an interview with a university instructor on the controversial issue of Iran’s development of Nuclear Power.
Norm’s conclusion: “Iran is a breakthrough country. But precipitous military action by the U.S. against Iran could derail that very positive people’s movement in our direction. We need to exercise patience and political maturity in relation to Iran. And, most of all, we need to pray for Iran. God is at work there.”
On previous trips to Iran, Norm has done post-earthquake relief work both in the southern city of Bam, and in the northern Mazandaran Province; and participated in Christian/Muslim Interreligious Dialogue held at Tehran’s Institute for Political and International Studies.
In the coming weeks, Norm, and his wife, Cher, will be making their third trip to North Korea. The visit rounds out a travel itinerary over the past 12 months that touches all three countries labeled by President George Bush as the “Axis of Evil” – Iraq, Iran and North Korea, a designation that Norm and Cher reject. They prefer to see these strategic countries as the “Axis of Opportunity.”