Iran (Islamic Republic of)
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a theocratic Shiite republic where Muslims are 99 percent of the population and Christians less than half of 1 percent. Religious freedom for those not Shiite Muslims has been crushed even though the constitution guarantees such freedom. Christians may not proselytize, and anyone defecting from Islam may be punished by death. All foreign missionaries were expelled shortly after the governmental overthrow in 1979. About 50 percent of the population is under the age of 25. Farsi (Persian) is the official language. The Islamic revolution that removed the Shah has not delivered all it promised coupled with eight years of war with Iraq have contributed to economic recession in this nation where the majority lives in poverty. Discrimination in jobs, housing and education is a daily reality to all who are not Muslims. Christian bookstores, conferences, camps, printing of Christian literature or church newsletters and the production of Christian videos are banned. Persecution is so severe that it is difficult to estimate how many secret believers may worship there. An estimated 5 million have fled this nation seeking refuge elsewhere, but there remain more than 68 million people living in this land between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf.