The following report looks at the history and quality of Imam Khamenei’s communications and visits with Iranian Christians. The presence of the followers of different divine religions - including Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism - living together in Iran alongside the Muslim majority is a sign showing that the Islamic government pays attention to the rights of citizens of religious minorities. Meanwhile, the affectionate, sincere relationship Imam Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, has with the followers of other religions, including the Christian minority, is a well-known fact. In his messages, Imam Khamenei usually congratulates the Christians of the world, especially his Iranian compatriots, on the anniversary of the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him) and the Christian New Year. He uses this opportunity to speak about some of the characteristics of that esteemed prophet. For example, he has said, “Jesus Christ had the ability to perform miracles and he brought a divine message for humanity that saved them from the darkness of polytheism, atheism, ignorance, and oppression. This message guided them toward justice, knowledge, and worshiping God. He never stopped fighting evil and calling people to piety throughout his life. And this is the lesson that all Christians and Muslims who believe in the prophethood of Jesus Christ should learn. Humanity is in need of these teachings today more than ever before. Islam completes Christianity and has made inviting human beings to goodness, righteousness and moral perfection to be of high importance in its program.” (Jan. 3, 1994)
Elsewhere in his messages, Imam Khamenei has also mentioned Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) as being a chosen prophet of God. He calls on Christians and Muslims throughout the world to act upon this prophet’s great lesson of “supporting the truth” and “expressing one’s hatred toward the powers working against the truth” in their daily lives. Imam Khamenei has interpreted Prophet Jesus’ message to peoples as follows, “Jesus Christ called on people to follow the path of God, which is the path leading to human beings’ prosperity. He warned people against pursuing carnal desires and undermining their spiritual purity by engaging in evil deeds and oppressing others. The corrupt, aggressive powers, which are dependent on wealth and power, persecuted that divine prophet and insulted him. They even tried to take his life. When God saved Jesus Christ in His own embrace, these powers inflicted years of horrible torture on the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. They were trying to put an end to the teachings of Jesus Christ, which were in opposition to corruption, oppression, polytheism, warmongering, deceiving people, and pursuing carnal desires.” (Jan. 2, 1995)
The Leader of the Islamic Revolution has stated the reason why the oppressive, arrogant powers at the time of Prophet Jesus showed enmity toward Jesus and Christianity, “Those corrupt, oppressive powers who pursued carnal desires, started wars and deceived the people could not tolerate the existence of a divine religion, God’s prophet and those who followed the path of God. Today also, such powers do not tolerate the servants of God, the followers of the divine religions and those seeking the truth.” (Jan. 2, 1995)
In explaining the mission of Jesus Christ (pbuh), Imam Khamenei did not confine himself to the time of that great, divine prophet. He believes the situation in today's world in terms of the confrontation between truth and falsehood and the need to be committed to the truth, to advocate it and to oppose falsehood are similar to the time of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). One of the Leader’s good memories, which he has referred to on a number of occasions, is visiting the homes of the Armenian and Assyrian martyrs in Iran and expressing his appreciation for the things they have done. These visits, which were common before the outbreak of the inauspicious Coronavirus, were carried out on the occasion of the anniversary of the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him). The Leader has said, “I was fortunately able to visit the homes of a number of Armenian martyrs. I have seen that they are committed to their country. They have truly been committed. I remember how during the time of the war a number of Armenian Christians went to Ahwaz. I saw a number of people sitting inside the airport. I asked, "Who are these people?" I was told, "They are Armenians. They are going to the front lines to help in industrial matters. They are going to render services." The Armenians are skilled in industrial and technical matters. The late Chamran used to bring them to help with the work. They toiled, rendered services and worked, and some of them were martyred.” (Jan. 26, 2015)
In citing another of his memories on January 26, 2014, Imam Khamenei spoke of the enthusiasm shown by the son of an Armenian family who was a soldier and was being dispatched to the frontlines during the Sacred Defense. Speaking of the martyrdom of that soldier, he asked government officials to reflect the behavior of the Islamic Republic toward religious minorities to the world, “You should reflect - outside the country - the actions that the Islamic Republic takes in this regard. People and the world of Christianity should know that in our Islamic country, there is tolerance and respect for non-Muslims. This is while such tolerance does not exist in the Christian world. You have often heard in western countries such as Germany that the neo-Nazi youth - they are proud of being Nazis and they have called themselves "neo-Nazis" - attack Muslims and their mosques. They brutally kill Muslims and they are not seriously pursued. We have not heard of them being pursued. Another example is how they kill a young Arab woman who is wearing a scarf or a veil because of her Islamic covering and no one arrests them. The same is true in other places. The same crimes are unfortunately being committed in America and other places and countries. And yet they claim to support human rights! They should compare these incidents with what is happening in Iran. Such acts are unheard of in Iran. During the Islamic period and during the Islamic Republic, the harassment of non-Muslims by Muslims is unheard of. Even those Hezbollahi youth who are very zealous and enthusiastic would not allow themselves to attack a non-Muslim.” (Jan. 26, 2014)
In the viewpoint of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, the friendly relationship that exists between different religions in the country – including the Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians – is a very important matter. He has stated that the people’s good response to the anti-Iranian propaganda spread by the enemies is a source of pride, “When the enemies have tried to spread propaganda against the Islamic Republic in a sly manner, the Jewish citizens publish statements. In other cases, Armenians or other religious minorities have issued statements and they have defended and expressed their support for the Islamic Republic. This is a source of honor for the Islamic Republic.” (July 9, 2000)
The stories of the visits of Imam Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, with the families of the Armenian and Assyrian martyrs in Iran have been published in the book Christ on the Night of Power. In its 351 pages, this book narrates eyewitness accounts of the sincere, exemplary behavior of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and his empathy for the families of the martyrs in the Imposed War. It speaks of the patriotism and sacrifice shown by the Christian martyrs. In this book, we read, “The Armenians in Tehran live in specific areas and planning to visit three families who live in close proximity is not a difficult task. Two or three ordinary cars start driving from the Leader’s Office toward Damavand Street without any formality or commotion. No road is blocked and everything is normal. The car in which the Leader is riding moves forward alongside hundreds of other cars and stops at several traffic lights until it reaches its destination. The first house he visits is the house of Martyr Vigan Karaptian. The car parks very close to the door so that Imam Khamenei may enter the house without attracting any attention.”
In addition to his visits with Christian families, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution has met with the Representatives of Christian compatriots in the Islamic Consultative Assembly and also with a number of the Archbishops of Iranian churches on a number of occasions (Source: IRNA).