Iran (MNN) – This month marks 39 years since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. At the time of the revolution, Iran was at the height of its glory. The country had a strong economy, decent international policies, and sat in the position of being a power player with OPEC. In fact, Iran had a lot of say in pricing oil barrels for the market.
With that said, it was a major shock to the country when the revolution broke out. Yet, many Iranians embraced the revolution, believing change would be a good thing for their country. But that hopeful belief soon turned to feelings of hurt and betrayal.
Since then, and despite its diverse communities, Islam has become more prominent in Iranian society. Heart4Iran’s Mike Ansari, Director of Operations for Mohabat TV, shares:
A mural in the holy city of Qom depicts Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution on the left. Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader of Iran, on the right. (Photo/Caption Courtesy of David Stanley via Flicker https://flic.kr/p/ez3Q3N)
“Many Iranians believe that a religion limits their truest spirituality. And labels their esoteric experiences as heresy and as occult.”
The weaving of Islam into the very fabrics of Iran’s society and government since 1979 has negatively impacted the country’s freedom of religion. Iran is currently ranked number 10 on the *World Watch List.
In November 2009, Ansari explains, the U.N. Human Rights Council outlined Iran’s diverse and religious communities. Yet, Iranian courts seem influenced by conservative Islamic clerics, like Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In 1989, Khamenei succeeded Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who is known as the father of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Khomeini believed apostasy, in this case abandoning the Islamic religion, was a crime which should be punished by death.
“In the last few years most extrajudicial killings in Iran have been slowly replaced with arbitrary arrests and detention,” Ansari explains. “Most of the arrested individuals are coerced to divulge information about their house church activities and those of their friends under the threat of criminal persecution, or even arrest of family members. So, extended detentions without formal charge, trial, or sentencing are extremely common in Iran.”
Yet, these restrictions don’t mean Iranians have stopped coming to Christ. In fact, Ansari says after the revolution a lot of Iranians felt like Islam was bankrupt. But in 1981 there was a global distribution of the Jesus Film in the Farsi language. This along with other events helped open doors for Iranians to question Islam and seek truth in the Gospel.
“Frustrated and hopeless, many Iranians gravitated to the simple message of love through Jesus,” Ansari says.
(Photo courtesy of Heart 4 Iran)
And while the culture in Iran today makes it hard for people to turn to Christianity, the country has seen a surge in new believers coming from an Islamic background. Yet, these same Christians have become the most isolated in Iran. Why? Because they’re essentially left without direction. It’s very difficult for Christian believers to be discipled and learn about their new faith. Still, they’re seeking answers.
“They try to get fed and learn about their new faith through media, through social media, through the internet, through satellite TV in particular,” Ansari shares. “The atmosphere in Iran, the persecution has created a very unsafe atmosphere where the average Christian does not feel safe to go outside and talk about their faith or start looking for a Bible.”
Since these believers, despite the pressures from both inside and outside of their country, are looking for answers through the media — that’s exactly where Heart4Iran is trying to meet them and be a catalyst for Christian faith and growth.
The ministry receives about 600-700 contacts from Iranians asking about Jesus every day. Ansari shares about 90 of those contacts make a decision to follow Christ.
So please, know that God is at work in Iran and that the Gospel is on the move despite persecution and hardships. And pray for solidarity among these Christians and their leaders.
Pray for the persecuted Christians both inside and outside of Iran to remain strong in their faith in Christ.
*Open Doors USA’s World Watch List ranks the top 50 countries in the world where Christian persecution is most severe.