Qasem Soleimani Assassination: Impact on Iranian Christians

Iran’s government has been heading down a troubled path for many years. In this third post, I consider what we may expect spiritually in Iran in the coming months.

The Iranian government is between a rock and a hard place. It has too many multifaceted problems and is fighting too many unwinnable wars. Besides their internal problems, now they must respond to Trump’s action and threats. These issues impact how the government will treat Christians and how the people will respond to the gospel message. 

Funeral of Qasem Soleimani, Tehran, Iran on 6 January 2020.

Funeral of Qasem Soleimani, Tehran, Iran on 6 January 2020.
Photo: Maryam Kamyab and Mohammad Mohsenifar
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

The Islamic Regime’s Problems

  1. Bad economy. The economy is bad because of sanctions, poor decisions, and weak economic infrastructures. Iran can solve none of it. A lack of financial resources will continue to pressure the government. They have been reducing subsidies. If they become unable to pay salaries to government employees and especially the revolutionary guards, the whole government will implode. Even if they suddenly want to shore up the economy’s foundation, they cannot because the system is not designed for such corrective action. So the economy is an unsolvable problem for them. 

  2. Corrupt government. Corruption is so rampant that it has become an integral part of how the government governs. The US$150 billion that they received under Obama’s administration sped up corruption in Iran. Many people in power wanted a piece of that pie. Those who want to eradicate corruption cannot do it because the top clergy and their families are the major players in it. So corruption is another unsolvable problem for them. 

  3. Oppositional population. The people are against them. They came on the streets to protest the economy, and they faced bullets. As a result, their hatred of the government and even Islam itself has increased. The regime reportedly killed over 1,500 people within the past two months. They have not allowed the families of the dead to gather and mourn, and they arrested those who tried. That means the parents of some of those who were killed are now in jail because they publicly mourned the loss of their son or daughter. The government has lost the people’s heart, and there is no way to gain it back.

  4. Military Threat. Now they have President Trump threatening them with action. It started with the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, but Trump made it very clear that he is ready for more. They have no solution for that. If they do nothing, they look weak. For 40 years, they have lied to the people of Iran, telling them that Iran is a superpower. Now they are in danger of being found out and losing respect and credibility. This threat may give people hope that their government is not as strong as it claims and that it could be toppled. If so, this hope will encourage them to continue their protests and oppositions. 

The Spiritual Impact

  1. More salvations. I predict that in the next six months, we will have an accelerated number of Iranian Muslims who will come to Christ. This expectation is not new. We saw a similar occurrence ten years ago. During the Green Movement in 2009, the government killed, raped, and tortured many people. The government’s brutality unmasked the true face of Islam to many: a heartless religion that devalues human life. Because of what they saw, many people who were undecided about Islam beforehand became sure that Islam is not the way. Thus, they became open to the message of the gospel. Even some fanatic Muslims—people who were sold out to Islam and opposed Christianity just a few months prior—came to Christ. How do we know? Because they contacted us and shared their stories. Likewise, we expect that in the next six months, we will see a surge in salvations among those who used to be devoted Muslims—even among the clergy and government officials!

  2. Fewer persecutions—temporarily. Because the government has too many problems to fight, for the next few months they will not focus on destroying Christianity as they have when they have had the money and time. If their negotiations prove successful, however, and they can bring back a more normal situation to Iran, then they will start a new wave of Christian persecution. 

  3. More intense persecution. They will arrest fewer people, but they will act harshly toward them—that is, long jail terms and even execution. They will want to make an example out of the few they arrest to put fear in the hearts of other Christians and stop them from evangelizing, fellowshiping with other Christians, or connecting to organizations outside Iran such as Iran Alive. As Christianity grows and the government feels more out of control, it will intensify the persecution. 

  4. Greater opportunity for Christians to be salt and light. As the darkness grows, the light can have more impact because it has the power to destroy the darkness. Light in the midst of the darkness is easily seen and very attractive. So this is the time for Christians to be different. In the midst of the nation’s desperation and hopelessness, Christians can bring the hope of Christ. 

On our channel, we encourage Christians to behave differently than their culture expects. We ask them not to be afraid, not to lose hope, but to continue in faith, to love others, and to share their faith with others. We tell them that no matter what happens, even if there is a war, God will still be with them and stay faithful to His promises. We tell them, “Continue to show Christ to the people around you in your actions and talk because no matter what, you know that you are the winners. Iran will eventually be a Christian nation according to Jeremiah 49:38.”

These are critical times. What happens in Iran will impact the Middle East, and what happens in the Middle East will impact the world. Let’s be awake and alert. Let’s see where God is working and join him. 

What Can We Do?

Let’s listen to God more than we listen to the news. When we listen to the news, we will be reactionary—reacting to what has happened—that is, reacting to what Satan has done. But when we listen to God, we will be proactive. If we listen to the news more than God, then we will always be a few steps behind Satan because we must first hear what he is doing and then try to stop him. But when we listen to God first, we stay several steps ahead of Satan. God wants us to be proactive and be several steps ahead—not behind—what Satan is doing. God wants us to listen to him more than we listen to the news. 

Know the will of God and do it. This is the time to act. I have felt a great urgency in my soul the past few months that we should act and act now. With what we see happening in Iran now, I know that feeling of urgency was and is from the Lord. The time is short, and the days are evil. We must be wise and not fools. We must know the will of God and then do it (Eph. 5:15–17). Before us is a historic opportunity to make Iran the first Islamic nation that turns to Christ. We know it will surely happen because He promised it (Jer. 49:38), but we also know that He wants to accomplish His will through us. Let’s join together to do His will and make history in Iran and the Middle East. 

General Soleimani Assassinated—Now What?

The new year began with an event that will change the future of Iran. In this second post, I consider what we may expect politically in the coming months.

Iran has lost one of its top leaders. General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Quds Army, was more powerful and influential than Iran’s President Rouhani. The people and the Iranian government are on the opposite side of almost every issue, but regarding Soleimani, they both loved and respected him.  

Senior commanders of the Islamic Republic of Iran's armed forces, including General Qasem Soleimani, met with Ayatollah Khamenei on April 11, 2016. Source: http://english.khameini.ir, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Senior commanders of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s armed forces, including General Qasem Soleimani, met with Ayatollah Khamenei on April 11, 2016. Source: http://english.khameini.ir, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Despite President Trump warning that the United States will quickly strike back, “perhaps in a disproportionate manner,” if Iran strikes any American person or target, Ayatollah Khamenei and Iran’s military leaders vowed to take revenge. They responded Tuesday by firing 22 ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq.

What will the Islamic Republic of Iran do now? What will happen? Will they continue to fight back? If they do, the U.S. may attack and they will lose a lot; if not, they will look weak and full of hot air. 

There are three possibilities: moving to full-fledged war, responding with a limited conflict, or private negotiation. 

Full-Fledged War?

In my opinion, this option is very unlikely because:

  1. The Islamic government knows a war with the United States will end its regime. This government is in trouble—big trouble. The economy is bad, and sanctions are making it worse; the nation has risen against the government; the people are turning away from Islam to become secular agnostics or Christians. This regime has no popularity either inside or outside the country. 

    In the past two months, not only have Iranian cities demonstrated against the Iranian government but so have cities in Lebanon and Iraq. The people of Iraq want Iran out of their country. Iraqis are happy about the assassination of Soleimani but do not show it on the streets because of fear. Many were killed a few weeks ago demonstrating against Iran’s intervention in Iraq. 
  1. The Islamic government does not have many options unless it already has a nuclear bomb. If so, they will detonate one in the center of Iran’s desert to let the world, and especially Trump, know that they cannot be pushed around anymore. If they do have the bomb, they probably will not use it except to threaten, bully, and impose their will in the Middle East and the world. 
  1. If they have no nuclear bomb, Iran’s options are VERY limited. Trump threatened that he has already identified Iranian targets to hit if Iran acts against U.S. citizens or property. They understand Trump may do it, and even his own congress cannot stop him. 

    Iran knows that without a bomb, they have practically no protection from a U.S. attack. Therefore, after the assassination, they declared that they will fully pursue making the bomb. A possible shortcut for them is to purchase a bomb from North Korea and detonate it in a desert to pretend that they have successfully built it themselves and that they can build more. 

Limited Conflict

As already seen through Iran’s initial ballistic missile response, this option is likely.

  1. Khamenei and the Iranian government will want never to appear weak. Honor and shame are controlling values in the Middle East, especially among the leaders. So to show that they are not taken aback by the assassination and that Trump’s threats mean nothing to them, they have to do something even if through other organizations. Tuesday’s ballistic missile attack seems to be just such an action. Khamenei said he had dealt the United States a “slap in the face” while the foreign minister announced that the nation had “concluded proportionate measures” in its retaliation. 

    This attack—perhaps intentionally—had no casualties. It brought honor to the Iranian government, showing its own people and the world that they are not afraid of the U.S. and that they will retaliate. But with no casualties, they felt safe from U.S. payback. It is interesting that the Iranian media is presenting the attack as a point of strength. They are saying, “Nobody since Vietnam has attacked U.S. bases, but we did. And Trump did not have the guts to retaliate.” 
  1. Iran’s government must also maintain deniability. Iran may follow up by attacking U.S. embassies around the world, attacking U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf, or killing some American citizens around the world—even in the U.S.—just out of pride to show that they are not defeated. Of course, they will do these things through proxy terrorist organizations whose support is not traceable to Iran. For their own protection, they want to be able to say, “We did not do it; those who support us and hate the U.S. did it on their own.”

Negotiation?

This option is most likely, but it will not be a public negotiation.

  1. Because of Trump’s multifaceted strategy, I believe the Islamic Republic of Iran has no choice but to negotiate. They know that if they misbehave, Trump will attack their oil facilities, which will wipe them out completely since their only source of survival income is oil. 
  2. Iran cannot support or survive a war. They will not want to enter a war with the United States because they know their army cannot carry on that fight for more than a few days. More importantly, they know their own people will not support that war. The American population wants to avoid war because of its cost—both in money and lives; the Islamic regime wants to avoid a war with the U.S. too, but for them, the motivation is even higher—their survival. 
  3. Negotiation will happen in secret. Iran will be forced to negotiate, but public negotiation would admit weakness. The importance of honor and saving face will prohibit public terms. So after limited terrorist action around the world through their proxy agents, they will start negotiating with the United States secretly without either side mentioning it publicly.
  1. Negotiation is not the same as appeasement. Critics might say, “But that is what Obama did, negotiating with Iran.” President Obama’s policy invigorated the regime. Obama wanted the treaty more than they wanted it. Obama wanted to evade war more than they wanted to avoid it. Therefore, Obama came to the negotiation table from a very weak position. 

    The Iranian government celebrated after the nuclear deal with Obama was signed because they got so much with little cost. They received US$150 billion in cash, the removal of sanctions, freedom to sell oil in the world market, and permission to have business relationships with Europe and other countries, all for just a promise that they would delay building a bomb until 2025! They used that money to expand their influence in the Middle East, finance terrorism around the world, and yes, build the bomb—but in new, underground facilities hidden in the middle of large cities. They were allowed to buy arms from Russia and build up their military, including developing intercontinental ballistic missiles able to deliver nuclear warheads to Israel, Europe, and soon, to the United States. 

    It seems that Trump has a better understanding of the Islamic-Iranian culture. An appeasement policy never works against a bully. It encourages them to continue that behavior. You must stand firm against bullies. Even the Bible tells us, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Islam’s mandate in the Quran is to rule the world by war and violence with neither compromise nor negotiation. Islamic regimes will never negotiate by choice but only when they have no other way out. 

The good news is that the Lord is faithful to His promise in Jeremiah 49:38. We know that sooner or later there will be a horrible war in Iran according to Jeremiah 49:34–37. Let’s pray that this war will be delayed so that more Iranian Muslims will have a chance to hear the gospel before being killed. 

Iran as a nation has rejected Islam and is open to the gospel. Let’s do our part to share the good news with Muslims and disciple them to become agents of transformation after they get saved. Through our broadcasts and our training school, we are doing just that. Will you join us?


In my final post for this series, I write about the impact of these current events on Iranian Christians.

Did you miss part 1 that explained Qasem Soleimani’s role and popularity in Iran? Find it here.

Who Was Qasem Soleimani—a Terrorist or a Hero?

A lot is happening and will happen in Iran and the Middle East in 2020. The assassination of Qasem Soleimani has started a chain reaction that will change the future of Iran. These changes will probably affect the whole Middle East and even the world. 

The Iranian government has vowed to take revenge. In response, President Trump has warned that he is ready to take action and destroy 52 already identified sites in Iran if there is any attack on American lives or properties. Many predict a full-fledged war will happen soon.

General Qasem Soleimani on 1 October 2019.
Source: khameini.ir. Photo cropped and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Who Was Soleimani?

Who was Qasem Soleimani? Outside Iran, he was known as a terrorist, but inside, he was a hero. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians mourned in the streets after his death because many people loved and admired him. This is why:

He was in charge of the Quds Army, the international arm of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He executed Iran’s policy in the region and internationally. In the region, under Soleimani, Iran became a major force determining the future of countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. We know Iran is the top financier of terrorism around the world. It was Soleimani who was trusted with that budget, and he was effective in using the money to fight wars with proxy armies and produce terrorism through proxy organizations. 

He was the number two man in Iran. He was a close ally and friend of Ayatollah Khamenei for over 40 years. Khamenei has trusted none of the other IRGC leaders, fearing that if they become powerful and united, they may turn against him. So he has frequently changed the senior leadership of IRGC with one exception: Soleimani. Khamenei trusted him very much.

He was a national hero. For years, the media in Iran, controlled by the Islamic government, had depicted and promoted Soleimani as a national hero. Due to that propaganda influence, the people believe the following: 

  • He was the hero who protected Iran from an invasion and attack by ISIS. State-controlled media caused the people to believe that without the general, ISIS would have attacked and even taken over Iran.
  • He single-handedly defeated ISIS. The people believe that Trump undeservedly took the credit for Soleimani’s work of defeating ISIS.
  • He made Iran a significant power in the Middle East and the world. Under him, Iran gained a major role in what was happening in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. We must not forget the statements made by Khomeini, Soleimani, and other high-rank Iranian officials for the last 40 years, statements that were drilled into the people’s minds through the media: “Iran under the Islamic Republic has flourished to become a major world power, so much so that even the United States is afraid of it.”
  • He took control of Iraq, which at one time was the archenemy of Iran. That means he not only protected Iran but overtook an enemy country and brought it under the control of the Islamic Republic. Because Iran has a majority Shiite population, he was able to infiltrate and then control the power factions inside Iraq and its government.
  • He is the hero who made Iran so strong that America does not dare attack it. When Iran shot down the multimillion-dollar U.S. drone last June and President Trump gave no answer—nor answered immediately to subsequent similar aggressions—the media’s take has been, “Look how strong we are. We can attack Americans, we can attack the oil ships, we can attack the oil production facilities of Saudi Arabia, we can attack the U.S. embassy in Iraq, and America does not dare to respond because we have superior power.”

As a national hero, Soleimani was more popular and loved by people than Khamenei himself. Even though the people’s hatred for their leaders has grown, Soleimani was the only official who had a good name and was loved.

What Was Soleimani’s Future?

Khamenei had plans for Soleimani’s future. The ayatollah worked hard through the media to deceive people and make Soleimani a hero because he had a long-term plan: make him the next president. Currently, no government-approved candidate for the 2021 election is positioned to bring hope—even false hope—to the hearts of the people and get them to vote. With Khamenei and the Islamic government so unpopular, Soleimani was the solution. 

The top religious leaders expected that when Soleimani became president, they could deceive and control the people for another eight years, giving them a false hope that Soleimani would curtail the power of the mullahs and make Iran’s governments more secular. A more secular rule would remove the clergy from the government but not from power. Under the guise of democracy, they would continue to rule the people.  

This deceptive plan was working. Hundreds of thousands of people publicly mourned Soleimani’s death. Few realized that Soleimani was supporting and supported by the corrupt Islamic regime. They did not realize that during the protests in 2009 and 2019, he was the one who brought Syrian soldiers to the streets of Tehran, killing Iranian youth with no mercy, and stifling both movements. Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, sent his soldiers to return a favor to Soleimani’s Quds army, which has been helping Assad for many years by slaughtering the people of Syria who opposed Assad, assuring the survival of his rule. 

By killing Soleimani, Trump not only stopped an international leader in terrorism but derailed the top clergy’s plans for their regime. It was a great personal blow to Khamenei and his future. 

Nevertheless, Khamenei is using Soleimani’s death to his advantage. He pronounced three days of national mourning that hundreds of thousands of people attended. The government organized and spent much money on a huge, prolonged national memorial. They used the love people had for Soleimani and the grief they are feeling for their own purposes:

To distract people from their daily misery. People have been protesting for two years. But in the past two months, their lives have been so miserable that their protests have been national and continual. Government forces reportedly have killed over 1,500 people and arrested over 12,000. But the protests still go on. The people have economic woes and are therefore disgusted with the government because of its corruption. Those in power have embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars for themselves and their families. The government has spent billions of dollars to advance their ambitions outside Iran but has not cared about its own people. 

To once again emphasize that the U.S. is their enemy. For survival, the Iranian government has always needed an outside enemy. For the past 40 years, enmity with the United States has served that purpose. Unlike the government, most of Iran’s people love the U.S. Therefore, the government is using this assassination to convince people that America does not have goodwill towards the people of Iran. So, they say, America must not be trusted but rather hated, and if some love the U.S., they are deceived.

To avoid complaints and protests due to war status. Although they have no actual war as yet, now they can ask people to tolerate their miserable lives because “we are fighting the U.S.” The government can sidestep demands with this war excuse.

The year 2020 will be one of many unexpected happenings—it has already started that way. But no matter what happens, we as Christians must be alert, seek the truth (and not believe everything we hear in the news), seek God’s wisdom and supernatural understanding of the events and what He is doing through them, ask Him to reveal to us His plans and what He is doing and where He is working. Then we must have the courage to step out by faith to do His will, partnering with Him to transform our lives, our families, and our nations.

My next article in this three-part series will address what we may expect next in the chain reaction that follows the assassination.

Then and Now: The Current Political Climate of Iran

Iran is the only country in the world led by Islamic clergy. Forty years ago this past February, Iran’s secular intellectual elites joined with the conservative clergy to overthrow the Western-backed monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Soon after ousting the Shah’s regime, the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared Iran an Islamic republic. The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) implemented Islam and forced its laws in every area: personal life, family and society. The people of Iran have seen theocratic Islam in action firsthand for 40 years.

What do they think now?

In this series of blogs, I discuss the current spiritual, political, social, and economic climate in Iran and why I believe Islamic rule in Iran is nearing its end.

Part 2

The Current Political Climate of Iran

After 40 years of theocratic rule, the people have changed their political thinking and behavior.

Building of the Iranian Parliament in Tehran

Celebration rallies ignored

Not many people showed up at government-sponsored rallies celebrating the 40th year of the Islamic Revolution a few weeks ago. In previous years, the government successfully forced its employees and their families to form a crowd on the streets. Then the news agencies used coverage of the crowd to proclaim that the government was popular. But this year the celebration was a disaster—even government employees and their families refused to show up.  

But this year the celebration was a disaster—even government employees and their families refused to show up.

Iran’s media said they were showing live coverage of people marching on streets supporting the government, but for the most part, they were using footage from previous years. It was rainy in the cities in the north, but the supposed live coverage showed a very nice sunny day. Even in Tehran, the media showed “live” rallies on the streets but had to mask the trees because in the previous year at this time, the trees were green (there was an early spring), but this year the winter was longer and the trees still had no leaves. This obvious attempt at deception was all over social media and a matter of laughter and discredit for the government. 

Desire for secular government

The majority of Iranians want separation of religion from politics. Iranians admire America and everything American. If they had a choice, and if there was ever a referendum, an overwhelming majority would vote for a secular government—American style. 

Secure communication breakthrough

The Green Movement in 2009, an outburst of rallies objecting to voting fraud, was organized using Twitter. So the government shut it down easily after shutting down Twitter because the people had no secure way to communicate with each other. For years, phones and the internet have been filtered and controlled; Facebook has been blocked. 

But in 2015, free and secure social media apps (such as Telegram, WhatsApp, and Viber) became available. Secure social media has revolutionized the spread of information and communication between people once again. The people ignore untrustworthy government-sponsored channels and media; they look for true information only from satellite broadcasts, the internet (using VPN), and through these apps.

 The people look for true information only from satellite broadcasts, the internet (using VPN), and secure apps.

Rejection of terrorism sponsorship

Iran has become the top financer of terrorism around the world. It is a destabilizing force in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq. The people of Iran, however, are bitterly against the IRI’s involvement in those countries saying to their government, “You care more about them and advancing your agenda than you care about your own people. We are suffering financially, and you are spending so much money advancing your agenda around the world.”

Rejection of the nuclear bomb

Development of nuclear bombs and cruise missiles has always been the top priority of the IRI. They pursue these weapons despite financial difficulties and sanctions because they believe that having them will ensure no threat from outside can topple them. They want the nuclear bomb also to bully other countries with the threat of nuclear attack. The majority of Iranians have a different view about the nuclear bomb: “We as a nation have a right to have it, but our government will abuse it.” They feel it is like giving an irresponsible child a gun. 

Rejection of enmity with America

One comment I constantly heard from the people of Iran about Obama’s nuclear deal was “Americans are so naive.” After the signing of the deal, there was a celebratory spirit in the Parliament in Iran saying, “We gained a lot without giving up much.” The deal’s intention was not to stop them from developing nuclear bombs but just to slow them down. What made them happy was that they could continue the development of nuclear weapons because the inspection of the nuclear sites had so many constraints, and the inspection of the military sites was not allowed at all. 

The government takes Trump’s warnings very seriously, however, because they know that he is a man of action. So since mid-January 2019, the IRI has been warning the people of Iran that an attack by the USA is imminent. Of course, they magnify this threat to distract the people from noticing how miserable their lives are and that the government’s policies have failed and have destroyed Iran’s economy. 

Before the 1979 revolution, Iran was a close ally of the USA and Israel. Now according to the IRI, America is the “Great Satan” and Israel is the “Little Satan.” Both must be destroyed by any means, including the nuclear option. But neither of these concepts are believed or supported by the Iranians. Even with the threat of a USA/Israel attack of Iran, many are welcoming it saying, “Please come and help us get rid of these mullahs.” 

Many are saying, “Please come and help us get rid of these mullahs.

Iranians want political change

At the time of the revolution, the people supported Khomeini and thought Islamic rule would bring relief from corruption and the western social values that were invading Iran. But they have witnessed that there is now more corruption, more injustice, more moral decay, more disintegration of the society than in the Shah’s time. 

Throughout much of the past four decades, the people believed that their efforts to make a change through voting in presidential leaders would make a difference in their country’s leadership. In the past year and a half, their eyes have opened to the truth that only a total regime change will make any difference. The regime can no longer deceive its people with a scripted political play of alternating moderate and hard-liner presidents. 

In conclusion, the Iranians are open and ready not only to a spiritual revival but also to a major political change—from a theocratic dictatorship to a secular democracy. 

Next week: the current social climate of Iran.

Then and Now: A Look at What Forty Years of Islamic Rule Has Brought to Iran

Iran is the only country in the world led by Islamic clergy. Forty years ago this past February, Iran’s secular intellectual elites joined with the conservative clergy to overthrow the Western-backed monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Both the aristocracy and clergy wanted to remove the influence of foreign nations, stabilize an economy suffering from high inflation and overspending on large modernization projects, and regain previous power roles and wealth that government corruption and the Shah’s growing oppression of dissidents had taken away from them.

Soon after ousting the Shah’s regime, the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared Iran an Islamic republic. The religious right quickly removed their secular, leftist allies from power, and enforced a return to the conservative religious and social values that the Shah had upended with his modernization program. The general populace—who had seen their country move rapidly from a conservative rural society to a modern urban and industrial one in less than a generation—welcomed the change.

Kashan, Iran: Iranian families suffer increasing inflation, unemployment, and distrust of their corrupt government. Photo: grigvovan

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) implemented Islam and forced its laws in every area: personal life, family and society. The people of Iran have seen theocratic Islam in action firsthand for 40 years.

What do they think now?

In a series of blogs over the next few weeks, I will discuss the current spiritual, political, social, and economic climate in Iran and why I believe Islamic rule in Iran is nearing its end.

Part 1

The Current Spiritual Climate of Iran

After 40 years of theocratic rule, the people have changed their spiritual thinking and behavior.

Rejection of Islam

The people of Iran have seen Islamic rule in action for 40 years. A growing number have concluded that Islam is not the answer to their problems; it is the source of their problems. They realize that if they want a better future for their country, they need to get rid of Islam and Islamic rule. 

The rejection of Islam has occurred little by little over many years, not overnight. It is not an emotional reaction to suffering and injustice but rather a thoughtful and deliberate decision. The number of people who want nothing to do with Islam grows daily. We now get reports regularly from our viewers saying such things as, “My uncle who was a devout Muslim and pro-government just one year ago now says Islam is not of God and is interested in Christianity.”

The rejection of Islam is so wide and deep that I can boldly say Iran is turning away from Islam and will never go back to it. Indeed, Islam is experiencing the greatest defeat of its history in Iran today.

“My uncle who was a devout Muslim and pro-government just one year ago now says Islam is not of God and is interested in Christianity.”

–Report from Iranian viewer

Growth of secularism

As a result of the rejection of Islam, Iranians have become attracted to secularism both politically and socially. They do not want to be religious. They want to be free, and they think that to live free means to do whatever they desire to do. Many are embracing a life of immorality, drugs, sex, and hedonism—a total reaction to the oppressive dictatorship of Islam. Since Islam was forced on them as the best religion in the world, they say, “If this was the best religion, let’s forget about the rest.” As a result, those who walk away from Islam usually do not want anything to do with any organized religion including Christianity, until we show them that Christianity is not like Islam. This is why so many have come to Christ through our satellite broadcasts.

Growth of Christianity

Currently, Christianity is more respected and valued in Iran than Islam. This attitude is amazing because Iran is still a Muslim country and almost all were born as Muslims. I just read a quote on Instagram from a Muslim addressing the clergy in Iran: “I’d rather go to hell with Christians than go to heaven with Muslims like you.” The media, and especially satellite broadcasts, have had a major role in dispersing the lies and misconceptions about Christianity such as these: Christians worship three Gods, they are blasphemers, they are drunkards and live immoral lives. According to Operation World Research, Iran has the fastest growing evangelical population in the world with 19.6 percent growth per year. 

Persecution of Christians

Persecution in Iran is a reaction of the government to the growth of Christianity. The government has, to a great extent, destroyed its opposition inside the country. They feel safely in control because they know the people of Iran are reluctant to bear arms and start a violent revolution. The only wildcard out of their control that can threaten their future is the growth of Christianity. They realize they cannot stop this growth, but they are trying to slow it by intimidating Christians so they will neither witness nor gather together. It is a campaign of intimidation and isolation. 

Spiritual freedom of the younger generation

The emerging younger generation is free from fear. They have little fear of the government. They are convinced that Islam is not of God, so they are not afraid to deny Islam. Religion is a non-issue for them. They want change but are unwilling to use violence to topple the government. They live a hopeless life not seeing any bright future for themselves. Suicide, drug addiction, and sexual immorality are rampant among the youth in Iran. The good news is that once they come to Christ and find a purpose in their lives, they boldly spread the gospel. Many are not even afraid of arrests and even death. I heard many young Christians say “I am not afraid of death because before Jesus, I was dead; indeed, He gave me life.” Another young man told me, “I am not afraid of them. They are afraid of me and my gospel message.”

The role of satellite broadcasts

Satellite broadcasts have been essential for delivering information to Iranians’ living rooms despite the government’s obsessive control of media and communication within the country. The government regulates and monitors the internet in Iran, so searching online can be very dangerous. But watching the 40 illegal but available satellite channels in the privacy of a home is not dangerous. The people of Iran get the latest news and hear the voices of government opposition 24/7 via satellite. 

Iranians watch Church 7 on live satellite broadcast.

Satellite broadcasts have been essential for delivering information to Iranians’ living rooms despite the government’s obsessive control of media and communication within the country. The government regulates and monitors the internet in Iran, so searching online can be very dangerous. But watching the 40 illegal but available satellite channels in the privacy of a home is not dangerous. The people of Iran get the latest news and hear the voices of government opposition 24/7 via satellite. 

Satellite broadcast has played a great role in evangelizing Muslims and strengthening persecuted Christians as well. There are an estimated 3 million Muslim background believers in Iran (some put a conservative estimate at 1 million and some extrapolate up to 6 million). Most have never been to a church of any kind even once. They are prisoners in their homes when it comes to worship or learning more about Jesus. The number of underground house churches and the count of people attending them are very small compared to the total number of Christians. It is estimated that only 5 percent of Christians in Iran are a part of the underground church. That is why Iran Alive’s global church and its broadcast services are so popular in Iran—it is the only church the people have available and can belong to. 

Freedom from Islam’s spiritual bondage

Spiritually, a veil has been lifted from the minds of Iranians. Muslims, in general, prohibit independent thought and questioning their faith. I have seen intelligent Muslims with PhDs freeze up when I ask them questions that require them to think independently rather than repeat answers given by an authority. In Iran, however, using reason and questioning Islam has become a norm and even a fad. Unlike Muslims in other countries, an increasing number of Iranian Muslims are looking at Islam objectively and considering other options with an open mind. 

Diminishing hatred toward the Jews

Hatred towards the Jews and Israel is diminishing gradually. First, those who come to Christ learn from the Bible to pray for Israel and that the Lord has special plans for the Jewish nation. They also learn that the Lord wants them to love all nations including the Jews. Such love is expected of true Christians, but what is unexpected is that a growing number of Muslimsare also questioning the government’s mandate to hate the Jews and wipe Israel off the map. There is such distrust toward the government that when the government sets up rallies shouting, “Death to Israel,” they say, “We don’t trust you. Tell us why we should hate Israel. What have they done to us? You are our true enemy not them.”

Iran has been approaching this turn in its spiritual climate for many years, and now, especially in this past year, it is picking up speed.

Next week: the current political climate of Iran.


Why Is Christmas the Season for Persecuting Christians in Iran?

Recently, and especially in the past two weeks, we have seen massive numbers of Christians arrested in Iran. This surge in persecution has occurred every Christmas for the past few years. Some people have asked me why. To help you understand what is going on in Iran, I will give three reasons:

1. More Iranian Muslims come to Christ during the Christmas season than any other time.

Muslim women shop for Christmas items.

The Islamic government of Iran knows, just as we do, that more Muslims come to Christ during the Christmas season than any other time of the year. The joyful time of Christmas stands out against the many “mourning holidays” filling the Iranian calendar and so is attractive to Iranian Muslims. Therefore, not only Christians but also many Muslims love the Christmas season and celebrate it. Many Muslims set up a Christmas tree in their homes with decorations and gifts under it, knowing well that it is a Christian celebration.

Our underground house church network (and many others) do their greatest outreach during the Christmas season. They throw Christmas parties in their homes and invite Muslim friends and family members who gladly accept, knowing they are being invited to a Christian gathering. 

Even as the meaning of Christmas is fading in the US into merely a “holiday season” concept, people of Iran—both Christians and Muslims—celebrate Christmas distinctly as the birthday of Jesus. So, when Muslims are invited by a Christian friend to go to a Christmas party, they know the theme will be a celebration of Jesus’s birthday. Therefore, they are not shocked when the gospel is shared with them in those parties and an invitation is made to trust Jesus as Savior—they expect it, are ready for it, and many times go to the party prepared to make a decision for Christ. 

Muslims accept Christ as their Savior at a Christmas party given by underground house church leaders in Iran.

We take advantage of this open season through our satellite broadcast as well. Our programs become more straight-forward evangelistic conversations as we talk about the meaning of Christmas. Every Christmas, we broadcast the Jesusfilm multiple times in various dialects of Iran. We see many Muslims respond to these Christmas broadcasts and come to Christ. 

2. The government is alarmed and reacts out of fear. 

As the situation in Iran deteriorates financially, socially, and morally, more Muslims are open to the gospel. The underground church in Iran is growing, and the government is alarmed and increasingly feels threatened. Recently, Ayatollah Boroujerdi—director of a high-profile Islamic seminary in Qum, Vatican of Shiite Islam—stated that “accurate reports indicate that the youth are becoming Christians in Qom and attending house churches.” 

Because of sanctions, the Islamic Republic of Iran is in a financial crunch. They cannot afford to put much of their limited resources into monitoring and containing the fast-growing number of Christians. Therefore, they turn to a policy of intimidation. That is, they arrest some Christians and publicize it to put fear in the hearts of others, hoping that they will not dare have Christmas parties and will cancel ones already planned. 

“Accurate reports indicate that the youth are becoming Christians in Qom and attending house churches.

—Ayatollah Boroujerdi

3. Government branches compete for limited funds through persecution. 

In Iran, several offices from various branches of government work to make sure the power will stay in the hands of the Mullahs and the Revolutionary Guard. These offices all have a mandate and authority to arrest and destroy all who might threaten the future of the government. This includes Christians. So, because of the current scarcity of finances, they must constantly compete for better funding. They win more resources for their office by showing their effectiveness in stopping Christians. Therefore, they 

  • try to arrest as many Christians as possible, and 
  • they make a big deal out of the arrests and publicize them in the news. 

Their motive is not just to intimidate Christians, but also to show their higher-ups they are worthy of funding. As Christmas approaches, I expect that these arrests will continue and intensify. So please pray for Iranian Christians to be safe, wise, and alert. Also pray that they will be bold and not be intimidated by the Islamic government and will continue to evangelize Muslims through Christmas parties. Pray that many Muslims will come to Christ this month both in our underground house churches through personal evangelism and also through our satellite broadcasts as a result of our special evangelistic Christmas programs. 

What Should the Worldwide Church Do Now?

 

What Is Happening in Iran?
Part 6

Building the church

What Should the Worldwide Church Do Now?


This post is part 6 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click hereIf you missed the earlier posts, you can read them here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.

Too many times in history, the Church has missed open doors for the gospel and arrived too late. Japan wanted the gospel message right after World War II. We missed it. Russia wanted the gospel in the years just before the Soviet Union collapsed. We missed it. Too many times, God has softened hearts through suffering, and the Church has stood on the sidelines and waited until those soft hearts have hardened again more solidly than before.

Let us not let that mistake happen again! Here are steps we can take to honor what God is doing in Iran:

Keep busy evangelizing. The harvest is ready, but the workers are few. This is the time of the harvest and we must multiply our efforts. According to my experience, these days evangelizing Iranian Muslims living inside the country is very easy. Many Iranians come to Christ even with a simple message. This opportunity will go away when the government collapses. Then workers will come to the field and find the ground bare.

Focus on Bible education and discipleship. Iranian believers today have a supernatural hunger. They want to know the Bible. They want to grow in their faith and be useful for God’s Kingdom. This hunger will lessen in intensity after the government collapses.

Train Leaders. Training new leaders is the greatest need of the church in Iran today and the most strategic action to prepare for the change of government in Iran. There are many believers in Iran, but they are without shepherds. They are without leaders and elders. We must act now to train leaders. When Iran opens, it will be too late.

At Iran Alive, we pray and ask the Lord to give us the “Issachar” anointing, so we know what to do when. We continue to evangelize using the media. We are preaching and teaching the word of God to masses. But we believe the most strategic thing God is asking us to do is to train leaders now. That is why starting the 412 Leadership School tops our agenda and focus.

We invite churches, organizations, and individuals to join us in taking advantage of this historic opportunity to build God’s church in Iran. The time is short and this window of opportunity is about to close. We must act fast and decisively. We must remember that whatever happens in Iran—good or bad—will impact the whole Middle East.


If you wish to partner with us to train leaders and harvest new believers in Iran, please go to www.iranaliveministries.org and help us fund the launch of the 412 School of leadership.

To learn more ways to help, please contact me at hormoz@IranAliveMinistries.org or (469) 982-0000. Or text “Iran” to 74784 for more information.


History is in the making in Iran. As the 40th year of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution approaches, we are seeing the end of this regime. Much is happening in Iran today politically, socially, and spiritually. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.

Location Iran. Green pin on the map.
Much is happening these days in Iran.

There is much news daily about Iran. Following the news carefully and being constantly and directly in touch with the people of Iran has given me a perspective that might be helpful to those who want to understand what is going on. So each day this week, I have provided a short commentary on What is happening in Iran. Click on the navigation links below to read the whole series.

 

What Will Happen to the Church in Iran?

What Is Happening in Iran?—Part 5

40226858 - christian religion. illustration with cross of christ and believers
The gospel and leader-training windows are open widest now —before political and economic changes occur. Photo: Carlos Castilla

What Will Happen to the Church in Iran?


This post is part 5 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click hereIf you missed earlier posts, you can read them here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

In Iran, Islam has experienced the greatest defeat in its history. According to Operation World, Iran currently has the fastest growing evangelical population across the globe. Iran’s desperate situation has created a perfect storm for the cause of Christ. Millions have rejected Islam and are open to the message of the gospel. There are now over 3 million believers in Iran.

What will happen when the regime changes in Iran?

Spiritual hunger will suddenly die down. Iranians will suddenly have another hope besides Christ. Non-believers will be more interested in and focused on bringing a democracy to Iran than considering the claims of Christ.

Iranians will have freedom to assemble and start churches. The underground believers will gather into large communities and start many churches. Many evangelists will visit Iran to conduct stadium-size gatherings. Many denominations will send their workers to start new denominational churches. Many Iranian believers will start their own independent churches as well. We must bear in mind, however, that the 3 million believers in Iran are mostly new believers. Many will be distracted by the political events. Many will be deceived by cults and will join cultish churches. Many will start weak churches because they do not have any biblical training. So the visible church will suddenly grow—but it will be weak.

Opportunities for expansion of the gospel in Iran will grow, but so will the dangers that can undercut the gospel’s power. The Church at large has a responsibility at this historic time to be wise concerning Iran and to redeem the time that God has given us.


History is in the making in Iran. As the 40th year of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution approaches, we are seeing the end of this regime. Much is happening in Iran today politically, socially, and spiritually. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.

Location Iran. Green pin on the map.
Much is happening these days in Iran.

There is much news daily about Iran. Following the news carefully and being constantly and directly in touch with the people of Iran has given me a perspective that might be helpful to those who want to understand what is going on. So each day for the next week, I will provide a short commentary on What is happening in Iran.


Next up: What can the worldwide Church do to support its Persian brothers and sisters?

What Options for Survival Does Iran’s Government Have?

What Is Happening in Iran?—Part 4

iran-protests-tehran-2
Iranians continue to protest in Tehran and elsewhere despite arrests.

What Options for Survival Does Iran’s Government Have?


This post is part 4 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click hereIf you missed any earlier posts, you can read them here: part 1, part 2, part 3.

The government of Iran (IRI) is going down with or without sanctions. The sanctions will merely speed up the process. The IRI has few options left:

Option 1

Try to reform itself. Reforms will not work because the leaders are too corrupt and disjointed to implement a comprehensive reform and the people of Iran will not buy into any plan that the government supports. The IRI has passed its window of opportunity when reform might have worked.

Option 2

Try to stifle the protest with violence. This option has a high probability of occurring. The IRI has shown that it has no respect for lives. When cornered and their existence threatened, they might easily turn to violence. Not long ago, a top clergyman said, “If we have to kill 1 million to keep Islam in Iran, we will.”

Option 3

Save themselves and let the regime collapse. It is very possible that those in power will abandon their positions and flee the country. Many have already stored their wealth in foreign banks, anticipating the day when they have to flee. The dollar exchange rate tripled recently because those in power were buying billions of dollars to send their wealth abroad. At this point, a military coup is also very possible. If this coup helps dethrone the mullahs and very quickly establishes a secular and democratic government, it could work.

Option 4

Negotiate with the US government. I believe negotiation is the number one option for the IRI and they will take it. Of course, they will not do this publicly. They do not want to lose the little respect and credibility they have before their people and the world by admitting defeat. They will ask for negotiations behind closed doors while at the same time bad mouthing the USA and Trump in public and the media.

 

The IRI has already started planning for reform (option 1). But they are finding fast that they are not capable of doing it and the people will not be fooled by it anyway. I believe that, very soon, unannounced secret negotiations between the IRI and the US will start (option 4)—if they have not started already. These negotiations may prolong the IRI’s existence for a time but not indefinitely.  Eventually, they will again try violence (option 2) followed by giving up power (option 3).

History is in the making in Iran. As the 40th year of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution approaches, we are seeing the end of this regime. Much is happening in Iran today politically, socially, and spiritually. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.

Location Iran. Green pin on the map.
Much is happening these days in Iran.

There is much news daily about Iran. Following the news carefully and being constantly and directly in touch with the people of Iran has given me a perspective that might be helpful to those who want to understand what is going on. So each day for the next week, I will provide a short commentary on What is happening in Iran.


Next up: How will a regime change in Iran affect the underground church? 

What Is the United States Doing about Iran?

What Is Happening in Iran?—Part 3

Power of democracy

What Is the United States Doing?


This post is part 3 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click hereIf you missed the earlier posts, you can read them here: part 1 and part 2.

Trump and his administration are following three main plans to push out the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI):

Pressure with sanctions. The US is putting more financial pressure on the already pressured government of Iran through sanctions and an oil embargo. Trump may talk of violence, but he will not enter into a full-fledged war with Iran because all he needs to do is just wait for sanctions to effectively destroy the IRI.

Approach Iran from a point of strength. Trump’s constant threat to engage in military action puts extra pressure on the IRI. Iran’s government knows its military is no match for the power of the USA and Israel. They know that if a war starts, their people will not support them as they did in the eight-year war against Saddam in the 1980s. Obama negotiated from a point of weakness: he begged Iran not to start a war and bribed it merely to slow down its development of nuclear bombs. But Trump approaches the IRI from a point of strength. Many Iranians living inside Iran are pleased with and support Trump’s approach because they feel Obama threw the IRI a lifeline to survive, but Trump has pulled it back.

Keep open the possibility of negotiation. Trump says he is open to negotiation but wants Iran to take the first step. Trump is a strong negotiator—as shown in his book The Art of the Deal—and knows the one who first breaks down and asks for a meeting has a weaker position in negotiation.

Location Iran. Green pin on the map.
Much is happening these days in Iran.

 


History is in the making in Iran. As the 40th year of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution approaches, we are seeing the end of this regime. Much is happening in Iran today politically, socially, and spiritually. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.

There is much news daily about Iran. Following the news carefully and being constantly and directly in touch with the people of Iran has given me a perspective that might be helpful to those who want to understand what is going on. So each day this week, I will provide a short commentary on What is happening in Iran.


 

Next up: Does the IRI have any options for survival?