Do you know that I am constantly humbled by the young people of Iran? They come to Christ in record numbers and serve God with passion and great love for Him. And they share their Savior even more when the government tries to stop them.
Youth in Iran Choosing Christ
Last week, Fox News spoke with my friend Mani Erfan, CEO and founder of CCM Ministries. Mani has been on our board of directors, and together we have served the underground church movement in Iran for the last fifteen years. Fox News reported an astronomical increase in Iranian citizens converting to Christianity in recent years. Mani explained, “It’s been predominantly young people. We call it an awakening.”
If the current trend continues, experts predict that the number of Christians in Iran will soon exceed 7 million. It’s true that due to restrictions and persecution, no one can count with full certainty the number of people adhering to a faith outlawed by the Islamic regime. But we at Iran Alive know through our daily interactions with Iranians that far more Muslims are committing their lives to Jesus than is often told to the public by news and tabulating services.
Therefore, it is very possible that Christians will account for 10 percent of Iran’s population by 2020.
Middle East Paradigm Shift
This number constitutes a major paradigm shift not only for Iran but the whole region. War with the Islamic State (ISIS) has decimated the numbers of Christians in regions such as Iraq and Syria. A majority have been killed, forced to convert, or have fled. Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians in 2003 number only a possible 275,000 now.
So when I often say that I expect that Iran will become a Christian nation in this generation and a light to the whole Middle East—even to Israel—this is why: Iran’s Christians are multiplying and becoming an army of love and good news, reaching out to their neighbors and pointing them to the true Savior. The youth have seen the ugly insides of Islam and a repressive regime—and they have discovered the love and joy of Jesus. To them, there is no comparison, and no other option for them other than to surrender their lives to Christ, whether that means living or dying for Him.
Iran—A Spiritual Battleground
But, my dear friends, this astounding growth of Christianity—and with it the growth of secret and illegal church meetings in homes—also means that Iran will continue to be a major spiritual battleground over the next few years and beyond. Satan is losing his stronghold over Iran. A losing enemy is a dangerous enemy.
We must increase our commitment to pray for our dear brothers and sisters in Iran—and we must also pray for those dear Muslims on whose behalf God is working even now, to draw them to Himself. We must increase our commitment to support the growing but fledgling church in Iran as it works to disciple its members and throw off the chains of an oppressive regime.
I am honored to be a part of this great turn in the history of the Middle East. Won’t you join me?
Chiaramonte, Perry. “Underground Church Grows in Iran Despite Regime’s Efforts.” Fox News, November 28, 2016.
Since the November 8 election of Donald Trump, we have seen a mixed reaction in the U.S. concerning expectations for his presidency. Some are hopeful; some are fearful.
The same mixed reaction is true for Iranians.
Iranians Living inside Iran:
- Some are now hopeful that President-Elect Trump will do something to bring down the current regime in Iran. They are even hopeful that an Iranian regime change during the Trump presidency will allow a democratic, secular government to come into power.
- Some, though, are fearful that Trump will cause a military attack on Iran during his presidency. They do not want war. They have seen the result of the American-led military offensive in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they do not want that.
Iranian Refugees and Those Iranians with Families in the US:
- Like their fellow Iranians above, refugees are also hopeful that Trump will cause a regime change in Iran, specifically so that they—or family members living abroad—can return to Iran and reunite.
- At the same time, many are fearful that Trump’s proposed policies will make it harder for Iranian refugees to come to the U.S. or even for Iranians to come as tourists to visit their family members already living here.
Many of these hopes and fears involve complicated political processes and global partnerships, and so the uncertainty depends on much more than one man’s administration, even the administration of the person often called the most powerful man on the planet. Like the Americans, Iranians will have to wait and see how President Trump gathers policy support and conducts his first year in office—maybe even just his first 100 days—to have a better idea how his administrative actions will match with his election promises.
For the Iranian government, however, the concerns are more immediate and clear.
- They are fearful that the recently removed sanctions will return. Sanctions will weaken the Iranian government and limit its financial resources. Iran will not be able to continue its activities in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen as before. Sanctions will also reduce Iran’s ability to fund terrorism around the world.
- Iran’s government is afraid that, with the United States’ consent, Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear sites to stop the development of the nuclear bomb.
- They are fearful that, after his inauguration, President-Elect Trump will cancel the nuclear agreement—at least as far as the U.S. is concerned. Iran considers that deal a great victory for their side. Without giving up much, they gained a lot. They consider the Obama administration naïve to agree to the nuclear deal and fear they will be unable to stage and perform the same negotiation show with Trump.
The Most Powerful Man on the Planet
Yes, the world waits anxiously to see how the next four years will alter regimes, foreign policies, and the balance of power. But one thing I know to be certain and unchanging: the most powerful man on the planet is not the president of the United States. The most powerful man is the Lord Jesus Christ. And He is toppling regimes that have held strong for fourteen centuries.
The face of Iran is changing as Jesus makes Himself known to Muslims and as they receive His love. He has the power to change lives in a way that neither the Ayatollah nor the President of the United States could ever prevent or copy. And He is providing to Muslims something they have never had before: a certain hope for their future.
Will you pray with me that even more Muslims will come to know Jesus as their savior in the next four years than ever before? Iran is the gateway to the Middle East. Once Iran is transformed by the Gospel, the whole Middle East will be impacted.
I thank you for your concern for Iran and its people—a people God loves just as much as you and me.
Solomon, Jay. “Trump Faces Battle to Undo Iran Nuclear Deal.” Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2016, sec. Politics. http://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-faces-battle-to-undo-iran-nuclear-deal-1478860207.
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. —Ephesians 6:12, NIV
When people hear me talking or read my posts that say ISIS and terrorists are following the true Islam, some accuse me of hating Muslims. I do not hate Muslims. I love them. All people are treasures in God’s eyes. Muslims are treasures, and Jesus gave His life to buy them back—redeem them.
Muslims are not our enemy. Satan alone is our enemy, and Muslims are his captives whom we are called to set free. To set the Muslim captives free, we must strike a blow against Satan, and we do that by loving Muslims.
We Love Muslims by First Praying for Them
A huge part of loving Muslims is praying for them. The spirit of Islam blinds them to the truth of Christ. Islam is a spirit and not just a theology or a philosophy. You cannot reason a Muslim to Christ because Islam does not allow Muslims to think about and question what they believe.
In the past month, Muslims across the world celebrated Ramadan, a month-long time of fasting and recommitment to Islam. It’s a spiritual battle month because during this time Muslims are recommitting themselves to the spirit of Islam, and Satan is re-enslaving those that belong to him.
Ten ministries coordinated by author Tom Doyle and CBN News recently joined in a worldwide effort “to encourage Christians to pray specifically for a move of God’s spirit to draw Muslims to Jesus Christ during Ramadan.” Voice of the Martyrs, one of the ministries that participated in this Facebook Live event, has written about the event and my participation here.
I had the honor of being the second speaker for this CBN broadcast. Hundreds of thousands viewed it and prayed along with me despite some technical difficulties with the video. You can find the broadcast here. (Please scroll through the first few seconds to get to where I begin speaking.)
I want to thank the Lord publically for these prayers and His response. I know He hears and is moving even now to remove the blindness and fear from hearts and to draw Muslims to Himself.
Even though it is no longer Ramadan, we must continue praying for Muslims. Jesus is attractive. The message of the Gospel is sweet. But why don’t Muslims believe when they hear it? Because there is a spiritual battle for their souls that is trying to keep them in slavery through fear and intimidation. We can win this battle first through prayer and then through loving them.
We Must Love Muslims by Also Praying for Ourselves
We must pray for Muslims, and then, as our next step of loving Muslims, we need to pray for ourselves.
Terrorism and Islamic jihad are scary. I do not want to belittle the brutality and evil of what we have seen and heard, especially in recent months. But as Christians, we must remember that God is love and that love casts out all fear (1 Jn 4:8, 18). So if we are fearful and hateful of Muslims—even if we are indifferent!—that is not of God. The spirit of Islam is the spirit of fear and hate. May I even say that if you are fearful and hateful towards Muslims, you are submitting to the very spirit of Islam? So we must pray for our own hearts to be filled with God’s love—to be free from fear and hatred.
When we share the truth with love, the captives will be freed. Please join with me to confront the spirit of Islam with the best weapons we have: prayer and love.
VOM. “Praying for Muslims: Hormoz Shariat.” Persecution Blog. Accessed August 1, 2016.
CBN News. “Ramadan Prayer Outreach to Muslims Reaches over 7 Million People.” CBN.com (beta). Accessed August 2, 2016.
Another terrorist attack. Quickly, we see that the world is growing less shocked each time terrorists commit violence and mass murder. Terrorism in the headlines has become routine.
One Twitter comment sums it up well: “Je suis Paris (I am Paris), Je suis Belgium, Je suis Orlando, Je suis Ankara, Je suis Nice. Je suis sick and tired of this.”
And the list above only mentions a few of the past year’s attacks. It doesn’t even mention half the atrocities from the past two weeks.
The Terrorism Cycle
Fill in the blank below with the place of any of the recent attacks. The rest of the cycle looks the same:
- The terrorist act happens in __________. We are all shocked. Many are dead and wounded. Our televisions carry live coverage on nearly every channel.
- We mourn and express our condolences to the families who lost a loved one.
- We start asking who did it and why. Then it is revealed that the attacker(s) was an Islamic jihadi.
- Politically correct groups warn everyone that we must not connect these acts to Islam itself. They suggest we can call the perpetrators criminals, extremists, terrorists, and whatever other name we want to call them, but we are not in any way to connect them to the religion of Islam, even if they themselves announce that their motivation has been obedience to the teaching of Islam to jihad (fight) against infidels and kill them. Even if they shouted “Allahu akbar” when they were committing murders.
- President Obama condemns the act and makes his usual weak statement trying not to offend anybody, especially Muslims. He makes sure to avoid mentioning Islam in his comments. After the attack on July 14 in Nice, France, he said, “On behalf of the American people, I condemn in the strongest terms what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, which killed and wounded dozens of innocent citizens. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and other loved ones of those killed, and we wish a full recovery for the many wounded.”
- Secretary of State John Kerry makes a statement that the U.S. government is working to determine if any American citizens were injured in the event.
- We gradually forget and fall back to sleep until another terrorist event wakes us up again to restart the cycle that goes nowhere.
Breaking the Cycle
When are we going to break this cycle? When are we going to identify and address the root problem? We cannot solve the problem of terrorism if we refuse to identify its root. How can a doctor cure a disease if he does not dare identify the cause of the disease because the patient may be offended? When are we going to wake up from our slumber and look at the real issues in order to bring real solutions?
In the U.S., most of the media coverage is about WHAT the terrorist (jihadi) did with many details and pictures and footage. But they stop there and do not dare cover WHY he did this. They dare not talk about the motive of the terrorist even when he clearly states it in his writings and speech, even when he shouts “Allahu akbar” while he is killing.
I love Muslims. I am called to love Muslims and lovingly share the good news of Jesus with them. I have dedicated my life to loving Muslims. Nevertheless, the moment I mention that we need to look at the Islamic theology that motivates the terrorist, I am accused by emails and blog comments that I am a Muslim hater and that I am spreading hate!
Address the Problem, Love the People
Ronald Reagan was instrumental in bringing communism down because he addressed the problem of communism directly and boldly. He did not care about political correctness. It was the 1980s and the PC crowd had not yet risen to power.
This is what Reagan said about communism: “How do you tell a communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”
If the PC crowd had a voice then, they would have said, “President Reagan, by making this statement, you are offending many good communist citizens. You may alienate them and hurt their feelings. You are spreading hate.” My guess is that President Reagan would have answered, “I hate communism, but I love the people who live under communism.”
We Must Have Courage to Speak the Truth in Love
If Reagan were alive today, I imagine he would say something like this about Islam: “Who is a Muslim? Well, it’s someone who reads Quran. And who is an Ex-Muslim? It’s someone who understands Quran.”
If we do not face the reality of Islam and the belief and theology behind these terrorist acts, we will never be able to address the problem of terrorism accurately and give realistic and effective solutions. We will be stuck (as we are now) in the cycle I described above. Unfortunately, we gradually become desensitized to the news—something the psychologists call “terrorism fatigue.” It will shock us less and less and gradually become merely a reality of living on this earth. As time passes, we may become even less motivated to identify the problem accurately and solve it effectively.
We must wake up to the reality that these terrorists are, in fact, Islamic jihadis following the teaching of Quran and the lifestyle and example of Prophet Mohammad. We must love Muslims but hate the theology of violence and murder. We must have the courage to discuss Quranic verses in our media. (A reporter in American can be fired by just quoting—and not even interpreting—Quranic verses in his speech and writing!) We must find courage to expose and discuss the teachings of Quran publicly. We must get free from this self-deception that Islam is “just another religion” and face the fact that it is a political and militaristic movement. Muslims who commit themselves to obey the teachings of Quran and follow the example of Prophet Muhammad end up becoming terrorists.
We must have courage to speak the truth with love (Eph. 4:15). It is the only meaningful way forward.
My heart is heavy as once again a person professing allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) has carried out an attack on Western soil in Orlando and now in Istanbul, Turkey. Toward the end of last year, I said I hoped that I was wrong, but that we would begin seeing an increase in terror events in Western cities (along with ongoing terror in nonwestern cities). I am greatly grieved by the horrendous mass shooting in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub and the mass killing in Istanbul’s international airport. That follows the Paris terror event and the San Bernardino terror event and the Belgian airport bombing, but I am not surprised. I wish I were.
God is moving in important ways in the Muslim world, but so is the enemy. How we respond to this event in coming days matters to God’s kingdom. For that reason, let me once again address the problem that we face.
Our Natural Instinct Is to Blame Outwardly and Move Inwardly
These gunmen are dead, and it is natural that people want answers that he can no longer give. We want to know who we can blame for his actions and what can we do to prevent the next random attack. We failed to prevent the loss of life in Orlando and Istanbul , and we desperately want to prevent terror in the future.
As a nation, the U.S. is lashing out in the dark right now at anything and everything that might contribute to the next attack. The news media and political figures have focused on several details of the attack: Orlando’s terrorist attack was the worst mass shooting in America, with 49 dead and 53 injured. The attack singled out gay men. The attacker used guns that he was licensed to own. The gunman was Muslim.
The nation and investigators will spend the week and month trying to determine what group has the greatest fault for allowing this senseless tragedy to happen. Some will follow the president in refusing to blame the attack on radical Islam and will fault the violence instead to a lingering anti-gay sentiment in the U.S. Some will blame our law enforcement for failing to sniff out this man’s intentions when they checked his background for his security job or when they investigated him for a Syrian connection in 2013. Some will be encouraged by current efforts in Congress to reign in gun ownership. And some will follow those who think that by banning every Muslim from the U.S., we will protect ourselves. None of these approaches will prevent the next attack.
When people are afraid, their natural instinct is to retreat to a “safe zone”—to a zone filled with people like themselves, like-minded, like-religioned, and like-skinned. After an event like this massacre, Christians and Muslims alike will move inward and allow suspicion and fear to grow stronger between them. But is this the best way for us to respond to acts of terror?
True Islam Requires Adherents to Hate Outwardly and Persecute Inwardly
Despite the many possible causes investigators and the media are blaming for the attack, the truth is that the gunman in Orlando revealed his motive. He called 911 to declare that the attack was an act of allegiance to ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS). We do not know if the shooter was present three months earlier when an imam in Orlando preached death as the correct response to homosexuals. But we do know that the imam did preach what Islam teaches: that gays should be executed. And we do know that the shooter targeted the Pulse club because it caters to gay men.
I have said many times that despite many Muslims who live peacefully in the U.S. and who proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace, the holy book of Islam and the works of its prophet show a religion of violence. The teachings of the Quran and Muhammed call for violence against “infidels.” Americans Muslims are not so much radicalized by ISIS as they hear the teachings of the imams and discover that true Islam looks like ISIS, and they want to follow true Islam. And true Islam requires that its adherents hate infidels. What we call “Radical Muslims” are indeed just “Committed Muslims.”
Does this mean we should agree with those who wish to call all Muslims terrorists and ban them from our country or severely restrict their freedom here?
Christ Asks Us to Love Outwardly and Forgive Inwardly
Whether by a Muslim or someone else, terror attacks occur because of hate. The more we marginalize other human beings, the more we will contribute to a culture that explodes with hatred. Christ calls us to something radically different. Yes, we are to love and pray for those in office, even when they do not follow our agenda. Yes, Jesus tells us to radically love those who offend us, to pray for those who do not yet know him, to forgive those who hurt us and to share with them how we were also forgiven.
So what does this mean? How should we prepare for and avoid terror? If we are to follow Jesus, the way to prepare for and avoid terror is to love our enemy and to share the Good News with those who most want to do us harm.
Many Muslims do want a peaceful religion. They just do not know the right way to find it. We must show them. Muslims who wish to make Islam a peaceful religion find that they have to ignore much of what Islam teaches. If a Muslim wants to know a God of peace, they must find the God who became our peace—and that is Jesus. There is no other way.
We Must Be Ready to Share Peace
Muslims transformed by the God and by the love of transformed Christians do not shoot masses of people. It is true that we must wisely recognize the harmful intent of the Islamic agenda while at the same time see the vast numbers of Muslims ready to come to Christ in the West and even in the Middle East and Iran if only we are willing to share Christ’s love with them. These terror events force Muslims everywhere to look harder at their religion and see it for what it is. Many Muslims worldwide are coming to Christ even now, especially in Iran.
How should we live with the threat of terror? We can become an army of love like the underground church of Iran. We should refuse to allow suspicion and blame to divide us and paralyze us. We should move even faster, stronger, and bolder to love the one who hates us and even hates his own people and make Christ known among them. I pray that you will ask God how you can begin doing this even now.
To the Glory of God and the transforming of Iran.
Last summer I said that the nuclear deal gave the Islamic government of Iran a lifeline. I predicted that the money would be used to (1) oppress the people of Iran more and (2) persecute the Iranian Christians outside Iran, including Iran Alive.
In the last few weeks there have been several news stories about the government of Iran starting two new organizations:
1) They have created a “non-visible” police. These are 7,000 undercover, plain-clothed agents who will mingle with people and have full authority to arrest anybody who does not follow Islamic law or who criticizes the regime. The government made this program public because they want to put fear in the hearts of the people. They know this program will make Iranians afraid of each other and afraid of sharing anything in public with anybody they do not know because that person could be an agent.
The undercover police are one way the government is increasing its oppression of the people, by making them afraid even to talk with each other. This will make public witnessing even more dangerous to Christians. Please pray that members of our many underground churches will continue to be bold to share their faith despite the danger.
2) They have created a new organization to stop and destroy their “opponents” outside Iran. The goal of this organization is to do whatever it takes to annihilate any activities outside Iran that could threaten the existence of the Islamic government of Iran. The fact is that there is currently no movement inside or outside of Iran strong enough to threaten the future of the current regime, except one: the growth of Christianity and its underground house churches.
The government has destroyed their political opposition rather successfully inside and outside Iran. The only opposition they feel is out of control is the Christians with their fast growing numbers and house churches. Iran’s leaders are well aware of the impact outside Christian organizations such as Iran Alive have on the masses inside Iran. So the number one goal of this new organization is to stop or slow down activities of Iranian Christian organizations outside Iran.
They are publicizing this program widely to put fear in hearts of Iranian Christians worldwide. They may even murder some of them as they have done in the past, to tell us all that they are serious. We desperately need prayer covering for Iran Alive and myself as the threats against us are increasing in number and seriousness.
A Threat with a Silver Lining
These moves by the Iranian government and the police of Tehran are a serious threat not only to Iranian women, whom much of the media has been most concerned about due to the dress code laws, but also to Christians inside and outside Iran who are willing to die on behalf of Jesus to share His love with others there.
But we can take comfort in the fact that the government felt compelled to initiate these organizations. It shows that they know they are losing—or have lost—the backing of the people. Most of the nation, especially the young people, does not want this government, or its policies, or the Islamic faith it adheres to. Many have taken to social media to protest the new policies.
We believe as the government increases its persecution of Christians, the number of Iranian Muslims coming to Christ will also increase—as well as their strength in faith and commitment. The Islamic government of Iran is on a losing spiral.
Let’s pray for the persecuted Church in Iran, and let’s do whatever we can to add fuel to the fire of revival that the Lord has started there.