“We Need You Guys!”

iran_tv_watch
A family watching satellite TV

One of the ministers in our Counseling Center Ministry gave me this note of encouragement from a Church 7 member/viewer inside Iran. I think you will find it encouraging as well. It beautifully illustrates the openness of the people of Iran to the Gospel and their distrust of Islam.

My name is Mahmoud (name changed for security) and I am contacting you from Iran. I am a member of Church 7 and love you all.

My friends an I used to attend the prayer meetings held by the Mullahs. They would always say bad things and curse at Christians, Jews and other religions. They always thought that they were better then everyone else. You guys are different than the Mullahs here.  You are full of love and kindness. I wish that everyone here was more like you.

When I watch the Church 7 programs, I see that you guys even pray for your enemies. This is very touching and it caused me to feel a change in my spirit. I am so happy that I have found Jesus and know that I will be living with God the rest of my days.

I pray for all of you. Continue doing what you do because we need you guys!

Rouhani Publicly Released 11 Political Prisoners Just Days Before His Visit

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series 5 Things About Hassan Rouhani's Visit to the U.S.

Rouhani publicly released 11 political prisoners just days before his visit to the U.S., but has released zero since then.

Nasrin Sotoudeh with her family after being released from prison
Nasrin Sotoudeh with her family after her release

Only days prior to his visit to the U.S. and subsequent U.N. address, President Hassan Rouhani ordered the release of 11 political prisoners.  8 women, including noted human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and 3 men were freed from prison or house arrest sentences stemming from anti-government activities.

I am certainly thankful for the release of these men and women, regardless of the motives behind this obvious public relations maneuver.  Without doubt, their families are celebrating this unexpected blessing, as they should. I know the many hundreds of other families with loved ones in Iranian prisons are fervently praying for similar news to come their way in the near future.  I am joining them in prayer for this outcome as well.

If past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, however, I fear that these families may be in for a lengthy wait.  I truly pray that I am wrong.

What I do know is that the prisons are absolutely stuffed with offenders whose crimes are markedly similar to the 11 recently released.  This is not even beginning to consider our Christian brothers and sisters who are languishing in jail cells since their faith in Christ is viewed as a direct transgression against Islam and the government, since the two are not only inseparable, they are one and the same.

Please join me in praising the Lord for the release of the 11 prisoners on September 18.  Let us pray together that this is just the tip of the iceberg for many hundreds to follow in spite of what history seems to indicate.

70% of Iran’s Population is Under the Age of 35

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series 5 Things You Didn't Know about Iran

This is a startling statistic, which is changing the face of Iran and has the potential to impact the entire Middle East.  Let me explain.

IRAN GREEN MOVEMENT2
An image from the Green Movement of 2009, led by Iranian youth to protest presidential election results

When I was a young college graduate, living in Iran during the Islamic Revolution of 1979, I was part of a generation that was demanding change.  At the time, we did not know that we were exchanging something we perceived as bad, for something much, much worse than we could ever have imagined.  Today, only 30% of Iran’s surviving population was even alive at that time.  The overwhelming majority of the population knows nothing but the incredible persecution and oppression that they have experienced under a government that they never asked for and certainly do not want.

Perhaps this helps to shed some light on fact #5, The Mosques Are Empty.  The younger generation has seen only a lifetime of misery and hopelessness, while the older generation has seen broken promises and a system that has failed them completely.

As a result of this youthful demographic, Iran has established itself as a top consumer and producer of social media in the Middle East, despite the fact that the government attempts to restrict Internet access and intimidate people from engaging with Facebook, Twitter, personal blogs and other forms of Social Media.  However, as with all younger generations, Iran’s youth possesses technological savvy and continues to stay ahead of the government’s attempts to stem the tide.

You need only look at the Green Movement of 2009, when tens of thousands of young Iranians flooded the streets of Tehran to protest the presidential election results.  The horrific shooting death of Nedā Āghā-Soltān was captured on a cell phone, uploaded to the Internet and viral within hours.

Pray for the youth of Iran, as they are the key to reaching the country for Christ.

Persians Love Americans

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series 5 Things You Didn't Know about Iran

ImageMy friend, who recently traveled to Iran and took the photo of the empty mosque in my previous post, was also blown away by the overwhelming warm reception he received from the people of Iran.  Even though I told him to expect the people he would meet to be intrigued by an American visiting Iran, he was not prepared for the welcome he received in every city he toured.

In fact, he told me, “I have never been high-fived or hugged so much in my life just for being an American than I was in Iran!”  He was invited to people’s homes, asked for photographs and even told while being embraced by a stranger in a park, “You are my brother.  I am so glad you are here.”

What is portrayed in the media is quite different than the reality of what exists inside the borders of one of the least understood countries in the world.

I want to be clear, however.  The Islamic controlled government  and clergy are indeed extremely dangerous, violent and hateful people who in fact do not love America, Americans or anyone who does not identify themselves with Islam.  This group represents only a fraction of the population.  Unfortunately, it is the only segment we ever see in the West.

Iran’s Mosques are empty!

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series 5 Things You Didn't Know about Iran
Taken During Call to Prayer
An empty mosque taken during a call to prayer

A friend of mine, who was in Iran recently, confirmed what Persians around the world already knew.  During his trip, he visited more than a dozen mosques in several cities over the course of 10 days.  Some of these visits were on one of two Fridays, which is the holy day of Shi’a Islam, when you would expect to find the most people in the mosques.  It is equivalent to Sunday mornings in America.

With the call to prayer sounding over the speakers throughout the cities, my friend witnessed a TOTAL of 2 people worshipping in the mosques!  This is a cumulative total over the course of 10 days (2 of which were Fridays), in several cities, while the call to prayer was sounding!

Does this sound like the Iran you have pictured in your mind?