How Will the Iran Demonstrations Affect Christians?

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Understanding the 2018 Iran Uprising

In this series, I have been addressing the spontaneous protests that began in Iran on December 28, 2017, in response to rising economic distress and the corrupt government. Since the demonstrations started, we have been broadcasting special live programs every evening at prime time in Iran to comfort the people and share the heart of God with them.

48011682_sThe 2 million or so Christians in Iran now have a chance to be the voice of real hope—hope that only exists in Christ.

Even though at least four thousand are reported arrested and are being tortured in prison, there is a bright spot in what is happening right now in Iran: the uprising creates a window for increased Christian activity and evangelism. Its impact will be in three areas:

1) It reduces persecution of Christians. The uprising alleviates—at least for a while—the focused persecution of Christians. The outbreak of mass dissent in the past two weeks is “one of the most serious crises Iran has faced in the past 25 years.” Right now the government has a more urgent matter than arresting Christians; they must work to bring the current situation under control.

2) It will give Christians greater opportunity to evangelize. The 2 million or so Christians in Iran now have a chance to be the voice of real hope—hope that only exists in Christ—to a hopeless, aimless, and desperate young generation.

Reaching this generation with the gospel will be easier because they have shown that they are desperate enough to take huge risks with their lives to oppose the government. Over 60 percent of the population is under age 30, meaning that at least half the country is now even more open to the good news of Christ.

3) It gives us an opportunity to train fearless young leaders for Christ. The demonstrations give Christian leaders like us at Iran Alive a historic opportunity to train mighty young men and women of God for his service. We have a great opening to bring to faith and train a generation that has no hope for this life so that they can wholeheartedly live for Christ.

These are brave young people who are not afraid of death. As one young Christian told me, “I am not afraid of death because I was dead anyway before I came to Christ.” Another said, “I am not afraid of them [the government]; in fact, they are afraid of me and my message. That is why they want to put me in jail.”

How You Can Help

Would you pray especially for those young people being tortured in prison and their families who are demonstrating outside, hoping to hear news of their loved ones?

Would you also pray for boldness among Christians in Iran, to use this unique opportunity to share Christ with many? As you may know, we have a large number of underground house churches in Iran and many leaders who are serving them. These leaders are already spreading the gospel without fear of what will happen to them. Pray that God would protect them and embolden others to do the same. Pray for open hearts to receive Christ.

My friend Mani Erfan predicted a year ago that Christians would make up 10 percent of Iran’s population by 2020. I believe that is quite possible. This new level of desperation and hopelessness expressed in these demonstrations indicates that millions more are open to the message of the gospel, and the number of Christians in Iran will continue to grow exponentially as it has the past 10 years.

Just imagine what would happen if we join together and equip, encourage, empower, and mobilize 2 million Christians for Christ.

And would you pray about contributing to a training initiative for Iran? We at Iran Alive are beginning a new 412 School, based on Ephesians 4:12, “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” With this school, we can multiply our efforts to reach and disciple millions in Iran for the gospel. Just imagine what would happen if we join together and equip, encourage, empower, and mobilize 2 million Christians for Christ. I believe not only Iran but also the whole Middle East will be impacted by the gospel.


Related articles:

Garcia, Carlos. “The Christian Church Is Exploding Underground in Iran despite Oppression.” TheBlaze, December 1, 2016.

Smith, Alexander. “Iran ‘dodged a Bullet’ over Protests but Danger Lurks for Regime.” NBC News, January 10, 2018.

What Will Result from the Iran Uprising?

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Understanding the 2018 Iran Uprising

In this series, I have been addressing the spontaneous protests that began in Iran on December 28, 2017, in response to rising economic distress and the corrupt government. At least 22 people have been killed—likely a higher number is true—and a minimum of 1,000 arrested, most under the age of 25.

41378365 - arrested man handcuffed in prison

What is the goal of the protestors?

The demonstrators have no clear vision or clear demands. These demonstrations are the groans and pains of society. The people are crying out because they feel pressured economically and see no way out. They see social injustice and oppression and no hope for any better future.

We must remember that this uprising is not like a Western demonstration, where people fill the streets to protest an issue or stand up for a cause—and then go home. These Iranians know that they can be killed for protesting. Several have been killed already; thousands of others are under arrest.

The protestors’ hopelessness and frustration are so deep that they do not care anymore if they die.

Will violence and arrests stifle the uprising?

The demonstrations have no leadership that can guide them toward a common goal; they are just protesting out of pain, hopelessness, and desperation. Therefore, the movement is not coherent yet, and it has no clear direction to keep it going against repressive violence. So it is very likely that it will be stopped through upcoming violence.

When the uprising quiets down, will that be the end of it?

Even if the demonstrations quiet down, the divide between the people and the government will deepen. The movement will continue as an undercurrent that will show its head again later, stronger than before.

One thing is for sure: the people will no longer be deceived by the “moderate clergy candidate” political play by the clergy. This political show has kept the people entertained and busy for the past 20 years. It will not work any longer.

They may, however, be deceived by the offer of a “secular” or “nonreligious” candidate. This type of candidate will be a deception once again because the government always creates an illusion of change on the surface while doing nothing to change a system where the clergy and the Revolutionary Guards maintain the main economic, military, and political power. As an Iranian proverb says, “It is the same donkey, but the saddle is changed.”

What will result from the uprising, in the near future?

We will most likely see a surge of violence. Plainclothes mercenaries from Syria will shoot and kill hundreds on the streets just as they did in the 2009 uprising. Many young people will be arrested, tortured, or simply disappear. The University of Tehran is already trying to track some of its students who have disappeared.

The Supreme Leader, to appease the people, may blame the situation on a few people in government positions, order their arrest, put them on trial, and execute them. This way, he can show the people that he has heard them, cares for them, and is taking care of the problems of corruption and social injustice.

By eliminating these few, Khamenei will both appease the people and at the same time remove some of those who are causing him trouble. One of these potential figures is the ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has lately been causing some trouble for the power structure. His life may be in danger in the next few weeks and months. The government may blame this mess and corruption on him, arrest him, and put him on trial.

What is Iran Alive Doing?

Since the beginning of the protests, we have been broadcasting a special live program at noon CST (prime time in Iran) every day, even on Saturdays and Sundays. Our goals are to show that

  • God knows their pains, and so do we;
  • God cares about what they are going through, and so do we;
  • God has a plan for Iran and is active in the midst of this chaos and suffering, and we all need to align what we do with what he intends to do in Iran.

We teach them that to do the will of God, we need first to have the mind of God and the heart of God.

Family in front of TV 2
Iranian family watches the Network 7 broadcast.

We know that Iran will be saved according to Jeremiah 49:38, and this is just another step towards that end.

Every day in our live program, we look at the events of the day from a biblical point of view.

  • We evangelize by telling people that they will be again disappointed if they put their hope once again in men.
  • We tell them that if they do not change, then even if the government changes, they will still be miserable.
  • We point out that if they have personal struggles, if they have marriage problems, and if they have an addiction, a change of government will not solve that. Their only hope is Jesus Christ, who can make a true and eternal change both in their lives and also in the society.
  • We also teach Christians to be salt and light in the midst of this darkness. They must be active in helping people who are suffering and at the same time share the gospel by telling others that only Jesus is the true solution to the problems in Iran.

How should we pray?

Many families have been torn apart. Many reports tell of people congregating around Evin Prison in Tehran, hoping to secure the release of family members. Some young people have been killed, and many have disappeared. Please pray for these young people and their families.

People are also suffering economic hardship, no longer able to buy milk, cheese, or eggs. Pray that they would come to know that God loves them and cares about their situation. Pray that the leaders in Iran will have compassion on their people and instead of treating them as thugs, accusing them of being CIA agents, and heartlessly killing them, that they would care for their felt needs.

This is a great time for Christians to shine. Pray that the 2 million Christians in Iran will reflect Christ’s character by their love and actions. Also pray they will bring true hope and lasting change to the lives of millions by sharing the gospel.

And finally, please pray for Iran Alive. God has graciously positioned us to have a tangible impact on at least 6 million people according to a recent poll. This is the number who watch us regularly and for whom we are their favorite channel. Pray that the Lord will give us wisdom and provide for us financially so that we can have maximum impact during this historic time in Iran.

Look for parts 4 and 5 of this series later this week.


Related Articles:

CNN, Laura Smith-Spark. “Iran Protests: University Tracks Detained Students.” CNN. Accessed January 9, 2018.

Iran Frees Iranian-American Prisoners – Now What?

Please Pray for Saeed and Naghmeh

Right after an early morning interview on Saturday, January 16, I heard the good news that the Iranian government had released the four Iranian-American prisoners and an imprisoned American student. I was particularly happy to hear the Saeed Abedini was among those released.

As many of you might know, Saeed is my relative. He is married to my niece, Naghmeh, who in my opinion is a hero, fighting for the release of her husband tirelessly for the past three and a half years. I had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with Naghmeh when she was nine years old. She came to Christ while she stayed with us for a couple months.

I know many of you have been praying for the release of Saeed.pastor-saeed-abediniPlease continue to pray for Naghmeh and Saeed. They face great challenges ahead of them. In November, Naghmeh shared with the public that her relationship with Saeed had been filled with abuse for many years. Now that they are back together, they need our prayers and support even more for personal and relational restoration. I am so glad that Franklin Graham himself has offered to do marriage counseling with them.

 

Why Did the Iranian Government Free the Prisoners?

I believe the Iranian government wanted to project a positive image to the world as the sanctions were being lifted. They wanted no one doubting that removal of the sanctions was and is a good idea. The government released the captured American sailors so promptly and treated them so gently for this same reason.

Iran’s government was struggling to survive because of those sanctions. The nuclear deal threw them a financial lifeline that will help them survive for the next ten years. They are about to receive over $100 billion dollars to pursue their goals around the world. These goals include opposing America in every aspect. Unfortunately Iran will use some of this money to support terrorism against American citizens. I hope I am wrong, but it is very possible that we will see an increase in anti-American terrorism around the world and in the U.S. itself.

One thing is for sure: the release of these American citizens does not mean that the Iranian government is changing its policy towards United States. The Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, was very clear when he warned, after freeing the hostages, that Iran should remain wary of its old enemy the United States and its “deceit and treachery.”

 

Please Continue to Pray for Iranian Christian Prisoners

In many ways, Saeed had become the face of persecution in Iran. This was a good thing because it reminded us to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iran. Now that Saeed is free, let us not forget those who remain.

Christianity continues to grow in Iran, and the government continues to react to it by increasing persecution. Even now, many heroes in Iranian prisons are suffering for their faith. Their names may not be in the media as Saeed’s was, but God knows their names and cares for them. So let us obey the Scripture that says, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Heb. 13:3, NIV).

 

Please Join Us in Supporting the Persecuted Christians in Iran

With your support and the help of organizations such as The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), we are serving persecuted Christians in Iran. We provide assistance with the emotional, spiritual, and financial needs of families who have a member imprisoned for his or her faith. Our 24/7 satellite TV broadcast serves the millions of persecuted Christians in Iran who are living in isolation and in fear of arrest, imprisonment, torture, and even death. Together, we are able not only to inspire and encourage them to stand up for the Lord and not give in to fear and pressure, but also to share their faith with their persecutors. We believe these actions are God’s will for His children—and that is what we will do.

 

Related articles:

Dorell, Oren. “International Sanctions against Iran Lifted in Landmark Nuke Deal.” USA Today, January 16, 2016. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/01/16/usa-iran-diplomats-nuclear-deal/78892802/.

Wilkin, Sam, and Sharafedin Bozorgmehr. “Iran’s Khamenei Welcomes Sanctions Lift, Warns of U.S. ‘Deceit.’” Reuters, January 19, 2016, sec. World. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-khamenei-idUSKCN0UX10Q.