IDOP – COVID 19 and persecution in Iran, yet the church grows
November 1 – International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church
By Greg Musselman
The nation of Iran has the largest rate of growth of Christianity in the world!
This is happening in spite of an oppressive Islamic government that imprisons and tortures the followers of Jesus who share the Gospel or have converted from Islam to Christianity.
Dr. Hormoz Shariat is the founder and president of Iran Alive which broadcasts on satellite television into Iran and the Middle East and reaching six million viewers in Iran each day. Dr. Shariat who is a former Muslim says these broadcasts are a lifeline for believers who have to meet in secret. Iran Alive has a prayer line where hundreds of people each week make a decision to follow Jesus. The ministry also distributes Bibles in the country, plants underground churches and trains leaders to lead these new churches.
How is the global pandemic affecting ministry in Iran
Iran Alive based in Texas is a ministry partner of The Voice of the Martyrs Canada. I asked Dr. Shariat how the global pandemic has affected their work in Iran and the Middle East. He told me that they have experienced incredible growth during COVID-19, “We have added to our programming a live prayer meeting which is very popular, we have added a testimony program, also a news and analysis program about today’s events, and so many other things.” As a result of these new initiatives the number of people coming to Christ has accelerated and Dr. Shariat says the amazing thing is the response, “It’s more than ten times the number of salvations we have ever had in our twenty years of broadcasting. Since May we have seen more than a ten-fold increase in salvations that we know of – these are only the people who contact us.”
Dr Shariat says it dangerous for people in Iran to make contact with anyone to do with Christianity or the West, “It’s hard to contact us (because we are blocked) but even with that we are getting over 500 declared salvations per week, every week! People are telling us that they just came to Christ. It’s an open Heaven in Iran and the church is growing, so it’s not surprising that persecution is also growing.”
Persecution growing alongside church growth
Here is another example of the kind of hardships believers are facing in Iran. Ebrahim Firouzi is a former Muslim who was leading an underground church until government authorities discovered what he was doing. According to Middle East Concern, Ebrahim was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to a year in prison and 2 years of internal exile in the remote town of Sarbaz near the Pakistan border for “propaganda against the regime by establishing and organizing Christian gatherings” and “having contact with anti-revolutionary networks outside Iran.”
Ebrahim was expected to be released early in 2015, but he remained detained. In March 2015 he was retried and sentenced to an additional five years in prison on charges of “acting against national security by gathering and collusion.” In November 2019, after completing the consecutive prison sentences, Ebrahim started serving the two-year period of exile in Sarbaz, near the border with Pakistan. On March 12, Ebrahim was notified that his exile had been extended by eight months for violating its terms, and an additional three months for failing to appear for a daily signing in.
On, September 27, Ebrahim was notified that he had to appear before the prosecutor in Rask, near Sarbaz, to answer a charge of “propaganda against the state.” A conviction could have carried a prison sentence of three to twelve months. Thankfully the next day the prosecutor closed the case against him for lack of evidence.
Dr. Hormoz says Ebrahim was likely tortured during his imprisonment to try and get him to give up the names of other Christian leaders and Muslim converts to Christianity. No matter how hard the Iranian regime pressures and persecutes the church, it not only survives, but flourishes!
Please pray for the church in Iran. The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (the church): Jesus. Matthew 16:18 NKJV
By MCC staff
When we first started planning the 2020 Festival for World Relief, we could never have imagined the generosity during a time like this. This year, you came together in such a fantastic way, and we are incredibly grateful. Through the Festival To-Go, Cyclathons, Plant Sale, Quilt Sale, and fundraising, generous donors contributed over $640K to the 2020 MCC Festival. With the matching opportunities applied, this results in over $2M in programs to help families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Thank you also to the volunteers who donated their time and resources towards the success of the weekend. Your generosity is directly impacting and changing the lives in DR Congo and we can’t say thank you enough for your support.
The DR Congo programs are funded through MCC’s account at Canadian Foodgrains Bank, matched by Canadian government dollars, and implemented by MCC partners in DRC.
As we settle into a new routine under COVID, we find that nothing is routine. COVID exposures are in our schools and community. Care homes are impacted by outbreaks. Our governments are imposing new limits to keep this pandemic from spreading. Still, Jesus commands us to “Go and make disciples.” We do this by obeying the guidelines provided by our government authorities, church leadership, insurers, and parents. Then, we work together to figure out what can be done in-person and what must be done virtually at a distance. Building Christ-centred boys and young men isn’t that complicated even under COVID. CSB is partnering with our churches and boys’ groups to develop a comprehensive strategy of options through which churches and their men can build the next generations for Christ. Under COVID, we will find new ways to bring others to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Check out: www.csbbc.org/brigade-under-covid for the details.
God’s Littlest Angels is a Haitian orphanage. It was founded by John and Dixie Bickel in 1994, when a nearly 2 pound baby girl was born at the hospital in Fermathe. Because of her size, she was not given much of a chance of survival. However, through the efforts of the Bickels, Angel-Noel went home to her parents after 4 months. Today GLA offers short term assistance to children needing a place to stay due to bad health or the death of a parent, but are not up for adoption. These children will return to their families once their circumstances improve. Some cannot return to their families and are waiting for adoptive parents. Sign up today for a “Donate your change round-up giving account”. When you make an everyday purchase using your chequing or PayPal account (credit/debit card), you will be giving your spare change to help GLA. It is rounded up to the nearest dollar.
Your donation of $1 per day, will help GLA cover the basic expenses so we can focus on other supplemental services. https://glacanada.donateyourchange.ca/