Category Archives: Iran

Christianity exploding in Iran despite efforts of government to stamp it out

Christians-mark-2014-at-Sarkis-Church-in-Tehran-4-HRChaffing under repressive Islam, young Iranians are secretly turning to Christ in record numbers, and Iranian-born Shahrokh Afshar wanted to be part of the revival. So he filmed 13 programs for young people and offered them to SAT7, which broadcasts Christian programming into Iran via satellite.

“Iran is 25% 14 years or younger. Iran has the largest number of drug addicts per capita in the world. Alcoholism, prostitution. The economy sucks; it’s like 15% unemployment,” Afshar said. “Life is very very hard for the average young Iranian. There wasn’t much being done as far as programs are concerned to reach out to these kids.”

christians-in-underground-church-in-iranIran has the fastest-growing evangelical population in the world (estimated at 19.6% by Operation World in 2015), despite an atrocious human rights record against people who abandon Islam, according to Christian Today. In fact, the explosive growth has overloaded the religious police.

A network of underground home churches thrives, and at least six satellite stations broadcast Christian programs continually into Iran. Afshar personally knows of 400 house churches with 5000 members. The number of Muslim converts to Christianity was “a handful” before 1971. Now, it is perhaps 1 million.

Afshar’s program, “Clear Like Glass,” cost him $3,000 per episode. Each program includes a funny skit and a frank interview and discussion of taboos in Islam. What people usually hide, Afshar brings to light. He conducted research about his target audience and found they didn’t want just preaching.

Christians in Iran“Clear Like Glass” is being shown over and over again, at least twice a day, Shah said. He is preparing to film another 13 programs.

After the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, Afshar joined three Egyptian pastors and one American to drive from Turkey to Baghdad and find pastors whom they could help. The fact-finding mission was fruitful. He connected with pastors from Iran and even gave them training in Turkey.

“My contacts tell me that they walk into a party and tell people they are Christian, and boom, they have an instant audience. People want to hear more about Christ. It’s very very easy for them to share,” Afshar said. “Of course, it’s dangerous. They can end up in prison very easily. But people are read the rest of Revival in Iran.

Leader of first Iranian church in America got saved after bargaining with God over grades

Iran ChristiansFlunking out of engineering at Pepperdine College, Shah Afshar contemplated suicide as he faced the fact that he was failing his family in Iran.

“The pressure of trying to make it, being the oldest son in the family, and trying to make an honorable name for myself and thus bring honor to my family, I very nearly committed suicide, because I was bringing shame to my family,” he said.

But Shah, whose full name is Shahrokh, fell in with a group of ex-hippies.

“They had two things that were very lacking in my life. They had peace and joy,” he said. “When I asked them, ‘what makes you different?’ They told me, ‘We’ve become born-again.’ They were followers of Jesus Christ.

new-tv-show-shazam-factor“Of course, that really offended me, coming from a Muslim background. I began to argue with them because I believed I had Mohammad, the greatest and the last prophet in the world. Who were they to tell me that a second-class prophet named Jesus was better?

“But I couldn’t deny the fact that they had something I didn’t have,” he added. “And as long as I was around them, I could experience the peace.”

Because Islam was deeply ingrained in his life, he retrenched and became a devout Muslim. But the suicidal broodings haunted him everywhere – except when he hung out with the Christians.

“They continued to love me and accept me,” he said. “And they would take me to their Bible studies – where I would never understand what is going on. I kept going because I couldn’t deny the fact that they had something I didn’t have.”

He was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner. The father prayed for the food. “That really touched me,” he said.

On the way home, Shah cried out to God.

“Look at me, I’ve tried Mohammad, I’ve tried Ali, but I want to kill myself today,” he said. “Then I said, ‘Jesus, if you’re really who these people tell me you are, I’ll accept you if you give me good grades in school.

“I had no idea who Jesus was. I didn’t believe he was the Son of God. I didn’t believe he was divine. I certainly didn’t believe he died on the cross. I just knew that if anyone could get me out of the mess, it would be him. I had nothing to lose. So I called on him.”

Part of accepting Jesus was a condition. “I said, ‘Jesus, I’ll follow you if you give me good grades in school.” It was a “feeble and theologically wrong” prayer, but God met Shah at the encounter.

A month later, he was expelled from college, but he still Read the rest about Iranian Christians.

Finding Jesus in Iran is no simple matter

One man recounts how he turned from bad boy to Jesus follower and then emigrated to Europe

muslim-christians-europe-mohammad-eghtedarian

Not the subject of this article. This man, a convert from Islam who emigrated from Iran, now serves Jesus in England. Pic. The Guardian

By Zach Catalano

He was the bad boy of his family. His parents worried that he might become a drug addict or get arrested. They never expected him to become Christian.

In Iran, accepting Jesus Christ can get you killed. But the now-27-year-old immigrant to Europe (interviewed by the World Watch Monitor) didn’t worry much about the risks when unexplainably he suddenly felt urges to learn about Christianity.

“My parents weren’t happy about my new faith, but they also didn’t give me a lot of trouble,” he said. “It was because of the people who discipled me that I eventually chose to leave the country. If the authorities would have found me, it would have led to those who discipled me, and they would have been in big trouble.”

Ironically, it was an undercover cop friend who investigated churches that told the youth where to find Christians who would, at great personal peril, break the law and explain to him, a Muslim, the tenets of Jesus.

muslim-converts-daily-beast

An article in the Daily Beast used this photo and discussed the long lines for Christian baptism in Germany by Muslims.

“My friend’s job was to track all underground activities, including ‘underground’ Christianity and illegal evangelism,” he said. “I knew that my friend could get into a lot of trouble for helping me to contact someone who could tell me more about Christianity, so I decided to bring up the issue playfully so he wouldn’t notice I was actually being serious. My plan worked. My friend gave me the address of a church that he knew was open to Muslims.”

Christianity is the fastest growing religion in Iran with an average annual rate of 5.2%, according to Wikipedia. But conversion is prohibited the Shia version of Shariah law.

At the time 18 years old, the young man lived a life of pursuing diversions.

“My father was always busy finding ways to earn more and more money,” he said. “He always followed Islam, except when it had to do with money; money was more important than religion. Like my dad, I also loved money. Money gives you friends, respect and fun. I just wanted to have fun growing up. Every night I spent time with my friends, going from place to place in the city.”

persecution-of-christians-in-iran

He tried to follow Islam and be a good Muslim.

“But it was hard. Sometimes I would try to say my prayers regularly, but I soon forgot about them or skipped them to sleep in or have fun with friends.” he said. “As a Muslim, I often had the feeling that I was failing on so many sides. Then I thought, ‘I’m lacking in so many ways. I will not go to heaven anyway. What is the point?’”

That’s when bizarre thoughts surfaced in his mind: “Go find out about Christianity.”

He had always regarded Christians as “weird people.” Christianity had a long history in Iran dating back to the Day of Pentecost when Jews from Persia heard Peter declare the wonders of God. Despite its antiquity, it has always been a minority religion.

The Iranian Revolution of 1976 tried to quash Christianity. Consequently, the youth gambled with persecution for himself and his family by pursuing a quest for truth.

But when he mustered his courage to inquire, he had difficulties finding a Christian willing to talk to Muslim because doing so was punishable under the vice grip of Shariah Law. He approached a few Christians outside church, and one after another was too skittish.

iran-map-largeStill, the impulse toward truth only grew in his mind. That’s when he remembered the friend with the job investigating churches.

“I was so excited! I’d learned that Sunday was the day of the Christians, so the next Sunday I went to the address my friend gave me.,” he said. “When I got closer I saw that there was a worship service going on. At the time I knew nothing about Christianity, so I didn’t know exactly what they were doing. I didn’t know how long it would take. But I just decided to wait outside until someone came out.”

He queried the first man who came out. Like so many others, he was unwilling to answer any questions. Next week, he returned and finally a Christian emerged and invited him in.

“This is something you just don’t do as a Muslim in Iran, so my first thought was:,‘No, no, no!’” he said. “But at the same time I knew this was the moment. So I took a deep breath and said, ‘Yes.’ The man opened the door for me. The feeling I had when I entered the church was something I’ve never felt before. It felt so peaceful.”

He didn’t understand much of the sermon, but afterwards a man invited him home. He opened up with lots of questions.

“The answers were strange, but in a good way,:” he said. “It was, for instance, the way he talked about Heaven. ‘A place in God’s absolute presence,’ he [called it]. ‘A place in which your spirit is at peace totally with your Creator.’”

The man’s description of Heaven contrasted sharply with the Islamic version of paradise, where you spend your time fulfilling your sensual desires with different women.

“His words about heaven made complete sense to me,”

Another contrast was the concept of God.

“God isn’t a far-away Person but Someone who created the earth and put us as humans in the center,” he said. “God made us in his image. He even gave us a piece of his very own Spirit. I compared him to Allah, who was far away and got angry about the little things. But with the Christian God I was welcome the way I was. He created me with my weaknesses; He even used my weaknesses to be more like Him. This was a big difference from Allah, who would punish me for any small thing. No, God was my Father, someone who knew me as a person.”

“Still, my Muslim background was too strong to just let go. It took a lot of struggling. I told God: ‘If you really care, please show me the way.’

As he attended church, some of his friends realized he was drifting from his moorings in Islam, so out of concern they recommended he consult with a man specially trained to unconfuse Muslims who have been indoctrinated by Christianity, he said.

“The funny thing is he helped me understand Christianity better,” he said. “I call him a a ‘mini-Ayatollah,.’ With everything this religious leader said about Islam, I found an alternative in the Bible that was much better.”

Gradually, he came to embrace Christianity. “It was like the curtains that had been hanging in front of the truth for a long time had been opened for me,” he said. “What I saw was beautiful.”

As certain friends discovered he was becoming Christian, so did his family. After all, he brought home the DVD movie of the life of Jesus and watched it at home with his younger brother.

“I had always been a bad boy and I started behaving differently,” he said. “They’d expected me to go on drugs, or get in trouble with the police. They didn’t expect me to become a Christian. My parents weren’t happy about my new faith, but they also didn’t give me a lot of trouble.”

But with the new faith came the danger of persecution. So at age 18, the man decided that only by emigrating to Europe could he save his family and his disciplers from governmental crackdown. For nearly a decade, he hasn’t seen his parents.

“It’s a big sacrifice,” he said. “Despite everything, I am undoubtedly happy and thankful.”

Zach Catalano is a sophomore at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.