Iran (MNN) — As the coronavirus crisis worsens in Iran, Christians are setting a practical example even as they offer the hope of Christ.
Iran remains the epicenter of COVID-19 in the Middle East. Mike Ansari of Heart 4 Iran says, “The situation in Iran is very, very dire. And so, we really do not have an understanding of the full scope of the of the transmission of this disease and the number of deaths because traditionally, the Iranian Government does not announce the exact numbers.”
Many people are still celebrating Iran’s new year. That means traveling with family, buying food, and more, and yet many remain seemingly unaware of the severity of the crisis. Ansari says, “The message that people need to exercise social distancing has not really settled in Iran. On the other hand, you also have the clerics asking to open the shrines so people could go there.”
A small number of Shiites are still wanting to visit the country’s shrines, praying by them, touching them, and even kissing them. The government wants to close and sanitize these places. “The clergy are saying no, these are the places that are clean, people are going to go there and get healed. And therefore, you see a tug of war between governmental entities in Iran, the health ministry, and others versus the clergy. And people are caught in the middle.”
Iranian authorities initially did not take the threat of COVID-19 seriously, and some hardline clerics accused the West of orchestrating the pandemic to weaken the Islamic Republic’s resolve.
Christians in Iran
How are Christians responding? Caution and education. Many underground churches have cancelled their gatherings and services. Instead, they distribute hand sanitizer.
They also bring hope to the people of Iran. Ansari says,“What we are doing from is we have produced programming on MohabatTV and are airing it to the country of Iran, talking about coronavirus. Talking about how to have hope, how to bring light into uncertainty and faith into the volatility of the situation.”
Ansari encourages believers to pray for each other all over the world. “I was talking to one of the believers in Iran. I asked him, ‘How can we pray for you?’ And he said, ‘Please pray Psalm 91 for us.’ And we are reminded again that when you turn to God in times like this, God’s peace and hope gives us that extra dosage of faith and perseverance that we need to make it through the difficult times.”
A global perspective
“This is a historic thing that’s happening,” Ansari says. “We really have not seen this in our generation. We have no idea where this is going to end up and what the total cost and impact is.”
He says times of tragedy tend to pull people together, and he hopes that will happen not just in Iran, but all over the world.
Pray that the light of Christ would shine on all people during this tragedy, and that the people of the world would work to help each other.
A shrine in Iran, now closed. (Header image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)