Iran (MNN) – A deadly trend has overtaken Iran over the last few decades. According to Heart4Iran, Iran has some of the highest rates of suicide, depression, drug abuse, and divorce. Sadly, people often turn to drugs and crime to cope with poverty, unemployment, and oppression from the government.
By some reports, depression has even doubled in the last couple of decades. It’s a big problem growing ever larger. But one organization believes they have the hope people need to break from these chains of despair.
Edwin Abnous of Heart4Iran says, “This is not a sudden spike. And I believe what we’re witnessing as far as drug addiction goes, it’s a national epidemic. And there’s all sorts of reasons for that. I think one of the main [reasons] that we’re seeing that is because [it’s just] available.”
Iran is in the middle of a drug trafficking route from Afghanistan into Europe and so drugs are always prevalent. Abnous explains that the problem is so widespread that it doesn’t select people from any specific demographic. Families from all economic classes are affected. Even the most religious families are struggling with drugs.
“Besides the drug trafficking that’s happening through Iran, other reasons contribute to this as well. The sanctions that Iran has experienced over the years, the isolation from [the] international community, some unemployment that is happening inside the country, the serious economic challenges that especially Iranian youth are facing– these are all causes that drug addiction has [become] a national epidemic.”
And tied to the drug problem is depression and suicide.
“The suicide rate is another outcome of these challenges that Iranians are facing. I’ve been reading some statistics about the suicide rate. And they say in the last [five years], there’s a 66 percent increase among Iranian women, and 71 percent among men.”
And while each individual faces their own set of challenges and trials, Abnous says the foundation of these difficulties is the same across the board: “We believe that underneath of all of these, there is a spiritual battle going on.”
Heart4Iran’s main focus is to preach the Gospel through the media they share on TV and through social media. This happens primarily through their ministry arm, Mohabat TV. They know that the message of Jesus is key to fighting off depression and addiction.
“We believe that part of the solution is a spiritual solution and social awakening to the message of the Gospel. So, we have numerous testimonies of the people [who], despite their economic and social problems, after receiving the Gospel of hope, they took control of their own spiritual and emotional lives.”
Along with their content, Heart4Iran runs a 24/7 counseling service for Iranians to call into. This is part of the discipleship and follow-up of people who respond to their Gospel message.
“We receive about 2-300 telephone calls every day. As a result of this communication that we have with the viewers, either if they’re coming from watching TV or social media, we have about 300 salvations per month.”
How can you respond?
There are a number of ways you can respond to this story.
First, Abnous says, “Stand next to us. First of all, we need your prayers. We need your prayers and to know that we have people praying for us—interceding for us. This is a great source of encouragement.”
Secondly, Abnous reminds us that the Church in the West has been blessed with great resources. We can share those resources with the Church in Iran to help them strengthen and grow. But in order for the western Church to share these resources, they need to know about the need.
“Let us share the stories with your community and churches and with your ministries… and I’m sure a lot of people are willing to be standing next to the ministries like us to reach Iranian people.”