Iran (MNN) – The relationship between Iran and the United States has always been tricky. In recent years, the tension has surrounded Iran’s nuclear program, sanctions imposed by the United States and the UN, and the hotly debated Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (commonly known as the Iran Deal). Now the topic has been dredged up again. Before October 15, the Trump Administration has to decide whether or not they’ll re-certify Iran’s compliance with the deal, or utilize sanctions once more.
But underneath the political relationship between the nations, there is another relationship being fostered—between the people of Iran and those in the West willing to look beyond the drama.
Heart4Iran is a ministry partnership of 85 organizations, focused on bringing the Western world’s attention to what is happening with God’s people in Iran. They utilize whatever platforms necessary to make sure Farsi-speaking believers can continue to learn about God and grow in their faith. This includes Iran and those who speak the Farsi language in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Mohabat TV, for example, is a satellite television ministry that presents the Gospel and provides other scriptural resources via programming.
Edwin Keshish-Abnous of Heart4Iran says the partnership is basically “the Western face of what we do as a ministry, mainly as a production house, a Christian Satellite TV where we provide Christian programming and content … for Underground churches via social media, various ways on the internet, publication, things like that.”
The name makes it easy for Westerners to understand what the ministry is about—developing and acting upon a heart for the Church in Iran and those who don’t yet know Jesus.
Ministry challenges in Iran
There are a variety of challenges the ministry faces. Like other satellite and radio ministries, they have experienced interference with their signals.
“Basically all these Iranian satellite TVs, whether it’s Christian or political or anything that is not supported by the Iranian government, they tend to be jammed. And it’s because they don’t want this content, whatever it is, to be [sent] into the country.”
But there are ways to get around the signal jamming. Another form of censorship takes place over the internet. Iranians are banned from social media websites. However with a bit of effort, believers and others are still able to access Heart4Iran’s social media content.
Another challenge the ministry faces is happening in the hearts of people. That is, the general attitude people in countries like the United States have towards Iranians. A study done by the BBC in 2013 shows that Iran is one of the most negatively viewed countries in the world. In the United States, 87% of poll participants held a negative view of Iran. But Keshish-Abnous says this feeling isn’t returned, despite the general belief that Iranians hate Americans, Christians, and Western society.
The government, which has a louder voice, may be extremely anti-Western, and there are political agenda’s in Western media that also skew the story.
“That doesn’t necessarily reflect what Iranians believe. As a matter of fact, if you’re a Westerner and you go to Iran, you’re well received. And even if you talk about Christianity, if you pass a Bible to some Iranians, they’re going to like it, they want to read it, they want to track with you and talk about your belief.”
In Keshish-Abnous’ past experience, sharing faith has not conjured up hostility, but genuine curiosity and discussion. “The persecution is not coming from people. Iranian people are not hostile [towards] Christianity.”
We know that being a Christian in Iran is dangerous, but the danger actually stems from the government and those who believe Iran should be a purely Islamic nation. Keshish-Abnous believes the government is afraid of losing power if its people convert from Islam.
Despite the pressure, the Church in Iran is growing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world.
That’s why it’s important to be learning about what’s happening in Iran through un-biased and un-politically motivated media sources. When we learn the true heart of Iran, our own perspective will be transformed.
“That will change your heart and you’ll be willing to pray for them or even support a ministry that will put the resources and talents and everything into reaching Iranians.”
So, how can you be praying for Iran?
“If you’re a Christian and you have heard this [story], pray for Iranian ministers, Iranian organizations, Western ministries that are supporting this movement inside the country. Pray for them, for protection. Pray for the financial challenges they have. Pray for creativity so they will be able to deliver content much better and more effectively and richly and faithfully.”
Another concern we can be praying for is the strength of the Church.
“A lot of people are coming to Christ inside the country, so the Church grows very fast. But one of the concerns that the Iranian ministers have is how deep these churches are, how good of an understanding they have of the Bible. So pray for a way [for] us to disciple Iranians to grow into their faith and be self-sustained.”
To support Heart4Iran in other ways, and to learn more about what is happening in Iran, click here.