Iran (MNN) — Type “Iran” into a Google News search and you’ll see headlines focused on the coronavirus and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iran has the most coronavirus-related deaths outside of China with 77 reported casualties, and yesterday saw dozens of new infections among parliament members. At the same time, European concerns mount as Iran steps further away from a 2015 nuclear deal.
Meanwhile, another serious issue is falling off the global radar. Three months after Iran’s widespread protests, no one is holding security forces accountable for using excessive lethal force against civilians. According to Heart4Iran President Mike Ansari, security officials randomly targeted their victims.
Casualties included “men, women, children that were on the streets for whatever reason, either for shopping or protesting,” Ansari says.
“Iranian government officials… massacred roughly 1,500 Iranian citizens on the streets simply because they did not want to have an uprising on their hands.”
No consequences for crackdown
Frustration drove thousands of Iranians to the streets in mid-November. A nationwide crackdown led to hundreds of deaths, but a simultaneous four-day Internet blackout makes exact details difficult to confirm. Today, the situation remains vague.
In a detailed report issued last week, Human Rights Watch leaders asked members of the United Nations Human Rights Council to respond. “Human rights organizations called on the Iranian government to be accountable for the atrocities that took place,” Ansari says.
“[The] Iranian government hid behind the dark veil that they always hide behind and they said, ‘no, there were only maybe 170 people that were troublemakers that were killed’.”
Injustice like this fuels dissatisfaction. Ansari says Iranians want more than what Islam offers, and they’re finding it in Christ.
Dissatisfaction fuels Gospel growth
One high-profile case is getting attention across Iran. In November, officials detained a young Iranian social activist and Muslim-background believer named Mary. Her whereabouts and safety were completely unknown for more than a month.
During that time, Ansari says, believers circulated Mary’s story continuously on Mohabat TV and social media. “Just recently, about a week or so ago, news came out that she’s at one of the notorious prisons in Iran. There are rumors that she was sexually abused and tortured as well,” Ansari says. Read the latest update here.
After seeing Mary’s story and learning about the Iranian Christian community, “a lot of Iranians…just started asking the bigger question[s]… ‘What makes Jesus so different?’” Ansari says.
“We thought it was absolutely sacrilegious for us to believe in anything but Islam. You mean, we can actually choose Jesus over Muhammad?’”
As “seekers” discover Gospel truth through Mohabat TV, many come to Christ. “It takes about six months for somebody inside Iran to understand who Jesus is, and understand the basics of Christianity,” Ansari says. Working through its network of partners, Heart4Iran helps these new believers obtain a Bible and start a house church.
“The house churches inside Iran are growing very fast. In fact… [there was a] report from BBC mentioning that the underground Church in Iran is among one of the fastest-growing churches in the world.”
How to help
Now that you know, what will you do? Going to Iran may not be a wise or viable option, but everyone can pray. Use the prompts listed alongside this article as a starting point or watch this video for more ideas.
Along with prayer, consider resourcing Iranian believers to reach the seekers among them. Learn more about that here. “We partner with more than one hundred ministries that share the same heart, same DNA – to see the Great Commission accomplished in Iran and the region,” Ansari says.
“The true heroes are our partners. Not only [do] they send Bibles, but they spend time with individuals to bring them from interest to influence. That usually takes about three years or so for that individual to launch a healthy underground house church.”
Header image is a screenshot obtained from Prayercast|Iran.