Iran (MNN) — Forty-five years ago, on October 12-16, 1971, Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi threw a lavish party celebrating the 2,500th year of the Persian Empire. The celebration cost an estimated $200 million USD, and featured 50 tents with lush Persian carpets, French linens, and marble bathrooms, according to The New York Times.
Eight years later, Shah Pahlavi was deposed in Iran and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini stepped into power. He established the Islamic republic and declared Islamic law in Iran.
According to Open Doors USA, in Iran, to be ethnically Persian is to be Muslim. A Persian who is not Muslim almost doesn’t make sense — which is why leaving Islam and following Christ is a big deal, even punishable by death.
With such high stakes in Iran linked to Persian identity, why would anyone choose to follow Christ?
Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs, USA says, “Because it’s true. That’s the bottom line. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and once you understand that, no other way will work for you. Even if it costs you something, there is no other way, there is no other truth.”
We recently reported that the Iranian Church today has the fastest growing body of believers in the world. Operation World says more Iranians have come to accept Jesus Christ in the last 20 years than the former 13 centuries combined.
The people of Iran are searching for truth. “The fact that so many Iranians have already rejected Islam, they have seen Islam does not work, Islam is not the truth. What else is out there?”
Nettleton says, “We here at Voice of the Martyrs provide Bibles into Iran. We help support Gospel broadcast into Iran. That soil is already fertile. It’s already prepared. Then the seeds of the Gospel get planted and they say, ‘This is the truth. No matter what happens to me, this is the truth. I’m going to hang onto it.’”
Because really, when it comes to the Good News of the Gospel, God will enable His people to share His message of hope through any means necessary.
“I think the Gospel is spreading in Iran really through every imaginable channel. We know satellite broadcasting is producing great results. Because of the danger, people in the privacy of their own home who can turn on the TV and get answers to their questions, that’s a great way of reaching them,” says Nettleton.
“[Also,] the internet is a great way of reaching them. We know of ministries that are on the internet providing the Gospel, even providing whole Bibles in digital form for Iranians to have. Family members who are outside Iran are being reached out to by Christians and witnessed to and coming to Christ, and then either going home to visit Iran or calling their family members in Iran and sharing the Gospel.
“When the Church is growing as fast as it is right now in Iran, there’s not just one source of that other than, obviously, the Holy Spirit. Television broadcasting, Bible distribution, on-the-ground evangelism inside Iran by brave Christians, family members outside the country calling in, all of those channels are being used by God to build the Church in Iran.”
How can other believers help our Iranian brothers and sisters in Christ?
Nettleton suggests, “One [way] is to understand the price that Iranian Christians are paying to follow Christ, and stand with them, support them. There are Iranian Christians in jail right now simply for being a Christian, for telling other people about Jesus Christ. So we can stand with them, we can stand with their families as they are in prison, we can pray for them. And I think that would be their number one request is [to] pray for us, pray for our country, pray for the Church here.
“We can also help. We can help with Bibles, we can help the ministries that are broadcasting the Gospel into Iran, the ministries that are online ministering inside Iran through online methods. We can help with resources for those ministries and help them continue their work. We know it is having an effect, we see the fertile soil and the fruit that is coming up out of that, but they need help to continue doing that.”
Nettleton shares how you can get involved with the Voice of the Martyrs: “If you come to persecution.com you can connect with Voice of the Marytrs online. One of the things you can do is just type ‘Iran’ into the search bar and see the latest information that we have about that nation.”