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(By Faith McDonnell for IRD) On Monday, September 28, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) operative publicly threatened the life of the Rev. Dr. Bob Fu. All of us who believe in religious freedom and human rights need to speak out.
Fu, the founder and president of China Aid, is a former prisoner of faith in China and outspoken activist. In May he became an Adjunct Senior Fellow for Religious Freedom in China here at IRD. And just this past weekend he spoke at The Return, a globally-viewed gathering for repentance and revival that took place on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
Moments before Dr. Fu went to the podium at The Return to pray on behalf of the Christians in China and the nations, he received shocking news. Chinese Communist thugs were surrounding his home in Texas, harassing his wife and children. He asked the tens of thousands in attendance at The Return to pray for his family. And he asked God to transform China into a “mission-sending” nation and to bring Communist leaders to repentance.
I sought out Fu after he finished speaking. I discovered that in addition to intimidating his wife and children, the thugs slandered him. They brandished signs declaring — ridiculously — that “Bob Fu is a Fake Pastor” and “Bob Fu is Responsible for COVID-19.” Fortunately, the police dispelled the Communist agents swiftly. And fellow church members brought comfort to his family.
But the threat was not over. Monday I received word about disturbing, threatening videos against Fu and others. These videos came from Chinese Communist Party agent, Guo Wengui, aka Miles Kwok. It was he who sent thugs to Fu’s home.
Guo is a Chinese billionaire businessman who fled from China to the United States in 2014. He was accused of bribery, fraud, and money laundering. Guo uses his large social media following on YouTube, Twitter, and his personal website to incite and encourage violence against leading critics of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). One of his tactics is to turn around and name these freedom fighters as CCP agents, thieves, and traffickers! These include human rights activists and prominent members of the Chinese diaspora.
In videos on September 27 and September 28 Guo threatens Fu again. Guo also threatens many other Chinese former dissidents and freedom fighters. He threatened some leaders of Tienanmen Square who now live in the United States. One he threatened was Pastor Zhang Boli, still on the CCP’s “Most Wanted” list.
In the video on September 28 Guo addresses Fu directly. He boasts that some “100 or 200 operatives” are coming to his house. This intimidation, violence, and slander geared towards confusion and misdirection are the kinds of tactics that the Chinese Communist regime employs against those who dare to speak out about the human rights violations it perpetrates.
Many in the West have emboldened the CCP in recent years. Large, powerful entities such as Disney, the NBA, Big Tech, major U.S. banks, and others have consistently acquiesced. So the CCP believes it can even control Chinese Americans. . . in America! This needs to end!
Please pray for Bob and his family. Pray also for all the other Chinese heroes slandered and threatened by Guo and the CCP. In addition to prayer, you may wish to:
- Join us in the statement below. To sign, please indicate so with your name, city, state in the comment section for this article.
- Urge the United States government deport this Chinese operative.
- Inform YouTube that Guo uses his channel to issue death threats and intimidation. We hear over and over how YouTube warns or shut downs conservative and Christian YouTube channels. Let’s see if social media will not have a double standard for once.
More warnings coming out of China. (Bitter Winter) The story in John 8 is presented to Chinese students as one where the Savior waits for the Pharisees to leave, then stones the adulterer himself.
Every Christian knows the story. It is told in the Gospel of John, 8:3–11. “The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” Jesus at first ignored them, but then told the Pharisees, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Since they knew they were not without sin, “they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.” Jesus said to her, “‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’”
It is a powerful story about mercy and forgiveness. Jesus does not condone the sin, but forgives the sinner with his divine authority. Mercy and forgiveness, however, are unknown to the CCP. Perhaps in anticipation of the future promised “sinicization” of the sacred scriptures of all religions, a textbook published by published by the University of Electronic Science and Technology Press for teaching “professional ethics and law” in secondary vocational schools tells a different version of the story, as revealed by UCA News.
Here is how the textbook presents the story of the woman taken in adultery: “The crowd wanted to stone the woman to death as per their law. But Jesus said, ‘Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.’ Hearing this, they slipped away one by one. When the crowd disappeared, Jesus stoned the sinner to death saying, ‘I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.’”
Christians in China are protesting against a textbook making Jesus a sinner and a killer. Actually, however, the incident is subtler than that. It is not, or not mostly, about painting a negative image of Jesus. It is about the CCP itself. Many CCP bureaucrats, judges, and police officers are notoriously corrupted. Yet, the story teaches that they should be obeyed. If “sinners” would be prevented from “executing the law,” including administering the capital punishment with or without due process, “the law would be dead.”
As told to Chinese students, the story teaches that the law and the Party are good and pure, and transcend the impure human beings who happen to represent them.
Even if the officers are corrupted, their decision should be accepted—because, honest or corrupted, they represent the Party, and the Party’s law should never be questioned.
This is standard CCP theory, but totally distorts the meaning of Jesus’ teaching in John 8. Mobilizing Jesus for the CCP propaganda is blasphemous and offensive to Christians. Yet, we can expect more such distortions as religious scriptures are gradually “sinicized.”
(World Watch List) The Eritrean government has released on bail more than 20 prisoners who’d been in detention for years because of their faith, the BBC reports.
It says sources have said that the prisoners are from Christian evangelical and Pentecostal denominations, some held in a prison outside the capital Asmara.
In 2002 Eritrea introduced a new law that forbids all Churches except for the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran ones. Sunni Islam is also officially recognized.
According to a religious freedom campaigner from Asmara, but now based in North America, Hannibal Daniel, people who’d been in prison for about 16 years have been freed on bail.
A regional spokesperson for charity Open Doors International said that, for some time, it had heard discussion that prisoners might be freed on bail due to the coronavirus pandemic (as has happened in several other countries) but could not independently confirm the reports: “If true, this could be quite significant.”
The Eritrean government has not responded to BBC requests for confirmation or denial. Previously, it’s dismissed accusations of intolerance to religious freedom.
In May 2019, a monitoring group for the UN said “thousands” of Christians are facing detention as “religious freedom continue[s] to be denied in Eritrea” and questioned why the UN was not monitoring the situation more closely.
In June 2019, Thomson Reuters reported that more than 500,000 refugees worldwide have left Eritrea, up from 486,200 a year earlier.
Many flee compulsory military service, but others flee political or religious persecution.
That same month, the government seized all Catholic-run health clinics in the country, and arrested five Orthodox priests. These moves prompted the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Eritrea, Daniela Kravetz, to call on the government to uphold religious freedom for its citizens and “release those who have been imprisoned for their religious beliefs.”
In August 2019, Eritrea’s Orthodox patriarch, Abune Antonios, was expelled by pro-government bishops of his Church, accused of heresy; he remained in detention throughout 2019.
Antonios had been under house arrest since 2007, when he refused to comply with the regime’s attempts to interfere with church affairs.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom says Eritrea is a ‘Country of Particular Concern’, saying “In 2019, religious freedom conditions in Eritrea worsened, with increasing interference in and restrictions on religious groups. In spite of the significant regional political changes and the 2018 peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Eritrea continues to have one of the worst religious freedom records in the world, and has shown little interest in concretely improving the situation”. The State Department estimates there are between 1200 and 3000 prisoners held for their faith. USCIRF included some of those cases in its new Victims List.
Some prisoners, such as the leader of the Full Gospel Church, have been in prison for more than 15 years.
A year, ago, 70 Christians detained included 35 women and 10 children
At least 150 Eritrean Christians were arrested by government officials during summer 2019, with some held in an underground prison made up of tunnels.
For instance on 18 August, 2019, Eritrean security officials detained 80 Christians from Godayef, an area near Asmara airport.
Four days later, on 22 August, the United Nations observed its first annual commemoration of victims of religiously motivated violence. “On this day, we reaffirm our unwavering support for the victims of violence based on religion and belief. And we demonstrate that support by doing all in our power to prevent such attacks and demanding that those responsible are held accountable,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
The government’s 2019 clampdown on evangelical Christians had begun in June 2019 when security officials arrested 70 members (among them 35 women and 10 children) of the Faith Mission Church of Christ, in Eritrea’s second city, Keren. These were taken to Ashufera prison, 25kms from the city.
The prison is a vast underground tunnel system and conditions in which detainees are held are very harsh, a local source said. It’s far from a main road, the source said, which “means that anyone who wants to visit has to walk a minimum of 30 minutes to reach the entrance.
Inmates are forced to dig additional tunnels when officers need extra space for more prisoners.”
After the 2019 arrests, government officials also closed the church-run school, said the local source, whose identity World Watch Monitor withheld for security reasons.
The Faith Mission Church of Christ was the last church still open in the majority-Muslim city, 90kms northwest of Asmara. Started over 60 years ago, the Church once had schools and orphanages all over the country, according to religious freedom advocacy group CSW.
It had been waiting for registration since it submitted an application in 2002 when the government introduced the new law. This clampdown sent other Christians in Keren into hiding, the source said.
Eritrea is 6th on the Open Doors 2020 World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
9/3/2020 (Voice of the Persecuted) Maldives — Population: 450 ,000, Christian thousands
Radical Muslims control society. The Maldives is a nation of islands in the Indian Ocean, that spans across the equator. The country is comprised of 1192 islands that stretch along a length of 871 miles. The Maldives, especially its main island, Malé, is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. The close-knit, homogeneous communities are naturally alert to any deviation, including religious choice. All politicians tirelessly announce that they are keeping the Maldives 100 percent Muslim, leaving effectively, no space for any other expression of religious faith.
The Maldives are a paradise on earth for tourists, you would think about the Christians community hardly persecuted in the islands: Maldivian Christians must keep their faith completely secret and being found to own a Bible could result in a prison sentence. That’s why many Maldivian Christians have been forced to move abroad to escape persecution. Those Christians who live outside the capital sometimes meet in secret for worship, but these meetings are subject to police raids. Even tourists have reported getting into trouble for having a personal copy of the Bible since importing Christian literature into the country is strictly prohibited.
The main source of persecution is the Islamic extremism since the government sees itself as the protector of Islam, and the judicial system increasingly reflects Sharia (Islamic law); the death penalty has been introduced as punishment for murder, even for children, and a law banning marital rape was vetoed by the president as ‘un-Islamic‘. Citizens of the Maldives who convert to Christianity lose their citizenship and risk torture.
It is illegal to import Bibles, but some Maldivians access the Scriptures through Bible apps or the internet. VOM says translation of the Bible into Dhivehi, the main language of the Maldives, is ongoing, but the work has been difficult and slow because of the small number of Christian converts. They use creative, secretive methods to share the gospel inside the Maldives. They also support outreach to Maldivians in India and are assisting in the recording of God’s Word in the national language
The Maldives’ constitution requires all citizens to be Muslim. Conversion from Islam means that someone can be stripped of their citizenship and punished under Shariah law. Even foreign workers who are Christians are closely watched, which makes church life extremely difficult and practically non-existent. Churches are outlawed, and openly carrying the Bible is illegal Maldivian Christians must keep their faith completely secret. There have been cases where spouses have only discovered after years that both of them were active Christians, as they had hidden their faith from one another. If they are discovered, they will lose their citizenship. Even owning a Bible can result in imprisonment. In practice, no church meetings are possible. Most Christians in the Maldives are expatriates, and most prefer not to organize meetings out of fear of repercussions. Sharing the gospel with Muslims is illegal and can result in deportation.
Since Christianity is forbidden in the country, baptisms of converts cannot take place and would have to be done outside of the Maldives—and even then in secret, so the conversion is not made known. Children of converts are shunned and harassed at school, if the conversion is discovered. They may also be forced to leave school and may have no other option but to attend a school abroad, if they want to continue their studies (and their parents can afford it). This is an option many expatriate Christians choose for their children, just to avoid the everyday pressure on Christians.
At work, coworkers apply constant pressure on expatriate Christians to persuade them to convert to Islam. They try to prove to Christian migrant workers that Jesus is not the Savior and even use money or promises of promotion at times. Converts try to blend in with the majority of people around them in their efforts to hide their faith.
- Pray the hearts of those in power will be softened toward Christians.
- Pray for protection of believers because the government is currently engaged in a political struggle with opposition forces, any perceived threat such like Christianity is quickly and harshly eradicated.
- Pray the hopes for human rights are realized. Former President Mohamed Nasheed was elected as speaker of the parliament in May 2019. This formalizes his reappearance on the political stage in the Maldives and increases hopes for change, including in the area of human rights, including religious freedom. However, these are hopes for the long-term, not the short-term.
- Pray that God would help secret believers to find fellowship.
- The language of the Maldives is Dhivehi: the complete Bible in this language is not yet available. Pray believers will have access to the Bible in their language.
- Pray for more translators so that a Bible in the Dhivehi language will be available soon
- Pray for got to soften the hearts of radical Muslims, that the Lord will appear to them in their dreams.
- Pray for protection of NGO’s who covert support to believers
- Pray that the strong Christian messages on the internet that will encourage believers and let Muslims see and understand the Good News.
- Pray that believers would have courage and endurance in the face of persecution.
- Pray to the Lord to that He will protect and encourage the saints and make their gatherings invisible to the authorities
You are invited to join us on Thursday, September the 3rd in a prayer call for the persecuted church.
Andy, Persecution Watch Prayer Moderator
Prayer Conference Call Details
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What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God.
The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own.
With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.
On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer.
Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.
Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you.
If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!
NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers.
Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.
Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.
Religious persecution in China affects each aspect of believers’ life. Those unwilling to give up their faith may lose their jobs.
(Bitter Winter) by Zhang Wenshu —
Authorities in the eastern province of Shandong carry out mass investigations into the religious status of civil servants, employees of state-run institutions and enterprises, including schools and hospitals.
On July 28, thousands of workers in over 200 government-affiliated institutions in the Fushan district of Yantai city were convened for a meeting to investigate their religious status. Their spouses, children, and parents were also scrutinized.
In May, the Education Bureau of Jinan, the capital of Shandong, required some primary and secondary schools to determine if any of their teachers, students, or their family members were religious. Similar investigations have been carried out in schools of other cities as well.
A primary school teacher, a member of a Sola Fide house church, told Bitter Winter that the school principal summoned her to fill out a government-issued form about the religious status of teaching and administrative staff. “The principal told me that all religious gatherings are banned, even reading the Bible in small groups is not allowed,” the teacher said. The woman added that she was greatly upset by the government’s increasing persecution of religions. She is afraid that if her religious affiliation is revealed, she could be subjected to surveillance, or worse, be punished and even lose her job.
A hospital staff member revealed that at least two hospitals in the city investigated the religious status of employees and their family members in April. Personal information of people who attend state-run places of worship was also collected. Those who are discovered to have concealed their faith could be punished.
People of faith worry that their job security and wellbeing could be affected if their religious belief is disclosed. Many have been discriminated against because of their religion.
In June, a sanitation worker, nearly 70 years old, from the central province of Henan, was fired for reading the Bible during her break at work. She was let go the same day after the director of the Environmental Sanitation Bureau publicly criticized her. The director demanded that all potential employees present a certificate from the police in the area of their permanent residence registration, proving that they are not religious. “No religious person shall get recruited,” the director proclaimed.
The woman’s colleagues commented that she was a good worker, laboring hard without complaints. Because of her faith, she has never been named a “model worker.” “All leaders kept an eye on her and punished her just because she believes in God and often shared the gospel with us. No one dared to defend her,” one of her colleagues commented.
“I’m aging, and I don’t know how I will support myself,” the woman lamented.
A staff member at a hotel in the northwestern province of Shaanxi told Bitter Winter that he had worked in many hotels over the years. He had to provide a “no-faith certificate” issued by his permanent residence in all of them. The same happened when he applied for the position of a security guard in a kindergarten.
For members of banned religious groups, the situation is even worse. A public servant from Shandong’s Yantai city, whose belief was recently investigated, explained to Bitter Winter that if government workers or their family members are ascertained to be members of a xie jiao, they will be immediately fired.
A person working in the public security system in the province has lost his job because his father is a member of The Church of Almighty God. “I have friends working in police stations or criminal police and national security brigades, but none of them dared to help me,” the man revealed. “And no money could have helped to keep my post. My superiors said that when religious beliefs are involved, no connections will help.”
A man who moved to Xinjiang at the beginning of the year told Bitter Winter that the police questioned him about his father’s membership in the Shouters, a religious group declared a xie jiao and banned in 1983, four days after he started working in a state-run enterprise.
“My father has a police record because he has been arrested for his faith, and this information is in the system,” the man explained. “Every time they check my ID card, authorities learn about my father’s faith. The enterprise leader told me that if a person has a police record for religious beliefs, three generations of their descendants would not be able to join the army or work in a state-run entity.” The police also questioned the man to find out if he was religious as well. They ordered him to attend “study classes” for two hours every day. Because the employer has learned about his father’s faith, the man could no longer work in the state-run institution, and he left Xinjiang.
(Juicy Ecumenism) by Scott Morgan Several nations are known, even outside the small company of human rights advocates, for violating the rights of its people to religious freedom and for persecuting believers. But there are other nations, also oppressing people of faith, which are not as well known. Malaysia is one of the latter.
China and Nigeria have achieved wide notoriety for their actions suppressing freedom of religion or belief, due in large part to work by human rights and religious freedom activists. But not much has been in the news about Malaysia.
Malaysia is one of those countries that doesn’t generate the interest of most media outlets. There are too many other crisis spots or issues. It is a matter of great interest to Malaysians whose freedom of religion is being violated, though. And therefore it should be of interest to all who care about Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). (This is now the chic term, by the way, used by the UN and other cognoscenti: Freedom of Religion or Belief aka FoRB. You’re not supposed to just say “religious freedom” anymore!)
The recent release of reports from three different entities regarding FoRB in Malaysia. Even though Malaysia appears to have good constitutional provision for religious freedom, these reports have provided new documentation of Malaysia’s unwillingness to implement those constitutional freedoms and documents oppressive actions against Christians and others.
First there was the release of a briefing paper by the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) in March of last year, 2019. The paper, “Challenges to Freedom of Religion or Belief in Malaysia” was sponsored by the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
Part of a follow up to the visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights to Malaysia in September 2017, the ICJ report focused on six key issues. These issues concern the implementation in practice of Malaysia’s constitutional provisions, federal laws, and Islamic laws in the context of freedom of religion or belief:
- discrimination against religious minorities
- limitations on the rights of children relating to personal matters governed by Islamic law
- discrimination against persons who wish to change or adopt a new religion
- criminalization and prosecution of proselytism among Muslims
- prohibitions on the use of the word ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims
- relationship with freedom of expression and the crime of sedition
The second document, is the US State Department’s annual report on International Religious Freedom (IRF), issued in June 2020. The IRF report covers events that took place in Malaysia in 2019. Once again we have a report that doesn’t paint a rosy picture regarding the situation on the ground. Some of the documented concerns of the US Government include the universal conversion of children by one parent without the permission of the other, the disappearance of three Christians along with a Muslim activist, and the lack of respect for the rights of religious minorities.
Noted in the State Department report is the conflict between Malaysia’s civil law and Sharia (Islamic law). The IRF report says, “The government maintains a parallel legal system, with certain civil matters for Muslims covered by sharia. The relationship between sharia and civil law remains unresolved in the legal system.” Elsewhere, it adds, “When civil and sharia jurisdictions intersect, civil courts continue largely to give deference to sharia courts, creating situations where sharia judgements affect non-Muslims.”
Also during the month of June, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, (USCIRF) issued a press release urging the Malaysian authorities along with those of Thailand to protect Rohingya refugees who are currently stranded at sea after fleeing from persecution in Burma. This minority Muslim community has been seeking refuge in Bangladesh for some time, but the country was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people that were driven from their homes. Therefore, the Rohingya turned their eyes towards Thailand and Malaysia.
USCIRF Commissioner, Johnnie Moore, was quoted in the release stating, “The Rohingya people have faced unimaginable horrors in their home country of Burma.” And Commission Chair, Gayle Manchin said, “Thai and Malaysian authorities must recognize their obligations under international law to refugees fleeing ethnic and religious violence.” She continued, “USCIRF urges them to grant refuge to Rohingya Muslims fleeing ethnic cleansing in Burma. If not, hundreds could perish at sea.”
This is not the only action that USCIRF has taken regarding Malaysia. In its annual report for 2020 the Commission recommends that Malaysia be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department for the same problems expressed in the reports of the ICJ and State’s own IRF report. It has also made the recommendation that the country be placed on the Special Watch List for its treatment of Religious Minorities.
Although this is a brief snapshot into the issue of FoRB in Malaysia, it is good to see that in spite of the lack of press notoriety on the nation’s violations of religious freedom, those who are serious defenders of FoRB, like the International Committee of Jurists, the US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom are taking steps to highlight the problems and help religious minorities in Malaysia.
International Day Of Religious Freedom (IDORF) – 2020
Following the Declaration by the General Assembly of United Nations that 22nd August of each year should be marked as International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion, Belief, or Faith, the religious community in Nigeria marked the Day with a Press Conference held in Lagos, Nigeria.
(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear brothers and sisters, please take a moment to watch the video below and pray for Iranian Christians, those being persecuted. the nation and leaders of Iran.
Known as Persia until 1935, today’s Islamic Republic of Iran is predominately Muslim (98%), mostly Shi’ite. With its proximity to Arabic speaking countries, it is often perceived to be Arabic, but Iran is Persian. The Elamites, descendants of Noah’s son Shem, first settled in the area and were followed by the Medes and Persians who established an ancient civilization and world empire.
The Bible records the names of some of its most famous: Cyrus the Great, Darius, and Xerxes. Over the centuries, the Persian language (Farsi) and culture have prevailed even with many conquerors crossing through this land.
Persians comprise over sixty percent of the 79 million people in Iran and it’s as ‘Persians’ that many identify themselves.
With coastlines on the Caspian Sea in the north and the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman in the south, Iran’s large land mass is politically strategic as it shares borders with Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Geographically in the Middle East and Central Asia, Iran is a recognized regional power.
Continent: Asia — Capital City: Tehran — Government: Theocratic Republic
Population: 82,021,564 — Major People Groups: Persian, Azeri, Kurd, Lur, Baloch, Arab, Turkmen and Turkic tribes
Religion: Muslim 99.4%, other 0.3%, unspecified 0.4%
Language: Persian, Azeri Turkic and Turkic dialects, Kurdish, Gilaki and Mazandarani, Luri, Balochi, Arabic, other
GDP Per Capita: $20,000
Literacy Rate: 86.8%
The 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the twenty-five-hundred-year-old monarchy and converted Iran into a Shi’ite Muslim, cleric-ruled country. A year later, Iraq attacked Iran and an 8-year war followed, helping solidify the rule of the Muslim clerics (Ayatollahs) and worsening the already hurting economy.
Currently, Iran’s over dependence on the country’s rich oil and natural gas exports, a significant increase in the birth rate in the 80’s, and economic reforms that fell short of their targets have resulted in high unemployment and underemployment, double-digit inflation, and almost 20% of the people living in poverty.
Furthermore Iran’s questionable nuclear program along with its geographic location and attitude toward Israel has stirred up considerable worldwide political concerns for the stability of the region and has resulted in economic sanctions and continued close scrutiny of all Iranian political activities.
In Iran all ethnic Persians and those from Muslim backgrounds (even if not practicing) are considered Muslims. Anyone who converts to Christianity is declared an apostate and could face death.
The Iranian constitution recognizes the historic minority religions of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity, but it does not allow churches to preach or distribute materials in Farsi and proselytizing is forbidden. Yet, the number of Muslim background believers coming to Christ in Iran continues to grow greatly regardless of certain persecution.
Believers and non-believers are having Holy Spirit-inspired dreams and visions and are seeing wonders. Many are curious about the Bible, but Bibles and Christian printed materials in Farsi are illegal. Smuggled Farsi Bibles and materials are quickly put to use. The Internet and broadcasts by radio and satellite TV are providing encouragement, resources, and training for believers as more come to Christ and more underground house churches are established.
• Pray for a great harvest resulting from faithful believers sharing bold accounts of their faith.
• Pray for the church to rapidly multiply and mature despite horrendous persecution against non-Muslim peoples.
• Pray for Christians to capitalize on unprecedented opportunities to spread the Gospel via Internet, TV, and media.