Iran (International Christian Concern) – This year marks the anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the beginning of 39 years of a harsh Islamic regime that would profoundly change the country and every stratum of its society. Tat Stewart, founder of Talim Ministries, is an American who spent a portion of his childhood living in Iran with his missionary parents. He would eventually pursue an education in the US, returning to Iran just as the Revolution was ending. Tat remembers arriving in the country to pastor a church, only to find “that Christians were fleeing the country as fast as they could, if they had the means to do it. We found fear, uncertainty.”
But he also found something else, something he had never seen before the Revolution. Suddenly, “many more Muslims (were) coming to church seeking. This was very unfamiliar to the church, because they had never had Muslims coming to church before. The young people were far more open to God because their futures were uncertain.”
Within months, the revolution had completely transformed Iran. The impact on the church was immediate. “The church (had) used to be a sleepy church, because there was so much prosperity and so many foreigners living in Iran. They (Christians) went from sleepy, once a month members, to a church on its knees.”
Regime-driven persecution was driving Christians to prayer and forcing the Church to go underground. Doing so, however, had an unintended consequence that the regime did not expect. Tat explained, “By closing churches and forcing them underground, the regime could no longer monitor the Church. And all that an underground church needs are people who are hungry for it.” According to recent reports, there were only 500 known Christians in Iran before the revolution. Today, there are an estimated 360,000.
Iranians are never given the choice of religion. Unless they can prove their ancestors belonged to a different religion before the Revolution, Iranians are simply born Muslim. Depriving its citizenry from religious choice gives the theocratic regime strength, but it also creates a spiritually oppressed citizenry.
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