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Learning Verses in Secret

[Photo: Iranian Christians praying]

Many Christians gather in secret in Iran. Most people in the country are Muslims, and the government does not want them to leave their religion to follow Jesus. It’s not unusual for Christians to be put in prison.

It’s against the law to print Bibles in Iran. Some Christians learn Scriptures using websites, mobile phone cards, and smartphone apps. They listen to Christian programs on satellite TV.

The Voice of the Martyrs recently received a list of 125 Bible verses that house church members and their leaders in Iran are memorizing. “They are recalling these verses when they are in jail or other places and are unable to access a Bible,” a VOM worker said.

You can see 10 of the verses below. Can you memorize one of the verses today? Why might each verse be inspiring to Iranian Christians today?

1. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
2. Who brought me out from my enemies; you exalted me above those who rose against me; you delivered me from men of violence. (2 Samuel 22:49)
3. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
4. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5–6)
5. But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (Luke 6:27–28)
6. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
7. Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
8. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:14)
9. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (Matthew 5:11)
10. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)


Ebrahim: Wise Words from Exile

(Source: VOM Radio. Edited and condensed for length and clarity)

Photo: Interviewing Ebrahim

Internal Exile: Being forced to move from one’s home or community to another place, usually far away from main centers of population.

Ebrahim Firouzi spent seven years in prison in Iran. Most people in Iran are Muslims, but Ebrahim became a follower of Christ after he heard the Good News of Jesus on the Internet.

“What I did was a crime under Islamic law, and you have to pay,” said Ebrahim. “But let me tell you what I actually did, which was basically my involvement with Christian groups, Christian activity, and fellowship.” (Islam is the religion of Muslims.) After Ebrahim got out of prison, the government sent him into internal exile in Iran. Christians who have been through struggles often have words of wisdom that can help others grow in their faith. Read below some of his inspiring words.

A Choice
Ebrahim had a choice about going to prison. “At one of my court appearances, the judge told me they would free me if I would renounce my faith and convince other [Christians] to renounce their faith,” Ebrahim said. “I never responded to these offers, never argued or compromised in any way. By God’s grace, I endured a few years in prison in exchange for eternity with Him.”

“We can never have anything bigger or more valuable than God Himself and His wonderful presence with us at all times,” Ebrahim continued. “In that sense, I have to say it was absolutely worth it.”

Open to the Truth
“If [the government’s] intention for imprisoning us was to discourage us from sharing the message of the gospel with others, it worked quite the opposite,” said Ebrahim. “Once you are in prison, you realize the value of freedom from bondage even more. Everyone is more open to receive the Good News. I always showed love and grace to others, never projecting any superiority. That is why I never had any bad experiences and was never abused by anyone.”

Living in Exile
Ebrahim described his daily life in exile. “Most days I have to report to local police here. Then I start my day afterwards with resting, preparing meals and most importantly, catching up with reading many new Christian books, seeking God and spending as much time as I can pursuing Him.”

While in exile, Ebrahim now lives very close to the border of a neighboring country. It would not be difficult for him to cross the border and escape his captivity. But he doesn’t do that.

“I was not looking to escape the will of God for my life,” Ebrahim said. “I always believed I must stay and bring change through the gospel and sharing the Good News with my people. God chooses everyone according to His will and has a unique plan and purpose for each one.’

Grace and Strength
“I would like to emphasize that I don’t want people to get discouraged by hearing stories of people like myself being in prison,” said Ebrahim. “But instead, I want them to emphasize on the fact that God is with the church in Iran and gives grace and strength to believers to endure difficult times.”

To Talk About
*What did Ebrahim mean when he said, “By God’s grace, I endured a few years in prison in exchange for eternity with Him”?

*Why do you think people in prison may be more open to hearing the gospel?

*Why does Ebrahim not sneak out of Iran?


The Names of God

Iranian Christians, dancing together while chanting the many names of God. The faces have been pixelated to conceal the identity of the Christians involved, as Christians in Iran are in continual risk of persecution by government authorities.


Iranian Prisoners: What You Can Do

[Photo: Iranian prisoner Hossein Kadivar]

The Voice of the Martyrs has recently added several Iranian prisoners to the prisoneralert.com website. Officials arrested nine of the prisoners last year. They were accused of “acting against national security.”

 

In fact, the men were helping lead their church after their pastor was put in prison. The government of Iran does not want Christianity to spread in their country.

What You Can Do
Read the suggestions below. Ask God to help you choose which ones to follow.

*Go to prisoneralert.com and click on “prisoners,” then on “Iran.” Choose one of the prisoners to pray for and to be a voice for.

*Click on the name of the prisoner, then click on “Write a Letter.” Follow the instructions to send a letter of encouragement to the prisoner. Find more instructions here.

*Click on “Petition Official” on the prisoner’s Prisoner Profile page. Send a letter to an official listed. Find more instructions here.

*Go back to the prisoner’s Prisoner Profile page and click on “Print Fact Sheet.” Print one or more copies to share with your family or class, or other Christian friends.

*Learn more about Christian in Iran here and here. Share what you learned with someone.

*Watch a short video about a Christian boy in Iran here.

*Many readers have been blessed when the prisoners they prayed for were released. Pray daily for the prisoner you chose, but be prepared to continue praying for an extended time. You may not find out how your prayers were answered for a long time. Be assured that God does hear and answer prayers. Check VOM publications and websites for updates on the prisoners.


Iran: Woman Released Due to COVID-19

Mahrokh Roksare Kanbari is a follower of Jesus in Iran. (See her photo above.) Government agents raided her home, and took away her cell phones and Christian materials. They forced her to go to a Muslim religious leader to be “instructed.” She was ordered to leave her faith in Christ behind and to return to Islam. (Islam is the religion of Muslims.)

Then a judge sentenced Mahrokh to a year in prison for the charge of spreading “propaganda against the system.” Mahrokh, age 65, began serving her sentence in October of 2019.

After a few months, COVID-19 began to make people sick in Iran. The government released 85,000 prisoners to prevent the disease from affecting more people. Mahrokh was one of the released prisoners! She was allowed to go home “temporarily” on March 2. But on April 2, prison officials let her know that she did not have to return to prison.

Prayer Suggestions
*Praise God for the release of prisoners in Iran.
*Some Christians have not been released from the prisons. Please pray for them.
*Ask God to help Christians who are trying to reach Iranians with the gospel through creative ways on the Internet, TV, and other methods.

Learn more about Mahrokh here, and about Iran here.