Day 12: The Persian World
Series: 30 Days of Prayer for Muslims and Christians – 2016 Ramadan
Presented in American Sign Language, no voice interpretation.
The Persian World encompasses all of modern-day Iran and also parts of Iraq, northern Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. About 100 inhabitants speak variations of the ancient Persian language. Most Muslims in Iran belong to the Shi’ite majority sect while the rest of the Islam world is made up of Sunni Muslims.
The modern day country of Iran was established by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, and a great persecution ensued for Christians in that area. Nowadays, millions of Iranians have rejected the Islamic theocracy and hundreds of thousands have turned to Jesus Christ.
While thousands of Christian converts have been arrested, others have been forced out of the country. Many more live secretly inside Iran, worshiping in underground house churches or in the privacy of their own homes through the guidance of satellite-television broadcasts. There have been some Christians who have paid the ultimate price of martyrdom, such as Iranian-American Christian, Haik Hovsepian.
Haik became the first national bishop of the Assemblies of God church in 1980. The Iranian government, although allowing ethnic Christians to practice their faith, forbidden them from sharing their faith with Muslims. Haik refused to yield to these government pressures, saying, “If we go to jail or die for our faith, we will not yield.”
Reverend Mehdi Dibaj was a Muslim covert who was arrested in 1983, sentenced without trial, and pressurized to recant his faith. In 1993, he was sentenced to death for the crime of converting from Islam.
When he heard about this, Bishop Haik was faced with a choice: remain silent and avoid persecution, or speak out against the Iranian government. He decided to go public with efforts to save Dibaj, which proved effective in response to international outcry. On January 16, 1994, Dibaj was released from custody.
Three days later, Bishop Haik was abducted from the streets of Tehran. His tortured body was found in an unmarked grave. At Haik’s funeral, Dibaj spoke through his tears, “When Jesus died on the cross, only Barabbas knew that Jesus had died for him. When Bishop Haik died, I know that he died for me.”
– Pray for bold Christian witnesses like Haik Hovsepian to continue to take the gospel to the Persian World’s Shi’ite Muslims.
– Pray for the nations in Persia to allow greater freedom of religion, permitting people to make up their own minds about what they will believe.
– Pray for Iraqi migrants and refugees rebuilding their lives in new places, to be blessed in their new lands and a blessing to those around them.