This is how you provide a safe space for Iranian Christians

June 2, 2021 by Christopher Summers in Middle East

Each year, more than a thousand Iranians flee their home country and go to Turkey, often illegally.

They leave behind everything: homes, jobs, families, friends.

Their reasons vary—some are political targets, while others flee imprisonment because they’ve been involved in protests.

Others flee because they follow Jesus. In Iran, that’s enough to get you sent to prison.

When Iranians make it to Turkey, their lives do not magically get easier. While they escape fierce persecution and imprisonment, life as a refugee in the region is hard and can feel hopeless.

That’s what happened to Kouroush*, when he fled his home in Iran.

He grew up in a Muslim family. He first heard about Jesus in high school, but resented the friend who told him about it. Years later, that same friend invited him to a house church meeting that ignited Kouroush’s search for the true God.

It was a struggle for Kouroush to admit that what he had learned from his parents wasn’t true. But the more he studied, the more convinced he became that Jesus was the Savior he’d been looking for. Finally, one night, he reached his decision. “I prayed: ‘I need you and I want to trust you, I give my life to you,’” Kouroush says.

Kouroush found a house church and eventually became a leader. But his faith came at a price: He was arrested for his leadership and tortured. He is still astonished about the injustice he was met with in prison: “I hadn’t committed any crime to deserve this. I didn’t murder anyone; I didn’t steal anything. All I did was surrender my heart to Jesus.”

But the time in prison didn’t scare or intimidate Kouroush. After his release, he continued his ministry. Like so many Iranian Christians who aren’t stifled and return to ministry, the secret service tracked him down again. Kouroush saw no other way out, and was forced to leave his beloved homeland and flee to Turkey.

It’s hard for Kouroush to put words to how he felt when he first arrived in Turkey. He takes a moment to think.“It was some kind of fear, mixed with sadness and confusion about why I was here: I lost everything,” he says now. “My job, my family, my country.”

As he grappled with everything he’d lost, what would have helped? He answers:

A safe place where he could feel at home and talk to people in Farsi, the language of Iran.

A place where he could grow in his faith.

“And I am not the only one,” says Kouroush. “Finding such a place is one of the biggest challenges for any Iranian refugee.”

But a place like that didn’t exist in Turkey.

Until Kouroush built it—and you helped!

Four walls, a ceiling and a lot of dust and building material: that’s how the community center in Turkey looks when we visit it. But that is not what Kouroush sees when he looks around.

“Here we will make the entrance, and this part will become the library,” he gestures. “And that there in the back, that will be the hall where we’ll have trainings.”

There is space for spiritual needs: a library full of Christian books in Farsi and a room for discipleship courses. And an Iranian just looking for a conversation in Farsi over a cup of tea can share their stories in the café, or receive biblical counseling. The center will also handle relief  distribution as needed.

The safe space Kouroush longed for when he came to Turkey is what he hopes to create for other Iranian refugees. He and his local church continually ask, How do we create hope? And the center is the answer to that question.

Open Doors has worked through partners on the ground to support the building of the community center. Kouroush wants to thank you for your support. “Without the international family of God, we wouldn’t have been able to establish this center,” he says. “I feel like God’s hand was in this: He brought us all together.”

While the builders are still busy installing toilets and building walls, Kouroush is already counting the days to the opening of the center. “I am really looking forward to what God is going to do here, to see the fruits of this center,” he says. “All to glorify the name of our triune God!”

The community center plans to open soon.

*Name changed to protect identity

Top photo: Kouroush in the new Center of Hope he is building with Open Doors—a safe place for Iranian refugees in Turkey.

Let believers who left Islam know they're not alone

Your gift of today will help Iranian believers that fled their country, as well as believers that live in a difficult situation in their home country, with Christian resources, biblical counseling, discipleship trainings and more.   

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