With a song in her heart, Bita (not her real name) walks cheerfully to school. As a girl in Iran, it is forbidden to sing and it is with much difficulty that she remains silent, though the song radiates from her heart and her sparkling eyes. She already knows some songs about Jesus, learned from her parents and during the special meetings for children in the Christian group her parents go to. But that is a big secret.
At school she may not share with the other children about Jesus and the group. As far as she knows, none of the other children have Christian parents. Daddy explains many times that it is better for her safety, and theirs, if Bita does not speak at all about her parents’ change of faith. So far Bita has managed to obey his words.
But last night she did not sleep well, haunted by a persistent dream about strange men entering their home and taking her father and mother with them. Some days ago, she heard her parents whisper about a telephone call her father had received. When she looked into the living room, they seemed really scared and worried. She decided not to enter the room, but she overheard her parents pray very emotionally. When she finally entered the living room half an hour later, Bita was relieved to see her mother’s smile had returned as she wrapped Bita in a warm embrace.
This morning, Bita’s mother saw immediately that she had not slept well. “Shall I read a story to you from your Bible?” she asked. Bita eagerly jumped into her mother’s lap, listening to the calm voice of her mother read the story of Jesus gathering the children around him, saying to the disciples, “Let the children come.” Some years ago Bita received the book as a surprise at the end of a Christian meeting and it is evident that it is precious and well used. It is kept in a secret place together with her parents’ Bible. With its beautiful drawings, Bita loves her own little Bible. One of her favorite stories is of the singing girl walking in front of Jesus as he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey with boys and girls all around him singing and laughing. Oh, how she longs to sing with abandon when she is on the streets! But it is only at the secret meetings with other Christians that they may sing, and even then, sometimes they must sing in whispers.
The Iranian government wants a strict separation of boys and girls at school, so Bita’s school is only for girls and all the teachers are women. She loves school, is eager to learn and loves chatting and playing with the other girls. But going to the homes of the other girls or inviting them to her home is not encouraged for reasons of safety. Her parents fear that Bita will accidentally reveal something about their Christian activities.
Like Bita, there are thousands of children of “Muslim background believers” in Iran. Bita’s parents became Christians some years ago. Then they were introduced in house meetings where they received discipling.
The number of Christians is growing despite government restrictions. Lately Ayatollah Hadi Jahangosha, an influential Islamic scholar with clear links to the government said, “Islam approves of Christianity in general, but with regard to the religious teachings of Christianity, unfortunately we have witnessed the spread of Christianity among our youth.” Earlier, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the growing house churches.
Christian News Agency Mohabad Nes reported Jahangosha as warning about “the widespread publication and distribution of Christian books for children….One of these children books has been published in 53 million volumes and in 128 different languages… It can even be found in the smallest towns across Iran.” He likely referred to My first Bible, Bita’s treasure that has been distributed in large volumes to many children throughout the country. Majid Abhari, an advisor to the social issues committee of the Iranian parliament, has defended a crackdown on Christian activities saying Christian missionaries are trying to “deceive people, especially the youth, with an expensive propaganda campaign,” Worthy News reported earlier.
But Bita is not burdened with the political conflict. She knows only that she can come home after another day at school with a song in her heart, ready to play in the coolness of her home.
Father of mercy, we pray for the Iranian children in Christian families. We thank You for Bita who treasures her Bible and pray for her and others that their nightmares and fears will be silenced in the midst of very real threats. We pray for many Children’s Bibles to find their way into homes that seek them even in this strict Islamic country. And we pray that You would continue to strengthen and encourage Iranian Christians through discipleship and training as they struggle to teach their children how to live as Christians in a Muslim country.
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