In this series, believers from inside Iran write to us about the realities of life for them. Today, Shahab shares about the struggle to find safe Christian community after his decision to follow Christ:
Dear brothers and sisters,
My name is Shahab. Today, I want to share with you an experience that I had shortly after I came to faith.
About three years ago, I finished my military service and began to work at a company. One day, I was at home watching television when a Christian channel attracted my attention. A pastor was comparing Islam and Christianity. I was not a radical Muslim, but I was sure that Islam was a better and more accurate religion than Christianity. According to what I’d been taught, the Bible had been distorted and Islam was the last religion.
The pastor criticized Islam and that made me very angry. But after I thought about his words, I realized he spoke the truth. I decided to research more about Islam, and I also continued to watch Christian programs. I totally believed in Islam, and I could not imagine that I would become a Christian. I was so afraid of what people would say about me, especially family and friends. Then one day, a pastor preached about Pilate. The sermon was about the murder of Jesus that Pilate had issued because he wanted to keep people satisfied. What he meant was that Pilate preferred the people’s satisfaction over God’s satisfaction. When he said this, I felt that I was like Pilate. I decided to prefer God’s will over the will of the people and not to repeat the mistake of Pilate. So, after several months of internal conflict, I believed in Christ.
After I became a believer, I was interested in having relationships with other believers. But I did not know any other Christians. I decided to find a few believer friends on the Internet and have relationships with them. That’s why I began to place Christian matters on my profile. After a while, I found several Christian friends online. I chatted with them every day. The relationship, though virtual, had an effect on my faith, and it was very enjoyable for me. Even throughout the day at work, I was looking forward to the evening in which I would study a part of God’s Word with my believer friends.
One day, I received a text message. The text said that I should report myself to the security police center. When I first read the message, I did not consider it important, but after a few days, I realized that one of my friends on Facebook had been arrested. I was so scared and did not know what to do. If I did not introduce myself to the security police center, they might have my address and would come and arrest me. If I introduced myself, I did not know what fate I would have! When I prayed, constantly this verse came to my heart, “When God is with me then I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?”
I decided to go to the security police center. On my way there, I prepared myself for possible questions. When I arrived, a man dressed in civilian clothes took me with him. He asked me about the matters that I had put on my profile on Facebook. He said, “Why do you put these misleading matters on your profile?” He also asked me about my relationship with my believer friends on Facebook. I said that I was only in relationship with them through Facebook and I did not know them very well. The man scolded me for the Christian activity on Facebook, made me sign a commitment and allowed me to get out of there.
After I left there, I came home and thanked God that he did not hold me there and nothing had happened to me. But after this incident, I am now afraid of putting Christian messages on my page on Facebook.
Thank You, Father, for Shahab’s new and growing faith and for protecting him. Through Your Holy Spirit give him insight and understanding from Your Word. Place him in safe relationships with other believers that he might grow ever stronger in his faith. Only You know the future, so we pray that You will prepare Shahab for whatever circumstances will come his way. As the light of Christ shines through his life, use it to draw others to Yourself as well. Grant him wisdom to discern when to speak boldly with words and when to let the presence of Christ in him speak without words. Let Your words from 1 Peter 2 penetrate into the deep recesses of his heart. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” In the Name of Jesus, in whose light we walk, Amen.