At the time of the Islamic revolution in 1979, there were no more than 500 Christians from a Muslim background living in Iran. Now, Iran is believed to have one of the fastest growing churches in the world. In response, Elam Ministries and Wycliffe Bible Translators have launched a major new translation of the entire Bible in modern Persian. The unveiling took place in London and Istanbul on September 22-24. The project was especially significant as some of its earliest contributors were martyred for their faith.
The venture was named The Michaelian Project, in honor of Tateos Michaelian who was shot to death 20 years ago, and is regarded as Iran’s most notable Bible translator. His widow Juliet was presented with the first copy alongside other relatives and friends of martyred Iranian Christians.
Rev. Hossein Soodmand was martyred in 1990. He is survived by his daughter Rashin Soodmand who also received a new Bible at the launch. “I was crushed by my father’s death, but wanted to share Jesus with others,” she said. “We had no Scripture, so we wrote them out by hand and left them in taxis and restaurants. I prayed for Bibles to come to my city and country. God has answered my prayer!”
The gatherings of the international church in London and Istanbul also sent out a timely message that the Middle East is Christian as well as Muslim.
Elam Ministries was founded in 1990 by senior Iranian church leaders with a vision to serve the growing church in Iran. Elam says the recent transformation of the church in Iran makes this event all the more remarkable.
The Coordinator and Chief Editor of the new Bible translation, Rev. Dr Mehrdad Fatehi said, “This project is like raising a child. It has been 18 years of hard work, but worth it for such an exciting day.”
“Though the event was joyful, we are sad it had to take place outside Iran,” said Sam Yeghnazar, founder and director of Elam. “This event proves the worldwide Church will always bring the Scriptures to people, not matter how ‘closed’ a country is.”
Sam’s son David Yeghnazar, adds, “A very conservative estimate puts the number of Christians in Iran at 100,000. The generally-accepted estimate is 370,000. Some believe there are 700,000, others more than a million.” Despite restrictions and pressure from the Iranian government, Elam plans to print and distribute at least 300,000 copies of the Bible over the next three years.
Since the Iranian Revolution, religious clerics and Iran’s Supreme Leader have been transforming Iran into an Islamic Republic which has made living in Iran as a non-Shiite Muslim especially difficult.
“In 2010, the Mayor of Tehran called evangelical Christians ‘deviants,'” said Yeghnazar. “The enemies of Christianity portray Christians who love the Bible as a cult-like sect.”
According to Open Doors, almost all Christian activity is illegal in Iran, especially when it occurs in Persian languages. This ranges from evangelism to Bible training, from publishing Scripture and Christian books to preaching in Farsi.
Open Doors continues to note that the regime’s harsh treatment of Christians has fueled church growth since 2010, even as persecution in Iran has increased. This persecution has occurred because Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of the expanding influence of home-based churches inside the Iranian culture. In efforts to stop the spread of Western influence, the Iranian government has limited the speed of the Internet and prohibited the possession of satellite dishes.
Open Doors says part of the Islamic Republic’s goal is to slow down the growth of the church which they have been attempting to do by obstructing access to media channels and websites. Iranian Christians report that several Christian websites that used to be blocked are now permitted because the government wants to monitor the visitors and that those who have logged onto the websites claim to be interrogated or arrested soon after.
Source: World Watch Monitor
Father, we praise You that Persian-speaking people will now be able to read Your Word in their own heart language. Thank You for Your work through Elam and Wycliffe to produce this translation, and we ask that You will cause the fruit of this effort to prosper in Iran and across the globe. We pray for Your hand of protection over Christians, especially Muslim Background Believers, as the government seeks to hold the growth of the church at bay. We take heart that while those in power seek to thwart the growth of Your Church, Your Spirit is stronger and You take even those efforts and work them for good on behalf of Christ’s Kingdom work in Iran. May Your Word go forth in great power in Iran that there would be a revival beyond what we might imagine or ask. May Your name be proclaimed and magnified in this land. In the name of Jesus, the Word, Amen.