Anti-government protests in Iran have entered their second week. The Iranian government is a major sponsor of global terrorism and is committed to the destruction of Israel. It is a nuclear threat and a persecutor of Christians. Yet, reportedly Christianity is growing faster in Iran than anywhere else in the world. United State president Trump has endorsed the protesters and hinted at possible US support. But mainstream media are downplaying the protests. What does it all mean? Below is a compilation of several reports offering some perspectives you are unlikely to find in mainstream publications.
Iranian Christians call for prayer
While much of the world was anticipating the possibilities of the new year, Iranians were busy calling upon their government for change in widespread protests that continue today reports Mission Network News.
*Peter Smith was able to speak with strategically placed Christians in Iran about the situation that is unfolding.
He says, “About [seven] days ago inside Iran, what started as a riot towards the price increase of eggs — the price of eggs went up by 40% and so the people said, ‘Hey, that’s too much!’ — it has since turned into a political revolt. And what started in the city of Mashhad, which is the Shiite holy city on the coast near Afghanistan, has now spread to more than 100 different cities inside Iran.”
The protests have grown in both scope and size, and what started as a small group of protesters has garnered international attention.
As of yesterday morning, Smith said, “What I’ve heard so far in the first six days is anywhere from 16-25 people have been killed. There are hundreds and hundreds of people who have been arrested.”
The Washington Post says that at least 20 people have been killed so far. Smith believes that one reason the world is lending an ear to these protests is to ask the question, “Is this going to lead to regime change, or is this something internally that the country needs to deal with?”
Either way, the people in the streets are calling for change — both in leadership and how the nation’s money is used.
Iran is certainly no stranger to political unrest. Smith recalls the Green Movement or Revolution of 2009 which was mostly fuelled by the middle class, calling for a revote for the presidential elections. This movement, he explains, did not have outside support from other nations.
“This time, the revolt seems to be among the … poor people, people who live in the parts of the cities where the economics are not as good. And what they’re saying is, ‘look, if you really want to help bring regime change, we need help from the outside’.”
In particular, he says they’re calling on the influential nations in Europe, and on the United States. It remains to be seen where this revolt will take Iran.
“Especially this week, I think, is very crucial because it’s either going to continue and get worse, or the Revolutionary Guard will come in and squelch it totally. And so, what the outside world does to influence any decision, I think the next two or three days are very critical.”
While Iran has a broad spectrum of issues, there is a story unfolding that brings hope. Despite the extreme opposition Christians face, the underground Church is growing in Iran. As we’ve mentioned recently, Iran is currently the fastest growing body of believers in the world. And they are just as concerned about what’s happening in Iran as their non-Christian neighbours.
Smith says on speaking with Church leaders, he learned of two things they’re focusing on in particular: “First of all, they’re asking for prayer — prayer to know how they should go out into the streets and do ministry among those who are doing the rioting. And secondly [what] they’re trying to figure out is, ‘long term, will we as a nation be free so that we can have freedom of religion? So we can meet openly in parks or in buildings without the threat of the Revolutionary Guard or others to come in and arrest us?’”
This time of year is a particularly difficult time for believers. “For the last several years during Christmas time, the Iran government has used that as a platform to arrest large groups of Christians who gather for the Christmas holiday. And even again this year they did that in several major cities. And so yes, the house church movement inside Iran is very concerned about not just the revolution that might be taking place, but how that’s going to impact their church in their future.”
Will you pray for Iran? Ask God that if there is any change to come about from these protests, that He would bring a peaceful transition. Pray for national believers to have wisdom and courage in their outreach.
For more ways to pray alongside Iran as a nation, click here.
*Name change for security purposes.
Former radical Muslim issues urgent prayer call for Iran
Iranian-American Pastor Reza Safa, a former radical Muslim and founder of the Farsi-language Christian network TBN Nejat Television, has issued an urgent request for Christians around the world to pray for Iran and its people as political unrest rages in the Muslim-controlled nation, reports Charisma News.
Since December 28, tens of thousands of Iranian citizens have taken to the streets of the northern city of Mashhad and elsewhere to protest political oppression, with at least 20 individuals killed in violence.
Safa, whose TBN affiliate network reaches deep into Iran with the gospel message, noted that the protests mark the second time in less than 10 years the people of Iran have risen up against the nation’s oppressive Islamic government, which first gained control with the overthrow of Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1979. “For the past 39 years, the Islamic regime has done nothing but oppress the people of Iran,” said Safa. “The Iranian people are fed up with the government’s corruption and its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad.”
Iran’s economy is in shambles, with an unemployment rate that Iran’s Interior Ministry estimates may be as high as 60 percent in some areas of the country. Safa said that young people under 30, a demographic that constitutes more than half of Iran’s population, are particularly affected, which has helped to fuel the anger against the government.
“In Iran today the people have virtually no freedom,” said Safa. “Even the way they dress publicly is controlled by the government. So now, for the second time since 2009, the people have taken to the streets in cities across Iran to protest against economic hardship and political repression.”
However, he added, there is a major difference this time around. “Today in Iran the gospel is going forward as never before,” said Safa. “Through outlets like TBN Nejat Television, the message of salvation through Jesus is impacting literally every major population center across the nation—despite aggressive efforts by Iran’s government to stop it. Over the past several years, countless thousands of Iranians have come to faith in Christ, so that today the nation of Iran is poised for positive change.”
Safa emphasised the importance of Christians around the world joining together in spirit to pray for the people of Iran at this crucial time. “It is important to think in terms of the church and salvation of souls when we read historical events and political changes,” he said. “I believe that God is preparing an army of ex-Muslims to evangelise the Islamic world in the days ahead. If this is the time for a political change in Iran, our prayers today need to be that a proper and right government is established in this nation and people loved by God. Will you join me in interceding on behalf of Iran and its people?”
Fascinating biblical history
Christian Headlines reported that at least 20 people have died and more than 450 arrested during the largest anti-government protests in Iran since the disputed presidential election in 2009. Thousands of protesters are chanting against Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The protests began about economic dissatisfaction. A recent 40% increase in egg and poultry prices may have sparked the protests.
However, some experts say years of political, economic, and social grievances have driven people to the streets in protest. Experts say many Iranian citizens expected the economy to improve after the 2015 nuclear deal with the United States.
Some protesters believe the Iranian government is focusing too much on foreign affairs than domestic ones, criticising Iran’s military support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
We can expect more news from Iran in the coming days and weeks. Meantime, we should pray for Iranians to come to know Christ and for our brothers and sisters in Christ who live there. Iran has a fascinating history in the Bible.
In Scripture, Iran is called Persia. The ancient Persian Empire flourished from 539-331 BC and is best known in the Bible for its role in helping the Hebrew people return to Jerusalem from their 70-year captivity in Babylon.
The book of Daniel contains several references to Persia:
- The rise of the Persian Empire is predicted by Daniel when he interprets a dream for King Nebuchadnezzar about a statue (Daniel 2:31-46). Daniel’s prediction comes to fulfilment after the “handwriting on the wall” incident recorded in Daniel 5:5-28.
- After seeing that Daniel survived a night in the lions’ den, Persian King Darius issued a decree for all people in his kingdom to worship Daniel’s God (Daniel 6:25-28).
- In Daniel 10:13, Daniel learns his prayer for his Jewish countrymen was delayed for 21 days by a demonic force called “the prince of the kingdom of Persia.”
Also, Scripture tells us how several Persian kings helped the Hebrew people:
- Cyrus II issued a decree restoring the Jews to their homeland, following their captivity in Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). At least 150 years earlier, the prophet Isaiah predicted a ruler named Cyrus would accomplish God’s will (Isaiah 44:28-45:3).
- Darius ordered the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem to be rebuilt after work on it had been discontinued for 14 years (Ezra 4:24). He gave money from the royal treasury to complete the Temple (Ezra 6:4). He also ordered the return of the gold and silver articles, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Jewish temple (Ezra 6:5). (Many scholars believe Daniel’s influence on Darius may have influenced the king’s actions.)
- Xerxes ruled Persia from 486 to 465 BC. He was the Ahasuerus of the Book of Esther; she became queen during his seventh year of reign.
- Artaxerxes was a minor Persian king who held major importance to the Jewish people. The Jewish people returned to their homeland from Babylonian captivity in three waves; two of the three occurred during the reign of Artaxerxes.
The Gospel Coalition reports the church in Iran has become the fastest growing in the world; more Iranians have become Christians in the last 20 years than in the previous 13 centuries.
We know of Persia’s (Iran’s) past influence through scripture. God tirelessly pursues us for a relationship. As we watch news coverage of the protests, let’s remember to pray for those affected by the protests, for fellow believers in Iran, and for more Iranians to find a relationship with the one true God.
Trump encourages protesters
The Trump administration hasn’t minced words when it comes to Iranian leadership, according to CBN News.
With a slew of protests throughout Iran and almost two dozen dead, the administration is upping its condemnation of the regime. But the larger question of how to improve the conditions for the Iranian people remains unanswered.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter multiple times to offer support.
“Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!” the president tweeted Wednesday.
“Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food and for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!” said Trump.
But when asked what that change entailed, the White House replied with a list of demands.
“The biggest thing is the change would be that the people of Iran have basic human rights, which their government is, frankly, not allowing them to have at this time, and certainly, in large part, stop being a state sponsor of terrorism. I mean, I think those are the changes we’re looking for,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
So what are the options?
The president has the option to sign a waiver every 120 days to keep sanctions from being imposed on the regime. He could, however, skip signing that waiver.
“We certainly keep our options open in terms of sanctions. In terms of signing a waiver later in January, the president hasn’t made a final decision on that, and he’s going to keep all of his options on the table in that regard,” hinted Sanders.
Sanders stopped short of saying whether or not the administration would support a total regime change.
“We support them giving basic rights to the people of Iran, and we support them stopping being a state sponsor of terror. And we want to see those actions take place,” she said.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is calling for an emergency session of the Security Council, hoping to boost efforts to protect the protesters.
In Tuesday’s address to the UN, Haley reminded the assembly this wasn’t the first time the Iranian people had rebelled.
“All freedom loving people must stand with their cause. The international community made the mistake of failing to do that in 2009. We must not make that mistake again,” Haley warned.
One thing is for certain, the administration is committed to speaking up loudly and often against Iranian leadership.
This also isn’t the first time Vice President Mike Pence has spoken out against the regime.
During the 2009 Iranian election uprising, then Congressman Mike Pence introduced a resolution to “speak a word of support for the people of Iran.”
“I appreciate the fact that the president said the protesters have a right to be heard and represented, and I appreciate the fact that he said he is troubled,” Pence told CNN. “But I respectfully disagree with the administration’s decision to essentially draw the line at not meddling and not interfering.”
Can the demonstrators topple the regime?
With the protests in Iran continuing into their sixth day on Tuesday, the critical questions remain: Is the regime of the Islamic Republic really in danger and can the demonstrators really topple its four-decades long grasp on power?
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Menashe Amir, a veteran Persian-language broadcaster and Iran expert, said three factors will determine whether or not the protests can turn into a revolution.
Read the full story at The Jerusalem Post
Sign of hope for religious minorities?
Ongoing protests in Iran could be a sign of hope for repressed religious minorities, if protesters demand that conscience rights be respected, said an Iranian-born journalist who converted to Catholicism in 2016.
Although most of those protesting in the streets of Iran were born after the 1979 revolution that led to the current Islamist regime, “many of them are chanting nostalgic slogans about the pre-revolutionary era,” noted Sohrab Ahmari.
“At the time Iran was no democracy,” he said, but the pre-revolution regime “was far less repressive and people retained many personal and social liberties, if not political ones.”
Read the full story at Persecution.org
At going to press the Times of Israel reports the strength of protests shaking Iran was unclear on Thursday after a week of unrest that killed at least 21 people, with fewer reports of demonstrations as government supporters again took to the streets in several cities and towns.