CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS IN SECRECY
This year, many believers in Iran will celebrate Christmas alone or in secret. Despite this, their messages to SAT-7’s Persian-speaking channel demonstrate their resilient hope during this season.
“Like many believers in Iran, I am isolated and unable to be in fellowship with other Christians,” explains Pedram*, a SAT-7 viewer. “Our only means of joining in Christmas celebrations is through Persian-speaking Christian networks such as SAT-7. It is now nearly five years since I gave my heart to God, but I know no other believers in the town where I live. And some believers, because of the oppression and threat of persecution, prefer not to make themselves known to others.”
These messages are not uncommon from SAT-7’s Iranian viewers. Official churches in Iran are only open to ‘culturally Christian’ Armenians or Assyrians. However, believers from other backgrounds must meet discretely and cannot openly celebrate Christmas. Often, they even have to hide their faith from family and friends.
Delshaad*, explains: “We can’t easily celebrate Christmas here – and it’s impossible for new believers. If someone – family, friend, or neighbour – finds out, it will cause problems. I personally cannot celebrate Christmas, unless it is within my heart that I worship and express my joy to the Lord.”
Dani, a Christian since 2004 and now living in the UK, recalls a typical Christmas back in Iran: “We gathered secretly in our house and played worship songs on CD or via satellite television – but very quietly and with no clapping.
“The pastor would speak about Christ’s birth and what He did for us. A believer might bring a spouse or a family member who then found out what Christians celebrate for the first time. Hearing about the Magi, they were amazed that there were Persians at the birth of Christ giving gifts and paying homage to Him. They realised that embracing faith in Jesus doesn’t mean abandoning their national identity.”
Sirious*, an Armenian SAT-7 viewer, reports: “At Christmas time many Persian-speakers approach Armenian churches, but I am not sure how many of these are genuine believers. It may be that there are some spies among them. We are having to turn them away – all we can do is to pray for them.”
At Christmas time, many SAT-7 viewers in Iran will feel more isolated than ever as they feel the pressure to hide their faith and keep celebrations to a minimum. If Iranians do celebrate Christmas with others, they often prefer to avoid doing so on December 25 itself, so they do not draw attention to their meetings. As many Iranians tune-in to watch SAT-7’s Persian-speaking Christmas programming, our prayer is that they would be encouraged and blessed. Times may be hard, but the message of Christmas is one of hope and joy, pointing hard-pressed believers to the birth and work of Jesus.
“We are a Christian family of four in complete isolation,” writes Arvand* from Iran. “We put up a small tree and have presents for our children. During Christmas I remember that I was lost and now I am found; I was in sin and through the Lord’s intervention, Creator God is now my Father. There may be many difficulties, but praises be, for in Christ we are children of the King – what could be better?”
Please pray for Iranian believers this Christmas. Download our Prayer Calendar for specific prayer points every month.
*All names have been changed for security purposes.