HOW DO CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE THE BIRTH OF CHRIST IN IRAN?
“We can’t openly celebrate Christmas,” explains Setareh* an Iranian woman. “It is forbidden for us to say we are Christians and to speak the name of Jesus as Lord.”
“I am a Christian in Iran,” writes Setareh, in response to the SAT-7 PARS Viewer Support team’s asking her how she celebrates Christmas. “We might put up a Christmas tree in our home, but openly singing hymns is not possible – particularly for us as Muslim background believers. It is forbidden for us to say we are Christians and to speak the name of Jesus as Lord.”
Although Armenian and Assyrian ethnic Christian minorities in Iran are free to practise their faith within their communities and have churches, believers from Muslim backgrounds are forbidden from entering these churches or attending the services, and Christian ethnic minorities are restricted in sharing their faith with others.
Nava*, an Iranian woman who visited an Armenian church recently, said, “The doormen [at the church] were polite and very apologetic, but they told us that they had no option but to turn us away. Of course, I understand, because the government has no doubt ordered them not to let non-Armenians attend church, but I sincerely hope for a day when we will no longer be subject to these limitations and will be able to experience the peace and the light of the Lord.”
Gaining access to Christian resources, theological teaching, and fellowship with other Christians can therefore be extremely difficult for many Christians in Iran, as well as in Afghanistan, where persecution of Christians has increased under Taliban rule. SAT-7 PARS’ programming and social media platforms are therefore able to bridge a vital gap by connecting believers to resources, teaching, and Persian-speaking Christians around the world.
“Of course, we are not able to openly celebrate Christmas,” says Narimon*, a man in Iran. “But praise God for His kindness, we are able to celebrate Christmas with you and with our families in our home,” he tells the SAT-7 PARS Viewer Support team.
Even at home, however, believers must practise their faith quietly. “Our neighbour heard a Christian program that we were listening to and warned us that if they hear it again, they will report us to the authorities,” Setareh adds. “We are at risk of persecution for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Nevertheless, God’s hand is at work in the lives of people across the Persian-speaking world. “In our country, many souls are being saved every day,” Setareh says.
Saghi*, another Christian believer in Iran, told the channel’s Viewer Support team of how she has been emboldened to reach out to others this Christmas. “This year, thanks to the Lord, my fears are gone, and I go forward in prayer and according to the Father’s will, praising and worshipping Him. I will celebrate Christmas with my family who are believers, although there are also non-believers among us, including my friends.”
“I won’t have a Christmas tree,” Saghi continues, “but I will sing hymns and pray for those I love as well as for others. I pray that the Lord places people in my way so that with the Lord’s help I may show them love and kindness and glorify my Father in heaven.”
Please keep the isolated and persecuted believers in Iran and Afghanistan in your prayers this Christmas.
*All names changed for security purposes.