GOD AND THE PERSECUTED
A new series on SAT-7 PARS will help Iran’s growing house churches “develop techniques of endurance” to persevere through widespread persecution.
Presented by two well-known Iranian-born pastors, God and the Persecuted will bring encouragement from Scripture and church history to strengthen Iran’s underground Christians.
Mansour Khajehpour, former Executive Director of SAT-7 PARS, explains why. Speaking as someone who came to Christ from a devout Shia background at the age of 15, he says, “If you accept Jesus Christ in Iran, you keep this between you and your wife or husband. Around you there are spies who will betray you, so it has to stay in your heart. People constantly lose their jobs, are disowned by their communities and family members, kicked out of schools and work places, beaten on the streets. I have the joy and honor of saying I personally experienced most of those.”
When anyone applies for work, the first line asks for your religion, he says. “You either have the choice of lying, which is not advised by the Bible, or saying the truth and having no job.”
Some 83 Christian men and women are currently known to be in prison for their faith in Iran. When they are released from prison, there will be no work and they cannot easily meet with other believers who might themselves fear being arrested if they are seen associating with them.
This week’s programme is the first of two 13-part series that will be hosted by Albert Aslan and Edward Hovsepian. Albert is one of the Bible Teachers in the Farsi and Assyrian communities based in San Jose, California. Edward is a senior pastor and chair of a network of churches in the UK and Europe, who is currently completing a book that expands on the themes in the series.
LESSONS FROM THE EARLY CHURCH
Each episode starts with a short look at an aspect of modern-day persecution, followed by 20 minutes examining suffering in the first three centuries of the Church – itself a network of rapidly growing house churches. All of this, Mansour (pictured below) explains, is seen in the light of teaching in the First Letter of Peter. “So we show there has been pain and suffering but then there is the reality of Church growth,” Mansour says. “The series will focus on the key reality that despite 2,000 years of persecution, like what is happening in Iran, there are 2,000 years of church growth.”
Above all, the goal is to come alongside Iranian believers and help them respond to biblically to adversity and to draw on God’s grace and strength. But Mansour hopes that God and the Persecuted will also raise awareness about persecution in Iran and “call Farsi-speaking Christians outside the region to remember the suffering Church and stand with them through continuous prayer.”
He adds: “Everyday the SAT-7 PARS team gathers together and prays for the viewers. We want to have a message of reassurance that will give them the peace of Christ and say ‘You are not forgotten. You are part of the bigger Body of Christ and the rest of the Body will advocate for you, we will pray for you, we will care for you, we will stand by you’.”