Despite Iran being predominantly Muslim, with 98% of the country adhering to Islam, there are increasing opportunities for outreach. A growing sense of hopelessness – particularly among young adults and students – has seen many begin to recognise the inherent hope of the gospel.
For many years, Iran has been in a state of crisis, and this has played out on multiple fronts. Whilst it is difficult to source accurate statistics, an estimated 3.5 million people are unemployed.
The country’s international relations are also impacting negatively on opportunities for citizens. After President Trump pulled out of the Iran Deal several weeks ago, the value of the Iranian rial (currency of Iran) fell significantly, causing further job losses. The present situation is leading around 150,000 young professionals to emigrate each year.
Iran is also facing an environmental crisis after many years of drought and regular sandstorms, which paralyse everyday life. However, the nation’s most challenging social issue is its drug problem. Estimates on the number of addicts range from 2.5 million to 7 million.
As a result, Iran has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Of its 240,000 prisoners, most were incarcerated for drug–related offences, and the addiction rate reflects the lack of hope and meaning felt by many.
With all these factors in play, the nation is losing hope, as evidenced by various social crises. For instance, the capital city Tehran, has recently been hit with what has been labelled a ‘tsunami of divorce’, with the divorce rate hitting a historic high of 35%. Alongside this, there has also been an upward trend in suicides among Iranians, with a 66% increase among women and a 71% increase among men.
Are these signs of a God–forsaken land? One might think so, but remarkably, in the face of these severe concerns, Iran is currently home to the fastest growing church in the world.
Exciting spiritual openings
We recently met with partners and pastors working in Iran and heard first–hand their excitement at current spiritual openings. They tell us that many Iranians have come to know what Islam is all about, and that God has opened their eyes to free them from their chains.
There are many protests against the regime, with people wanting not an Islamic Republic but an Iranian Republic. There is also a strong and growing desire for freedoms of press, of speech and even of belief.
Wonderfully, large numbers of those desiring change are receptive to the gospel. Evangelists have found that young people are so disillusioned that they are open to new ideas and beliefs, and many have come to faith after hearing the gospel for the first time.
Our partners ask for continued prayer in this exciting time, as God moves in Iran. There are two particular needs. First, the growing number of Christians and seekers has resulted in a shortage of God’s Word. Copies of the Bible are selling for a lot of money on the black market!
And secondly, the growing church is also in desperate need of trained, mature pastors. In fact, many fellowships have nobody with any pastoral experience in their region.
Thank you for praying.
Could you help meet the needs in Iran through our Middle East Fund?
This article first appeared in the AsiaLink Magazine.