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Iranians not enemies, but lost, believer says

TEHRAN, Iran (BP)–Like other Iranian Muslims, Ali began a search for truth that led him beyond the dictates of the prophet Muhammad.
Ali, who was called a “good Muslim,” received a set of Gospels in his mother tongue, Farsi, mailed to him by a Christian broadcaster. While reading Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” Ali realized his devout actions were pure — but his sin-riddled thoughts and intentions would separate him from God. So he accepted Jesus as the one who died to take away his sin.
Ali survived repeated persecution from fellow soldiers, government officials and his own family — and eventually fled to a neighboring country. There he served as a guide and translator for a Christian group surveying opportunities for sharing the gospel in Iran.
Millions of Persian Iranians like Ali are searching for truth or being prepared by the Holy Spirit for the day they will hear it. Southern Baptists will focus on them during a 24-hour period of prayer and fasting beginning at 6 p.m. May 29.
Each spring, Southern Baptists and other “Great Commission” Christian groups devote a day — called the Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization — for a people group that has not heard the good news of God’s love and salvation in Jesus Christ.
Nearly 23 million Persians live in Iran, which was known as “Persia” before 1925. About 99 percent of Iran’s 46 people groups are Muslim. Christians make up only about .4 percent of the population.
Christian strategy coordinators say they are researching Iran with a focused intensity, searching for ways to reverse the isolation of Iran’s Muslim people groups. They aim to locate the people groups geographically and develop means to reach them with the gospel. They hope to raise up new believers, disciple them and begin self-replicating church planting movements.
Iran has a rich history. For more than three millennia, the country was the melting pot of civilizations and people movements between Asia and Europe. Under Cyrus the Great, Persia was the center of the world’s first empire. Invasions by the Greeks, Arabs, Mongols and Turks brought diverse cultural influences into the nation.
Signs in modern-day Iran indicate the fundamental Islam that has ruled the country since 1979 is weakening. President Mohammed Khatami was elected by 70 percent of the popular vote last year, and he has appointed three women to his upper-level cabinet. This heralds startling changes in the perception of women in an Islamic culture.
Many American tourists report Iranian hospitality that contradicts the image portrayed by Western media. The walls of isolation are coming down. Christian broadcasts — like the one Ali first heard — are said to be making headway in the country.
Five years after he was forced to leave Iran, Ali has become an integral part of a team seeking to share the gospel with Iranian Muslims. His experiences are a tremendous asset, and he desires to see millions of Iranians come to know Jesus.
“Commit Iranians to prayer,” says Ali. They are not oppressors, they are the oppressed; and they are not the enemy, they are the lost.
“Put your prayers into action,” he adds. “Get involved.”

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  • Marty Croll