I remember when I was a new believer back in High School. Joevy Tan, one of our church youth leaders, showed me a copy of the book, “Operation World,” by Patrick Johnstone. It was an old copy but there were lots of information and prayer requests about every nation in the world. He told me at the time that he was praying for Algeria. I’m glad he did. The Holy Spirit caused a passion in me for the nations also. Today, Operation World continues to challenge us to pray for Iran, the 3rd worst persecutor of Christians in the world (see Prayer Challenges below).
“This year, Iran and Saudi Arabia have the same total of points. Since Saudi Arabia had higher points last year, it is labeled number 2 and Iran is 3. The reason for the increase in points for Iran is due to some dramatic developments for Christians during 2008. A major crackdown on house churches occurred during the past year, marking 2008 as one of the toughest years regarding Christian persecution since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. In total, we recorded more than 50 Christians arrested for their faith in one of the world’s most repressive societies. A Christian couple died after interrogation by government officials, due to injuries and stress caused during captivity. Islam is the official religion in Iran, and all laws and regulations must be consistent with the official interpretation of Sharia law. although Christians are a recognized religious minority who are guaranteed religious freedom, they have reported imprisonment, physical abuse, harassment and discrimination because of their faith. Under the judicial interpretations of Sharia law, any Muslim who leaves Islam to embrace another religion faces the death penalty. However, last September the Iranian Parliament has also called for the Penal Code to be revised, making apostasy punishable by death only. Formerly, the court could also hand down a jail term or hard labor as alternatives. Armenian and Assyrian churches are allowed to teach fellow countrymen in their own language, but it is forbidden to minister to people with a Muslim background (speaking Farsi). Many church services are being monitored by the secret police. Believers that are active in churches or the cell group movement are being pressured. They are questioned, arrested and put in jail and beaten. Individual believers are being oppressed by society, under pressure of the authorities. They have difficulty in finding and keeping a job and are easily fired when it becomes known they are Christian.”
“Pray for political change in Iran – so that people can live in a fairer and more humane society.
“Pray that the population will see through government propaganda and demand a return to social and religious freedom.“Pray for all those Christians from a Muslim background. The struggles they face are huge – there are rejected and isolated from their families and forbidden from meeting with other Christians.
“Pray that the Holy Spirit would be at work in their hearts and lives and that they would not be discouraged in the face of opposition. Parsees are people who follow an ancient Persian religion (the wise men who visited Jesus were Parsees!) There are communities of Parsees living across the Middle East and Asia and over 2 million live in Iran.
“None of them have been reached by the gospel – pray for opportunities for them to come to hear about Jesus and worship him – just like the wise men did!” (Operation World)
Tomorrow, you will know more about the 4th worst persecutor of Christ-followers in the world.