It’s very dangerous to be a Christian in Iran. In fact, according to Open Doors USA, Iran ranks Number 8 on that organization’s World Watch List of 50 of the most dangerous countries in which to live as a Christian. Many of the formal churches in Iran have been closed, so believers have established secret networks of underground churches, i.e., house churches—the only way they can meet for worship and fellowship with one another. If discovered by the religious police, house churches are raided and the Christians are arrested. Many are serving jail sentences of up to eight years right now.
I just finished reading an intriguing article about the underground churches in Iran and—get this—the key roles assumed by women ministering in them! That’s right—women! I thought that was pretty remarkable, considering the strikes against them: 1) They are regarded as “below” men in social and legal status; 2) They risk rejection or worse from their own families just for believing in Jesus; 3) By converting to Christianity, they are blatantly breaking the law.
Why in the world and how in the world would they get involved in the house church movement?
Shadi, who describes herself as “running” one of the house churches, speaks with Iranian women converts every day. She says, “In Jesus, Iranian women gain confidence that they did not have from the honor-based culture in which they grew up. This type of culture takes the actions of an individual and associates either shame or honor to their entire family because of their deeds. Women who become Christians find that they are loved, they are wanted, and they can come to God just as they are, without any shame.”
Shadi goes on to explain that many women risk imprisonment and torture by being active evangelists. “Because God gives them the strength to take this risk, each day new people, men and women, get to know the love of Christ and get to know their true identity: beloved children of God.”
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
-2 Timothy 1:7
Around the world, God is using women in many ways to fill crucial roles in His Church. Although many serve in secret, they do so with courage and resilient faith.
Shifa, a woman who no longer lives in Iran, took her ministry to the Internet, launching an online church group where Iranian Christians can connect with one another and receive pastoral care and discipleship. Shifa launched the site after her cousin—who had first shared the Gospel with her—was imprisoned for her faith. Feeling alone with no one to answer her questions about the Bible or Christianity, Shifa was motivated to provide pastoral care and discipleship to others.
Women like Shadi and Shifa inspire us. Their passion and love for Jesus have driven them past their fears. They are eager to do more! And they are the reason that we—SAT-7 and Women for Middle East HOPE—are passionate about doing what we are doing and why we also are eager to do more!
My prayer is that we would all allow the Holy Spirit to help us become fearless in our walk with Christ and allow Him to use us where He sees fit. Partner with us! Foster our passion to continue to produce programming that will strengthen our sisters’ faith and teach them the true, authentic love of Christ, that they may see themselves the way He sees them!
With Middle East HOPE,