(Washington, D.C.) — In 1979, there were fewer than 500 Muslim converts to Christianity in all of Iran. Today, there are over one million Iranian who love Jesus Christ, have become His followers, and are celebrating Easter.
In fact, this Easter millions of former Muslims throughout the Middle East, North Africa and central Asia are celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whereas they once saw Jesus as merely a prophet, now they are convinced that He is God, and they have renounced Islam and chosen to follow Him no matter what it costs them.
In my 2009 non-fiction book, Inside The Revolution, I wrote several chapters about this extraordinary trend of Muslims leaving Islam and becoming Christ-followers. In the book, I described my travels from Morocco to Afghanistan, interviewing “MBBs,” Muslim Background Believers in Jesus.
One of the leaders of this movement that I profiled in the book is Dr. Hormoz Shariat. He was a Shia Muslim in Iran in 1979 shouting, “Death to America!” on the streets of Tehran with his Muslim wife. But within a few years, they were actually living in the U.S. and had both become Christians after dramatic conversion experiences. They started sharing the Gospel with friends and leading them to Christ. In time, they started planting churches of Iranian believers, and eventually founded a satellite TV ministry to broadcast the Gospel and discipleship training into Iran and the Persian speaking world.
In the book, I dubbed Hormoz “the Billy Graham of Iran,” because God has raised him up to preach the Gospel to millions in their native language of Farsi. Now, a Christian magazine has just profiled Hormoz. I was interviewed for the article and was honored to discuss my friendship and respect for him.
I commend the article to your attention and encourage you not only to read it in full, but to share it with others.
Please be praying for Hormoz and his family and team, as well as for all MBBs this Easter season. They face intense spiritual opposition, and persecution. But they have see the great hope and freedom and forgiveness and peace that comes from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and most are eager to share the good news of God’s amazing grace and love with the Muslim world, regardless of the challenges and dangers they face.
By Troy Anderson, Charisma Magazine, April 2014
Not long after the Iran hostage crisis, the authorities arrested Hormoz Shariat’s 16-year-old brother, Hamraz, on a minor political charge. At the time, Hormoz was a new believer in America and was confident his brother, a political activist who had a small role with the Mujahedeen, would be released. But in 1984, after two years in jail, Shariat’s brother was executed by a firing squad.
Shocked by the news of his brother’s death, Shariat broke down crying, asking God why He let it happen. He felt anger toward God and the people who killed his brother. A few days later, Shariat told God he wanted revenge—but then he recalled the Bible’s words that say, “Vengeance is Mine” (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19). Shariat told God he hated those who had killed his brother—but then he remembered Jesus said anyone who is angry with their brother has already murdered them in their heart (Matt. 5:21-22).
He says he felt the Lord saying to him in prayer, “You know who your enemy is? These people—the clergy and the leaders of Iran—are not your enemy. They are lost children. You have only one enemy. Satan has been working to bring about this injustice. If you want to hurt Satan, evangelize. It hurts him really bad when you bring people to Christ.”
As Shariat tells it, that’s when he committed himself to sharing the gospel the rest of his life.
“I had a vision that by the end of my life I could bring 1 million Muslims to know Him,” he says. “I also learned that God’s love is the greatest power we have to stop Islam and help Muslim captives be free.”
Visions of Jesus
In the three decades since Shariat set his resolve, this minister—dubbed “the Billy Graham of Iran” by New York Times best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg—has not only watched that goal come to fruition, but has also been given a front-row seat to one of the most astonishing supernatural phenomenon in modern times: thousands of people in Iran and throughout the Middle East reporting visitations of Jesus in dreams and visions.
“It’s amazing,” says Shariat, who founded the satellite broadcasting ministry Iran Alive Ministries in 2001. “God is graciously appearing to people in visions, dreams and through miracles. Sometimes they have dreams or visions of Jesus, run across our satellite television broadcast, hear the gospel, and then they believe. They may have, as children, had dreams or saw visions of Jesus. The vision or dream prepares them for the gospel. Other times they watch our program, ask if this is true or not, and then they have a dream or vision that confirms what they heard.”
Shariat believes the message is clear—that God is telling Christians in the West, “You look at them as terrorists who have no hope of salvation. Are you looking at them that way? I’m not. Look at Me. I’m appearing to them. I’m doing it Myself. Would you join Me to reach out to the Muslims?”
Rosenberg wrote about this phenomenon of dreams and visions in his book Inside the Revolution. “It’s an exciting development,” he says, “and it’s consistent with the Bible prophecies found in Joel 2, in which the Lord says in the last days He will pour our His Holy Spirit and people will see dreams and visions.”
Explosion of Faith
Since the hostage crisis ended in 1981, Rosenberg says the number of Christians in Iran has increased exponentially, from 500 to a conservative estimate of 1 million. Shariat, however, says the number may be far larger, noting that Iran—the world’s only theocracy, with 76 million residents—has the fastest-growing evangelical Christian population on the planet, according to the latest edition of Operation World’s manual. In fact, more Persians have come to Christ in the 35 years since the Islamic Revolution than in the prior 1,400 years combined—and most of these conversions have occurred in the past decade, as an estimated 62 million Iranians have gained access to the gospel message through satellite TV broadcasts….
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