[Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Devotional Diva founder Renee Fisher‘s new project Heart4Iran: The Forbidden Stories by Dr. Mike Ansari of Heart4Iran. This is part of the introduction from Dr. Ansari. On Thursday, we will read some of the forbidden stories!]
As President of Heart4Iran, my mission and vision is to inspire, engage and transform the nation of Iran for hope and change. At Heart4Iran, ours is not a political platform but a spiritual one.
Despite the popular notion that Iran is a terrorist nation, Iran’s young people are bright, savvy, better educated and less religiously zealous compared to the surrounding Arab nations. They are more advanced than any previous generation. There is supporting evidence that Iranian migrants help contribute to the academic and financial infrastructure of the host country.
I know because I am one of them.
I was born in Iran, but left for good when I was twelve years old. Unfortunately, I witnessed the death of a lot of young impressionable people, including my cousin, many of whom were seeking change during the early years of Iranian Islamic revolution.
Today, young Iranians still play a key role. In fact, seventy percent of the population of Iran is under thirty years old. They want to be a part of the international community and globalization. Iranian youth are already exposed to global media, ideas and culture through satellite television, social media and the Internet. Forty million Iranians have access to the Internet, including five million of those who have a Facebook account even though it is banned inside the country of Iran.
Despite prohibitions on women’s rights, Iranian women account for sixty-five percent of university attendance with a sixty percent graduation rate—higher than men. However, many of Iran’s young and educated are unemployed.
The vast majority conform to the system and stay quiet while those who dare to ask questions and seek answers feel hopeless and live under the constant threat of detentions, torture, expulsion from universities, and the expanding powers of paramilitary forces.
Although an Islamic nation, culturally and socially most Iranians don’t define their spiritual journey in the sole context of Islam.
The influence of Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, Sufism, mysticism, etc., has turned Iran into a cradle for higher conscious and subconscious pursuit. Despite Islam’s constant presence in their social and cultural fabric, many Iranians believe religion limits their true spirituality and labels their esoteric experiences as heresy and as occult. For example, after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, people began asking some simple yet profound questions like:
How does this faith and belief define my relationship with my creator or my values as an individual in society? As a family unit? As a member in a larger global community?
The pre-scripted answers given to these forbidden questions have left the majority unsatisfied. They want to discover who they are outside of the religious identity bestowed upon them by the system.
Millions of Iranians are hungry for hope and change and are questioning traditional forms of authority. Iran is now, more than ever, proving to be a blueprint for the failure of Islam. Because the strict authoritarian regime limits and forbids young people from finding the freedom they so crave, Islam’s credibility is decreasing rapidly while creating a generation of spiritually-hungry Iranians.
Iranians are affectionate and love to love.
Iranians are also hungry for love. This innate desire is forcefully hidden under the veil of darkness covering them in the name of God.
Many are therefore attracted to the simple message of Jesus: God is love.
This has led to a historic and organic growth of Christianity inside Iran, evidenced by one of the fastest growing underground church movements in the world!
To meet their demand, Heart4Iran’s media arm, Mohabat TV, along with its family of partners, has been broadcasting Farsi Christian programming into Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan since 2006.
The following stories are original accounts of people who have engaged us with their story. Depending on your beliefs or theology, some of these stories may be difficult to believe, yet these individuals know them to be true. To retain the character of the original text, we have chosen not to heavily edit these testimonies. As you read, you will be inspired to see a new wave of enlightenment through the scope of Christianity.
The above was an excerpt from Heart4Iran: the Forbidden Stories and was used with permission.