Women are playing a central role in the underground churches of Iran, despite the risk of rejection by their families and imprisonment by police, according to research by Open Doors.
The 17-page report, ‘Women Rebuilding the Future of the Church’, found that women work as evangelists, Sunday School teachers and, increasingly, house-church leaders. The report argues that, proportionally, more women in Iran are involved in ministry than in many Western countries, despite women not having equal standing in Iranian law.
Although Christianity is suppressed in Iran and conversion from Islam is illegal, there are an estimated 800,000 believers in the country, many of them converts from a Muslim background. According to Open Doors, at least 193 Christians were arrested or imprisoned for their faith there last year.
Azada, a woman who runs a church, is in contact with Iranian women believers on a daily basis. She said that, in Jesus, Iranian women gain confidence that they did not have from the honour-based culture in which they grew up.
Women who become Christians, she said, find that they “are loved, they are wanted, and they can come to God just as they are, without any shame”.
“Many women risk imprisonment and torture by being active evangelists,” she continued. “And 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.”
Another woman, Shifa, has launched an online church group where Iranians who have become Christians can connect and receive pastoral care and be discipled. Shifa, who no longer lives in Iran, was motivated to do this after the cousin who told her about Jesus was imprisoned for her faith, leaving her with no-one to help her understand the Bible or answer her questions.
“What I didn’t have then – pastoral care and someone to disciple me – I can give to them now,” she said. “The Bible alone is not enough. To grow as a Christian you also need your fellow Christians to grow and to pray with.”
- Give thanks for the numbers of Iranian Women coming to faith in Christ, and for their passion to see their families and communities transformed by God’s love and grace.
- Pray for these women, as they face persecution, imprisonment, and ostracism for their families and communities because of their faith. Pray for opportunities to encourage each other in their faith, and for access to the God’s word.
- Pray for the Church in Iran. As one of the fastest growing churches in the world, it needs good leadership, access to training and discipleship materials, and ongoing encouragement in the midst of oppression.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to move across Iran, causing many hearts to hunger after the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus.
1 John 3 vs 1: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. “