Shayan, an illegal refugee from Afghanistan, is a follower of Jesus Christ—a rarity in the predominantly Muslim country of Iran, located just west of Pakistan.
The constitution of Iran defines the country as an Islamic republic and stipulates that all laws and regulations must be based on “Islamic criteria.” Conversion from Islam to another religion is not permitted under Iranian law and may be punished by death.
Like many people in his native country, Shayan grew up Muslim, learning and studying the Quran in order to become a Mullah. But as he matured in his understanding of religion, his view of the Islamic faith slowly began to change, and Christianity interested him more and more. His hunger to learn led him to BGEA’s Search for Jesus ministry, an online global evangelism and discipleship effort.
“I realized there were many flaws in Islam,” he said. “Little by little, I did not do some of the rules of Islam … I did these things in secret so that no one in my family would notice.”
Shayan committed his life to Christ, but he must remain secretive due to Iranian law. Not even his wife knows about his shift in beliefs, because he is terrified that his father-in-law, an Iranian Muslim cleric, would turn him into the government and have him executed. Aware that death is likely if word gets out that he has converted to Christianity, he adamantly declares, “I still believe [the Gospel].”
Yearning to grow in his Christian faith, Shayan expressed a desire to be baptized and plugged in to a Christian church. But he knew that could not happen in Iran, where his ability to access Biblical resources and evangelize was limited.
“I have many friends whom I can invite to Christianity, and I am sure they will turn to Jesus,” he said. “But because I am not in the right country, it is difficult for me. I am very sad to see that my friends and even my wife are separated from Jesus.”
After being involved in two Search for Jesus “Going Farther” courses, Shayan suddenly became inactive. Nearly a year later, he returned to the ministry to take another online discipleship course.
He wrote, “I am very happy and thank God for bringing me to you again.” He went on to explain why he had stopped making progress in his courses. “I was deported from Iran and saw a lot of problems. I was tortured by both Iranian and Taliban soldiers.
“One of my fingers is injured. I erased everything from my mobile. It is only a few days since I came back to Iran.”
Even though he had just endured such torture and risked being tortured much worse if his faith in Jesus was revealed, Shayan’s love for Christ was greater than his fear of being found out.
“I come back to you with a lot of risk because I love Jesus, even if I am killed like Jesus,” he said. ©2022 BGEA
Taylor Johnson served as a BGEA intern in the summer of 2022.
Photo: Akbar Nemati/Unsplash.com