Iran for Christ
Today’s cyber wars include those that involve spreading the gospel to nations where restricted access to internet, radio, and TV is government mandated. So, when Dr. Hormoz Shariat received his Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence, he put it to work to help bring God’s word to his people in Iran.
Transforming a nation in this generation
Hormoz Shariat gave his life to Christ when he was a 26–year old Ph.D. student studying Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of Southern California. He loved science and problem solving. The idea of programming computers fascinated him. A promising career loomed, and life was good.
However, in 1984 shocking news from his mother in Iran set Hormoz on a radically different course. “I was a new believer when my brother was killed,” he recalls. Hamraz, a member of the Mujahedeen, had been arrested at age 16 for a minor political incident. “They kept him for 2 years. During this time, the government told our mother that he was doing fine, and they would eventually let him go. But one day, they called her and said, ‘Come, get your son’s body. We just executed him.’” The humiliation brought upon the family was staggering. “They made her pay for the bullets used to shoot my brother before they would release his body to her,” said Hormoz.
Small staff, big job
Although Hormoz completed his studies and graduated, he struggled spiritually to make sense of what had happened. “Ph.D. studies taught me how to research, look at problems, and find solutions,” said the now Dr. Shariat. But it was a clear revelation from God that turned his scientific mind away from AI and pointed it instead toward Christian evangelism.
Shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Shariat moved to Dallas, Texas. Despite heavy Iranian government restrictions and intentional internet blackouts, he started Iran Alive Ministries, a broadcast that would use the airwaves to reach Muslims and Christians deep within Iran. “This is a technological war,” he says. “They want to stop us, and we want to find ways to connect with the people.”
Shariat used satellite television and radio to accomplish this goal. “This way, we go over their heads and into peoples’ homes and living rooms.”
Today Network 7, his Alive’s 24/7 TV broadcast, reaches 5–6 million Farsi (Persian)–speaking Iranians. It also extends far beyond Iran to a potential 130 million Farsi–speaking viewers in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and other Middle Eastern nations.
Shariat says his team uses secured and encrypted social media platforms. The broadcasts are recorded and sent via computer, 24/7. “We have 10–12 people who do follow–up and respond to requests. I’m there twice a week. We plan it, schedule it, and let it go.” New York Times award–winning writer Joel C. Rosenberg in his book Inside the Revolution, wrote, “Satellite television has been a game–changer in Iran, and Hormoz Shariat is at the forefront of that.” Shariat says, “We have a small staff, but they do a big job.”
How big is that job? “We want to transform Iran into a Christian nation,” Shariat says, but is quick to point out, “This is not my idea. It is recorded in Jeremiah 49:38, ‘I will set my throne in Elam,’ which is completely inside Iran. This is more than having a number of believers or some churches. Jeremiah is talking about a transformed nation where Jesus is known and obeyed by every segment of society. We are moving in that direction. Millions of Iranians have rejected Islam and are open to the message of the gospel.”
A history of tolerance
Recent political turmoil belies Iran’s centuries–long history of religious tolerance. “The first human rights were written by King Cyrus of Persia,” says Shariat. “When Cyrus freed the Jews, most of them chose to stay in Iran. His edict (Ezra 1:1-2) made it possible for the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. This is the temple where Jesus proclaimed His Truth (John 7:37–38) and cleansed its courtyards of money changers (Matthew 21:12–13; Isaiah 56:7). The church in Iran was born on the Day of Pentecost. In Acts 2, different nations were represented in Jerusalem and the first three people groups to come to faith were Persians.”
Iran is the burial place of the Prophet Daniel because of his influence on the Persian people (Elamites). Daniel’s tomb has served as a church, synagogue, and mosque, which speaks to the religious diversity that is prevalent in Iran. He was also a contemporary of Zoroaster, an ancient Iranian spiritual leader who founded what is now known as Zoroastrianism, a monotheistic pre–Islamic religion of ancient Persia, a system similar to that of the ancient Israelites. The country is also believed to be the birthplace of the legendary three Wise Men who were told by God to visit the baby Jesus. “Magi is a Persian word,” says Shariat.
People over politics
But can the desire of the people be separated from politics in a quest to make Iran a Christian nation? “The government of Iran and the people of Iran have totally different mindsets,” says Shariat. “I can boldly say that there is no country in the world where people love America more than Iranians.” As proof, he says that Americans are extended warm invitations to visit homes. He also points to a recent incident where massive American and Israeli flags were spread on the ground by the government so that Iranians could trample them underfoot. “Instead, the people walked around the flags to show respect.”
Shariat says the youth of Iran are ripe for the harvest. “They are skeptical about the concept of God, be it Christian or Muslim. Through our television programs, the message of Christ is becoming attractive to them. The older people are harder to convince, but the younger generation is already done with Islam. Jesus gives them identity, value, and a high calling to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Him.”
by Warren L. Maye
To follow Iran Alive Ministries start at iranaliveministies.org.
What does Iran Alive Ministries do?
- Satellite broadcast reaches 6 million viewers daily
- 412 schools currently train 710 ministry leaders
- Ministry TV partnerships help spread the gospel message beyond Iran 24/7
- Calls from Muslims are answered with compassion and prayer
- 800 underground churches planted
- Online media and digital resources
- 400,000 Bibles distributed in Iran since 2001
- 36,000 documented decisions for Christ since 2001
- 21 million media downloads