The Farsi-speaking Iranian refugees were assembled in the sanctuary of our host indigenous church. Almost twenty of them were gathered there for a weekly Bible study. Sixteen from their number were baptized just a few days before. They found and proclaimed freedom in two different, often-competing, realms – the physical and spiritual.
With a few exceptions they were all young men, abounding in life and energy. As former university students in an Islamic republic intolerant of any real or perceived dissension, they had to flee for their lives after vocalizing their dissatisfaction with the deeply-entrenched regime that has such an unholy stranglehold on Iran.
Don’t be fooled by current words, images and sensitivities. The Iranian populace is not a people to be generalized and stigmatized. They are flesh and blood with real dreams and aspirations, sincere hurts and fears. They are warm and hospitable, welcoming and lovable. I don’t say this in a condescending manner, just with a heart to break down barriers of perception that do, and shouldn’t, exist.
Very many Iranians wish to be rid of the wicked and heavy yolk placed upon them by the country’s religious/political leaders. They yearn for liberation of expression and elected representation. They hunger for global integration and acceptance. They desire a new normalcy of will and determination.
Millions have run away to grasp hold of freedom.
This particular set ran away and found God.
They found God in a country that previously waged war against their own.
As with the little abandoned boy I saw who entered the government orphanage for the first time, I empathized with the pain of one young student. He had been in Iraq for just one month. A newbie. He shuffled around in his chair, shaking his head and sighing deeply as he repeated that he "has lost everything." He obviously misses his family, friends and other relationships desperately. Unless things change anytime soon, he is faced with never seeing any of them again.
To further compound the pain, he knows that his family in Iran is now under surveillance and that any misstep on their part will be met with harsh consequences – persecution and death. He has to live with the daily anguish of knowing that he brought this scourge upon them. He longs for them. He fears for them. Consequently, he suffers on two levels – the deep sense of losing them and the anxiety of knowing that they may never be safe. Even at this very moment they could possibly be enduring maltreatment and torture.
(Image: Part of the Iranian refugee group at our host church)
As I panned around the room to survey the eyes and faces of these students, I realized that, although more advanced in life than the children World Orphans deals with, they were still young souls that have become orphans of this fallen world.
I rejoice in knowing that most of them have now been adopted by God and are fully grafted into the promise of His sacrifice and love. They are my brothers, co-heirs with Christ…and are still hopeful for what the future might bring.