Iran (MNN) – While much of the world was anticipating the possibilities of the new year, Iranians were busy calling upon their government for change in widespread protests that continue today.
*Peter Smith was able to speak with strategically placed Christians in Iran about the situation that is unfolding.
He says, “About [seven] days ago inside Iran, what started as a riot towards the price increase of eggs — the price of eggs went up by 40 percent and so the people said, ‘Hey, that’s too much!’ — it has since turned into a political revolt. And what started in the city of Mashhad, which is the Shiite holy city on the coast near Afghanistan, has now spread to than 100 different cities inside Iran.”
The protests have grown in both scope and size, and what started as a small group of protesters has garnered international attention.
As of yesterday morning, Smith said, “What I’ve heard so far in the first six days is anywhere from 16-25 people have been killed. There are hundreds and hundreds of people who have been arrested.”
The Washington Post says that at least 20 people have been killed so far. Smith believes that one reason the world is lending an ear to these protests is to ask the question, “Is this going to lead to regime change, or is this something internally that the country needs to deal with?”
Either way, the people in the streets are calling for change—both in leadership and how the nation’s money is used.
Iran is certainly no stranger to political unrest. Smith recalls the Green Movement or Revolution of 2009 which was mostly fueled by the middle class, calling for a revote for the presidential elections. This movement, he explains, did not have outside support from other nations.
“This time, the revolt seems to be among the … poor people, people who live in the parts of the cities where the economics are not as good. And what they’re saying is, ‘look, if you really want to help bring regime change, we need help from the outside.”
In particular, he says they’re calling on the influential nations in Europe, and on the United States. It remains to be seen where this revolt will take Iran.
(Photo courtesy of Geoff Livingston via Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/DseXHT)
“Especially this week, I think, is very crucial because it’s either going to continue and get worse, or the Revolutionary Guard will come in and squelch it totally. And so, what the outside world does to influence any decision, I think the next two or three days are very critical.”
While Iran has a broad spectrum of issues, there is a story unfolding that brings hope. Despite the extreme opposition Christians face, the underground Church is growing in Iran. As we’ve mentioned recently, Iran is currently the fastest growing body of believers in the world. And they are just as concerned about what’s happening in Iran as their non-Christian neighbors.
Smith says on speaking with Church leaders, he learned of two things they’re focusing on in particular: “First of all, they’re asking for prayer — prayer to know how they should go out into the streets and do ministry among those who are doing the rioting. And secondly [what] they’re trying to figure out is, ‘long term, will we as a nation be free so that we can have freedom of religion? So we can meet openly in parks or in buildings without the threat of the Revolutionary Guard or others to come in and arrest us?”
This time of year is a particularly difficult time for believers. “For the last several years during Christmas time, the Iran government has used that as a platform to arrest large groups of Christians who gather for the Christmas holiday. And even again this year they did that in several major cities. And so yes, the house church movement inside Iran is very concerned about not just the revolution that might be taking place, but how that’s going to impact their church in their future.”
Will you pray for Iran? Ask God that if there is any change to come about from these protests, that he would bring a peaceful transition. Pray for national believers to have wisdom and courage in their outreach.
For more ways to pray alongside Iran as a nation, click here.
*Name change for security purposes.