Farsi is the language of Iran, much of Afghanistan and neighbouring communities, totalling about 110 million Farsi-speakers.
Except in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan, Farsi is written in a modified Arabic script. Although many words have been borrowed from Arab neighbours, Farsi’s roots go back to the Indo-European language family, just like English.
Most Farsi-speaking peoples belong to the Shiite branch of Islam. They separated from Sunni Muslims many centuries ago, after defeat in a bloody battle over the line of succession to the prophet Mohammed.
Devoted Shiites commemorate this horrible event annually. Farsi-speaking Iran is the leading Shiite Muslim nation, with Arabic-speaking Saudi Arabia the leading Sunni Muslim nation — although both have significant minorities of other branches of Islam.
Tensions between Shiites and Sunnis continue in the Middle East, resulting in much suffering and death. Ongoing armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen are related. This contributes to the growing numbers of Muslims, both Sunni and Shiite, who question their religion and reject it. Many have turned to atheism or agnosticism. Thankfully, good numbers seek the gospel alternative.
Printed Bibles or New Testaments are largely unavailable in some Muslim countries, including Iran and Afghanistan. The expanding availability of the internet, however, has put God’s Word within the reach of millions for the first time.
Now, more and more Iranians and Afghans can read and/or listen to Scripture portions or the whole Bible in their own language, and even download them for further study in the privacy of their own homes. The internet makes this possible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Presently the Iranian authorities recognise only a few churches. Most of the growing numbers of church groups are either totally underground or exist under the strict, watching eyes of the police, yet the number of converts steadily increases.
There is always concern, however, about Islamic spies who seek to infiltrate house churches. Consequently, due to security measures, it takes young believers a long time to safely know and be accepted by other converts. Many remain very lonely for long periods, without fellowship and pastoral care.
MERF’s Farsi ministry employs the internet to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to those who have never heard, and also to encourage and build up the faith of young Farsi-speaking believers.
MERF’s Farsi radio site — Shadkami.org — is designed to attract Iranians, by ethnic music and literature, interesting information, and meditations on life issues that gently introduce gospel truths. This is linked to the Shadkami Facebook page and YouTube videos. Bookmarks with site information are available to share with Iranian and Afghan contacts.
The Roshdino.org site is designed for Farsi-speaking Christians and others with a serious interest in Christ. All 66 books of the Old and New Testament can be read, heard or downloaded in Farsi, as well as sermons, hymns and Christian literature. Thousands are visiting these two websites.
The ministry’s internet presence is also proving most useful in connecting isolated Farsi Christians together for fellowship in a way that was hard to imagine, even a few years ago.
Young Christians are being discipled, not only by one-to-one text and voice chats, but also by regular group Bible studies. MERF also trains qualified converts to serve as spiritual leaders among their own. We praise God for these wonderful resources.
Please pray for these Farsi gospel media ministry listeners in Iran and others like them:
Ali: I am a Shiite Muslim. May I ask some questions? Did Jesus promise the coming of Imam Ali? Do Christians believe in the day of judgment and life after death? Do you believe the Quran is the Word of God? If not, what are the evidences?
Hasti: Praise the Lord, who saved me seven years ago. But here in Iran I have no possibility to connect with other believers, a church, or pastor. I need to be baptised and worship God freely. Here it is hard. No one in my family is a believer. The believers, I found, are being watched by the government.
N.I.: This week I became very aware of my inner angers. Last night I prayed a lot about it. Please pray that God would heal and change me inside.
Nasrin: A few nights ago, I was reading the Gospel of John and I learned a lot about the Holy Spirit. I learned that we cannot know God except as the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit — and each one of these three persons are fully God and complete. I tried to explain it to my sister-in-law, but I cannot. I don’t know why.