For he who is called a slave in the Lord is a freed man of the Lord. And likewise, he who is called a free man is a slave of Christ. You are bought with a price, do not be the slaves of men. 1 Corinthians 7:22-23.
These two young Iranian women were imprisoned to Evin Prison in Tehran, in March 2009. Their names are Miss Marzieh Esmaeilabad and Miss Maryam Rustampoo. They were labeled “anti-government activists” because they were born Muslims but converted to Christianity. In court, it was recommended that the girls be sentenced for “apostasy,” because they would not deny their faith in Jesus as Messiah (which, I believe, would have given them death sentences). Bail was set for $400,000, an impossible sum for them to raise.
But they are free. Prayers and pressure from Christians and humanitarian groups brought attention to their case, and they were just recently released from prison. The organization that kept us up to date on their progress, Pray For Iran, is celebrating their release for Christmas.
Christmas is a little dicey over there. Here in America we can celebrate the holiday to the point of debauchery; in Iran it’s more meaningful because it’s so precious and risky.
House-church Christians in Iran love Christmas and try to celebrate in anyway they can. “Christmas means so much to us because Jesus came to save us,” said one new believer recently. However, they have to celebrate without drawing attention to themselves. They gather together in small groups to celebrate Christ’s birth, some may even have a small, decorated tree to put up. One leader says, “The night before Christmas, we have a small party of usually 10 people or so. We can’t make much noise. But we fellowship together, have a time of worship and give gifts to each other.”
My husband lived in Iran as a boy, for just a few years (his dad was in the Air Force). He left right before the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. I love to hear his stories about living in Iran. I don’t know why I have an interest in Iran; maybe it’s because I like to study the ancient culture of the Persians… or maybe its because I get choked up when I hear about the suffering that some people go through… or maybe it’s because of the quirky Farsi language that I like so much. Did you know the Farsi word for snow is “barf”? And yet did you know that Iranian Christians cannot publish a Bible or Christian literature in Iran’s national language?
But the funny thing about Christians is that, despite the persecution and hardships, we are still free. I am so glad Marzieh and Maryam are free from prison; but they were truly always free. 🙂 Aren’t they such beautiful girls? God bless you, Iranians!