On Yalda’s eve (21 December), the longest night of the year, Iranians traditionally gather with friends and family to celebrate the winter solstice and the victory of light over darkness. Iranian Christians, however, have witnessed the triumph of the light of Christ over the darkness of suffering over and over in this challenging year.
Yalda’s eve has a special place in Persian culture and often represents periods of hardship in Persian poetry. Like Yalda’s eve, this past year has been long and dark for many Iranians.
“The coronavirus has unfortunately had a destructive influence on people,” shares Puran, a female SAT-7 viewer. “People are fearful and under stress, and many are unemployed and depressed. Everyone is facing a breakdown of some kind. My life, too, has been damaged; my husband has been unemployed nearly a year and during this time we have had no income. I have aged and have been broken because of the pressure.”
Despite the difficulties of the year, the testimonies of Christians in Iran speak to the hope they find in Jesus Christ, the light of the world who guides us through the darkness of pain. Puran goes on to say, “In the past year, I have only been able to stand by trusting Psalm 91, as I have prayed and wept for my family and for the people of my country. Thank you for praying for me – I sense being strengthened through your prayers.”
I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.’” – Psalm 91:2
And Mahdad, a male SAT-7 viewer from Iran, says, “The coronavirus has led me to a greater realisation of how faith in Jesus Christ gives us strength. The coronavirus has significantly reduced meetings with friends, but with Christ there is no loneliness.”
As Yalda’s eve is celebrated just before Christmas, early Christians in Iran were drawn to this celebration of victory of light over darkness. They often associated it with the birth of Jesus Christ: the word “Yalda” in fact means “birth”. Traditionally, friends and family in Iran gather to celebrate Yalda’s eve. However, restrictions this year may prevent or limit these festivities, just as they will Christmas celebrations. But Christians in Iran are familiar with isolation and restriction when it comes to their faith, and their hope in God remains strong.
“When anyone is alarmed and says to me, ‘We have a coronavirus pandemic, and you’re alone, what are you going to do?’ I say to them ‘God is with me,’” shares Farimah, a female viewer in Iran. “May He be with all as He has been with me. If we love Him with all our heart and all our being, recognising the price He has paid for us so we can call on Him as Father, He will never abandon us. Yes, there are storms, even for us as believers; but He is with us!”
In the run-up to Christmas, Christians in Iran face increased persecution and the risk of raids on house churches increases significantly. Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Iran, that they will continue to put their faith and hope in God, that they will be able to find fellowship with one another, and that God will protect them from darkness in Iran.
Will you pray along with SAT-7 PARS viewer Sepehr? He says:
“Heavenly Father, I am so grateful that You are always here with me and that You give me strength, boldness, love, and kindness. I am not anxious for anything and I trust You. I have tried as far as I can to fulfil what You say in Your Word, and You have blessed me. Thank You my loving Lord. You have freed me from condemnation and have granted Your peace. It is so beautiful when a person sees You – all worldly things lose their value. Father, You are so loving and kind to me and You accept me with all my faults. I am grateful to You for everything. Amen.”
Christmas in Iran
Apart from small numbers of Armenian and Assyrian believers, most Christians in Iran come from non-Christian backgrounds and cannot express their faith publicly. SAT-7 PARS staff member Omeed Jouyandé describes what Christmas will mean in Iran this year.