Singing worship songs openly, free of fear, is something that we in the UK often take for granted. But it is a freedom many Persian-speaking Christians in countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan cannot currently enjoy.
What are you doing this Sunday? If you belong to a congregation, you will probably make your way to church – and won’t be nervously looking around to check who might be watching. During the service, there is probably a time of sung praise and worship. You might raise your hands, if so inclined, and your voice too, as you are led by musicians playing a variety of instruments.
Most of us won’t worry that a neighbour may hear and report us to the authorities. There is no risk you may end up in prison for years, or face a death sentence.
However, Christians in certain areas of the Middle East have to be careful about activities that would make it easy for the authorities to discover their faith. One Iranian Christian recalls:
We gather in our house church and play worship songs on a CD, or watch a satellite TV programme… If we have a worship leader they lead us in worship – but very quietly. If a house is deemed safe, we might clap with two fingers. At times we use blankets to soundproof doors for extra security.”
LIMITED PERSIAN WORSHIP
Another challenge for Persian believers is that the repertoire of Persian worship material is limited, and musicians are relatively scarce. In other parts of the world, the church has had the benefit of worship music going back centuries, but the Persian-speaking church lacks this rich musical heritage.
SAT-7 PARS’ weekly live show, Heavenly Worship, makes live Persian worship music accessible to isolated believers, enabling them to know that they are part of a larger church family across the globe.
“We get feedback from our viewers who meet at home and are unable to sing aloud,” shares Producer Mostafa Keshavarz. “Some don’t know how to sing. We make sure the song words are on the screen and invite the viewers to join in with the singing and worship – whether silently or aloud. Viewers get in touch and tell us how happy they are that they had the opportunity to join us in praise and worship, and this is really encouraging for us.”
One such testimony came from Babak, a viewer in Iran:
Greetings and thanks for your excellent Heavenly Worship programme and all those involved. I have thoroughly benefited from this beautiful and spiritual programme, ever since I have actively engaged with the programme, singing the songs with all my mind and heart, and taking part in the worship along with the musicians. I thank each and every one of you beloved of God, who bring the praise and worship of the Lord to our hearts and homes.”
SPIRIT AND TRUTH
For a follower of Christ, every thought, word or action is meant to be an act of worship, and there is a particular joy in worshipping the Lord through music. For Jesus there is only one kind of worship that counts:
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24
Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters everywhere, that they are freely able to worship the Lord in spirit and truth.
- Thank God for the freedom we enjoy in the UK to gather together as Christians and enjoy singing worship without fear of repercussions.
- Pray God’s protection over Iranian house churches or fellowship groups who meet together despite the risks.
- Thank God for SAT-7’s Persian-language programmes, like Heavenly Worship, and the support they provide to discouraged and isolated believers.