Troy Anderson : May 30, 2014 : Charisma News
“People tend to think of Iranians through the filter of national news—crazy people in the streets calling for the death of America, but Islam is not Iran’s original religion. Christianity pre-dated Islam in Iran and the heart of the Iranian people is longing for freedom. Today, they are hungry for Christianity.” -Hormoz Shariat
(San Jose, CA)—Hormoz Shariat was born Sept. 9, 1955, into a Muslim family in Tehran, Iran. He grew up as a fairly devout Muslim but began to question his Islamic faith as a teen. (Photo via Charisma News)
“I started thinking, ‘What is this religion I’m following? I’m repeating these prayers, but it’s not adding anything to my life. I’m not changed. I don’t have peace. I don’t have joy. I don’t even experience the presence of God,'” he recalls. “So I stopped doing it, and I focused on my studies and being a good person.”
Shariat, along with his wife, Donnell, came to the U.S. following the Islamic Revolution in 1979 to earn his Ph.D. in computer engineering at the University of Southern California. The revolution reawakened his spiritual yearnings, and he began to read the Bible.
Not long after the Iran hostage crisis, authorities arrested Hormoz Shariat’s 16-year-old brother, Hamraz, on a minor political charge. At the time, Hormoz was a new Believer in America and was confident his brother, a political activist who had a small role with the Mujahedeen, would be released. But in 1984, after two years in jail, Shariat’s brother was executed by a firing squad.
Shocked by the news of his brother’s death, Shariat broke down crying, asking God why He let it happen. He felt anger toward God and the people who killed his brother. A few days later, Shariat told God he wanted revenge—but then he recalled the Bible’s words that say, “Vengeance is Mine” (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19). Shariat told God he hated those who had killed his brother—but then he remembered Jesus said anyone who is angry with their brother has already murdered them in their heart (Matt. 5:21-22).
He says he felt the Lord saying to him in prayer, “You know who your enemy is? These people—the clergy and the leaders of Iran—are not your enemy. They are lost children. You have only one enemy. Satan has been working to bring about this injustice. If you want to hurt satan, evangelize. It hurts him really bad when you bring people to Christ.”
As Shariat tells it, that’s when he committed himself to sharing the Gospel the rest of his life.
“I had a vision that by the end of my life I could bring 1 million Muslims to know Him,” he says. “I also learned that God’s love is the greatest power we have to stop Islam and help Muslim captives be free.”
In the three decades since Shariat set his resolve, this minister—dubbed “the Billy Graham of Iran” by New York Times best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg—has not only watched that goal come to fruition, but has also been given a front-row seat to one of the most astonishing supernatural phenomenon in modern times: thousands of people in Iran and throughout the Middle East reporting visitations of Jesus in dreams and visions.
“It’s amazing,” says Shariat, who founded the satellite broadcasting ministry Iran Alive Ministries in 2001. “God is graciously appearing to people in visions, dreams and through miracles. Sometimes they have dreams or visions of Jesus, run across our satellite television broadcast, hear the Gospel, and then they believe. They may have, as children, had dreams or saw visions of Jesus. The vision or dream prepares them for the Gospel. Other times they watch our program, ask if this is true or not, and then they have a dream or vision that confirms what they heard.”
Shariat believes the message is clear—that God is telling Christians in the West, “You look at them as terrorists who have no hope of salvation. Are you looking at them that way? I’m not. Look at Me. I’m appearing to them. I’m doing it Myself. Would you join Me to reach out to the Muslims?” (Photo via Google)
Rosenberg wrote about this phenomenon of dreams and visions in his book Inside the Revolution. “It’s an exciting development,” he says, “and it’s consistent with the Bible prophecies found in Joel 2, in which the Lord says in the last days He will pour our His Holy Spirit and people will see dreams and visions.”
Since the hostage crisis ended in 1981, Rosenberg says the number of Christians in Iran has increased exponentially, from 500 to a conservative estimate of 1 million. Shariat, however, says the number may be far larger, noting that Iran—the world’s only theocracy, with 76 million residents—has the fastest-growing evangelical Christian population on the planet, according to the latest edition of Operation World’s manual. In fact, more Persians have come to Christ in the 35 years since the Islamic Revolution than in the prior 1,400 years combined—and most of these conversions have occurred in the past decade, as an estimated 62 million Iranians have gained access to the Gospel message through satellite TV broadcasts.
“Some people put the number [of Christians in Iran] at 3 to 5 million,” says Shariat, who launched Network 7, Iran Alive’s 24/7 satellite broadcast network, into Iran, the Middle East, Northern Africa and Europe in January 2012. Shariat says it is hard to estimate how many have come to Christ through his broadcast because the phones are controlled and it is dangerous and expensive for Iranians to call the ministry.
“Nevertheless,” he says, “over the last 12 years of broadcasting, we have the names of over 27,000 people who have called us to pray to receive Christ or to indicate that they have done so through our broadcasts. Probably 10 times that many have made the same decision but did not dare to call us.”
The program has more than 100 million potential viewers, and Shariat estimates that at any given time, 3 to 6 million people are watching.