Many Iranian believers live in fear due to misunderstandings surrounding human rights and freedom of belief, as well as inadequate systems and accountability to enforce existing laws. SAT-7 is empowering viewers by educating them on their right to choose their religion and encouraging them to stand up for themselves and others.
“When people are aware of human rights, it is possible to prevent crimes against humanity from taking place,” says Mansour Borji, encouraging SAT-7 viewers in Iran to investigate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
An advocate for persecuted Iranian Christians with his organization ‘Article 18,’ Mansour Borji is a regular guest on the new season of SAT-7’s Persian-speaking talk show Insiders (pictured above). The program tackles common misunderstandings, such as the misconception that changing your religion is against the law in Iran. In fact, since Iran has signed Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iranians legally have the right to choose and practice their own religion.
MAKING A STAND FOR CHRIST’S HOPE, FACING IMPRISONMENT
Despite this, many Iranian Christians face discrimination and persecution for openly following their faith or meeting to worship with other believers. With little or no awareness of their rights in these situations, individuals often feel powerless and fearful in the face of opposition.
“Sometimes not knowing these facts means that when some people are visited by security personnel, they panic and think that ‘now that they have caught me, they can kill me,’” explains Mansour. “But not only do [the authorities] not have the right to do that, they do not even have the right to interrogate someone about their beliefs. It is very much the responsibility of Christian networks and organizations to help to remove this fear and give people essential information on their legal rights.” And yet even those who know their rights have seen them trampled with inadequate systems and accountability networks to enforce Article 18.
Mansour also offers the encouragement that there is hope and purpose in making sacrifices, or even being imprisoned. Making a stand when our rights are violated is not just for our own benefit, but also for the benefit of others: “[those in prison] gladly take the persecution upon themselves so that they can be the voice of the Iranian Christian community. And, of course, there are those who belong to other religions whose freedom of religion and belief is also denied. Even Muslims who do not accept or go along with the official interpretation of the regime, are currently in prison cells. Christians can be their voice too.”
CHRISTIANS LEAD THE WAY IN LOVING OTHERS
Mansour reminds viewers that Christians should lead the way in showing respect and acceptance to those with other beliefs, and promoting the rights of all: “You may have a hard debate with someone, but in the end you must respect and love the person, because he is a human being, made by God in His own image. The person himself is worthy of love, respect and assistance.”
The discussions on Insiders consistently reveal the importance of Christians engaging with human rights issues, rather than dismissing them as ‘political’ issues: “Where there is injustice and oppression we may pray and ask God why He doesn’t do something to remove it, but God may say that’s what I have put you here for – God wants his Church to bring change.”
Hooman, a viewer from Iran, messaged to say: “I believe the issue of human rights has been summarized well by Christ when He said ‘treat others as you would have them treat you,’ for there is no person who wishes ill upon himself.” (Luke 6:31)
SCRIPTURAL FOUNDATIONS FOR RELIGIOUS CHOICE
The Bible outlines principles for freedom of religious choice in a number of places, among them Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” The Lord does not presume that all will follow, nor does he demand their love, which would be meaningless if forced. Even God, in his infinite wisdom and love for people, allows them to decide for themselves if they will accept his gift of grace and will in their lives. Joshua 24:15 likewise advises “choose this day whom you will serve,” without hiding the fact that there are eternal consequences based on each person’s choice.
Those of us who have already accepted salvation are reminded of our responsibility to mankind in Romans 10:14, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” We are striving to make the Gospel available to all people in the Middle East and North Africa, so that each person has the knowledge and opportunity to respond. Will you join us this Advent season in reaching more hearts with the true meaning of Christmas?