TAKEN from a tall stack unveiled in front of a large audience,
the first copy of a new translation of the Bible in modern Persian
was given to Juliet Michaelian at its launch on Monday of last
week. Her husband, the Revd Tateos Michaelian, was murdered 20
years ago in Tehran, a month after he had accepted an invitation to
begin work on the translation.
"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the gospel," Sam
Yeghnazar, the founder of Elam Ministries, the organisation behind
the new translation, said at the launch.
The Bible was the culmination of 20 years' work on the
"Michaelian Project", during which time other Christians in Iran
have died for their faith. Among those presented with a copy was
Rashin Soodmand, whose father, the Revd Hossein Soodmand, was
executed for apostasy in prison in Mashhad, Iran, in 1990.
Elam Ministries expects demand for the new Bible to be high;
since it published a Persian translation of the New Testament in
2003, more than one million copies have been printed.
Mr Yeghnazar suggests that the Church in Iran may be the
fastest-growing in the world today. "Iranians are one of the most
open nations to the gospel," he said. "Since 1990, more Iranians
have come to know the Lord than during the 14 centuries since Islam
came to Iran."
The audience at the launch, which included 160 Iranian church
leaders, heard several testimonies from Iranians born into Muslim
families who had converted to Christianity, including a
professional footballer who, aged 19, had fallen into a depression
and tried to commit suicide. "I heard a voice: 'Follow me, I give
you salvation,'" he recalled. "The message of the Bible saved my
Conversion remains a dangerous course. The United States
government has reported a deterioration in religious freedom in
Iran since 2013, and has warned of "systematic, ongoing, and
egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged
detention, torture, and executions".
Closing the event, Mr Yeghnazar recalled the offices of the
Bible Society, closed since 1990, where his father worked for 37
years. Carved into the desk, he said, was the promise "The word of
God endures for ever."
After praying for the persecuted Church of his home country, he
sent a message to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, who has recently undergone cancer surgery: "I bless you
He ended: "Christianity is back in Iran today, and it is back to
stay, and we want to be a blessing to the nation."
Elam Ministries aims to print and distribute at least 300,000
copies of the new translation in Iran over the next three