New Persian Bible launched after 20 years’ work

03 October 2014

JOHN KNIGHT

First edition: Sam Yeghnazar, of Elam Ministries, presents Juliet Michaelian with the first copy
of the Bible in modern Persian, at its launch on Monday of last week

First edition: Sam Yeghnazar, of Elam Ministries, presents Juliet Michaelian with the first copy
of the Bible in modern Persi...

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 whole family."

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 wholeheartedly."

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 years.

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