A major new translation of the whole Bible into modern Persian was launched in London and Istanbul last week (September 22- 24). The project was especially significant as some of its’ earliest contributors were martyred for their faith.
Elam Ministries, a mission organization for the growing church in Iran, has published the new translation in partnership with Wycliffe Bible Translators. The new Bible can be used to help translate more editions into Iran’s many languages.
Leaders from Elam stated this event was made all the more remarkable because of the recent transformation of the church in Iran. At the time of the Islamic revolution in 1979, there were no more than 500 Christians from a Muslim background in the country. Now Iran is thought to have one of the fastest growing churches in the world.
“This project is like raising a child. It has been 18 years of hard work but worth it for such an exciting day,” said Rev. Dr. Mehrdad Fatehi, the Coordinator and Chief Editor of the new Bible translation.
“Though the event was joyful, we are sad it had to take place outside Iran,” said Sam Yeghnazar, founder and director of Elam. “This event proves the worldwide church will always bring the Scriptures to people, however “closed” a country is meant to be.”
Despite restrictions and risks from the Iranian government, Elam aims to print and distribute at least 300,000 copies over the next three years.
“A very conservative estimate puts the number of Christians in Iran at 100,000,” said David Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries, publishers of the new translation. “The generally-accepted estimate is 370,000. Some believe there are 700,000, others more than a million.”
Sam Yeghnazar believes that the dedication of the Bible, in the company of hundreds of mainly leaders representing the church worldwide, sends out a clear message to those who persecute Christians.
The Michaelian Project
The translation project was named The Michaelian Project, in honor of Tateos Michaelian. Michaelian was regarded as Iran’s most notable Bible translator who was martyred in Iran in 1990.
His widow Juliet Michaelian was presented with the first copy alongside others who are relatives and friends of martyred Iranian Christians.
Rashin Soodmand also received a new Bible at the launch. Her father, Rev. Hossein Soodmand, was also killed in 1990 for his faith.
“I was crushed by my father’s death but wanted to share Jesus with others,” Soodmand said. “We had no scriptures so we wrote them out by hand and left them in taxis and restaurants. I prayed for Bibles for my city and country. God has answered my prayer.”
Christianity prohibited and deterred
Since the Iranian Revolution religious clerics and Iran’s Supreme Leader have been transforming Iran into an Islamic Republic, which has made living in Iran as a non-Shiite Muslim especially difficult.
“In 2010 the Mayor of Tehran called evangelical Christians deviants,” said Yeghnazar.
“The enemies of Christianity portray Christians who love the Bible as a cult-like sect. Alongside 500 or more mainly Christian leaders – including representatives of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Vatican embassy, the Coptic Orthodox church, the Assemblies of God churches and many others – we are saying this view of Christians is wrong,” Yeghnazar said.
According to Open Doors, an organization that works with persecuted Christians worldwide, almost all-Christian activity is illegal, especially when it occurs in Persian languages. This ranges from evangelism to Bible training, to publishing Scripture and Christian books or preaching in Farsi.
Open Doors stated that the regime’s harsh treatment of Christians has only further fuelled church growth and since 2010, persecution in Iran has further increased.
In efforts to stop Western influence, the Iranian government has limited the speed of the internet and prohibited the possession of satellite dishes.
— Christian News Journal staff