We want to be clear from the start that 222 Ministries is not a political organisation. The vision and mission statement of 222, ‘Iran Changed for Christ’ may seem to some to have a distinctly political tone. Was Jesus a political person? In his many parables Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven with the experience of His people on earth. He said, ‘My Kingdom is not of this world...you say rightly that I am a king.’ He identified a new kingdom, one in which the lives of those who respond to the Gospel are changed and restored to how they were originally intended to be. In this sense we have to say that Jesus’ teaching does have political implications – the difference is that this is based on the gospel, not a human agenda or manifesto. As a Christian ministry we are focused on sharing this gospel with the people of Iran, and so the key word here is ‘changed.’ So what is it that 222 is seeking to see changed?
The message of the gospel is about bringing ‘transformation’, or change, in the lives of the lost; it is about bringing change to individuals that will lead change in the society in which they live; this includes the downtrodden in society. In Iran there are hundreds of thousands of mainly women who have drifted into prostitution, tens of thousands who are forced to sell organs from their own bodies either to save the life of another family member or simply to carry on living in what has become a ruthless and plundering economy. Over three million are caught in the stench of addiction and Iran boasts the highest rate of opiate-drug addiction rate in the whole world; we have more than enough reasons to cry out for change in Iran!
We want to see a society in which the dignity of every human being is upheld.
We want to see change come to an Iran in which there is freedom for individuals to follow their conscience and to be able to choose which religion they want to follow. We want to see a society in which the dignity of every human being is upheld. We want to see an Iran where everyone can embrace these ‘democratic’ values and have the opportunity to agree to disagree whilst continuing to live in harmony and peace with those who may hold other opinions, religions, practices or political inclination. These principles of freedom and justice are brutally denied under the current regime; we want to see this changed in Iran.
It is not only Christians who are under constant threat from the oppression of the current regime and who face ethnic cleansing by the de facto forced deportation from Iran that is practiced by the authorities. It is also the Sunnis, the Sufis, the Erfanis and the Bahais. It is people of different sexual orientation or identity, it is those who express opposition or even different views to the regime, including reporters, university professors, union leaders, even Muslim clerics who choose to disagree with the blatant injustice perpetrated by the ruling junta, and face discrimination and persecution. The cases are far too many to recant! The number of those who have been jailed are so many and are constantly attracting headlines.
Even the ex-speaker of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) and one of the core founders of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Karubi and his colleague the ex-prime minister Moussavi, have not been spared the wrath of the regime because they had decided to disagree. They have been held for seven years under house arrest, and the domestic and international outcry has not brought their release.
The officer responded, ‘You will utterly regret it if you stay! You need to move out of the country or we can’t guarantee the safety of you, your young wife or your baby son!’
One case involving a 222 family took place in mid 2015. The revolutionary intelligence agency office in the Western city of Kermanshah questioned Rodney Issavi and his wife Mahshid, with their baby son Samuel. They were absolutely stunned by one question, ‘Why are you holding back? Why aren’t you joining your parents in Kayseri?’ Rodney responded that his life and goals were different from those of his parents and he wanted to stay in Iran. The officer responded, ‘You will utterly regret it if you stay! You need to move out of the country or we can’t guarantee the safety of you, your young wife or your baby son!’ Finally Rodney and Mahshid had to escape to Turkey, leaving their home behind.
Three choices were given to Rev Vartan, Rev Surik and Rev Robert Asserian, all senior leaders of the Assemblies of God church in Tehran: first, to spy for the regime; second, to go to prison; or third, to leave Iran. They had to pack immediately and leave for Armenia!
On many cases where Iranian Christian converts have been arrested, the authorities have warned them that they are likely to receive lengthy prison sentences. In this way they effectively encourage these prisoners of faith to escape and seek safety in neighbouring countries, invariably leaving behind expensive bonds, which place their homes at the mercy of confiscators. In this way Christians are being bled financially in a systematic and intentional subjugation to poverty. Recent bonds have been up to £115,000 for an individual, which means that the regime, or individuals within it, has accumulated millions of pounds of properties and funds. This trend has hugely escalated under the so-called ‘moderate’ Rouhani regime; this is simply a mockery of justice and democratic values.
Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself to restore that lost freedom to human beings. He says, ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’
These are examples of the injustices that 222 wants to see changed in Christ’s name; we want to see these democratic values upheld that are currently denied to the 80 million Iranians. In both private and public forums 222’s founder-president and its leadership often engage in this debate. 222 pioneered the establishment of the first Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN), which has often been quoted in the mainstream media. Whether in it’s television broadcast, websites or many leadership training events, free thinking and religious liberty are strongly encouraged. Unless Iranian young people and teenagers learn the indispensable values of freedom and democracy, which originate from a sound understanding of the gospel’s value and identity for individuals and communities, then simply changing religion or even the rule of Iran will not help.
We believe that God created human beings in His own image - that brings total freedom of choice! It is human pride and arrogance that has made creation lose that ‘innocent’ well-being. Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself to restore that lost freedom to human beings. He says, ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’ 222 Ministries is about helping young and old, male and female, whether Iranian or Afghan Christian converts or Christians fleeing Iraq and Syria, realise the value of ‘free thinking and living’ through embracing Christ as their Saviour King, and the transformation, or change, that He brings to their lives.
So, in closing, 222 Ministries is about training and equipping a generation who will live freely and respect the freedom of others! As that happens then there will be hope!