Helping Former Prisoners In Iran
Open Doors partners run trauma care training for Christian prisoners from Iran. We spoke to Saman and Morad. They are both ex-prisoners from Iran, and shared their experience in prison. They reminded us that suffering for Christ often comes with doubt, pain, loneliness and sorrow, but in the end, it’s still worth it to follow Jesus.
Image: Former Christian prisoners from Iran pray for those still imprisoned.
Morad is in his 40’s and used to be a teacher at a church in Iran, before he was arrested for training new believers.
“Prison was a terrible, terrible place,” Morad said. “No one knew where I was. The interrogators made fun of me and kicked me while they were asking me questions. Everything I said was used against me. I talked to God: ‘Lord, you see all this; why do You allow this?’ but God was silent.”
“In the six months I was there, they executed 20 people. They announced it through the prison loudspeakers. Some of them had been in my cell; it was heart-breaking to see the fear of death in their eyes.”
During Morad’s time in jail, he shared a ward with one of his fellow church members.
“He told me how the interrogators threatened to abuse his son, that I ruined his life because I showed him Christ. He also testified against me in court.”
“After one of my interrogations,” Morad said, “I remembered a quote from Abraham Lincoln, ‘At the end of the world, I fall on my knees.’ And that’s what I did, I fell on my knees. And finally, God spoke to me. He said, ‘Be silent, embrace me, and embrace me like you are stuck on me with glue.’”
It has now been a few years since Morad’s imprisonment.
“If you ask me why God was silent back then,” he said, “I still don’t know. But what I do know is the assignment He gave me: to live out the gospel.”
Image: The notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran.
Saman* is another ex-prisoner, who used to be the youth leader at his church.
“In prison, I was afraid and felt hopeless. I felt so far from God that during the first days of imprisonment I couldn’t even pray,” Saman said.
“They [interrogators] tried to break me by telling me what a nobody I was. They broke my identity. 'I thought: Is this it? Have I wasted 13 years of believing in Him? Does he even exist?’”
Saman’s friends were also blindfolded and brought into Saman’s cell one by one. When they were asked whose fault, it was that they were behind bars, they would answer “Saman”. All of them were willing to testify against him in court.
Saman found peace in prayer.
“I got so angry after my first telephone conversation with my mother and sisters. I shouted through the hallways when I was being brought back to my cell. I shouted ‘I don’t deserve this!’ Then in my cell, I started shouting at God, ‘Where are you?!’ Slowly my prayers became soft, until the joy of the Holy Spirit came over me and I started dancing and singing, ‘Jesus is alive, Jesus is alive!’”
Suffering For Christ
At the trauma care training, the men receive art therapy and Bible studies about suffering. Saman feels for the first time that the fire he used to have for God is coming back.
Image: Art therapy is a part of trauma care.
“In prison, I felt God was so close, but also the most distant,” Saman said. “And when I came out of prison I didn’t receive the care I expected from the Church. I felt forgotten. Not only by the church, but also by God. Still, I never felt that God really left me.”
“Being imprisoned for Christ is not easy, it’s real and it isn’t a nice experience,” Morad concluded. “But it is also a reality check. Am I willing to suffer for my Lord? And even after those horrible months in prison, I can still say yes, it’s more than worth it. I believe in Jesus, and if this means I have to suffer, then I am willing to do so.”
*Name changed for security.