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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Day 32 Forty Day ‘Pray for Iran’ Campaign.


There are 122 cities in Iran with populations of 50,000 or more and so today we want to pray for the people who live in these cities. The four largest cities after Tehran are Mashad, Esfahan, Tabriz and Shiraz.

Mashad is Iran's second largest city with well over 2 million people. Situated in the North East of Iran, it is regarded as one of the holiest cities in the Shia world. In 823AD it was renamed Mashad (‘place of martyrdom’) in reference to the death of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam of Shia Islam and today the city is the centre of pilgrimage for Iranian Shiite's. Before 1979 there were at least three active churches in the city, but all were forced to close. However, many God-fearing people in this city have accepted Jesus as their Saviour since then.

Esfahan is a former capital of Iran and today it is a centre of tourism. The saying in Persian goes: ‘Esfahan equals half of the world’ and the city’s ancient sites, beautiful handicrafts, and amazing architectural masterpieces make this a fitting epithet. In 1605 King Shah Abbas forcibly brought over 250,000 ethnically Christian Armenians to Esfahan from Armenia. They have maintained their Christian identity and contributed much to the community. The many beautiful church buildings they have constructed, 13 of which survive today, are a silent witness.

Tabriz is the largest city in North-West Iran and has a population of over 1.2 million. The city is the capital of Iranian Azerbaijan and most of its inhabitants are Azeri’s, the largest minority group in Iran. There is also a small ethnic Christian Assyrian and Armenian community. Christian workers were serving in this city before the revolution and many heard the Gospel, though now the government has closed the evangelical church there.

Shiraz sits in South West Iran. The ancient monuments of Persepolis and Passargard give the city special historical significance. Shiraz has always been a fertile ground for poetry and two of Iran's greatest poets, Hafez and Sadie, are buried in this city. Before the Islamic revolution, Christian missionaries were serving in a Christian hospital and the church, and many people in Shiraz and surrounding towns have received spiritual as well as physical healing as a result of the work of these Christians.

We wish we could write about all the cities of Iran, but unfortunately that is not enough room. However, let us unite in prayer together for them all:

* Pray for 60% of Iranians who live in urban areas. Pray for those who have heard about Christ or received a copy of the Scripture as a result of the presence of the church and Christians among them. Pray that they would be drawn to the love of Christ.

* Pray for the Christians in different cities of Iran. Ask the Lord to give them special favour and grace to be a blessing in their communities. Pray for the growth of house churches. Also pray that new believers can come into contact with other Christians and start having fellowship with them.

* Pray that spiritual strongholds in different cities will be broken and people will come to the knowledge of the truth. Pray also for the official churches in the cities that have been closed down by the regime. Pray that they would be allowed to re-open.

Thank you again for praying for Iran.

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