Area: 1,648,196 sq km
Situated between the Caspian Sea to the north and the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman to the south. A central desert ringed by mountains.
Population: 75,077,547 Annual Growth: 1.19%
Official language: Persian (Farsi; Dari and Tajik are major dialects); almost all Iranians speak some form of Persian as a mother tongue or second language Languages: 79 All languages
Largest Religion: Muslim
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Irans political, economic and social situations are fragile and mystify many outside observers. It is an ancient, noble and proud civilization, but one that in the modern era seems set on irritating allies and provoking everyone else. The ruling elite are as pragmatic as they are unpopular.
a) Politically, Iran has a strong regional foreign policy, seeing itself as a regional superpower. This fuels a volatile attitude toward the West and Israel, accusations of financing of terrorist groups, and expansion into the power vacuum left by the conquest of Iraq. Such actions could be attributed to the fact that, for most of the last 1,500 years, Iran has been dominated by foreign powers. It also points, at least in part, to attempts to prepare the way for the Madhi, the future Imam who, according to Shiism, will establish Islam as the global religion and will defeat the Antichrist.
b) Financial prospects do not inspire much hope, despite vast oil and gas deposits and long-stated rhetoric about empowering the poor. Steady inflation and squandered oil wealth combine with aborted or failed economic reforms to instill low confidence in the future. Unemployment rises to over 30% for those under age 30. An estimated 13 million Iranians live below the poverty line.
c) Social breakdown is evident as never before. The widespread and illegal underground party-circuit flouts Islamic values. Around 200,000 of Irans best-educated young people emigrate every year, and 36% of Iranians aged 15-29 expressed an intention to do the same. There are nearly five million drug addicts (Iran has the highest rate of opium addiction in the world), 200,000 street children and a very large number of prostitutes. Pray that those facing pressure and hopelessness might find release and hope in Christ; there is greater openness than ever to the gospel and a great need for Christian ministry to these groups of desperate people.Pray that Iranians' aspirations for greatness, prosperity, freedom, and even righteousness might be expressed honourably and ultimately in reverence for and worship of Jesus.
Religious persecution of certain minorities has intensified since 2005. This is particularly aimed at the Bahai (a religion that originated in Iran but not recognized as a valid religious group), at Sufi Muslims and at Christians, especially believers from a Muslim background. According to the state, only Armenians and Assyrians can be Christian ethnic Persians are by definition Muslim, and therefore ethnic Persian Christians are by definition apostates. This makes almost all Christian activity illegal, especially when it occurs in Persian languages from evangelism to Bible training to publishing Scripture and Christian books. Yet the regimes harsh treatment of Christians only further fuels the flames of church growth. Pray that the body of Christ might continue to multiply and mature despite persecution.
For an additional 12 Challenges for Prayer see Operation World book, CD-ROM, or DVD-ROM.
The Operation World book, CD-ROM, and DVD-ROM provide far more information and fuel for prayer for the people of Iran.