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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The spiritual needs of religious minorities:
a) The Zoroastrians or Parsees follow an ancient Persian monotheistic religion, founded 1,000 years before Christ. Many of them fled before Islam in the 7th Century and settled in Gujarat, India. There are between 35,000 and 100,000 Parsees in Iran. There are many bridges between Christianity and Zoroastrianism, so they are potentially a very responsive people; pray for loving and insightful ministry that will reach them with the gospel.
b) The Bahai, whose religion has spread worldwide since the 19th Century, are persecuted severely in Iran. They are regarded by Muslims as a heretical sect for their belief that their founder, Bahaullah, is a prophet after Mohammed. The government seeks to drive them from Iran through mistreatment, intimidation, prejudice in education and employment, and destruction of sacred Bahai sites. Very little Christian love and witness has been shared with the 300,000 Bahai in Iran or among the five million worldwide. Pray that in their desperation they may find refuge in the Lord Jesus.
c) The Persian-speaking Jews are descendants of those exiled to Babylon 2,700 years ago. Due to pressure and harassment, their numbers are declining through emigration. A number have become active, witnessing Christians.
Less-evangelized peoples. Iran contains some of the largest unreached, unengaged peoples in the world. Dozens of peoples have no known believers among them, but the multiplication of churches and Christian resources in Persian and other languages is seeing that change. Some organizations are committed to seeing church planting movements among every people in Iran. Pray specifically for:
a) The nomadic and semi-nomadic Luri and Bakhtiari and the Turkic Qashqai, largely unreached peoples who live in the Zagros Mountains. There are only a few dozen known believers from these groups. Their mobile lifestyle makes church planting among them a challenge. Scripture, Christian radio and the JESUS film exist in some of their languages and dialects. The use of Farsi as a trade language also gives them access to further Christian resources. Persian Christians are beginning to reach out to these peoples. Pray that the small groups of believers and seekers from these groups, meeting both inside Iran and abroad, might grow and multiply.
b) The various Kurdish peoples of northwest and northeast Iran. They continue to face economic hardship and political and cultural suppression from the regime (which they usually oppose). Most are Sunni Muslims. There are some Christian resources in the dialects of the Kurdish language. Pray that the increasing numbers of Kurds in Iraq who are coming to faith in Jesus might, in turn, influence their kin in Iran.
c) The Turkic Azeri and Turkmen in the north are closely related, but have scarcely had any positive contact with Christianity. Azeris form the largest minority group within Iran; their population is usually underestimated. It is listed here as 13.5m, but could conceivably be double that. Praise God for the completion and distribution of the Azeri NT, Psalms and Proverbs, while the OT is nearing completion pray that the availability of Scripture in their heart language might spur many to read and be transformed. The traditionally nomadic Turkmen live in a geographically isolated area, but there are the beginnings of a church among this people.
d) The peoples of the southeast the Baloch and Brahui. The Baloch are restive and unhappy with Iranian rule; hostilities and lawlessness appear to be increasing. There are only a handful of believers, but Christian resources such as radio and the JESUS film are increasing in number.
e) The Gypsy communities include the Domari and the sub-groups Ghorbati and Mawari. They number 1.3 million people. Their low social status and semi-nomadic nature keep them relatively unknown in Iran. There are no Christian workers dedicated to reaching them.
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.