Jesus TV breaks through barriers in Iran

|PIC1|Christian satellite TV in Iran is making advances beyond previous expectations as growing numbers of people embrace Jesus Christ through the broadcasts, according to a recent report.

Less than a year on air, the 24-hour Farsi-language satellite television channel SAT-7 PARS said it is receiving a flood of letters, phone calls and e-mails from its Iranian viewers expressing thanks for introducing them to Jesus Christ and helping them to know God deeper.

"I have been watching for six months. Through your broadcasts I received Jesus Christ into my heart," read the letter of one Iranian viewer, according to a SAT-7 report last week. "All my family says they see the difference on my face! I feel real peace now."

The viewer added, "My younger sister says she noticed the difference and asked how she could know God as I do. So I told her she had to put her faith in Jesus and she did!"

SAT-7 PARS is the new channel created by SAT-7 - the largest Christian satellite TV network operation in the Middle East. SAT-7 has an estimated viewership of 8-10 million a year in the Middle East and northern Africa.

In Iran, satellite television is one of the very few options available to share the Gospel with the citizens.

The country's repressive regime has one of the worst religious freedom records in the world and is said to have created a "threatening atmosphere" for nearly all religious minorities, according to a report by the U.S. Department of State's Religious Freedom.

Since 1999, the U.S. Secretary of State has designated Iran as a "Country of Particular Concern" - the worst religious freedom label. Furthermore, the ministry Open Doors USA ranks Iran as the third worst persecutor of Christians in the world behind North Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Unlike North Korea, however, Iran does not ban Christianity in the country. Ethnic Christians are tolerated and can hold services in Iran although guards regularly stand in front of church doors to confirm the person entering is an ethnic Christian.

New converts, meanwhile, risk their lives to follow Christ in Iran. They also face persecution from families, friends, employers an authorities when they denounce Islam - the country's official religion.

Under these harsh religious conditions, SAT-7 PARS is "the most significant thing in Iran today - the most watched Christian channel," reported a respected Persian church leader, who cannot be named for safety concerns, according to SAT-7.

Another Middle East field worker also reported that the house church movement has witnessed "spectacular growth" despite the pressure.

"This is not happening just through dreams and miracles...The majority of people now come to faith through the multimedia, and especially satellite-TV," said Open Doors Middle East field worker Stefan De Groot earlier this summer.

Interestingly, satellite dishes are officially banned in Iran although they crowd the rooftops of the country's high rises.

"Nobody can control which programs Iranians watch," added De Groot.

Christians officially make up less than 4 percent of Iran's population but the number is growing as people join the strong house church movement and accept Jesus Christ through satellite television.

Lifestyle