Thursday, August 18, 2011

Iranian, Syrian ties spell trouble in the Middle East

Middle East (MNN) ― There are growing concerns that Iran and Syria are becoming fast friends who share not only ideology, but also methodology. Iran's open backing of Syria has raised some red flags as the Assad regime deals with the uprisings of the Arab Spring.

As Iraq prepares for the eventual U.S. troop drawdown, security there seems to be in question with the recent week of bombings. The greater concern, though, is what could happen between the  two Shia-leaning countries without a force in between them. Iran and Syria could be open to overtures from Hamas and Hezbollah, which would make the region a "Shiite Crescent."

Once Syria's crisis gets settled, will the region return to peace? Sara Afshari with SAT-7 says, "Iran likes to be the main power player in the Middle East, not only as the powerful country but as the leader of Islam. They like to achieve power and authority in whatever way they can around those countries, including Syria, Iraq, and even Bahrain."

Brutal repression of dissidents is the usual pattern--one that hasn't escaped the notice of SAT-7, a Christian satellite television Ministry to the Middle East and North Africa. Afshari explains, "Christianity inside Iran is really growing. Seeing themselves and seeing that Christianity is growing rapidly inside their own country is a little bit hypocritical for them."

While SAT-7 PARS hasn't been directly targeted, their team has noticed an uptick in harassment on the government level from Iran. "You see a wave of arrests and more difficult situations for Christians in Iran--more persecution, more imprisonment for new believers and new (Christian) leaders."

The young people of Iran are restless. They're looking for a message that rings of truth, Afshari explains. "They lost their hope, their motivation. That is why we feel that we need to be there for them--emotionally, psychologically and spiritually."

The hope of Christ has been embraced warmly by the Farsi-speaking audience. "Almost all television channels have become very political. When they watch our channel and see that we don't take a side, but we try to be there with them with our prayers, with the message of hope and peace, they feel it's a place where they can come and rest."

With all of the oppression, fighting and disillusionment, the love of Christ runs counter to nearly every other message right now, says Afshari. "We are there with the message of hope, and especially with the message of reconciliation, with the message of forgiveness, with the message of living together peacefully and in harmony--with the message of the Gospel to heal the wounds."

Through SAT-7 PARS programming on satellite TV, the house church movement in Iran is growing. People are contacting the counseling centers to find out more. Even though recurrent attacks on Christianity are brutal in the region and many believers are in jail, the light of Christ is shining even brighter.
Afshari notes that spiritual warfare is intense and that intercession is needed for the growth and protection of Christians. "Pray for wisdom for our teachers, our presenters and our writers--[that they would know] how to present programs which can touch people's hearts and impact their lives."
The hope is that in the end, SAT-7 PARS can be one of the tools God uses to bring freedom to the countries that would be part of the "Shiite Crescent." Learn more about SAT-7 here.

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