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I was raised in a Muslim family in Iran, but it wasn’t an extreme Islamic home. My family were more open and gave me the choice on many things. I was free to think and to have questions, which many people are not free to do. When I got to a certain age I started thinking, ‘How can something be from God, and not be good? How are all these terrorist groups, well they’re killing people in the name of Islam!’ So I felt I had to find if it’s the truth or not.
I decided to go to Tehran to visit my cousin. I said, 'Come, let's experience all these religions for one day. Let’s see which is the best.' We visited a temple for Zoroastrians, we went to a mosque and we went to a church. The moment I set foot in that church I felt God’s presence, it was tangible. It’s hard to describe but I could feel there was some holiness in that place. I was just a teenager at the time, and didn’t pursue these thoughts much further, but that feeling stuck with me.
'I started designing websites for student groups
who were against the government.
I knew this would put me in danger'
In 2006, after the election in Iran, I started designing websites for student groups who were against the government. Everyone knew the system was corrupt, so I started using my talents to help students inform people and to fight against the corruption, but I knew this would put me in danger.
I was arrested in 2011 and detained for five days. I was 19 years old at the time. They took my laptop with all my web design files on it. I knew it wouldn’t be easy for them to get into my secure files, but they were getting closer, and for nine months they called me and my friends in one by one to question us. I was sentenced to 50 lashes, even though there was no evidence against me, and the authorities continued trying to break into my computer files.
I had to make a decision: if I stayed I’d be sentenced to prison, and who knows what would have happened to my family because they were connected to me. So we decided to leave everything behind and travel to Turkey. We packed everything in the middle of the night and left. I was so nervous in the airport wondering if we’d be seen and stopped, or if I’d be separated from my family. Even after I arrived in Turkey I still had fear of the authorities coming after me. After three days I knew I could never return to Iran so I registered as a refugee.
'I’d heard in Islam that they call Jesus the word of God,
and now I was reading this in their Gospel!'
I was invited to a church in Turkey near where I lived, and I remembered the good experience I had at the church I visited in Tehran all those years ago, so I went along. I felt that same presence as I’d felt in Tehran, and continued to go to church there. The verse that moved me in the beginning was at the start of John’s Gospel, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the word was God and the Word was with God…’ This really moved me because I’d heard in Islam that they call Jesus the word of God, and now I was reading this in their Gospel! It was interesting because Islam did actually point me to this, so I started to study and ask questions.
I’ve worked with computers all my life, so I’m a very logical person. I needed everything to make sense. I was struggling to understand everything in a logical manner, then one day at a conference, the preacher came to me out of the blue and said, ‘Arash, sometimes two plus two equals five’. I knew at that point I was really to accept Jesus. I didn’t need any more logic, I knew my heart was ready to accept Jesus; I’d studied about him, I'd known about him for years, but I finally opened the door of my heart to him.
At that moment my outlook on life changed, I saw so many plans for the future, and I became involved in church ministry. I’m studying theology and I’d love to become a preacher some day. I’m sure God has intended me to be here for this time, to use the gifts I have to glorify his name and to advance his kingdom.
'There is a light getting bigger and bigger in Iran,
and I know they are ready for the Gospel.'
I think, speaking of behalf of Iranians, what we really want to see is love. Pure love that doesn’t have any conditions or expectations. The only love like that is God’s love. When we provide shelters and services for people without expecting anything in return, we show them God’s love, and I’ve seen a lot of people come to Christ just because of these things.
Iranians are so hungry for God, and so many have questions in their mind that they are often afraid to ask. But thirsty people will find water, one way or another! There is a light getting bigger and bigger in Iran, and I know they are ready for the Gospel. The light is getting more powerful day by day and I really believe there will be a big change in Iran very soon.