Iranian Pastor Urges Unity with Persecuted Middle East Church

LOS ANGELES - An Iranian Christian urged Chinese believers to show more concern for persecuted believers in the Middle East at a mission conference, Saturday.
( [email protected] ) Mar 13, 2006 09:39 PM EST

LOS ANGELES - An Iranian Christian urged Chinese believers to show more concern for persecuted believers in the Middle East at a mission conference, Saturday.

"[I] truly believe China will be a great force in bringing the gospel to the Middle East," said Sohrab Ramtin, pastor of the Iranian Christian Church of San Diego. "I don’t say this to flatter. I am honestly saying this. You are going to have a major role in preaching to the Muslim people – here and all over the world."

Ramtin said that he was "encouraged" hearing that Chinese churches have sent missionaries to predominantly Muslim countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

He pointed out that Chinese and Middle Eastern people share much in common, including the arrival of Nestorian missionaries from modern-day Turkey to Tang Dynasty China.

During the Mongol rule, Ramtin added, Iraq craftsmen were taken captive to northern China where they intermixed with Chinese – creating mixed-race ethnic minority groups.

The Iranian pastor spoke before a hundred Chinese Christians from ten mission and para-church organizations at the Mission and Prayer Retreat, held at the Mandarin Baptist Church of Pasadena in Los Angeles.

Amongst those present included the leaders of the Chinese Coordination Center of World Evangelization (CCCOWE), USA Care Ministries International (CMI) and Campus Evangelical Fellowship (CEF).

According to Ramtin, the Book of Revelations offers insight into the situation of believers in modern-day Middle East.

"I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan," Ramtin read from Rev. 2:9.

"Lord said, ‘I know the blasphemy of the false Jews.’ They are not Jews, they are from the synagogue of Satan," continued Ramtin. "These are very similar to believers of Islam. They say they know God, but they don’t know him."

Continuing, Ramtin said that though he loved the "Muslim people," he hated "Islam," which he says "is the lie of Satan and kept millions of people in bondage for centuries."

"When you look at the Middle East, you have to consider four layers," Ramtin said. "The thing we hear on the media is the political layer. If you want to truly understand the Middle East, you have to go to the historical layer." Ramtin asked Christians to not be swayed by claims that Islam and Christianity shared the same "God."

"Mark my words. The God of the Koran is not our God! I came from a Muslim background. I was a practicing Muslim, not one by name," he emphasized. "I studied under the son-in-law of the Ayatollah Khomeini."

"Islam rejects the sonship of Christ as a deity. Islam rejects the trinity. Islam rejects the Bible. Islam rejects the crucifixion – says he wasn’t crucified on the cross. Islam rejects the original sin, the fact we are born in the sinful nature. They show a false respect for Jesus," he added.

Though Christians and Muslims are at "spiritual war," Ramtin said, churches should not organize themselves around violence and "politics." "Love the Muslims. Jesus died for them. Jesus loves Muslim, but hates Islam. Because He hates what binds people to the fires of hell," he explained.

"God is working in Iran. Churches in Iran are sharing the gospel…to Iran. We really cannot challenge what we know. Thousands are coming to Christ," Ramtin concluded.

"Share the gospel with them. Be faithful until death."

Stories of Believers

Besides urging Christians to spread the gospel to the Muslims, Pastor Ramtin shared the story of the first recorded martyrdom from the church of Smyrna.

According to Ramtin, in the 2nd century AD, Bishop Polycarp, whom was a disciple to Apostle John, was burned at the stake. "[He was] the last link for us with the Apostles," Ramtin said.

Around this time, the Roman Empire ordered all subjects to worship the emperor. Roman soldiers approached Polycarp demanding that he burn incense in honor of the Roman emperor. The commander, who personally knew him as a "good man," pleaded to Polycarp to burn the incense, saying that the bishop "could keep his religion."

"Polycarp was old; he was 90 years old," Ramtin continued. "He said, ‘For 80 years I know my Lord Jesus and he has been good to me. Why should I betray him now?’"

After his death, many mourned his loss, stated the Iranian pastor. "His example was so great that even the gentile roman soldiers changed to Christian," he said.

Ramtin also told the story of a believer whom he met at a San Diego culture fair in 1998.

Badran, a Kurd who could speak Farsi, grew up in 1973 Iran when the Shah was still in power. Around this time, the Shah had agreed in a peace treaty to stop supporting the Kurdish resistance that was fighting in Iraq. Badran, a young boy at the time, was amongst those who fled into southern Iran.

After the 1979 Revolution that toppled the Shah and brought Islamic fundamentalism to Iran, Badran returned to Iraq with his family. In 1991, U.S.-led coalition forces defeated Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, creating a strictly enforced no-fly zone in Kurdish-held territory in northern Iraq. Around this time, Badran converted to Christianity after being evangelized to by a foreign missionary couple working there.

Badran became a missionary, smuggling tracks and Bibles into Iraq. Once, he was caught and thrown into jail. One night, after returning from work, Badran found his wife stabbed to death in an "honor killing" done by her uncle. Other Christians were killed, including one who was cut in half from the waist and another burned alive. With his life in danger, Badran fled with his children to America, receiving aid from the U.S. army.

Badran settled in Phoenix, Arizona, where he discovered that he had a brain tumor. Ramtin said that Badran contracted the sickness after the Iraqi gas attack at Halabja in 1988, which killed thousands.

Later, Badran moved to San Diego. Though, doctors had removed a large part of his brain, impairing speech and motor-skills, Badran continued to preach the gospel. Now deceased, Badran’s life continues to be "inspiring," says Ramtin.

When Badran went to a hospital in San Diego to receive treatment, nurses told him to not bring anything valuable with him, Ramtin recalled. Instead, Badran replied, "The only thing I have valuable is Jesus. I can’t leave him at home – he is always with me."