She Is Fearless
Born into Muslim families in Iran, it’s a miracle that Maryam and Marziyeh ever discovered the truth about Jesus, a man who is just another prophet in the eyes of Islamic believers. They grew up in separate cities but both women sensed at a young age that something was missing from their lives. They were thirsty for a relationship with God but they couldn’t seem to quench their thirst, even when they prayed to Allah five times a day and faithfully read the Koran. Then, in their teenage years, each woman had an encounter with Jesus.
For Marziyeh, it started with a dream about a white horse. She writes about it in the book, ‘Captive in Iran’.
The horse ran like the wind to save me. As I held fast to its neck, I felt its love pouring into me with a power and a purity I had never known…For a week after that, all I could think about was the deep love I had experienced in the dream. I have never since experienced love like that in this world.
Not long after she had that unforgettable dream, Marziyeh was invited to a church, where she learned about Jesus and experienced His healing power. After years of seeking, the Lord had revealed Himself to her. She was convinced Jesus was the Son of God.
Maryam discovered Jesus when a Muslim friend who knew she was seeking answers gave her a Christian booklet. ‘She told me, “Don’t read the last page of the booklet, because it’s a conversion prayer,”’ Maryam recalled. ‘From the first page I could feel my heart was deeply moved.’ As Maryam prayed the prayer on the last page and accepted Christ, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she had known about Jesus all along; she just hadn’t been able to get her hands on a Bible to learn His name.
They met while studying Christian theology in Turkey in 2005 and realized they had become Christians at about the same time, six years earlier. Deciding to join forces, they returned to Iran and began a program of mission outreach. ‘We both had the same vision from God for evangelizing Iranian people by distributing Bibles. God showed me how Iran is like land that needs seed. He told me, “I will raise and grow this.” Maryam also had a dream about this, so we became sure it was God’s will. We decided to cover all parts of Tehran. We usually went at night and distributed Bibles into mailboxes. Every day we went shopping or to restaurants and talked to people, often handing them a New Testament. We also started a house church for young people and another for prostitutes. All of this is illegal and dangerous because no one is allowed to talk about any religion except Islam.’
In 2009, Maryam and Marziyeh were arrested in Tehran for promoting Christianity, a capital crime in Iran. The official charges they received were apostasy, anti-government activity and blasphemy, for which they were sentenced to execution by hanging.
They were transferred to Evin Prison, a notorious Iranian penitentiary known for torture, rape and executions. At Evin, they experienced day-long interrogations, solitary confinement and the pain of numerous infections, left untreated by the staff at the medical clinic.
But, in the midst of the heartache, something miraculous happened. The women locked up with them, many of whom had initially shunned Marziyeh and Maryam, calling them ‘dirty Christians’ and apostates, began to see something different about them.
Maryam and Marziyeh refused to hide or deny their faith in Christ. They responded to insults and curses with love, compassion and forgiveness. And they were always asking their fellow inmates – prostitutes, murderers and political prisoners – how they could pray for them. ‘They couldn’t understand that God still loved them,’ Marziyeh said. ‘They’d cry and confess their sins. They could see miracles through our prayers.’
Maryam and Marziyeh were no longer the ‘dirty Christians’. Their fellow prisoners, and even some guards, sought them out, wanting to know about this Jesus they loved more than life itself. ‘Evin Prison, the dreaded hellhole of Tehran and symbol of radical Islamic oppression, had become our church, and so we prayed on.’
Maryam and Marziyeh spent almost nine months in Evin Prison. They shared their faith freely. Women came to them, hungry for truth and desperate for God’s love. Many found that truth and love in Jesus, inviting Him into their lives right there in their prison cells. ‘We started to trust His plan,’ Maryam said. ‘We believe it’s not about us. It’s about God.’
They still don’t know exactly how they won their freedom after countless promises of execution. They know it was ultimately an act of God and that the prayers and pressure from Christians and human rights activists around the world helped convince their captors to let them go. Now, both women live in the United States, outside Atlanta. Knowing that returning to Iran would mean certain death, Maryam and Marziyeh use their book and their voices to spread the word about what happened to them and what’s still happening to countless Christians and other prisoners locked away in Iran.
‘We promised those women in prison to be a voice for them, and to share their stories with the world,’ Maryam said.
A recent interview with Maryam and Marziyeh:
Repost from Christianity Today.