The outbreak of the new Coronavirus in Iran seems to be piling more problems on the sanction-ridden nation.
As if to demonstrate the vulnerability of the elite, the virus ran rampant through the government branches, sickening top-level leaders and about 8% of the Parliament. The government
dispatched crews to clean and disinfect public transportation and gathering places. They closed schools and canceled Friday prayers in some cities, as well as many public gatherings.
Fighting paranoia and chaos
However, misinformation, paired with disinformation, aggravated the outbreak in its more preventable early stages. Now, everyone is scrambling for supplies, for direction, for truth. Trans World Radio’s President and CEO Lauren Libby says that as the crisis unfolded, the team asked, “As believers in Christ, how do we respond to a pandemic like this?” He details their response. “I can tell you that we will be putting it into Farsi because we broadcast into Iran and in other countries in the Middle East and, you know, throughout Southeast Asia and even here in the US.” (The name of the program changes with the language into which it is translated.)
Special programming to Iran
The special programming looks at the issue from a couple of fronts. First, the practical end. Interviews with medical experts provide insight into the virus, contagion, and preventative measures. Second, from a spiritual standpoint, he says, “When you look at the book of Isaiah, over 20 times it says, ‘Fear not.’” There’s content aimed at biblically encouraging Iran’s fast-growing body of Christ. “We’re working on it right now. It’s a matter of taking the scripts and actually producing them in Farsi– a matter of days, to be able to do that. There’s also the airtime that we’re able to free up to be able to do it.”
However, Iran is also known for its persecution of Christians, ranking 9th on the 2020 Open Doors’ World Watch List. The list is a compilation of research on the 50 countries where it is hardest to be a Christian. If the Church isn’t even supposed to exist in Iran, how is the content reaching them? That’s the beauty of radio.
TWR broadcasts into Iran but isn’t officially IN Iran. People can listen to the programs in the privacy of their homes. Even while in quarantine, they can safely share where to find the information with their friends. In a time where the hopelessness threatens to turn toward despair, Libby says, “When you begin to look at it from a kingdom standpoint in the long-term, it brings comfort, it brings help, and the Gospel can bring hope to people.”
While that seems like an overly simplistic answer, he reminds us of the events of 2011. “Remember the Arab Spring, when the Arab Spring went across the Arab world, and the openness to the Gospel (that came with it)? All of a sudden, people began to have visions and dreams throughout, and the spread of the Gospel in the Muslim world began to take off after the (Arab) Spring.”
To that end, Libby says we can pray into this story. “From a physical standpoint, this pandemic may very well be the Arab Spring for the world where the Lord gets people’s attention. The question is, are we able to provide help, hope, and comfort in the midst of that (because God may be preparing the ground for a real movement)?”
Please lift up those in Iran as well as the many other countries where COVID-19 is spreading. For those affected, pray for healing. Ask God to give wisdom to the medical and government agencies trying to bring assistance. Pray that people call out to God in their time of need. May the Church arise and bring the truth and hope found only in Jesus Christ.