Maryam and marziyeh are from Iran. Being christians they had to be careful. In Iran followers of jesus are second class citizens. Islam is the official religion, and the country’s government is based on Islamic law. Many muslims won’t even touch christians or eat food with them. You could be arrested simply for talking to non-christians about Jesus.
And that is what makes Maryam and Marziyeh’s story incredible. They were young – in their mid-twenties. But they were passionate about sharing God’s love. They decided the best way to do this would be to give out Bibles.
So, they would fill a back-pack with copies of God’s Word. Then they would pray, asking Jesus where they should distribute them. Then, under the cover of darkness, they would travel around the city placing the Bibles into people’s letterboxes. They estimate that they gave away 20,000 Bibles across Tehran (the capital of Iran) in this way.
By the time they were caught, they were wanted criminals. They were put in Evin prison, one of the most notorious prisons on the planet. They had friends in the prison that were abused, tortured, beaten, and even killed.
We’re not afraid to die… What we’re afraid of is a life without faith
Almost on a weekly basis the girls would be brought before a judge. He would give them an opportunity to be free. He wanted them to write one sentence – one sentence that would say that they had denied their Christian faith and converted to Islam.
Each time Maryam and Marziyeh refused. And each time the judge would grow more and more frustrated. He’d say ‘You don’t understand. Unless you convert, you will die here’. They replied ‘No you don’t understand. We’re not afraid to die… What we’re afraid of is a life without faith – a life without our saviour Jesus Christ’.
After 249 days, and a global campaign pressuring the Iranian government to free them, Maryam and Marziyeh were released. Amazing.
But for many, the situation doesn’t end happily. Many who are imprisoned across the Middle East for their faith in Jesus will not be released. Many will continue to be interrogated. Many will be mistreated. Some will die.
This is the reality. And that is the reality that Maryam and Marziyeh faced. They didn’t know they would be freed. They were given an easy way out of prison – a prison they weren’t sure they would ever leave. But, they chose to stay with Jesus no matter what the cost. They stuck with it. That is true faithfulness.
As with many stories from Christians who are persecuted for their faith, this challenges the core of our faith. Have a think.
Do we expect God to rescue us when life goes wrong? Do we expect that He would come and bring us to safety every time we feel uncomfortable or face tough times? Do we only consider that God is ‘faithful’ to us when we get what we really want?
These are tough questions. But Maryam and Marziyeh challenge us to think differently about our faith. Faced with death, they had such a passion for Jesus that nothing else mattered – not even their personal safety. They had faith when everything else had been taken away.
So often we think it’s God’s job to be faithful to us – and by that we mean that He should rescue us when life goes wrong. And sometimes He does. But Maryam and Marziyeh challenge us to realise that when things turn bad in our lives, sometimes it’s up to us to remain faithful to God. Because He is forever faithful.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Father, Thank you that You are faithful no matter what. Help me understand that You love me even when life turns rough. Help me to stick with You no matter what I face. Thank you for the example of Maryam and Marziyeh – and that they were freed. I pray for all those currently in prison because they have chosen You. Be with them, give them strength, courage, hope and peace. Help them know Your love deeply. I pray for their freedom, but even more I pray that their faithfulness to you would inspire many, including those who imprisoned them.
Thank you that You are a God of grace and love, and no matter how far I go, You are there for me. Help me share Your love with the same passion and boldness as Maryam and Marziyeh. Holy Spirit, be with me today and help me know Your love more and more.Amen.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.