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Personal Testimonies of Christadelphian Iranian Refugees

By VARIOUS CONTRIBUTORS
Read Time: 21 minutes
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Bro. Reza Emadi,
Solihull Ecclesia, UK

My religious experience was only from Islam, where there are lots of lies and ignorance, along with violence and retribution. I only carried the name of being a Muslim. If you are born into a Muslim family, you are Muslim, just like being born into a Jewish family, you will always be Jewish unless you convert to another religion. Iranians will say they’re Muslim even if they don’t believe or practice the religion for fear of being reported to the authorities. Girls aged nine and boys aged fifteen can be married off and have no say in the matter. Because the prophet Muhammad did this, a number of those following Islam think it okay to marry off their children. It is a very wicked and corrupt religion. 

I decided to follow Christianity when I was in Iran and got to know about it through one of my childhood friends when I was age 31. He knew I no longer believed in Muhammad, and started talking about Jesus to me, and read a passage from the Bible from his phone. He went to a house church and invited me to go along with him. I went once or twice a week over three years, but it was a very dangerous thing to do. 

I had to leave my country due to changing my religion, which in Iran is punishable by long-term imprisonment, torture, and finally execution. I had a phone call while at work from my brother-in-law to say don’t come home, as the police are looking for you. I knew then my life was in danger. I drove to his summer house, which was a two-hour drive away, and stayed there for two weeks. He stayed there with me and bought food and looked after me. It was a very frightening experience, and I was worried they would find me at any time. 

From there, I spent a couple of months traveling through different countries, and it was very exhausting. This was arranged by my relative, who paid traffic smugglers to transport me to England. I was in the back of vans blindfolded and in container lorries on ships and told not to talk. I was treated badly by the traffic smugglers. I ended up in France at the camp at Calais and was there for two weeks before crossing the English Channel in a dingy with forty-three other people to reach the port of Dover on May 22, 2022.

We were in the boat from 5 am until 11:30 am, when we were picked up by a police boat. It took a further two hours to reach Dover. All in the boat were taken to a deportation center. I was there for two days before I was finally taken to a hotel in the Midlands. I was moved by authorities from there after sixteen months and am currently sharing a house in Smethwick, West Midlands. It is much better being able to shop and cook for myself, and I no longer have to share a bedroom. 

I reached England with trust and prayer. It was His wish that I be here today, but I miss all my family and friends greatly. I have been here nearly two years now and am still waiting to have approval to remain in the country. This causes me a lot of worry and stress. I knew no English when I arrived, which made life very hard. Shopping, talking to doctors at the hospital, and traveling on public transport were all very difficult. Google Translate helped a great deal. I can now hold a conversation if people don’t speak too fast, but there is still a lot I don’t understand. I feel I am improving a little every day. 

I met one of the Iranians at a hotel in Coventry and he talked to me about Christadelphians. It was very close to my beliefs, and because I also believed Jesus Christ to be the Son of God only, I went along with him to one of the church services. I continued to attend regularly after that and also attended the Bible learning center in Coventry, where a group of us went through the 22 lesson and 40 lesson courses. I also attended a couple of online Zoom Bible classes during the week. This is how I learned more about the Bible and Christadelphian beliefs. I was baptized on February 25, 2023.

It was helpful to me that other Iranians attended the church already, as it was good to have brothers, sisters, and friends to talk to about the Bible in the Farsi language. In total, there were thirty Iranian members when I first went along. There are currently sixty Iranian brothers, sisters, and friends. We are all one in Christ Jesus. 

Since being baptized, I have felt more at peace.

All Iranian members have been made very welcome by the Iranian team at my ecclesia. I have had a lot of support and encouragement and enjoyed not only Bible study in my own language but also many social activities. Although we have consistently attended for a few years now, the majority of the ecclesia seem to find it difficult to understand and appreciate the needs of Iranians and struggle with integration. I try to always be friendly and helpful to encourage communication and acceptance. I haven’t found it difficult being a Christadelphian. The most difficult thing was the journey to get to that stage. Since being baptized, I have felt more at peace. 

Members of the Solihull Ecclesia

 

God is our heavenly Father and the Creator of all things, and everything is done according to His will. In the Psalms, David tells us God will always be present to lead and hold us. Since the beginning of my spiritual journey and following Him, I know he listens to my prayers and is close to me and watches over me. I’m still very young in the faith, but my faith is increasing the more I pray and read the Bible, and from reading I learn how to live a life in Christ. We read that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Even when I am in a dark, scary and lonely place, I know He is still there with me. 

A comment from Sis. Gaye Clasper, of the Solihull, UK Ecclesia,
who assisted Bro. Reza with the writing of this article:

If you are fortunate enough to come into contact with any asylum seeker, either in or out of the ecclesia, please show them compassion. By acting with compassion for the most vulnerable of God’s children, we are doing this for God. There are many Bible passages that tell us how to treat the alien or foreigner. Treating these people as “less worthy” is not an option.

We are called to share in God’s grace. In Biblical times, some were disadvantaged and treated unjustly. We wouldn’t do that, would we? We are told in Matthew 25:40, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” It has been an honor and privilege to share the gospel message and the hope of Israel with our Iranian brothers, sisters, and friends.

Those in the ecclesia who have gotten involved with teaching and supporting our Iranian friends have learned so much from them. I feel richer for coming into contact with them, and thank God for that. They have left everything behind and risked their lives to get here—family, friends, houses, and jobs. We are now their family. For those who have been baptized, we can now call them our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they are part of the worldwide Christadelphian family of God. How special is that? 

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Sis. Maryam,
London Finsbury Park Ecclesia, UK

I have forgotten the past for a long time. I don’t know why, maybe it was intentional or unintentional. But I remember a few things well. When I was a child, I think it was during middle school most of the teachers liked me. One day, our teacher called me and said, “We want to form a group to perform a play with your classmates.” I remember that we had to perform two plays, and I unintentionally prepared a play by Shakespeare called Romeo and Juliet, and a play from the Bible with my friends.

I told my friend that I wanted to do a play on Jesus Christ. My friend, Maria, said that her mother knew stories very well. We went to meet her mother, and she told us that Jesus said if someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn your face to the left, and don’t fight it. When we were performing it, I suddenly cried. At that time, I didn’t have enough knowledge to say why, but I was crying silently there. Later, with some of my friends, I watched the movie “The Cross.” 

At that time, I knew Jesus was crucified innocently and how unjust people decided to crucify Jesus instead of Barabbas. When I was participating in prayer and Bible teaching classes, at the end of the session, the person who was teaching us always said, “Lord, you have called me, and I suffered many hardships while I was on the way.” But from the bottom of my heart, there was hope that it would end, and I knew that he called me.

At that time, maybe I didn’t know why I cried after being slapped during the performance of the play, but now I know that it was hard to believe so much love and affection for a teenager. Now I can understand how lovingly he looked at the people who oppressed him, and I prayed for them. I know that the reason these people gather in the churches, break bread, and drink wine is only because of the love of Jesus Christ. We try to implement God’s message, and I know that this is difficult, but I will try my best to be the one who wants me.

Maybe it’s hard to believe, or you think that I’m pretending, but a smuggler put me on the top of a truck in a port (meaning the top under the windshield on top of the truck). The driver entered the port late and did not get the ticket. It was the last ship that was supposed to come from the port to England. The driver had to sleep in the truck at the beach until the morning. I had been warned in advance that I should not make any moves.

I was without warm clothes to keep me warm on a cold night of ten degrees below zero. I had to sleep on one side and not move at all. My body was frozen. When the truck went inside the ship, I thought they were scanning the truck. I was praying to God that they would not find me. My neck slipped from the top of the truck, and went on the road. I prayed, Jesus, either kill me or save me.

At the same time as I was praying, I saw my son coming to me with a blanket in his hand. I told him that this blanket was thin and to please give me the thickest blanket, which is wool. I went to sleep with the warmth of the blanket. When I woke up, the driver hit the roof of the truck and said to come to the front to warm up. I was completely frozen. He took me down and put me in the front seat and turned on the car’s heater at full blast. After an hour, I warmed up a little. He dropped me off near the place I was supposed to go. I saw one of Jesus’ miracles that day. I know how great this miracle was for me.

After months of difficulty, I managed to enter England. After a few hours, when we were at the main location of the Home Office, and after many questions and answers, I was freezing on the way. A female agent came to my aid and pulled an aluminum foil around my body so that I could warm up a little.

I took a shower there and slept for two consecutive days!

They asked me if I was hungry, but I didn’t say anything. They gave me a sandwich, and after about eight hours, they sent me to a hostel in South London, an area called Croydon. When we entered, the man in charge told me that we had shared rooms. I was not used to this, so I asked him to give me a separate room. As I was asking, I was talking to our Lord Jesus Christ in my heart. Please help me do this because I was so tired that I needed to sleep for a week without waking up. He then told me to come behind him, and he gave me a small single room with a bathroom and toilet, which is what I had requested. I took a shower there and slept for two consecutive days! 

He later knocked on the door. I was also feeling hungry. I joined him and met many people. An old English woman, who sometimes comes there at night, came up to me and greeted me. She asked me if I was religious. I said yes. She then offered to pick me up and take me to her church. There, I heard them calling the name of God with a loud voice.

She was a very loving woman, but I was not at peace there at her church. When I returned, I decided to find another church. The next week, I went to another church with someone from the hostel. He was skinny, and he was tortured like us. The next day a person named Steven (Cox) came to our hostel. My friends said that he gave them the address of the church and we decided to go there.

I thought we were entering a special place with special architecture and decoration. But instead, we entered a residential house that they used instead of a church. They embraced us very sincerely and introduced us with love to sit and share our pain. When the prayer in English was finished, we asked them to bring us an interpreter, which they brought the next week. During that week, I thought that maybe they were like the others, but I had read in the Bible that Jesus and his companions were in a home where they were received. 

The next week, they provided us with a Persian Bible. I asked him if he could explain to us their beliefs. Wow, he started by defining the first words and beliefs of Christadelphians, which completely attracted me. He explained that God is one, and Jesus is the Son of God, and we can be one of his helpers. He sent his only begotten Son for the forgiveness of our sins, and his shedding of blood cleansed our sins. This was very similar to my own beliefs. I was very happy that I had found a place without pretense and noise that only wanted to follow the word of God.

This is how I became a Christadelphian. By God’s grace, I have been able to introduce hundreds of people to the Christadelphians and help to bring them into our churches. Also, during the time of the coronavirus, I went to help our sisters, brothers, and friends in hotels and hostels for two years. Now I also help and serve in the church as far as I can.

Paul said in Corinthians that we can be a messenger, but if we don’t have love, we are nothing. I also try to love and continue to study the word of God, and I know that He called me by name and removed all the problems from my path so that I can continue to live in our faith. He is also by my side and helps me.

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Sis. Salma B.,
Nottingham Ecclesia, UK

Hello, my name is Salma. I am 36 years old. I came to England as a refugee at the age of 33. If you know the reason, you will find it funny that in a country in the 21st century, a person cannot freely choose his religion and perform his actions and must flee the country.

Fleeing is a word that we are familiar with in many places in the Bible. People had to flee for religion, which is a completely personal belief. I am sharing my experience with you so that you know what Jesus Christ was like in my life.

Those who judged me don’t know what Iran looks like!

All along the way, as I was coming, it was as if Jesus Christ was with me, and the protection that Jesus Christ gave me was indescribable. He filled my loneliness, gave me the light of hope, and saved me from difficult situations. Even during the hardships of being a refugee, when I was judged many times by people who saw me and understood that I was a refugee, they immediately said that I had fled my country. It didn’t look good to me, and I was learning to rely only on God’s judgment.

Those who judged me don’t know what Iran looks like! They don’t know the history of Iran. Sometimes they don’t know where it is! I had to explain that we are in prosperity, but I came here because of my belief. I became a refugee, and I endured this situation to prove my loyalty to Jesus Christ and God. My sufferings are very small compared to the suffering that Christ suffered on the cross for us. 

For the first time, when I managed to go to church in England, all my hair stood on end. I wanted to write all these stories of my life one day so that people would learn that being a follower of Christ is not easy. When I went to the Christadelphian church, God placed angels on my path, which I couldn’t believe. God and Jesus Christ made this difficult path a little easier for me by placing these people whom I call angels, and my faith became stronger. I learned a lot about Christianity. If I were in Iran, I would never have had such knowledge.

In my opinion, the Bible is summarized by two words: love and affection. I learned from my Christadelphian family to be an example with my behavior so that I can give the good news to other people through my behavior, actions, and words. Also, I learned not to judge people, even in my mind. This was one of the most important lessons I learned because everyone has their own story in every situation, and no one can walk in someone else’s shoes. Jesus Christ taught us to love each other and love others as ourselves.

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Bro. Ramtin Mousanejhad,
Taunton Ecclesia, UK

Hello, my name is Ramtin. I became a refugee in England with my wife. I decided to share a summary of my life and personal experience with you. My wife and I were accountants in Iran, and I also did some business work. We were able to provide a normal life for ourselves, and we were living with family and friends.

In Iran, we decided to seek a true belief in God. It so happened that we started church activities and got to know the Bible to some extent. After some time passed, along with the beginning of popular protests, we joined the night gatherings. Because of this, we had to leave our lives and families very quickly, as well as our country. 

Bro. Ramtin and his wife Maral

I was left with the responsibility of my wife and a path full of danger, along with aimless migration. After arriving in England in the hotel where we were living, we decided to join a church and met the Christadelphians completely by chance and without any planning.

Let me correct myself by saying that the Christadelphians are not a group. They are a family, a loving family with exemplary actions. A family based on the Bible. A family whose efforts are to behave according to the instructions of the Bible. All their daily thoughts are full of love and benevolence. Their hopes and dreams are tied to the Bible. 

Now my wife and I are a member of the big family of Christadelphians, and we are believers with the teachings and studies we had from the Bible. We believe that our life is with Jesus Christ and God, and considering the difficult conditions of asylum and life, we try to put ourselves on the right path by reading the Bible daily to remove the fears and disappointments of life.

We believe that we got the greatest love and blessing that we could have. Romans 28:8 tells us that we know that for those who love God and are called according to His will, all things work together for good.

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Bro. Soroush Parsi,
Solihull Ecclesia, UK

After nearly twenty-two years of service in Persian and English-speaking churches, I fully understand the concerns of asylum seekers. Iranian asylum-seekers may have left Iran for many reasons and have sought refuge in Europe and the United Kingdom, but it can be said that only 15 percent of them go to church because of their heartfelt desire for Christ.

There are a number of reasons for political, economic, educational, or other reasons they have left Iran, but due to considerations and political relations between the Iranian government, Britain, and other European countries, the political case of Iranians in 99.5 percent of cases is not accepted by the British Home Office agents. These dear ones come to the church and try to use their Christian membership to build their case. 

The rain of God’s mercy pours upon the unbeliever and the believer.

We should know that seeking asylum is a social disease imposed on its people by the ruling regimes of any country. It should be examined with the same view. During the reign of the monarchy in Iran, there were rarely Iranian refugees in Britain and Europe.

Did all ten lepers who came to Jesus Christ for healing come to him again to be thankful after they had been healed? Absolutely not. But did our Lord Jesus complain about their lack of return? What about the 3,000 people who were baptized on Pentecost’s day? Did they all become permanent members of the Church of Christ? If someone comes to church in the hope of healing from cancer or illness or being healed from addiction, do we expect him to stay in the church forever?

The rain of God’s mercy pours upon the unbeliever and the believer. The real church of Christ is doing the same. Iranians come from a highly religious country and have a lack of trust in religious teachings. Our duty is only to preach the salvation message of the gospel, and to judge faith of other people is God’s responsibility.

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Bro. Salem Mahmoud Khalend,
Middlesbrough Ecclesia, UK

My name is Salem Mahmoud Khalend. I am from Makhmur, a part of Iraq. I had to leave my country and go to the UK, but unfortunately, I did not have the right to stay in that country and waited for several years. I received rejections for six years. Since then, I was a person with no religion who was in a bad situation, always living in stress and anxiety. I had just been deprived of my house and salary, and there was no one to help me and hold my hand. Jesus came to save me.

I turned to a charity called Open Door (which was a Christian charity) for help. They handed me over to one of their Kurdish members, named Christine. Christine was aware that I, too, was Kurdish. She spoke to me, and we got to know each other. There were several forms and documents that had to be filled out, and I had to sign them. I sat in the waiting room and was very impatient. My friend was sitting there in the waiting room, and when he heard the story of my life, he was very sad. He suggested that he take me somewhere with him and introduce me to a family.

The caring family was the Christadelphian family, which I will consider myself a member of as long as I live. They have always helped me and sympathized with me. I met them for the first time, and I spent most of the week with them. On Sundays, we celebrate the memory of our Lord Jesus Christ. On Mondays and Fridays, we meet online with our Kurdish brothers and sisters to talk and learn about the Bible.

After a year of continuing to read the Bible, as our Lord asked us in Matthew, He said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Do all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I have been saved from all these anxieties

I requested baptism on August 14, 2022, and started a new life under the name of Jesus Christ. Since then, my life has completely changed, and I have been saved from all these anxieties.

Christadelphia is not a religion but a faith and a way of salvation. It is a large family that lives in many countries, and I hope everyone of any nation who has not yet been acquainted with the Bible will be acquainted. Lives change by reading the Scriptures. As a person, my life has changed and improved. I wish everyone the chance to make their lives better like mine.

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Brother Keyvan Karami,
Oldbury Ecclesia, UK

My name is Keyvan. I had to leave my country (Iran) to save my life. My knowledge about Christ and the Bible was very little, and it was limited to watching some movies, attending some home church classes, and reading the Bible (without understanding it properly).

In my country, it was not possible to research and access resources freely. But since I have been in England, it has become possible for me. At first, I went to a Protestant church for a few meetings. But then I met the Christadelphians through a friend of mine who lived in our hotel. I still continued going to the Protestant church. But, after attending several meetings at the Christadelphian church and getting to know their beliefs, I realized that these two churches have very big differences in their understanding of the Bible. 

The most prominent of which was that the Protestants were Trinitarians, but the Christadelphians said that Christ was the son of God. We have only one God, who is the Father of Christ. Of course, in my heart I believed this too, but I had to be sure. Believing in my heart was not enough for me, and I had to be certain.

I could no longer go to both churches, and I had to choose one. This is where my challenge started. I didn’t want to make a wrong choice at the age of 40, so I had to do something myself and do research. When I started researching, I reached the conclusion that the Trinity belief was wrong.

I blamed myself for living thirty years with such a wrong belief. I don’t intend to insult and speak badly about any religion, but I can only say that I realized some truths about my religion that had nothing to do with my heart’s beliefs, with my soul and spirit. During those 15 years, I wonder why neither my parents nor I fully researched this doctrine. Why did they worship only fanatically and blindly? How could such a religion and book be sacred to them? 

For these reasons, I had to research again so that the day never comes when my children ask me: Why are you a Christadelphian? I don’t want to be ashamed and have an unconvincing answer. This is when my study started, and I spent many days and months in the hotel where I live, reading the Bible and taking notes.

I was not allowed to work in those days due to the conditions of asylum, so I had a lot of time to study the Bible. I studied about six hours a day and attended classes at Christadelphian church for two hours. I always had a lot of questions, and our teachers patiently answered all my questions. The rest of the day, I was doing sports, studying English, and socializing with my new friends at the hotel. I collected my notes from the classes, the notes I made by reading the Bible, and analyzed them with my own soul and mind. Finally, I created a diary of what I believe to be the truth.

Brother Kevyan and his football teams.

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Bro. Aboozar Etekahas,
Cannock Ecclesia, UK

I was in Iran when I met Christianity, and I did not know much about Christianity. After hearing Luke 15 about the lost son, a brother invited me to Christianity. I became interested in the Bible and wanted to learn more. I could better understand the Bible, and I continued reading. The more I read the Bible, I wanted to continue and understand more. 

My friend who supported me in understanding the Bible asked me to come to their meeting for the first time. There were people there that I was seeing for the first time, but talking to them gave me a sense of calmness that you don’t usually feel when you see people for the first time. I wanted to continue to know more about Jesus Christ and where this book came from. The brothers explained this to me in the meetings we had together, and I was eager to know more. 

At the meeting, I was told that it is dangerous that you are a Muslim and want to become a Christian because you live in Iran. This is considered a crime. It didn’t matter to me anymore because I had chosen my way to be part of the brothers and sisters in Christ. They are kind and trustworthy because they believe in what they believe, and they dedicate their lives to our Lord Jesus Christ without receiving help from anywhere.

Their only intention is to convey the good news, which is the Holy Gospel, and establish the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ for those who don’t know anything about the Bible and our Lord Jesus Christ. Also, Jesus Christ was sacrificed for our sins by his will so that we can be forgiven.

I continued the meetings until one day, the place where we held the meeting was exposed. We were in the middle of a meeting when some policemen in plainclothes entered the house. We quickly ran away out the back door of the house. 

I arrived in England in a very strange way, which could only be a miracle. I settled in the Cannock Holiday Hotel, and an Iranian brother who was in my hotel invited me to the Cannock Christadelphian Church. I did not have any information about Christadelphians.

I accepted the teachings of the Christadelphians for living a better and healthier life according to the Bible, which is the living word of God. It can only be a miracle that among all these branches of Christianity, I was led to Christadelphians because the more I continued, the more relaxed I got.

Most importantly, I met people who helped me fully understand the Bible, and provided me with useful information about the Bible and our Lord Jesus Christ. They showed us the love that Jesus Christ spoke about in the Bible. They want to do everything they can for us to understand the Bible and to spread this good news to everyone so that all people can be saved by reading the Bible and acting on it. They, too, can reach the Kingdom of God.

It is the wish of every Christian to build a world full of peace and purity for each other and we must join hands to share the Holy Bible, which is the living word of God to everyone. I was baptized on July 13, 2022, and I am very happy about it. 

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In Memory of
Bro. Kamran Yasanpour,
Chester Ecclesia, UK

In mid-2020, we were introduced to interested asylum seekers who had been placed in an area more than 15 miles away, where that ecclesia closed many years ago. Eventually, even under COVID restrictions, we were able to bring a good number to the Chester Ecclesial Hall for baptism. The first to be interviewed was Kamran Yasanpour, a Kurdish Iranian in his mid-30s. I was privileged to baptize him, but it never occurred to me that less than four years later, I would be conducting his funeral after he was found dead in his flat.

The late Bro. Kamran Yasanpour.

Kamran had endeared himself to the ecclesia and made a significant contribution with his language skills as an interpreter for other interviews and baptisms. He then became the regular translator of exhortations, particularly helpful for so many who were reliant on reading a script while joining on Zoom from across the large area where the authorities placed our members and friends.

Kamran did not have it easy, with his underlying health issues and enduring appalling problems with poor accommodations. He was also attacked in the street. He moved to London and set up a business, determined to lay a good foundation for getting his young daughter over from Iran. It was not to be. But his fellow Kurds from across North West England came to hear of his hope, as well as his life, as his family, natural and spiritual, bade him farewell.

Kamran was the epitome of the phraseology I am happy to include in letters of support to the authorities. His read: “He has always been prompt, noticeably friendly and cheerful (sometimes in the face of adversity), as well as most polite and helpful.” Now he rests, awaiting an even better commendation from the Righteous Judge, not just this from one of his fellow travelers to Zion.

 

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Compiled by Stephen Adams
Chester Ecclesia, UK

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