Monday, February 20, 2012

Iranian Christians: Islam is like imperialism

The topic of Iranian Christians is very interesting to me, and here is an interesting paragraph from one writer:


For many Iranian Christians, Islam is almost a form of cultural imperialism. According to the understanding of Iranian Christians, in Islam one must have an Arabic name and pray in Arabic and read the Qur’an in Arabic and face an Arab city during those prayers. This is not a satisfactory situation for some non-Arabs. One convert I spoke with explained that in his teens, before his conversion, his father would wake him up early in the morning to say his prayers. He would face the family garden and pray in Farsi. His father reprimanded him for this and he answered, ‘Well it’s better than facing the wall in my room!’

Well worth your time. Check it out here.

10 comments:

Samn! said...

That the right link?

Abu Daoud said...

Link with links, or try this one:

http://nazarethseminary.org/datadir/en-events/ev64/files/Duane%20Miller%20GM%20Iranian%20Diaspora%20Christians.pdf

Samn! said...

Cheers!

Samn! said...

"Unlike other Muslim populations which have converts to Christianity, Iranians don’t have an ethnic church they can look back to, a church to which their ancestors belonged."

-- Not really true, as there are at least a dozen or more Persian martyrs on the Orthodox calendar from Shapur's persecution. Not to mention Aphrahat. Liturgical texts in Middle Persian and Sogdian are extant, and according to Paul of Aleppo even in the 17th century the Patriarch of Antioch read the gospel in Persian in addition to Arabic, Greek, and Turkish at all patriarchal liturgies.

This connection to historical Persian Christianity was very important for an ethnic-Iranian Baha'i friend of mine who converted to Orthodoxy...

In general, though, several of the trends that he describes are common to secularized Iranians under the Shah as well. Seeing Islam as an Arab imposition, preferring names like Cyrus and Darius, using Divan-e Hafez rather than the Qur'an at Nowruz are very old Iranian customs that arguably go back in spirit to the days of Ibn al-Muqaffa' and the Shu'ubi movement in Arabic poetry. Certainly they were attitudes and customs encouraged in elites by the Shah, and so likely attitudes that were already very common among the very earliest wave of emigres, the ones who didn't wait around to see how the Islamic experiment in government would turn out and the ones who most commonly now live in the West.

I'm not sure if anyone has picked up on this, but the most interesting set of Iranians from a missional perspective might be those that wind up in Armenia and Georgia. Since these countries currently have visa-free travel with Iran, Iranians who have no opportunity to got o the West are more and more frequently traveling there and buying up real estate, especially in Tbilisi (last year I lived for a couple months across from a real estate office in downtown Tbilisi with signs only in Farsi). I've never seen it myself, but Georgian friends of mine claim to have several times met young Iranian tourists there wearing crosses and claiming to be Christian...

Abu Daoud said...

Hi Samn, this is really good information, thank you. Drop by the author's blog if you want to be in touch with him. I think it's on my blog role, or just google his name.

While I think your remarks are important, I will say that I right now, as things stand today, there is no remnant of the church which you mention historically, in terms of Persian worshippers. Yes, the Church of the East is still around. But how many Iranians belong to it? Mostly Iraqis, no?

I would love to do some field work in Armenia and Georgia! Anyone want to fund that? :-)

Samn! said...

Well, in terms of indigenous Christianity in Iran, the Church of the East had a very large population in the region around Lake Urmia until it was largely wiped out in the Armenian Genocide-- the English and Russian missions to this group are quite well-documented, as well. Post-genocide, I think they still have a parish in Urmia and one in Tehran, possibly others. There's also a small Georgian and pretty large Armenian Christian population in Iran, of course. In fact, I've had conversations with Iranians interested in Christianity who were more or less quietly welcomed to attend services in Armenian Catholic churches.

My mentioning the history thing was with reference to Miller's contrasting Iran to the situation of the Berbers, where I would see them as being in rather similar situations as having a more-or-less distant Christian heritage they can look back to. I'll go ahead and write him about the points I've mentioned to you...


As for Georgia and Armenia, can't think of more pleasant places to spend time. Georgia is especially interesting because of the more-or-less successful push by the Orthodox Church there to bring ethnic Georgian Muslims back to Christianity, which is something that in itself needs quite a bit of field investigation. There's a chance I'll be living in Tbilisi this coming year, but I don't yet have the Georgian language skills to seriously work on it.....

Abu Daoud said...

Samn, thanks, you are a wealth of knowledge. Hope you can make it to Georgia. If you do, any idea of what specifically you will be doing there?

Samn! said...

Well, I would be going for personal reasons. I'm still looking around for ways to gainfully spend my time there if I go....

Ali Majidian said...

Leaving ISLAM for goods

Abu Daoud said...

Thanks Ali, I will check this out.