Metropolitan Tehran is a bustling megacity of some 16 million people. Its vast 675-square-mile terrain extends from the lower southern plain up into the mountains on the northern, and wealthier, side of the city. It is a beautiful modern city with an extensive grid of highways that helps prevent gridlock from the millions of cars, buses, and taxis.
Tehran is home to 50 major colleges and universities, a third of the country’s government employees, and nearly half of its industry. There are more than 60 modern malls as well as several historic bazaars. Though most people speak Persian, Tehran is ethnically very diverse.
Tehran is hot and dry in the summer and can be quite cold in the winter, with huge snow storms occasionally bringing the city to a halt. It is also one of the most polluted cities in the world, as vehicle exhaust is hemmed in by the mountains.
Tehran was chosen as Persia’s 36th capital just over two hundred years ago. Its population grew from 20,000 in 1800 to 4.5 million at the time of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and has doubled since then, to 9 million. Tehran leads the way in banking, commerce, industry, culture, and education.
Iran’s leaders see themselves as the leaders of the world’s Shia Muslims. They aim to spread Shi’ite teachings across the globe. One instrument in accomplishing this is the Al Mustafa International University, based in the holy city of Qom, which spreads Shia beliefs and the ideology of the 1979 revolution around the world.
Iranian leaders in Tehran spend billions extending their religious, political, economic, and military influence to out-maneuver neighboring Sunni countries. Since the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, Iran’s influence among Iraq’s majority Shia population has continued to grow.
Tehran’s support of President Assad in Syria is significant. Since Iran’s leaders believe that their brand of Shia Islam is the answer to all of the world’s problems, they do everything they can to extend Tehran’s influence across the globe.
The number of officially recognized Christians in Iran is estimated to be about 350,000. They worship in some 600 churches, most of which are Armenian, though there are quite a few Protestant churches. Because many Protestant churches were overflowing with new believers from Muslim backgrounds, they were closed by the country’s rulers.
Yet, God is at work throughout the country! One prominent satellite TV ministry located outside the country receives 10,000 phone calls every month from inside Iran. There are hundreds of thousands of underground believers, many of whom meet in house churches.
As a result, persecution by government authorities is unrelenting.
Christian leaders are frequently arrested and tortured to intimidate believers in an effort to stop the growth of the church. But the harsher the persecution, the faster the underground churches appear to multiply. Iran is home to the fastest growing church on the planet!