I grew up in pre-revolutionary Iran. My parents were quiet and humble people and had many children. Our house was happy and we lived in freedom. I was still young in 1979 when the Islamic Revolution occurred and my country changed. We could no longer walk down the street without persecution simply for wearing the wrong clothes, talking to the opposite sex, or anything deemed 'against Islam.' People were suspicious of each other and old scores were settled.
Several of my family friends were hanged or shot for views against the government. Even I was beaten by the religious police and held in gaol, although I had no political affiliations.
I came to loathe the violence of the regime. I wanted no part of the religion they represented. The more they bullied, the more the resistance to Allah built in my heart. Although my family were good and quiet muslims we were horrified at what was happening to our country. I determined I would have no religion if that was what religion was about.
In Iran, if you have political ties they look after their own. I refused and life was hard. I found it very difficult to get work or do anything in life. I was repeatedly kicked out of university for not following their rules and was constantly watching over my shoulder for danger. I had a few relationships but all failed because I didn't want to make any ties that would keep me in this country of oppression.
My older siblings were in much more danger after the revolution than I was. Several of them were part of a non-violent political group that was targeted and they fled Iran for the safety of Europe.
It was here that my sister, after going through a terrible divorce, was helped by a Christian family and discovered Jesus. She began to send secret messages to our family encouraging us to pray to Jesus to help us. I knew God was real but I didn't fully understand. We were not allowed to go into a Church or own a Bible.
My dream was to leave Iran and travel to Europe to be with my brothers and sisters. I had stayed to take care of my elderly mother but after 9/11 happened the doors that were open to asylum seekers closed.
Many years passed and I gave up hope until an acquaintance of mine told me they were secretly going to Australia. I took a week to think about it. I had heard the journey was unsafe and I would be alone in a strange country but I decided it had to be better than the darkness of my life in Iran.
I travelled to Indonesia and then followed a group into a small fishing boat headed to Australia. The seas were terrifyingly large and I was grateful when we were picked up by an Australian crew. I ended up in the Darwin Processing Centre and it was a scary time. I was told I may be sent to Manus or Nauru, but thankfully I was approved for a temporary protection visa into the freedom of Australia.
I moved to Sydney and with the few dollars I had and boarded in a share-house with other Irani's. It was one of these people that invited me to the Church they had been going to. I was a curious but mostly went out of respect.
The C3 Church I went to had a great feeling inside and the people were warm and welcoming. It reminded me of the Armenian Christian family next door when I was growing up. There was a feeling of peace and hope. When the people prayed I could feel it resonate on the inside of me.
I decided to be baptised and began to pray and read the Bible. It no longer felt empty when I prayed, I felt God's presence was with me and it was confirmed by answered prayer. I do not have to guess if God is real. I know He is with me and I carry His light wherever I go.
I am now part of the team at C3, serving every Sunday. I love Jesus, He has changed everything about my life and given me a future I look forward to. I am grateful to Australia and C3 for giving me this opportunity to know the Lord.
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