Introduction / History
While it is true that Persians dominate the country of Iran, many others live scattered throughout the Middle East in such countries as Iraq and Bahrain. The Persians living in Bahrain are the second largest people group of that country; however, they are still a minority since they make up less than fifteen percent of its population. Bahrain, a predominantly Arab country, is made up of a cluster of more than 30 desert islands off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. These islands are located in the heart of the Persian Gulf.
Centuries ago, Persians wandered south from the area near the Caspian Sea into regions west of the Persian Gulf. These regions are known today as Iran and Afghanistan. By 500 BC, they had built a powerful empire that governed most of the known world. They called themselves Aryans, from which we get the word Iran. Later they became known as Persians, which comes from the Greek word Persis, or name of the region.
Their language, Farsi, is a combination of the old Persian language mixed with Arabic.
What are their lives like?
Most Bahrainis live in apartments or houses in towns located on the northern part of the largest island, also called Bahrain. Since wood is scarce, they build homes of cement and lime brick. These houses are usually tall and are built with wind towers to catch the breeze. Villagers, on the other hand, generally live in thatched huts.
The islands receive only three inches of rainfall a year, but fresh underground springs along the northern coast of Bahrain provide ample water to drink and to irrigate crops.
Bahrain is more cosmopolitan than other Middle Eastern countries and its people enjoy a relatively high standard of living. The government provides free education, medical care, and a superior electrical system. Most households have air conditioners, refrigerators, televisions, radios, and telephones. Families usually eat one main meal a day that includes vegetables, lamb, fish, and rice.
Muslims have a solemn respect for marriage and family, which makes divorce less common among Persians than among people living in Western countries.
What are their beliefs?
Traditionally, Persians worshipped the gods of nature. Gradually they turned toward the teachings of Zoroaster, a prophet who lived between 1400 and 1000 BC. During the seventh century AD, however, Arabs introduced the Persians to Islam. Today almost all Persians in Bahrain follow Islam, most belonging to the Shiah branch.
For the Muslim, religion is culture and culture is religion. Therefore, if a Muslim even considers joining another religion such as Christianity, it is as if he has turned his back on his own culture. Converts to Christianity are often disowned by their families and their people.
What are their needs?
Bahrain has capitalized on the petroleum industry since 1932, but oil reserves will dry up by 2010. Fishing has declined due to pollution in the Gulf. Because of these changes, Bahrain is diversifying, building industry and becoming a banking center for the Middle East. Opportunities for foreign businesses in Bahrain mean opportunities for Christian business people to share the Gospel there.
Television and radio programs broadcast mostly in Arabic, although some English programs come out of Saudi Arabia. English Bibles, Christian literature, and programs in English may be used as long as they show sensitivity to the Persian culture. Several ministry groups are producing materials to reach Muslims in both English and Farsi. However, their culture is so intertwined with the Islamic religion that it is difficult for them to accept another world view.
What Keeps Us From Reaching Them?
Bahrain is an independent Arab sheikdom (territorially governed by leaders called sheiks). Its constitution guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion, but parts of the constitution have been overruled by the sheiks.
Bahraini Muslims strictly adhere to the Koran and consider the moral values of Western Christians to be pagan. For this reason, they are leery of opening up to them.
Why Should I Care?
Persians are an ambitious people with ingenuity, determination and commitment. Every Persian brought to Christ becomes a powerful ally for the cause of Christ among the Muslims.
Why should you care? Because more than 80,000 Bahraini Persians do not know Jesus as their Savior.
Prayer PointsView Persian in all countries.
* Pray they will know the Truth that sets people free.
* Ask God to create a hunger in the hearts of the Persians and an openness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
* Pray that God will raise up laborers who understand the Muslim culture and who can effectively take the Gospel to them.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will multiply the effectiveness of the Jesus film in Bahrain.
* Pray that the Christians who live near and among the Bahraini Persians will be bold in sharing their faith in Jesus.
* Pray that God will open doors for Christian business people to share the Gospel with the Persians of Bahrain.
* Pray that a strong Christian work will be established among Bahraini Persians.