Project Canterbury




Missionary in Iran 1933-6




Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012


I. A NEW LAND, page 1
III. A NEW NATION, page 10
V. NOW I AM FREE, page 23










MAP OF IRAN, page 71


"LIFE for me began a month ago." This sentence has a modern sound; in fact the reader might hazard a guess that it was the testimony of some one who had been converted through a recent evangelistic campaign in England. Actually it was written by an Iranian girl, and has no connexion with Christianity.

It is a quotation from the essay of one of the girls of a school of the Church Missionary Society in Isfahan, the Stileman Memorial College. The whole passage is as follows: "I am a month old to-day. For seventeen years I have been going about wrapped up in a black shroud, and that is not life. Life for me began a month ago." She was not giving her testimony merely to a personal and individual experience, but to the emancipation of the whole of the womanhood of Iran. With all her Iranian sisters by the command of His Imperial Majesty, Reza Shah Pahlevi, she had come out of the darkness of the veil into the light of God's sunshine. It was indeed "Something new in Iran."

This tremendous reform in January, 1936, which stirred Iran to its depth, is symbolical of the renaissance which is changing the whole of that land. It was not merely the culmination of agitation for women's reform or liberty, nor was it actually part of a women's movement at all. It was part of the national resurrection of Iran, and one of the many and far-reaching changes which have swept over this ancient land and transformed it into a modern kingdom. The purpose of this book is to give some account of this upheaval, and to show how it is affecting the preaching of the Gospel and the growth of the Church. Above all it is to show that, with all its advance and progress, Iran still needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The new life in politics, commerce, and society will be of no permanent value without new life in the heart.

Were the book worthy of a dedication, it would be dedicated to the Iranian people whom I love, and for whom I would have lived and died had God permitted. It, however, calls rather for an apology than a dedication. It was written on the insistent wish of the C.M.S., and my only qualifications were three years' missionary service in Iran. The book has been written in a popular style, and makes no claim to be a literary production, nor to be a compendium of information about Iran or about missionary work in Iran. It shows some aspects of the work and must be accepted for what it contains, and not rejected for what it omits. The book is sent forth with the humble prayer that God will use it to awaken interest in the spread of the Gospel and the growth of the Church in Iran.


WE were discussing missionary work in Iran, but it was obvious that the vicar was out of his depth. At last the truth came out. "Where is Iran?" he asked. The next day in the vestry the same ignorance was apparent. "Of course," said the churchwarden, "by Iran you mean Irak." It is far better to know from the beginning the exact object of our consideration and so the reader will forgive a few general details of the kingdom of Iran.

Until 1935 the country was known in European countries as the kingdom of Persia. To the Persians it has always been Iran. There is a province of Iran called Fars, or Pars, of which the beautiful city of Shiraz is the present capital, and from the name of this province the name Persia was derived. In 1935, at the decision of the Shah, the word Iran was adopted by European countries in place of Persia, and companies such as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and the Imperial Bank of Persia became the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and the Imperial Bank of Iran.

A would-be missionary in 1936 inquired whether it would be possible and desirable to adopt Iranian dress. The answer was "Certainly, and have it made in Piccadilly!" The ordinary educated Iranian now wears exactly the same dress as the European, and all the old national or religious distinctions of dress are abolished. In 1936 the top hat and frock coat were made official for dress occasions, and there was a touch of humour and irony in the fact that some Europeans were unable to accept official invitations as they did not possess the European dress which the Iranis had adopted.

The kingdom of Iran covers a vast tract of country three times the size of France, but a very large portion of this is arid desert or bare mountain, uninhabited by man, and scarcely even [1/2] inhabited by beast. The greater part of the country is a series of high plateaux, varying from 3000 to 6000 feet above sea level, and divided by mountain ranges at a much greater height. In summer the temperature rises at mid-day from 100 to 125 in the shade; in winter, at night, it may go below zero Fahrenheit. In February, 1937, at Hamadan in the north -21 F was registered, and Bishop Thompson, on the road to the Oil Fields, was snowed up in a car for three days, miles from anywhere, and lived on some bread and a supply of butter which his companion was taking to an employee of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., stationed on the road. There is a terrible scarcity of water. Iran has only one small navigable river, the Karun in the south-west. The other rivers, though they may be raging torrents at times, disappear underground or end in salt marshes. The average annual rainfall, including melted snow, only amounts to ten inches in the north and five inches in the south; in London the average is twenty-five inches.

Such a land is not very friendly towards its inhabitants, and the population of this large kingdom is only from ten to twelve millions, and averages only nineteen to the square mile. This paucity of population is better realized when we remember that in England there are 742 inhabitants to the square mile. There are only thirteen or fourteen large towns of 30,000 people and over, and most of these are about 200 miles distant from each other. In former days a journey was both tedious and dangerous. There were no motor cars, and generally travelling was by mule or donkey, although some people rode on horses. To-day mountain tracks have given way to wonderful roads climbing over the mountains, and in parts six or more hairpin bends can be seen. The roads in the south of Iran were constructed by the South Persian Rifles during the great war, and have since been developed and perfected by the Iranis. In the north and west of Iran a railway is under construction, and parts of it promise to rank among the engineering marvels of the world. At one place on the road a traveller can gaze upon five tremendous viaducts as the railway wends its way over the mountain, entering a tunnel here, then reappearing higher up, crossing by viaduct, and then re-entering the mountain. Between Tehran and the Caspian Sea there are eighty-five kilometres of mountain construction and ninety-four tunnels. [2/3] A similar advance has taken place on the plains; formerly the tracks were only fit for donkeys and camels, now they are motor roads. Fifteen years ago the journey of 200 miles across the desert from Isfahan to Yezd took eight or ten days; now it takes six to eight hours.

The villages of Iran, however, are not yet connected by any rapid means of travel, and it must be remembered that at least seventy-five per cent of the population live in the villages. This creates a problem for the missionary, for our work is centred in the towns. The British and Foreign Bible Society is doing a fine work in distributing the Scriptures everywhere; and some villagers are reached by evangelistic trips taken by Christian Iranis and missionaries, and by the work of the hospitals.

This description of the vast deserts of Iran may have given the impression that the Irani is an Arab. Far from that, the Irani, like the Englishman, is of Aryan blood, and is very different from the Arab and the Jew, who are both Semitic. As an Oriental he has all the natural politeness, hospitality, and slowness of the East. Politeness ranks almost first among the virtues; but it is not without inconvenience, as when in reply to an important question you are given, not the true answer, but what your friend thinks you would like the answer to be.

The high ideals of hospitality have not changed since the patriarch Abraham insisted in entertaining the angels. A visitor must wait for a meal. The good wife of the house always cooks enough for several more than the family and never complains of unexpected guests; she only complains if they refuse to stay. This custom has its inconveniences, as when a host is expecting a guest and the meal is prepared he may receive a message at the last moment that, owing to the unexpected arrival of friends the guest cannot come. It is considered more important to entertain those who have arrived unexpectedly than to keep a previous appointment. This lack of sense of time has its troubles for the Church. It is rare that a meeting can start at the stated time, for the people have not arrived. These characteristics of the East are, however, undergoing rude and rough changes. With the advent of the watch, the factory, and the office, hundreds who used to regulate their habits in a leisurely way by the sun now have to attend the office punctually, or file in at the factory when the hooter is blown. [3/4] It is still, however, the habit in the greater part of the country to measure time by relation to sunrise and sunset.

Iran, in the days when it was known as Persia, was always connected in the popular mind with Persian cats, sherbet, and carpets. The cats are a disappointment; if you want a nice Persian cat, buy it in London, for in Iran they chiefly live in the streets or on the roofs, and are brazen thieves. The sherbet is a surprise. It is plentiful, and sharbat (an Arabic word) is in general use; but it is a fruit juice, like a cordial, which is mixed with water and drunk cold. How the effervescent white powder which is popular with children in England ever came to be known as sherbet is a mystery. However, the true sherbet is a real improvement upon the English variety, and the first disappointment soon becomes a generous approval. The carpets are marvellous, and it is a wonderful sight at big celebrations or receptions to see the walls of large halls entirely covered with beautiful and precious carpets. The condition of the carpet weavers is now much better than it used to be. Iran's chief exports are oil, carpets, opium, fruits, rice, and cotton. A great number of articles are now government monopolies including carpets, wheat, sugar, and opium. Opium smoking is still a curse and scourge, and although it is generally realized that it is wrong there is no public opinion against it. The government monopoly only regulates the sale of opium; it does not restrict its use.

The Persian language is a descendant of the ancient tongues of the Medes and the Persians, and the old writing can be seen carved on the ruins of Persepolis. At the Moslem invasion in the seventh century, when Iran became a Moslem land, Arabic words were freely introduced, as the Moslems were Arabs and spoke Arabic. Now as the former glories of Iran are resuscitated, and traces of the conquest are blotted out, the language is being altered rapidly. Practically every month a list of new words is issued to replace the Arabic words, and these words are chosen chiefly from the old vocabulary in use before the Arabic element entered the language. For example, nearly all the government departments had Arabic names; now most of these have given way to old Iranian names. The people still write in the Arabic script, from the right to the left; but a phonetic alphabet, in Roman characters, is now in preparation.

[5] It was to this land that Henry Martyn came in 1811, not as the pioneer of the Gospel, for the Gospel had reached Iran in the early days of Christianity, but as the pioneer of Christian missions in more modern times. He had sailed from England for India some years before, and on his way home he visited Iran to translate the New Testament into Persian. He alone of Englishmen in that wild and romantic land sought neither worldly wealth, political influence, nor military honour. He adopted Iranian dress, and wearing an astrakan cap, baggy blue trousers, red boots, and a light chintz suit, over which was thrown a long, flowing coat, he set out on his hundred miles' journey over the mountains from the Gulf to Shiraz.

The state of Iran in those days can be judged from his diary. But notwithstanding the terrible corruption and immorality of the people he had a vision that the Gospel would triumph, and wrote: "Persia is, in many respects, a ripe field for harvest. Vast numbers secretly hate and despise the superstitions imposed upon them, and as many of them as have heard the Gospel approve it, but they dare not hazard their lives for the Name of the Lord Jesus." For the sake of the Gospel in that land Martyn gave his life. He translated the New Testament into Persian in just over six months, and that at the age of thirty-one, and then he set out to present a copy to the Moslem ruler, the Shah of Persia. His task done he started from Tabriz on September 2, 1812,  on his return journey to his native land, which, however, he was never to see again. On October 16 of the same year, alone and untended, he passed to his rest at Tokat in Armenia.

Those days have passed. The era of enlightenment has come, and Iran is fast proving its claim to rank among the modern and civilized nations of the world. The day of darkness has gone, and the new light has dawned upon this ancient land, which once ruled from Egypt in the west to India in the east, and from the Caspian to the Persian Gulf. The renaissance in the East has reached Iran and she is rapidly responding to it. The light of Him Who is the light of the world has also reached this land, and the Church of Christ is established there, albeit small and weak. The vision of Henry Martyn has come true. A candle has been lighted which by the grace of God will not be extinguished.


[6] "Do you permit me to ask a question?" The speaker was Haji Hasan, a servant of the C.M.S. hospital at Yezd; he was the size of an ox, with a voice as deep as the bellowing of a bull. He had come for a lesson in preparation for baptism, and we were sitting in the church porch at Yezd one hot summer afternoon, perspiring profusely. The subject had worked round to miracles and Haji Hasan had listened in silence, punctuated with a few rather deep grunts. The lesson had just drawn to a close when Haji took a deep breath, like a battleship clearing decks for action, and then he let off his big guns with a boom: "Do you permit me to ask a question?" he asked in the correct and polite style.

"It is yours to command," was the equally polite answer.

"Didn't Jesus Christ say in the gospel that if you have faith you will do greater miracles than I have done?" he asked.

"Well He did say something like that," was the reply, delivered with some fearful apprehension that a difficult poser was about to follow.

"Then why cannot your bishops work miracles?" was the rejoinder.

One felt inclined to say that the Bishop himself would be coming soon and could answer the question personally. However, we tried to deal with the problem. The discussion by way of explanation veered round to aeroplanes. It was pointed out that the flying of an aeroplane would have been considered a miracle a hundred years ago; but that now we are able to fly with ease, and that this invention was really a new miracle.

Umph! The conversation was summarily interrupted by another grunt. "There's nothing new in aeroplanes," he said. "There were plenty of aeroplanes in the time of Persepolis [6/7] (the capital of Cyrus and Darius), but they had been forgotten. There were all kinds of inventions then which were lost afterwards. and have since been rediscovered."

This thunderbolt was delivered with such assurance and confidence that it brooked no reply. He was confident that in the old days of the glories of Iran, hundreds of years before Christ, there was a twentieth century civilization in Iran. It may be that pictures of the scarab beetles engraved on the walls of Persepolis had given him the impression of aeroplanes, or perhaps it was just a piece of imaginary ancestor worship, idealizing the vanished glories of the past.

Haji's facts were faulty, for the modern invention of the aeroplane had no counterpart in the ancient history of Iran; but Haji was probably also quite ignorant that the modern miracle of the Church in Iran has its counterpart in the past history of the nation. Western civilization is a new thing to Iran, but the Church of Christ is not. That did exist in the old days, and was almost blotted out and forgotten, and like Isaac who "digged again the wells of water" of his father Abraham (Gen. xxvi. 18), we are now digging the wells again. Not only did the Church exist, but it also carried on missionary work with such zeal, and suffered such fires of persecution that the history of this Church has been written under the title, A Church on Fire.

There is no definite evidence of the first arrival of Christianity in Iran. The wise men were probably Iranis, and on the day of Pentecost Parthians, Medes, and Elamites were present, and some of these would be Jews or proselytes from the ancient land of Iran. It is therefore probable that some news of the new movement reached Iran within a few years of Pentecost. Tradition says that St. Thomas went to India in A.D. 49 and visited Iran on the way, and then sent the apostle Thaddeus from India. The old Assyrian Church in Iran claims that Thaddeus was its founder. The first historical evidence is that by A.D. 114 there were Christians in Iran, and by A.D. 225 they were a strong community recognized by the Government. Before many centuries had passed we read that the number of the churches "from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea was almost infinite, and their faith was conspicuous in the number and sanctity of their monks and martyrs." As early as the time of Abd-Mshikha, Bishop of Arbel (A.D. 190-225), the Church is reported as extending from the mountains of Kurdistan to the Persian Gulf, and in that area there were said to be not less than twenty-five bishops.

The missionary zeal of this Church was amazing. The members spread abroad to China, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Turkestan, Mongolia, and even to Japan, preaching the Gospel. Their labours and sufferings were truly apostolic. Equally amazing is the fact that to-day we have only the vaguest records of their work, and the task of reconstructing the history leaves much to conjecture. How was it that such a great missionary Church passed away with hardly any memorial or record of its labours?

One contributing cause was corruption. The Church in Iran belonged to the sect called Nestorians, and failed to maintain the purity of its faith. Another chief cause of its collapse was persecution. The Church in ancient Iran suffered just as severely at the hands of the Parsis as their brethren in Europe and Asia Minor did at the hands of Nero and other persecuting Roman emperors. Theodoret, Bishop of Cyr, writes: "They flayed the hands of some and the backs of others. In the case of others they stripped the skin of the face from the forehead down to the chin. Having dug great pits they filled them with rats and mice, and then cast the Christians into the pits, first tying their hands and feet so that they could neither chase the animals away nor place themselves beyond their reach. The animals, having been kept without food, devoured these Christian confessors in the most cruel way."

It is interesting to note that these persecutions were as much political as religious. There is no record of persecution until after the Roman Emperor Constantine became a Christian and his nation with him. Rome and Iran were hereditary enemies, and when Constantine claimed rights over the Christians in Iran they came under suspicion, and the smouldering embers of religious jealousy and hatred were fanned into a roaring flame. Although these persecutions must have decimated the Church it did not lose its zeal or missionary ardour, and continued to expand.

The Moslem avalanche which followed in the seventh century, although it had not the diabolical cruelty of these earlier persecutions, [8/9] was much more systematic. The Moslems who arose in Arabia within a few years swept all over the Near and Middle East from Tangiers to Afghanistan, and from Turkey to Egypt, and compelled these lands at the point of the sword to become Moslem. Christians were tolerated, but on such terms that their position became intolerable. The first Moslem invasion was followed by the campaigns of Chengiz Khan and Tamerlane, and they devastated the country and spared none; neither men, women, nor babes at the breast found any mercy at their hands. The Christian Church, except for a small remnant in the northwest numbering a few thousands, ceased to exist. Haji Hasan little realized that his ancestors may have been Christians and that our desire for him was not a thing entirely new, but a rediscovery of what his ancestors had experienced and believed.

There are in the vestry of St. Luke's Church at Isfahan the photographs of the C.M.S. missionaries in Iran who have been raised to the episcopate. The country of Iran was formed a see in 1912, and the Rev. C. H. Stileman was consecrated Bishop. In 1935 it was decided, as a record for the future, to write in Persian the names and dates of the bishops under their photographs, and under the name of Bishop Stileman we put the words: "First Bishop in Iran." "Why have you written 'first'?" asked one of our Iranian clergy. "There were bishops in Iran hundreds of years ago." So we erased the word "first." He was quite right, and was proud to feel that he was helping to reclaim the lost heritage of the past, and to revive the former glories of the Church of Iran. Bishop Pkidha, the first bishop in Iran, was consecrated about the end of the first century, before there are any records of bishops in England.

We can claim that present-day missionary work is in a real sense part of the new life movement, for not only through the power of Jesus Christ is it bringing new life into the country, but we are seeking to re-discover the glories of the past. We are rebuilding the waste places and seeking to establish anew the Church of Christ which once flourished in ancient Iran.


[10] "AND who is this good-looking soldier?" asked a missionary admiring a military photograph on the Iranian pastor's mantelpiece. "Oh, that is a relative of mine," was the reply. "To what regiment did he belong?" was the further question. "He didn't belong to any regiment, he was a highwayman." That was in the old days when the profession of highwayman was considered an honourable calling and was a lucrative enterprise. At times it was even carried on under official patronage. In 1914 a relief escort of Indian sowars in North Iran captured a band of robbers and brought them to Meshed. Upon inquiry it was proved that the band was owned by the Governor of the district. The Governor acknowledged that this was the case, and excused his subordinate on the ground that it was an old custom. At one time the Governor of Isfahan leased out each route to a robber band in return for a daily sum, and augmented this nefarious source of revenue by taking a heavy percentage on the sales of the stolen goods.

Quite a number of missionaries in those days had the doubtful privilege of dealings with these highwaymen. Bishop Linton actually managed to take a snap of robbers as they plundered his goods, by the expedient of pointing the camera between his legs as he sat on the ground. As late as 1929 three missionaries travelling at night from Bushire to Shiraz were attacked by robbers, and two of them were wounded. To-day a person can travel anywhere in Iran with complete safety, in fact it is safer than in England as the menace of overcrowded roads is not a problem in Iran. There is speed as well as safety; journeys which formerly took two weeks of discomfort can now be completed in comfort in one day.

These facts bring before us two points for explanation; [10/11] first how the land descended to such depths of corruption and disintegration, and second, how the transformation has come about.

The Iranis are a very ancient people. Their empire was founded by Cyrus the Achaemenian early in the seventh century B.C., and was the first great Aryan empire of the world. This dynasty lasted until the defeat of Iran by Alexander the Great at Issus in 333 B.C. This empire was composite and included the Medes, Lydians, and Persians, who had begun to occupy Iran probably about 2000 B.C. In A.D. 226 the famous Sassanian Dynasty commenced, and the Iranis have invested them with an almost supernatural glory. They continued to rule until the Moslem invasion in the seventh century. After this invasion Iran gradually became solidly Moslem and deteriorated.

We are not concerned here with the progress of the decay, but only with its results. From time to time the Shah (king) was an unprincipled and avaricious oriental despot of the worst type. A very large part of the revenues of the country were used in supporting him, his large retinue, his fifty or more wives, and more numerous children. It served the purpose of such rulers for the country to remain in ignorance. Nader Din, one of the last shahs before the present dynasty, was strongly opposed to constitutional government or to any western innovations. He boasted that he wanted men around him who did not know whether Brussels was a city or a cabbage. The country was allowed to go to ruin; public works were not properly maintained, nor was money spent on education, health, or improvements. He was assassinated in 1896, but his successor was of the same type.

At last there was a movement for constitutional reform, which resulted in an assembly being elected in 1906. The next shah, Mohammed Ali, opposed the assembly, and the risings and affrays were considerable. Little progress could be made, and at the time when the great war broke out the country was not even strong enough to protect its neutrality. The central Government had ceased to exercise any effective control over the outlying parts of the land. The provinces had their own Governors, who at times acted as kings and despots in their own areas, and did not even pay the due taxes to the capital. Nearly a quarter of the people were wandering Bedouins of the desert [11/12] who acknowledged no man's authority, and from their ranks were recruited the expert class of highwaymen. This had produced a state of lawlessness and corruption which threatened to bring the country to complete ruin. There was no army worthy of the name, practically no motor roads, no educational system, or medical service.

To-day Iran is completely changed. The country is ruled by a strong Government with a large number of local officials; all is centralized and no independent authority springs up. Every citizen has an identity card, and no one can travel from town to town without producing this. In the same way every foreign resident has a residence permit, without which he cannot travel. The permits sometimes cause no little difficulty to the policemen on the road who have to record the names of travellers, as the writing of English names in Persian is very difficult. The old wandering tribespeople are being settled in towns and villages. Births, deaths, marriages, land, cars, and even bicycles and cameras, have to be registered. There is an efficient system of conscription, a large standing army, a strong police force, and an air force.

How did this transformation come about? It centres around a man and a movement. But the man overshadows the movement.

After the great war history moved swiftly and suddenly. In February, 1921, Reza Khan, an officer in the Persian Cossack Division, who had risen from the ranks, effected a bloodless coup d'etat and became Commander in Chief and Minister of War. In November, 1923, the King, Sultan Ahmad Khan, went abroad to the Riviera for one of his luxury trips and did not return, for on December 12, 1925, there was a bloodless revolution, and Reza Khan was made Shah and the crown was settled upon him and his heirs. He is now known by the title of His Imperial Majesty Reza Shah Pahlevi, and wields power in Iran which can only be compared to the power of Herr Hitler in Germany, and Signor Mussolini in Italy, with the additional authority that his power is held, not by popular election, but as king.

Thus Iran has been changed by a man and a movement strongly resembling in general features similar movements in [12/13] Europe. It is a constitutional and nationalistic movement, but has no particular slogan. Its aim is progress, and Iran for the Iranis.

To forward their aim of Iran for the Iranis two steps have been necessary. In the first place it was necessary to unite the country as one. In the old days there were provincial and religious differences. Isfahan was as much a foreign country to many who lived in Kerman as France is to the English. These provinces have been brought together by quick travel and communication, by central elected government, and by the appointment of all local officials from the capital. The religious differences remain, but they have been lessened by the compulsory adoption of one dress so that the old distinctively religious clothes have gone. Again, the people have been mixed together in conscription and a man is first and foremost an Irani, and only secondly a member of one of the religions. Examinations also are all public and in the Persian tongue. Formerly the Armenian Christians chiefly studied Armenian; now they must first of all study Persian at school, and the Jews must learn Persian and not Hebrew as their chief language. The old religious festivals are also losing much of their importance, and in place of these new national festivals are observed, in which Moslem, Parsi, Jew, and Christian mingle as one.

Secondly, it has been necessary to free Iran from outside influences, especially from communism, and this has been done very effectively. The yoke of foreign bondage which had come upon the land in the days of impotence has also been thrown off. This naturally has had a severe repercussion on missionary work. We are there for the reason that we are Christians and charged with the preaching of the Gospel; the fact remains that we are foreigners and, therefore, come under restrictions put upon the work of foreigners, and are liable to suspicion from those who do not understand our aims. The restrictions are irksome. Thus there is a regulation that no foreign doctor may practise in Iran unless he has been in practice for five years abroad. This is aimed against quacks as well as against foreign competition, but it makes it very hard for the mission hospitals to find recruits; for doctors who have five years' experience in England have usually established a practice. All foreign primary schools were closed in 1932; this order was not aimed [13/14] against the missions, but it seriously crippled our education work for a time.

The prejudice and suspicion of the unenlightened are much more severe. The ordinary man, even though he is educated, is apt to think that our purpose is political. "How much does your Government pay you?" is a common question, and the questioner finds it hard to realize that it is the love of Christ which constrains us, and that the missionary is not in Iran for political or financial reasons. Many are hindered from following Christ because they feel that loyalty to their country conflicts with the call of religion. Fear of coming under suspicion by being too friendly with foreign institutions makes many more afraid to come forward.

In one town there is a baptized and sincere Christian; he has a wife and two children and works in a government office. He became irregular in his attendance at church, and we wondered what was the cause of his coldness; when tackled on the subject he replied that he felt his position would be insecure if he were seen too often coming to church, though he did not mind going to the bookshop on the main street, as all sorts of people went there. Although the church is built in Iranian style and the service is in Persian, it is known as the English church from its proximity to and connexion with the C.M.S. hospitals, which are known as the English hospitals, and from the fact that it was built by English Christians with English money.

Another instance is that of a clerk holding an important post. He attended a mission, and at the close of the service he came into the vestry and confessed his faith. After that he was not seen for a time, until his wife was ill and he visited her in hospital. When asked why he had not come to church again, his reply was "How can I dig up my roots, and where am I to plant them?" He was afraid that he would have to cut himself off from his Iranian social circle, and that he would prejudice his job; and he had not the courage to go forward.

It will be seen that a new and important factor has now entered our work, and one which threatens to cause increasing difficulty. In the old days the only opposing force was religious fanaticism; and that to a great extent has gone. To-day it is the prejudice against foreign influence, and the strong nationalistic feeling. This situation is an urgent call, for it can only be met [14/15] by building up a strong self-propagating Church. There is wonderful liberty and possibility now, but the door may not always stay open. The field is white unto harvest, but the labourers, both foreign missionaries, and (more serious) Christian Iranian leaders, are few.

In December, 1936, the late Dr. Dodson of Kerman was travelling to the coast. It was a long journey, and as it had to be broken at the only town on the way he spent the night with an old Iranian friend. Evening gathered in as they sat talking. The man motioned to his son to leave the room as he wished to speak to the doctor in private. When the son had gone he turned to the doctor and told him that he was the leader of a little group of ten men and women who were meeting in private every Sunday evening for the study of the Scriptures. They had no missionary in the town, and no baptized Christian was among their number to guide or teach them; but they had a Bible which the doctor had left there many years before as he passed through.

They were educated men and women of the better class, and were meeting in sincerity and earnestness, but in secret because they were still inquiring. The man gave the names to the doctor, and when he returned from the coast they all met for prayer and Bible reading. They suffered neither from the old religious prejudices, nor from the modern nationalistic complex caused by the permanent presence of a foreigner; their only messenger was the Word of God which is quick and powerful.

As soon as the Church is stronger and able to make a more independent and Iranian impact there will be tremendous advance. The Gospel is the same whoever preaches it, and the same Lord is the only Saviour, in Whom there is neither Jew nor Gentile; but when preached by Christian Iranis the message does not suffer from the misunderstanding and suspicion that hinder its power when proclaimed by foreigners.


[16] "CAN you lend me a hat, there is not one to be found in the shops?" "How do you put on a hat, on top of all your hair?" "My old dress comes right above my knees." "Will trousers go with a coat?" "Do you go to bed with a hat on? And, anyhow, how do you keep it on your head?" This sounds like preparations for Christmas charades. But it was not. It was just flurry and excitement because a law had been passed that the women of Iran must discard the veil and wear European costume, and they were wondering what to do about it.

Had you entered Iran by the south in 1935 you would have had a shock, for the women looked like walking corpses, shrouded in blackest night and draped from head to foot in funeral black. Not many women were out of doors, a large number were kept at home in seclusion, and no wives were to be seen walking out with their husbands. That would have been the height of immodesty. In the house the majority of the women wore thick, black, cotton trousers, a very short dress, and a chaddah (usually of patterned print or silk) over the head and shoulders; in the presence of men a woman would draw the chaddah across her face. Out of doors a woman covered herself from head to foot with a black chaddah, or cloak, and her face was covered either with a thick, black horsehair shade or by a long, white cotton veil with an inset of open-work embroidery through which her eyes could see the way about. It was death incarnate, a slavery of body and a symbol of slavery of mind.

Within a year what a change had occurred. We left Iran in December, 1936, by the same town, Bunder Abbas. There were many women about, but not one chaddah or veil was to be seen. A line of graceful women with flowing skirts carried [16/17] water pots on their heads. Schoolgirls in drill tunics carried their satchels along the road, and elderly matrons were buying in the market. It was a remarkable transformation, a reformation, but we cannot call it a regeneration.

Let us narrow our dates to a smaller compass. In December, 1935, a new pastor was appointed in charge of the Yezd church, and as a matter of course he visited the C.M.S. girls' school. He inspected the junior classes, but before he entered the senior class rooms the warning was given. There was a rapid dive for the chaddahs, and in a moment the panorama of enchanting beauty had become a cemetery of little black mounds. The girls had veiled because a man was entering the room. Two months later, all the local officials entered that school, and instead of a nervous blushing rush to cover themselves, the girls in their drill tunics proudly marched in and gave the first public drill display by girls ever seen in that town.

What had happened? An order had been issued by the Shah that schoolgirls should no longer veil, but should dress as European schoolgirls do. This was a first step towards bringing their conservative mammas into line with the liberal progressive policy of the country. In Shiraz the C.M.S. girls' school had forestalled the reform by many months, with the result that a mullah made an ineffective official protest against unveiled, immodest schoolgirls dancing in public, as he termed the drill display. In Yezd the pioneers were also the C.M.S. school, and for the encouragement of the feeble-hearted they marched through the streets, making a public display of their boldness. It is only fair to add that the police assembled in force to escort and protect them, and to see that no men dared to loiter in the streets on the expectation of catching a glimpse of the unveiled faces. These pioneer days soon passed, and it is greatly to the credit of the people that this reform was carried through without any unpleasantness or real trouble.

It was a far harder task to change the habits of the older people. A word of explanation is necessary. Many of the bolder spirits had already forsaken the trousers (Miss 1937 is not so up-to-date after all) for stockings and skirt, but except for a very few in the capital they never appeared in public unveiled; and it must be remembered that before the unveiling only a very small minority of the girls were sent to school. [17/18] According to their religion, the important thing was that the head should be covered; they were less particular about covering the legs. Haji Baba, the well-known character in the book, Haji Baba of Isafahan, put the argument this way when he complained of British customs. He said that you cannot tell one woman from another by her legs, "but the face, that sacred spot, sacred to the gaze of none but a husband; that which ought to be covered with the most scrupulous delicacy; that you leave uncovered to be stared at, to be criticized, laughed at, by every impudent varlet who chooses."

This custom was no mere convention. It was the rule of religion, and the orthodox teachers taught it as the interpretation of the holy Koran. Modern defenders of the liberal school interpret the Koran differently, but there is no doubt that the seclusion of women and the veil have always been part of the orthodox Islamic teaching; so much so that many of the people, and not a few of the mullahs, expected that the passing of the veil would be a chief step in the passing of religion. To the Moslem, clothes and ceremonies are important matters.

The reform entered by pressure and command from the capital, not from a growing out of the old customs; but it was gradual. Following the drill displays of the schoolgirls there were public meetings for the leading officials, then for the leading merchants, then for the second-class merchants. The guests had to bring their wives unveiled to these meetings. It was a thing unheard of and undreamt of before; in fact it is said that before the war a leading official in Isfahan who had quarrelled with the head mullah (Moslem priest) threatened to show his contempt for religion by driving out in public with his wife (his own wife, not the mullah's). Such were the customs of those days. As the reform progressed certain streets were closed to veiled women and they were not allowed in the shops.

Then finally the order was made absolute, and the police were given instructions to destroy any veils seen in public. Even the wives of the mullahs were not exempt from this order. In one town, on the Shah's birthday, a public meeting was held in the registration office and all the registrars and their wives were invited, the mullahs included, as they are all registrars by virtue of their office. Many of them were probably faced with [18/19] the difficulty of choosing which of their wives they would bring, and how they solved this knotty family question we do not know. There would have been no scramble in the mullah's harem for the ordeal of appearing unveiled in public. A bigger problem was the disgrace and shame of appearing with one's own wife in public. This was nicely settled; at an early stage in the proceedings eight mullahs arrived in turbans and robes, and nearly half an hour later a group of wives arrived, herded together like sheep, and all trying to hide their faces with large shawls. No one could tell which mullah owned which wife, and there was peace.

For a time many of the older women took unkindly to the new freedom. The schoolgirls and younger women were delighted, but the older ones wore large shawls around their heads, or large pocket handkerchiefs in front of their faces, and marched the streets as if petrified or suffering from stiff necks. For the poorer people who could not afford complete new outfits the regular costume became a straight cut cheap black coat worn over their long, thin, black cotton trousers, with a queer hat, often an old trilby, or discarded sun helmet, perched on the top of the head. These days of transition are passing. The daughters of to-day will not grow up to know the bondage that fettered their mothers. Thanks to the courage and the vision of their Shah they are now free from the shackles which bound them.

This is only one reform affecting the women, but it is the chief. For the whole of 1936 the papers were full of the "Women's Movement," and leading articles and pictures were devoted to this subject every day. There were pictures of public meetings, of women who had made speeches, of Girl Guides, of plays and tableaux given by girls, and even of girls clad only in short knickers and drill blouses performing Swedish drill and gymnastics in public. And this in a land where the year before a woman was not allowed to show her face before men, other than her husband and nearest relatives, and where a schoolgirl might even be punished if inadvertently she allowed her veil to slip from her face in the presence of men. There had been pioneers before this, but they were only a valiant few and almost entirely restricted to the capital.

The marriage law has been altered but it still leaves much [19/20] room for improvement. A Moslem may have up to four permanent wives, and by Shi'a law, [See Appendix] which is followed in Iran, temporary marriage is allowed, and no moral stigma rests on a man who marries a woman for a week or a month, a system which is nothing less than licensed prostitution.

It is now the exception rather than the rule for a man to have several wives. With the new freedom of women this custom must sooner or later die out or be forbidden altogether as it has been in Turkey; two, three, or four wives who could be kept out of sight was quite a different proposition from a number of wives who must be taken out. We may also hope that free divorce will soon be abolished; it is not only free for nearly every cause, provided the husband returns the marriage dowry, but is unfortunately very common. Child marriage is now much more rare; it has not yet entirely stopped, as the hospitals bear witness, but the legal age for marriage has been fixed at eighteen for boys and sixteen for girls.

There has also been a great development in education for girls. To keep women in an inferior position it was necessary that they should be ignorant and mentally undeveloped. It was, therefore, considered unwise to educate them, and advisable to marry them as early as possible. To-day schools for girls are springing up all over the country, and the girls are just as anxious as the boys for advance.

This new era is an important challenge to missionary work, and has opened a door of opportunity which our early pioneers never had. It must be remembered that this has not been a religious reformation; indeed it has been effected in the teeth of religious prejudice and opposition; nor at heart was it really a moral reform, arising from new moral convictions and agitation. It has been a national reform instigated by a powerful Shah, and to him the women of Iran rightly give the praise and honour. It has created a new sense of patriotism and modernism but not a new devotion to religion.

It is still costly for a girl to follow Christ. In one little church there are four keen Christian women ready for baptism but unable at present to obtain permission. Two of these women fear the wrath of their Moslem husbands and possible divorce; [20/21] two others are teachers who are witnessing boldly both at home and at school, but their father has forbidden them to be baptized; if they are baptized he may take them away from school and forbid them to come near the church, or may force them to marry non-Christians. It is hard for them. They have been prepared for baptism, and at the last preparation lesson one of them burst into tears; she had been longing for that day but yet baptism is forbidden her.

In the old days it was the constant fear of schoolgirls who were interested in Christianity that they would be married to Moslem men, perhaps twice their age, if they became Christians, and there were many secret believers who suffered untold mental agony over this conflict of desire and fear. In those days it was almost impossible for a girl to earn her own living, as only the most menial posts were open to women; also it was a disgrace for a woman to remain unmarried, and so the unmarried woman was an anomaly. These old prejudices will die slowly; but they have received a hard knock.

The whole fellowship of the Church is being altered now that the sexes can mix freely. Formerly if a church social was held the men would bunch together at one end of the room, and the women at the other, all veiled in black, and it was extremely difficult to create anything like a Christian spirit of fellowship. The new social intercourse will affect the marriage question. When men and women did not mix a man had no opportunity of making a personal choice, nor had a woman any opportunity of discriminating as to her acceptance. A marriage was arranged by the prospective mothers-in-law, and the couple might not see each other until the day when they were legally betrothed. A Christian hardly ever had Christian relatives to act for him, and the sad result was that there was seldom a Christian wedding, and as a further result children were not brought up as Christians. Even a clergyman could not see the wife of a man whom he was preparing for baptism, and it was not always possible for a woman evangelist to see her; nor could the woman evangelist call on the man. Thus the Church was divided into two separate sections, the men's and the women's, and there was no real family of God. It was a great temptation for a man or woman to lapse when he or she was always being nagged at home and called "unclean," [21/22] and when there could be no family religion. Now it will be possible to hold little meetings in homes in a way which was not practicable before.

Behind all this is a challenge. The new freedom is the gift and work of an enlightened and progressive earthly ruler, His Imperial Majesty Reza Shah Pahlevi, and the women of Iran feel their debt to him. But no earthly king or power can take the veil from the heart; that will not go, until they turn to the Saviour Christ. Iran, as any other rapidly developing country, runs the risk of worshipping progress and civilization, of accepting material instead of spiritual values. Civilization with its machinery, science, and outward values is no firm foundation for life. Is there not an urgent call for us to lead them into the liberty of the children of God?


[23] "Ali, I want permission to be baptized." [The names in this chapter are fictitious, but the stories are true.] "I would never consider it, Fatimeh. Why do you keep asking me? I thought that I had made it clear two years ago that I would never consent."

"Yes, Ali, but you forget that I was not free then, I was wrapped in a black veil. But now I am free."

"I don't care if you are," replied her husband. "It was bad enough to have to let you go out of the house unveiled. I would never have agreed to that if the Shah had not forced us all."

"Well, it really is silly for you to refuse, because you will have to give way sometime now that women are free. We can choose our own religion now. And anyhow you can't make me a Moslem by refusing to let me be baptized. I haven't believed in Mohammed since I began to read the gospels. For many years I have trusted Christ as my Saviour."

"Will you be quiet, Fatimeh? I am getting sick of this business. I would rather you were dead than that you should be baptized. Would you disgrace me before all the neighbours? It was a bad time for Iran when they took the veil away. Women are becoming insufferably independent and forward. My mother never treated her husband like this; she did what she was told, and stayed at home and kept her place. It would be terrible for a strict Moslem like me to have a Christian wife."

"I agree with you, Ali, that it is not pleasant for a Moslem to have a Christian wife," replied Fatimeh, "but you see, I want you to become a Christian and to be baptized when I am."

This last rejoinder proved too much. It took Al's breath away, and he stormed out of the room, leaving his wife alone. She had been a pupil in one of the C.M.S. girls' schools. [23/24] As quite a small girl she came to the Bible classes and daily prayers and the Lord opened her heart. Quite naturally and happily she went home to tell her people of her new found joy; but imagine her dismay when instead of any sympathy or interest she was met with threats and punishment. She was so much scolded and punished at home that she went into her shell, and for years would have nothing to do with Christian things. Later, as she grew older, braver, and more independent, her first love returned, and once again she came to the Bible classes. She was then taken away from school, and married while yet a young girl. Her husband was often away on business and she was able to keep her touch with the school, and later she became a teacher. The little flame of love that had been kindled in her heart had not been extinguished, and by degrees she became bolder and at school she declared herself a Christian. At this it stopped, for her husband was bitterly opposed and would not think of her going to the pastor for teaching or of allowing her to be baptized.

When the veil was taken away Fatimeh's first act was to come forward publicly and ask to be accepted as a candidate for baptism. She showed her new freedom in another way, by buying a bicycle which she soon learnt to ride in spite of the fact that she is lame; as a baby she had fallen off the roof, a very common accident in Iran, and her leg never healed properly. She is now persistently asking her husband for permission to be baptized, and her longing desire is that she may win him too, so that they may together join the Church of God. She is one of many who have claimed their new freedom and dedicated it to Christ.

Javaher also was a schoolgirl in one of the C.M.S. girls' schools, but in a different part of Iran. One day, when an attractive girl of about sixteen years old, she suddenly became the centre of excitement. It was a religious holiday, and the Moslem girls had obtained permission to be excused from the sewing classes which the other girls, Jewish and Armenian, had to attend.

"Javaher, aren't you coming?" shouted her friends, as they saw her still sewing.

"No," she replied.

[25] "What's wrong?" they asked, joking with her. "You haven't become a Christian have you?"

"Yes, I have," replied Javaher.

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed the girls, and went off to tell the others the joke. "Javaher has become a Christian." They thought it was a fine joke; little did it dawn upon them that it was true. They soon discovered that Javaher was in earnest, and the laughter and fun turned to mockery and spitefulness. They did their utmost to persuade or frighten her out of it, but she remained firm. The news soon reached her family and they were enraged.

"What do I hear?" asked her grandfather, "you a Christian. I will kill you before I let you become a Christian."

"And I will be glad to die for Christ," replied Javaher quietly.

This had all happened unexpectedly and suddenly. Javaher was the daughter of a good and bigoted Moslem family and had not been coming to the Bible classes; in fact she was quite opposed to Christianity. But one day some one had given her the Gospel of St. Luke, and as she read this the light dawned, and she realized that she must give herself to the One Who gave Himself for her, and that she must be prepared to die for Him, seeing that He had died for her.

Not long after Javaher admitted that she was a Christian she became ill, and this was taken by the family as a punishment for her apostacy. Although the illness was severe they would not call in the doctor from the Christian hospital, lest he should strengthen her faith, and so she was attended by the local doctor. Gradually her condition became serious until she was as weak as could be. At this stage the family felt that their only hope was in the prophets, and so they brought a copy of the Koran and placed it under the pillow. "What have you done? Take it away, take it away," she cried in anger, "I won't have a Koran under my head. I am a Christian. Give me my gospel." The family remonstrated in vain; they assured her that she would die, and implored her to give way. But she was adamant. At last they had to fetch her gospel, which she kept under her pillow and read from time to time when she had strength enough.

As soon as she was well she came back to school and joined [25/26] the Bible class. This was a great joy to her, and she said that in the Saviour she felt that she had found a long-lost friend. One day in class one of the Moslem girls propounded a question which she expected might stump the mistress and defeat the Christians: "If Jesus is true, and Mohammed is false, then why did God allow Mohammed to come?" The teacher was a little nonplussed and while she hesitated Javaher piped in: "Please may I answer that? Jesus was the true Light, and God allowed the false light to come that men might be tested whether they would follow the true light or the false." The Moslem girls were astounded at this boldness, and from that day it was manifest that Javaher was set to be a fearless champion of the Gospel.

The situation at home became very difficult. Her people had waited to see whether her attitude was a childish enthusiasm that would wear out, but the flame now appeared to be burning more brightly. The only thing to do, they felt, was to get her married, and on a pretext that her uncle wanted to see her she was inveigled away to another town. Once there they determined to keep her. Her uncle offered to send her to the university, and every inducement was held out. She soon realized that all they wanted was to keep her away from the Christians, and then to get her married to a Moslem. She set her face against their plans, and their persuasiveness and blandishments could not move her. At last they had to allow her to return.

She soon won her own sister and another friend, and the three of them together came to the Bible class, and met together to read the Bible and to pray. One Sunday in the summer of 1934 they were all publicly accepted in church as candidates for baptism.

When the veil was removed in 1936 Javaher determined, against the wishes of her parents, to claim her new-found freedom and to be baptized. She did not tell them until the last moment in case they took steps to prevent her. One Sunday morning she suddenly broke the news: "I am going to be baptized to-day." She was out of the house, and on her way to church before her family had time to recover from the shock. Her sister Nazenin remained behind with the amazing intention of taking her mother to witness the baptism of her [26/27] daughter. The mother was absolutely horrified. What an awful suggestion that she should go and see what she felt to be a disgraceful performance. Nazenin was not successful in taking her mother, and arrived herself only just in time for the service.

The story has not yet ended. That same summer Javaher took her diploma and was free to earn her own living. She preferred to take up Christian work rather than to earn more in government employ. She therefore decided to go to another town, over two hundred miles away from her native place, for a lower salary than she could have earned in her own delightful town. A missionary travelled with her. Javaher sat in the front of the car and tried to convert the driver. Previously, heavily veiled and seated at the back, she would not have dared speak to him. In her new surroundings she is an inspiration, not only in the school, but also in evangelistic work in the villages.

This story is inspiring, but do not let us forget the cost. There was no joy in quarrelling with her parents, no fun in being persecuted by schoolgirls and relatives, nor in the wearing pressure to resist marriage with a Moslem. Above all there was no fun in finding that when finally she left home to earn her living her parents ceased to communicate with her, and would not reply to her letters.

Nazenin was not baptized at the same time as her sister Javaher. She had been to a Christian school, but wanted to test herself and her faith in the world before she was baptized. She also took her diploma examination and with the new freedom for women applied to a government school for a post as a teacher of small boys. On her appointment she told the head master that she could not teach the Koran and Shariat (Moslem religious teaching), and he said that that would not matter. However, a few days later at a staff meeting when the head master outlined the work for the term, he added that each master and mistress must teach the Koran and Shariat to their own classes.

"But," interjected Nazenin, "you told me that I need not."

"Why don't you want to?" he asked. "Do you disagree with teaching it?"

[28] "It is not just that I disagree," was the bold reply, "I absolutely don't believe it."

The head master was astounded. "Do you mean to say that you are a Christian?" he said.

"Yes, I am," she replied.

"Do you want that noted officially?" he asked, hoping to frighten her.

"Yes," she said, "and if you will give me a pen and paper I will give it to you in writing."

The head master was nonplussed and decided to refer the matter to the local authorities. "What has happened?" they asked. "How did she become a Christian?"

"She went to the Christian school, and they treated her kindly, and so I suppose this is the result," he replied.

"Well," said the official, "I suggest that you treat her kindly, too."

And thus the matter ended, and her witness was honoured and successful. She was not, however, content with this negative action, and wanted a positive witness to her faith. It is a common custom for the Moslems and Parsis to have religious pictures in their rooms, so Nazenin procured a picture of our Lord and placed it where every one who entered the room must see it. The small boys quickly took note of it. It was their habit in class and in meetings whenever the name of their Prophet was mentioned to rise from their seats and repeat in as deep a voice as possible: "Yo'allah (O God)." They realized that their teacher was a Christian, and so instead of rising at the name of Mohammed in her lessons they started to rise at the Name of Christ.

During a summer school there was a big Sunday evangelistic service in St. Luke's Church, Isfahan, at which one of the Iranian men was preaching. When the sermon had nearly ended a woman came quietly forward and asked the missionary leading the meeting if she might give her testimony. She was the head mistress of a private school and the sister of an influential man in another town. At one time she had been opposed to Christianity, but she had come to the hospital for treatment, and by degrees the light had penetrated, and finally she had come forward for baptism, though she had hesitated [28/29] at the thought of removing her veil for the baptismal service. She had come to Isfahan for the summer school and was in church, unveiled, that evening.

The leader was a little perplexed at her request, but gave permission, although it was an unheard of thing for an Iranian woman to speak at a public evangelistic service. The advisability of the decision may be questioned, for she got into the pulpit, and not content with giving the testimony of her own salvation, proceeded to blame Mohammed for the past degradation of Iranian women. It is forbidden to attack other religions, and our preaching is always confined to the explanation of the Christian Faith and testimony. Some young men had come to the service with the intention of causing trouble and her action gave them the opportunity to create a disturbance. Undaunted the woman continued her testimony, and spoke of Christ in Whom alone light and life and salvation is found. She had no fear now. "When they saw their boldness, and perceived that they were ignorant and unlearned men, they took note of them that they had been with Jesus."


[30] "KHUDA javabam dad (God has answered me)." Farkhundeh  came rushing, breathless and excited, into the C.M.S. hospital at Yezd and called at the top of her voice. She explained that she had been playing in the garden of the nurses' home and had shouted when, to her astonishment, God called back to her. She was certain that it was God, for there was no one else in the garden with her. God had answered her, not just as she thought in the echo of her voice, but in a simple faith which believes that God is near and that He answers prayer. God had also answered her in another way, for while she was yet a babe, helpless in her mother's arms, He heard her cry and spoke to the sorrowing widow, as to Hagar of old: "What aileth thee, Hagar? Fear not for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is."

Farkhundeh's mother, Tahereh, was the daughter of Parsi parents, and as a child was brought up in that faith. While still in her girlhood she was abducted and married to a Moslem, who took her away some five hundred miles from her home. After giving birth to a son and a daughter she was left a widow with no means of support and no hope for the future. It was then, in the wilderness of despair, that she heard in the C.M.S. hospital in Kerman of the love of Christ and turned to the Saviour. Her story is a parable of history.

In the time of our Lord the people of Iran were Parsis, and Iran was a kingdom of importance. It was caught, as has been said, in the relentless flood of the Moslem invasions in the seventh century, and by the fear of the sword, and later by continual oppression and petty persecution, the ancient faith of the land practically disappeared, as did the visible Church, and the country became mainly Moslem. Through the evangelical revival of the nineteenth century the Gospel again [30/31] reached Iran and the love of God and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ were proclaimed. Tahereh is a parable of this. Her original faith was Parsi or Zoroastrian, as was that of Iran, but by force she became a Moslem, as did her land, and now she has accepted the Saviour of the world, as it is our prayer and hope that her nation will do.

The early history of both the Parsi religion and its founder, Zoroaster, is shrouded in mystery. It is probable that Zoroaster lived not later than the sixth century B.C. There is a large tomb near Persepolis which is commonly known as the tomb of Zoroaster, though this designation is uncertain. The basis of his teaching is a dualism; there is a supreme power of good called Ahura Mazda, but coeval with this good spirit and fundamentally hostile to it is Ahriman, the spirit of evil. The Parsis hold sacred the elements of water, air, earth, and fire. In their temples the sacred flame is not allowed to be extinguished. Since the earth is sacred they will not defile it by burial of the dead, and, therefore, they expose their dead in towers of silence, and the fowls of the air strip the flesh from the bones. The moral teaching of their sacred book the Zendavesta, is very high, and the moral tone of the Parsis is highly commendable. Their religion is tied to an entirely mythological conception of the universe and is really an abstract philosophy; it has no power to save, no message to preach, no God to love. The Parsis neither proselytize nor make converts; generally it is a belief which people inherit.

The ancient empire of Iran was tottering when the Moslems invaded it. Luxury had sapped the strength of the State, and the last Sassanian monarch before the invasion, Khusru Parviz, was celebrated for the beauty of his wife Shireen, the 12,000 women of his harem, and his riches. He captured Damascus and carried off what was supposed to be the true cross, an act which moved Christendom to its depths. He was defeated by Rome and died in A.D. 626. After that the country fell to pieces with intrigue and assassination, and in 642 the Iranis were decisively defeated by the Moslems at Nahavand near Hamadan, and their king, Yezdigerd III, fled and was assassinated. This was not only a religious invasion, but also an Arab invasion, and henceforth Iran was to bear the marks of this conquest.

The first great effect was the introduction of Arabic into the language. [31/32] The Moslems were the people of the book, the Koran, and this was written in Arabic, the tongue of the angels. Theirs was the religion of the desert Arab, and the children of Iran were henceforward to lisp the words of the holy book before they could read their native tongue. The whole of the education of the country fell into the hands of the Moslem religious teachers. Since Islam is proverbially conservative and largely fatalistic in outlook, educational progress came to a standstill, and Iran ceased to play any part of importance in the learning of the world.

For over 1200 years Iran was ruled by this religion. Now under the inspiring leadership of its Shah, Reza Shah Pahlevi, Iran has received its liberty and new life. The movement is opposed to ignorance, but not to religion.

If there was to be a new birth of the country it was essential that there should be a reform of religion. But the present religious reform is not the result of new internal spiritual light and life, as at the Reformation in Europe, but of outward pressure. It has been definitely demonstrated that the State intends to rule religion, and not to be ruled by it. This was clearly shown in 1935. The introduction of European hats, by imperial decree, as the compulsory head dress for men, was looked upon by many of the common people as a further and an important step towards the removal of their religion. Several thousand people from the villages gathered in the holy city of Meshed, and trouble began to brew. They were incited by mullahs who felt that their authority and power was being taken away. As the mob was armed with agricultural implements the situation became very serious, and the police called upon them to disperse. They refused, and instead of dispersing they entered the sacred mosque and took sanctuary. Such sanctuary is sacred, and the vilest of criminals have ever been safe from the hands of justice in that refuge. A conflict of authority had arisen, and orders were received from the capital that the people must be dispersed lest a serious riot and loss of life and property should occur. They were again commanded to go back to their villages, but still refused. They were then warned that force would be used if they remained, but still they did not go. The soldiers then fired upon them, and a number were killed in the sanctuary itself. [32/33] The testing time had come, and the State had won. A year later when the veil went—and the veiling of women had held an essential place in their religion—there was no trouble.

Not only has the authority of religion given way to the authority of the State, but the ceremonies and devotion of religion are also taking a second place. Formerly modern business methods were impossible in Iran because life was continually being interrupted by religious holidays, and a whole month's fasting suspended the ordinary course of business once a year. The most important day was the tenth of Moharram when the death of Husein, one of their chief prophets, was remembered, and the streets were crowded by processions of weeping and wailing men, who lacerated themselves with knives and flogged themselves with chains that they might enter into sympathy with the prophet's sufferings and acquire merit. By royal command the numerous religious holidays have now been drastically curtailed, and office hours render fasting much more difficult than before.

There is no sign of any general desire to reject religion, and although there is now religious liberty, over ninety per cent of the population are Moslems, greatly infected it is true, in the educated circles, with modern paganism. Islam in Iran has without doubt come into real disfavour among educated people because it is a foreign religion and connected with events which they wish to forget. It is being reformed from without by the power of the State, but not from within by a spiritual power and the rising of springs of new life.

In Islam reform must be a departure from the Prophet of the desert, an advance on his ideals, a changing of his laws. Ancient Islam cannot meet the needs of a modern world which calls for reality. Iran is facing the problems which face Europe, and has the same needs, and Islam cannot meet these. Only Christ can meet her needs.

Islam was forced upon Iran—it was forced upon Tahereh, but to her was revealed the better way, the way of salvation through Christ. Who knows whether at this crisis Iran might not also turn to Christ if His claims were laid before her? There is reason to believe that thousands might come to Him were we able adequately to fulfil our Lord's command to preach the Gospel. It is indeed a challenge to the Christian Church.


[34] IT was a young people's social and we were acting dumb charades with some Iranian friends. They had to act and guess a word beginning with "f." After several unsuccessful guesses the right word was found, "ferangi (foreigner)." This is how it was acted. Two of them borrowed trilby hats, came in, raised their hats with a wide sweep and then, grinning broadly, they shook hands with great vigour. Such a greeting is foreign to the East, and is still a cause of some amusement. It was for them a typical sign of a foreigner. The Iranis used not to raise their hats, in fact, it would have been difficult to do so when turbans or a fez were worn. This type of head gear was convenient, because in prayer a Moslem in Iran kneels so that his forehead touches a small stone on the ground. The new Pahlevi hat, introduced into Iran some years ago, made this very difficult, for it had a large peak, and the difficulty could only be overcome by wearing it back to front. It could not be solved by removing the hat for it was considered very irreverent to approach the presence of God with the head uncovered. The soldiers and police could not overcome the difficulty at all as their helmets had peaks front and back. Now that trilby or bowler hats are worn the difficulty is insuperable for every one. It is even more insuperable on high festivals when the officials have to wear top hats, for those are scarcely made to remain on the head when one bows to the ground. This is one of many reforms which have made compliance with the strict religious duties impossible.

The Iranis always bowed upon meeting, and the correct salutation was: "Peace be upon you." Then followed a competition in flattery. You told your friend (or enemy, for that made no difference) that you had been longing to meet his honourable presence; that it caused you the greatest joy and [34/35] edification, but that you were not worthy to defile his presence; and that you were always instructed and elevated by the words of wisdom which fell from his lips.

Correct politeness in letter writing was more difficult than conversation for a stranger. In conversation you could keep bowing the head and mumbling politely, and it did not matter if it was inaudible; but in letter writing you had to address the letter according to the correct style of the recipient with the appropriate flowery titles, and end with the correct self-effacement. This style hardly suited typewriters, telephones, and modern business methods, so in 1935 it was prohibited and the solitary title Aga, that is to say Mister or Esquire, was the only one allowed, except for those in the very highest stations. If more was written on the envelope it was returned to the sender.

We Westerners do things upside down according to the East. We appear with bare heads and covered feet in the presence of our superiors, and expose our hands. The Irani always kept his hat on and took his shoes off as a sign of respect. Even Europeans when they were allowed to enter mosques had to take their shoes off. Women likewise had to cover the head, but the feet and legs were of minor importance. In those days the common footwear was the giveh, a slipper made of a cotton upper and compressed rag sole, and this was easily slipped off when entering a mosque or room. To-day in the towns leather shoes are worn and these are not so easily removed. Soldiers wear heavy boots, and the officers laced riding boots. These cannot be removed with a shake of the foot and so they enter the mosques fully booted. Christians were not allowed into the mosques until 1931, in fact they would have been badly handled had they been found in them. To-day it is only necessary to apply to the police and a guide is provided and both he and you enter with your boots on. It is now a rule in offices that hats may not be worn at work, and so by degrees the habit of keeping the head covered at religious services will go. Our Christian men do not wear their hats in church, but in the evangelistic services a number of people still keep their hats on.

Furniture is another western innovation. In the old days people sat on the ground for their meals. There were no individual plates or cutlery. The food was served on large [35/36] dishes or in large bowls, and people all dipped together or drank in turns. In the place of spoons and forks the bread was used. This is in the form of large pancakes and can easily be torn into small pieces and dipped into the stew. To hand a guest a sop is a mark of friendship and honour, and when our Lord thus treated Judas it was an act of love and distinction. The villagers still eat and live like this, but in the town all except the very poor are acquiring furniture and crockery and cutlery. The bread is still the same. The advent of furniture has brought the adoption of beds. The old custom was to sleep on the floor with thick mattresses and padded cotton quilts. The man in the parable who said: "My children are with me in bed," was sleeping according to the old eastern custom. They only removed the outer garments, and then all snuggled in under the bedding; a man could not arise without disturbing the whole household.

The family habits and the whole attitude towards women are altering. An evangelist went to a conference in Isfahan, and was invited to lunch with Bishop Thompson. He was very much impressed by seeing that when the Bishop's wife wanted an extra spoon the Bishop did not leave her to get it for herself, but jumped up and got it for her. It astonished him to see such a great man actually waiting on his wife. The women have always waited on the men and have not appeared at the table as equals. In the better homes we often did not meet the wives and daughters, only the servants; in the poorer homes the wives and daughters were the servants, but rarely took their place at the table as wives when men visitors were present. The appearance of husbands and wives together in public creates a much more healthy attitude, and makes visiting much easier and more profitable.

The bicycle is now very popular, and a licence to ride and a registration number are required. Women are now beginning to cycle, a custom that was scarcely possible when they were draped in black chaddahs. At present there are few motor cycles outside the capital, and the roads are hardly fit for them; but there are plenty of motor cars and lorries. The place of the old caravan inns has been taken by the garage. Unfortunately the garage proprietors have not inherited the camel drivers' reputation for honesty.

[37] Iran is taking very slowly to western amusements. There are talkies in all the main towns, but on the whole they do not seem to be very popular. The type of film so far has not been too bad. The present effect of the films cannot be judged as they have not yet taken a real place in the life of the people. There have been advertisements for Iranian girls to go to India to appear in Iranian films.

The younger generation are being brought up to a different world from that of their fathers. Their ancestors sat on the floor and read the Koran; to-day boys and girls go to schools modelled upon western ideas. Games and sports and drill were unknown in the old days; now these occupy just as big a part in Iran as they do in England. There has been a real drive for fitness. The Scout Movement is officially patronized, the Crown Prince being president of the Scouts, and the Crown Princess president of the Girl Guides. It is, however, a government movement and official permission and registration are essential. Shorts are a new thing for the boys. Ten years ago as soon as the boys were out of baby clothes they were put into the long cotton trousers of their fathers. Formerly their change from walking was not running, but sitting, and their chief pleasure was drinking tea. Now it is football, running or cycling, and, where there is water, swimming. The girls, too, are learning games, and both boys and girls are making drill and gymnastics a real feature of their education. Even the students of the Moslem theological colleges, who have always gone about in flowing robes and in the garb of dignity, are now compelled to wear ordinary clothes and submit to gymnastics and drill like other students.

The whole attitude to life is changing. The old attitude was entirely fatalistic. "God knows" or "God wills" was the answer, so why worry or trouble or try? So trouble or try they did not, and everything was allowed to drift. A sarcastic reflection upon this attitude is given in an extract from a daily paper. "Whenever civilization, inventions, and discoveries are discussed, we are sure to hear that God has given this world to the foreigners and the other world to us. . . . We have so many superstitious ideas that we can't move. No matter what happens to us we say 'God is great.' So we sit and hope that one day nature will have pity on us. [37/38] Other people look on the world from a different angle. They work hard, learn science, and without regarding the angels or devils they do things and make themselves comfortable. We are lost. They have both worlds while we have neither." [*Quoted from Christianity in the Eastern Conflicts.]

The modern Irani is determined to push ahead and he is not going to be held back by custom, superstition, or religion. The testing stone is progress, and all which does not help is not only being left behind, but is being forcibly cast out. In many ways this is a help to missionary work, for it is diminishing the differences between the East and the West, and making it easier for missionaries to approach people who for centuries have lived lives entirely dissimilar, and in a mental atmosphere completely foreign to us. On the other hand it is also part of the nationalistic movement, which tends to magnify differences and brand the foreigner, and thereby causes missionary work to come under a mistaken suspicion.


[39] WE were travelling along a dry and dusty road on a hot August day, leaving a large cloud of sand in our wake. There was little to be seen except the arid, barren mountains in the south, brown and parched and with no sign of vegetation or life. As we scanned these dry rocks there appeared suddenly a small patch of green nestled in a hollow, like a man's hand, and it spoke of abundance of rain. That little oasis in the side of the mountain was the village of Qalat, near Shiraz, where the first village church for the use of converts from Islam was consecrated in September, 1936, by Bishop Thompson.

The building of that church is a romance of persecution and perseverance. The first step was taken in 1929 when a Bible Society colporteur, who had visited the village, reported that two men were interested in the Gospel. The seed sown was not left unwatered, and the Rev. J. R. Richards and Mansur Sang, a Christian dervish, proceeded to pay regular visits from the C.M.S. station at Shiraz. As soon, however, as it became known that some of the villagers were interested in Christianity trouble started, and the mullah stirred the villagers into active opposition. Those who were interested were ostracized. They were refused entry to the public baths, on the ground that they were religiously unclean. They were despised by their friends and relatives. From time to time they were openly attacked, and it became difficult for them to earn a living. On one occasion when Mansur Sang visited the village the mullah gathered the people together, surrounded the Christian visitor and threatened to kill him. Mansur Sang was in no way daunted. "Carry on," he cried, "I came here to be killed." They soon realized that nothing could daunt him, and although they beat him and turned him out, he returned again and the Christian witness continued.

[40] At that time the inquirers met in a small room in the house of one of their number; this came to be called the "upper room." Here, after a rather stormy open-air meeting in March, 1930, the first baptismal service was held. The opposition has now been overcome, but only by persistent courage and after much suffering. The authorities at Shiraz eventually interposed to forbid the opposition, which was never official, for there is now official religious liberty in Iran. There were disadvantages in meeting in a room in the house of one of the members. It gave that member a place of authority and power to which he might not be spiritually entitled, and the other members, willy-nilly, were under an obligation to him. Again, there was no Christian rich enough to possess a room really suitable for meetings.

It was therefore decided to build a church as early as possible, and a wonderful site was secured just above the village. The favourite walk for those seeking rest and peace is above the village to the waterfalls; on the way they must pass the church, and the building stands as a permanent witness to the preaching of the gospel of peace. It is truly founded upon a rock, for the material foundation is the rock of the mountain, and the living foundation is Jesus Christ. On the day of consecration a great crowd came out from Shiraz, and even the head men of Qalat, who had been hostile in the past, appeared and acted as voluntary policemen to keep the crowd quiet during the service.

The little church is admittedly small, it is only a little cloud like a man's hand; but it brings the promise of abundance of rain (i Kings xviii. 14). It speaks of advance and new life in two important respects. First of all it is a witness to the new religious freedom which Christians have in Iran. Twenty years ago such a step would have been impossible. The older church buildings in Isfahan and Kerman are in the centre of the C.M.S. hospital compounds. This has many disadvantages, and newcomers are not slow to criticize the site; but it was inevitable. In the early days of the Mission it was not officially recognized that a Moslem could change his religion, and converts had to worship under the protective shade of the institutional buildings for which foreigners had a concession. In Yezd, for example, the church had to be content for many years with the use of a vacant ward in the hospital adapted for this purpose. Those days have now passed and there is complete [40/41] liberty of worship. A man, even if his names be Mohammad Ali, those of the greatest prophets of the Shi'a Moslem religion, may register himself as a Christian.

The church of Qalat also speaks of advance in another and more important direction. This church building is the first that has been built in a place where there is no missionary institutional work. It is therefore, entirely Iranian, and is a witness to the growth of the Church in Iran towards independence and responsibility. It was inevitable in the early days of Christian witness that the chief emphasis should be upon the medical and educational work, for these were the only ways a Christian could get real contact with the people and disarm suspicion. It is not that missionary work would have been impossible without these, but that it would not have been effective, and the Church owes much to the medical and educational work. The institutions always suffered because their work was branded as foreign, and the Church was likewise looked upon as a foreign Church. The common title in the towns was, and often is, the English Church. No such objection can be raised against the little church which has been built in Qalat. The village Christians there possess neither foreign missionary nor institution, and, although the church has developed through constant care and supervision from Shiraz it is over thirty miles away and lives a separate life.

The growth of the Church in Iran towards responsibility is chiefly towards democratic or lay responsibility. At present the Church is chiefly dependent for leadership upon foreign clergy. In 1937 there were two ordained Iranis, both of them brilliant men, but their chief work is outside the C.M.S. missionary work. The Rev. Joleynoos Hakim is working in Tehran; he is a missionary of the Church Missions to Jews, and is in charge of their work in Iran. This mission has a very promising and progressive work in Tehran, and its representatives always attend the annual conferences and take a very active part. The other Iranian clergyman is likewise doing a magnificent work; he is the Rev. A. S. Nakhusteen, and is agent for the British and Foreign Bible Society in Iran. One of the masters of the Stuart Memorial College at Isfahan is a candidate for ordination and may be ordained before this book reaches print. It will be seen, however, from this that the [41/42] pastorate of the four churches founded by C.M.S. work in Isfahan, Kerman, Yezd, and Shiraz, as well as the visiting of Christian Iranis in the Oil Fields and others scattered about the land, at present falls upon the C.M. S. clergy.

Lay responsibility has increased greatly. Every church now has a council that must meet every month, and its secretary and treasurer must be Iranis. These councils are elected, and, generally speaking, the large majority of the members are Iranis. The constitution has been functioning for nearly fifteen years, but it is only during the past few years that the Iranian members have begun to take an active part. The church councils are responsible for accepting candidates for baptism, for finances, for advising upon church discipline and general matters regarding the work of the Church. It is a new experience for a missionary to propose the name of a candidate for baptism and find that the local members reject it, but it is an evidence of the new life which is appearing. At the Diocesan Council in 1936, when the new alterations were proposed, the large majority of members were Iranis, and they were foremost in insisting upon stricter conditions for baptism. Gone is the day, and we are glad, when a missionary acted upon his own independent initiative.

In Isfahan a very successful experiment was made by the Christian Union of the Stuart Memorial College in 1935. They began to hold a terminal evangelistic youth service in St. Luke's Church, in which the girls of the Stileman Memorial School also co-operated. This service, which is in the hands of the Christian unions, has proved very popular and the church is packed to its utmost capacity.

New life was abundantly evident at the summer school in 1936, which was held in the Stuart Memorial College. A large summer school had been held in 1933 jointly with the Christians connected with the American Presbyterian Mission, but in 1936 we thought that we would have a small family affair. So many wanted to come, however, that the family grew to over fifty. It was a striking gathering. The reproach in the old days was that the Christians were "rice Christians," and had professed conversion for the sake of employment or money. Here was a large group of educated people, from different walks of life, [42/43] most of them young and with life and its prospects before them; and they were the servants of Christ and rejoiced in the Lord.

It was the first conference since the old restraints and prejudices had disappeared, and was the first mixed gathering of Christians in the south since the veil had been taken away. Before, men and women had sat on different sides of the room and kept separate during social intercourse. At the first Sunday service of the conference this rule of one aisle for the men and one for the women was broken down, and during the whole of the conference there was a new sense of freedom. There was an entire absence of any awkwardness, and the fellowship of the Spirit was realized as never before.

The summer school was also a time of new responsibility for evangelism. There has always been an emphasis upon evangelism in the Church of Iran, but the leadership hitherto has rested with the missionary. At the summer school an Iranian master on the staff of the Stuart Memorial College was chairman of the discussions, and it was decided that the responsibility for evangelistic work should also be taken on by Iranis. Each day little groups of men and of women took tracts and gospels and went off to villages for witness and evangelism. They went under the leadership of one of the senior Christians without reference to a missionary, and with no missionary to whom they could turn if difficulty arose. There was a wonderful difference, and they returned with joy and rejoicing. It was felt that a new era for evangelism had opened as those young Christian Iranis were learning the joy of it. The modern nationalism has greatly reduced the value of the missionary in breaking new ground, and at the summer school new possibilities of evangelism under the new freedom were opened. It was probably the first time that Iranian women had gone out on their own to preach the Gospel.

The conference ended with a service in the Armenian Cathedral in Julfa, taken by Bishop Thompson, at which the Archimandrite of the Armenian Church preached in Persian. This was the first united service, and almost the first official recognition of our Church by the older Armenian Church. The old attitude of the Armenians was that a Moslem could not be converted, but that day has now passed.

[44] The life of the Church is also characterized by a spirit of joy. This is seen in a marked way in the life of a young Parsi. He was converted some years ago while still a schoolboy through a message typically suitable for a nation which is surrounded by the desert, and for whom travelling has for centuries been both difficult and dangerous. Christ was described as the "Road," the "Bread of Life," and the "Giver of the Water of Life"—all that a traveller needs to enable him to reach his goal in safety. Rustam, for that was his name, realized that he needed such a Saviour on the journey of life and turned to Christ. After he had successfully finished his studies he went to America with a group of young men to learn the automobile business in Henry Ford's factory. There he was very happy in Christian fellowship and lived with the pastor of the church he attended. He was looking forward to completing his studies and then to his return to Iran where a prosperous and successful business career awaited him. Prospects were glowing, and life seemed to hold all that a young man could require.

The blow came suddenly and unexpectedly. When his course was almost finished he was prostrated by an illness which the doctors pronounced incurable, an acute and chronic form of paralysis. He was utterly helpless. His Christian friends did all they could to assist him, but he was sent back to Iran on a stretcher to die. "But I am not going to die," he said, "Christ is not going to let me die." And he did not. He was determined even in his distressing weakness, to serve the Lord with gladness. Eight years have passed and he is still alive. For a time he was able to get about and walk, but again he lost the power to do so. Through all this he has brimmed with joy. "I am not sick," he says, "my Father is only playing a little joke on me." He often says that this world is a university to which the Father sends His sons, and if we do good work here we will get our degrees and be prepared for real service in the world above. He looks upon his illness here as part of his course of study. His friends in America still write to him, and in 1935 they sent him a Christmas present. He insisted on spending part of this on entertaining the whole of the church to tea, and a joyous time they had. A crown of flowers was placed on Rustam's head and he was given the title of "Angel of Joy." From that day he has been known as "Shad (Joyous) Rustam." [44/45] He is carried to church every Sunday, and during the week he sits in the door of his house on the avenue to talk with passers-by. To all he gives the joyous news of God's love. What a witness this is in a land where religion has been symbolized by sorrow and mourning!

The improvement in methods of travel has helped the churches to realize their membership in the Body of Christ. In the old days travelling was so difficult that the Christians of one town rarely visited other churches, or ever met members of other churches. In the same way it was not possible to have any real fellowship with the Presbyterians in the north. Now twice a year there is a meeting of the Diocesan Council in the south, which representatives of all the episcopal churches attend, and members of our churches frequently meet in fellowship with members of the Presbyterian Church. Moreover, Dr. Miller, of the American Mission, has conducted missions in all of our churches, and Bishop Linton took a team to Tehran and conducted a mission for the Presbyterians. Church consciousness has been greatly increased by this fellowship and members of the smaller churches, especially Christians from the villages find it a great inspiration to attend the larger gatherings. For the only Christian among several hundreds, or even thousands, of Moslems it is a wonderful experience to attend a united diocesan service when over two hundred Christians may be present.

We still have not reached the ideal of one united Church in Iran, although progress has been made in the negotiations with the Presbyterian Church in the north, and conferences are being held. Meanwhile we act in unity, and have very real fellowship with one another. Both Churches have joined together in missions and summer schools, and each Church sends delegates to the anniversaries and special gatherings of the other. The Presbyterian Church in the north is now autonomous, and is considerably larger than the Episcopal Church in the south. Although there are difficulties in the way there is no doubt that union will come before long.

A little cloud has arisen out of the sea, and it brings the promise of abundance of rain.


[46] "WHERE livest thou?" "Come and see." The questioner was a shoe maker in the old-fashioned bazaar of a small town in the south of Iran. Sitting cross-legged, as the fashion is, in his little shop in the bazaar he had been watching an exciting dispute between two men. Disputes were not particularly rare occurrences; they happened every day, but this affair differed from the others. Usually there were two chief combatants, swearing by the Prophet's beard and cursing each other for all they were worth, while a large idle crowd watched with placid amusement, and occasionally joined sides with one or the other. On this occasion the whole of the excitement and abuse came from one side. The offender was the one taking offence, the other, a bookseller, was quietly and kindly talking to him. Mohammad Tagi, [*Some of the names in this chapter are fictitious, but the stories are true.] the shoe maker, could see what had happened. The excited man had taken a book and refused to pay for it, in fact he had torn it up and scattered the tattered pages to the wind. The puzzling question was this "Why did not the bookseller curse the offender back again? Why did he not burn his fathers?" That is the most awful imprecation that can be called upon the head of a man in Iran.

When the performance had finished Mohammad Tagi called the bookseller and said: "May I have one of your books?" He took one and paid for it. He felt that he would like to know more of this extraordinary man, and asked: "Where livest thou?" And the reply came: "Come and see."

After the bookseller had gone on his way Mohammad Tagi looked at the book he had bought. It was a New Testament, similar to one which he had bought many years ago. It was [46/47] among his treasures, and although he was a Moslem he had read it from time to time and was not unfamiliar with its contents.

That evening the shoe maker and the bookseller sat down together on the little carpet in the room which Hovannes, the bookseller, had hired. "Tell me," said Mohammad Tagi, "why did you not burn his fathers? He was very rude to you. Why did you not curse him back?"

Hovannes opened the Word of God and together they read the Sermon on the Mount. "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you." Mohammad Tagi's eyes opened. There was nothing like this in his religion. He had read the words before, but it was not until he had seen them in practice that he realized what they meant.

"But why do you act like that?" he asked. "It is quite unnatural to love one's enemies."

"It is the love of God that constrains us," replied Hovannes. "God commendeth his love to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. . . . If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."

And so Hovannes preached Jesus. "The wind bloweth where it listeth." That evening by the work of the Spirit, Mohammad Tagi entered into newness of life. He had been reading the Scriptures for many years; his mind was taught, but that evening the truth entered his heart.

What is the sequel? We have visited that town several times and Mohammad Tagi has housed us at his own expense. It is a poor little house, but it is a joy to be there. He gathers his neighbours and friends, and already a number are really interested. We have walked round the town with him preaching and giving out tracts; he is the only Christian there and is known by all. He has no fear, and the simplicity of his faith has filled him with joy. He loves his New Testament and can find almost any passage. Among about 5,000 people he is standing alone as a Christian, but he will not be alone for long. His witness is telling, and others are now only holding off from fear. To his joy and delight he has been baptized. His brother also has applied for baptism, but in his case there is the difficulty of his wives, for he has two.

[48] A great friend of Mohammad Tagi is Mirza Mohammad who has been an evangelist for many years. His story is interesting. Many years ago he came to one of the C.M.S. hospitals for treatment for the common and awful scourge in Iran, venereal disease. Like thousands more he had been living an immoral life, and had reaped the reward. While in hospital he received a copy of St. Luke's Gospel. He slipped this into his pocket and told no one, but from time to time he used to read it. It was not long before the Word spoke to him in convicting power, and cast him into the valley of decision.

He was a Bahai [*See Appendix] and the Bahais were very strong in his town, and it seemed impossible for him to become a Christian; in fact it was so difficult that he hardly even considered the possibility, for even his life might not have been safe. That was in 1922, before the new régime. He was a teacher in the Parsi school, and one Saturday afternoon, just before the summer holidays, he sat down to read his copy of St. Luke during break at school. He came to the words in chapter ix: "No man, having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." He read them again. "Mohammad, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is not fit for the kingdom of God," they seemed to say, and the words pointed at him with an accusing hand. His mind was made up in a moment. He knew that it was practically impossible for him to be baptized in his own town, for the opposition would be too great. His decision was speedy. He would go to a town over two hundred miles away where he knew there were missionaries of the Church Missionary Society, and would let no one know that he was going, lest they should try to stop him.

Travelling was a problem. It was before the days of motors, and the usual method was to travel in a "caravan," that is to say a large number of passengers with their goods and chattels travelled by donkey, mule, or camel so that they could protect each other, since the country was then robber infested. He could not wait for a caravan; it might be a week before one was ready to go, and the whole town would know he was leaving if he travelled that way. He must leave at once, and alone. So he sent a boy to his home for his bicycle repair outfit and for another pair of shoes, and proceeded to write a note to his wife, [48/49] to the head master, and to the C.M.S. Mission, each to be delivered after he had left. His wife was a strong Bahai and would have moved heaven and earth to stop him.

The next difficulty was money. It was near the end of the month and he was penniless. He managed to borrow two shillings, and with these in his pocket he started off. His wife had sent back a message that if he wanted the repair outfit he must come and fetch it himself; but knowing the dangers of "bidding them farewell which are at home at my house," he went without it.

The task he undertook was herculean. The journey was over two hundred miles across the plain and mountains, following the camel and donkey route, anything but ideal conditions for cycling. It was summer, with the temperature at nearly 110 in the shade in the day, and not even cool at night. The roads were infested with brigands; he was alone, and on an errand which he could not explain without causing grave suspicion and endangering his safety.

His wife was mad with anger when she received his note. "He does not want to be baptized," she declared, "he has just gone off again with other women." The head master was also annoyed. "It is humbug," he declared; "he does not want to be baptized, all he wants is employment in the mission school." His wife called at the mission in a rage. "He'll come back, and insist on my being baptized," she stormed. "You needn't be afraid of that," she was told, "we will not baptize you until we believe that you are really converted."

A few days later Mohammad returned, weary and tired and covered from head to foot with dust. He had reached a village only about twelve miles out when his frail tyres punctured and he had no outfit to mend them. So he had set out to walk, but at a village about halfway the road guards refused to let him go further. They said that the road was not safe for one man alone, and he must wait for a caravan. He was now in a fix; he had hardly a penny left and it might be a week before a caravan arrived, so he decided to return the hundred miles home, pick up his bicycle on the way, get it repaired, and then start again. He got a lift on a donkey, and a few days later was back at his home town. He managed to procure new tyres for his cycle, and without giving any one time to stop him he was off again. [49/50] When he reached his objective he was given preparation for baptism, and was baptized by Bishop Linton. He then hurried back for he meant to show that he was not seeking for another job, or for money, and he arrived in time for the new term at school.

He returned to face the opposition. He was accused of all sorts of ulterior and wrong motives. "Men act from three motives," was his reply, "from desire of money, or fame, or God. I got no money out of it; I had to borrow money to travel and return. I got no fame, but suffered shame and persecution. I leave you to judge why I went."

His wife bitterly opposed him, and life at home became worse than before. She baulked him at every step. If he scolded she beat the children and made them cry, and his tender heart suffered terribly. When she went out she locked up the sugar and the tea so that he could not entertain his guests, a terrible breach of etiquette and politeness. Mohammad made no attempt to force her to change her faith, but it was his earnest desire that she should become a Christian of her own free will. He spoke little to her about it, but he left Christian books about so that she might read them if she would. She realized that her husband was a changed man; he no longer went with other women, and their children did not die at birth as before. After his conversion a son and two healthy daughters were born. The time of testing was long and bitter. But after eight years Mohammad had the joy of leading his wife to the Saviour.

Before long he became an evangelist so that he might spend his life telling others of the Lord. Then he conceived a plan to go to Afghanistan, a land closed to the Gospel and where no missionary or Christian teacher is allowed. This idea was laughed at; he was told that it was impossible and that he would surely be killed. "And what harm," he replied, "if I should be the first martyr of the new Church of Iran." He went, and as he could not enter Afghanistan only to do evangelistic work, he took with him tea and other articles to sell. He had also books and gospels which he intended to endeavour to sell and to give away. He had to be very wary, but his venture succeeded. When the time that he had set himself came for his return home he took off the binding of his Bible and carefully separated the pages, and when he sold tea to people who could read he wrapped the [50/51] tea in a page of the Bible; and thus the Word of God which meant so much to him was spread abroad. He is still doing a fine work for the Lord, and his wife is helping him.

His story is one of many which show that the old Book has not lost its power. Probably more than fifty per cent of Christian converts were influenced in the first place by reading the Bible. It is the silent messenger; it can be read in secret, and is not open to suspicion on political or nationalistic grounds. It can be scattered far and wide, and is not transitory like spoken words. Above all it is more quick and powerful than any two-edged sword.

The British and Foreign Bible Society circulates in Iran more than 40,000 Bibles, New Testaments, and portions every year, and the whole population is not more than 12,000,000. With the growth of education it can be more widely disseminated, and being a sacred book it is revered by Moslems. It is without doubt one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, missionary agency at the present time. It penetrates where there is no missionary.

Not only is the Bible doing this service, but other Christian literature is a valuable factor in these days of education. This is the work chiefly of the American Mission in Tehran, and last year over 30,000 books and tracts were sold. It is necessary to obtain official permission for every publication. On one occasion a book was rejected, and as the cause for rejection was not clear, the official was asked to indicate the objectionable passages so that they might be erased. His reply was a great compliment: "The trouble with these books is not that there is anything in them against Islam, but that every one who reads them wants to become a Christian."

In the Coronation service the Archbishop handed a Bible to the King with these words: "We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords." What better can we do than present Iran with this valuable treasure? Let us show that for us these words are not cant, but sincerity. The Christian can testify that God's Word is pure gold, purer than the gold of commerce.


[52] The author is indebted to the Rev. W. M. Miller, D.D., of the American Presbyterian Mission, for one of the stories in this chapter.

AS one looked down the winding road that crosses the mountains in South Iran, the mind wandered back to the dim distant ages. What historical battalions have crossed and re-crossed the mountain paths of Iran—the armies of Cyrus and Darius, the conquering legions of Alexander the Great, the Moslem hosts, the blood-thirsty destroying hordes of Chengiz Khan and Tamerlane. Yet for all this the road had more interest for us in that one lone man, the saintly Henry Martyn, travelled over it for the sake of the Gospel. What a prodigious task was undertaken in the olden days when people set out to cross these rugged mountains. How things have changed with the advent of machinery! Yet these are the same mountains; they have not changed, it is only the method of travel which has altered. So it is with missionary work; the same difficulties still have to be overcome, but the methods have to be related to the present day.

Our aim is to present Christianity stripped of western associations, to preach the Christ of the Iranian road. The fact that we are foreigners often brings us and our message under suspicion. Our desire is to help to build up an indigenous Church which will be an effective witness to its own people. Iranis can reach Iranis. There is marvellous opportunity before the Church in Iran, and without doubt there will be a large ingathering as soon as the Church is able to take its own responsibility.

Some years ago a young Irani decided to study medicine, and in the course of his studies he spent a period in a Christian hospital. He became a great admirer of the missionary doctors, but had no interest in their religion. One of them tried [52/53] repeatedly to get him to discuss religion, but he would not. "My religion is the study of medicine," was his reply; "religion is for religious people, but it does not concern me." There was, however, one thing that impressed him and that was the happy and joyous spirit of the doctor. "Why is it," he asked his friends, "that the foreign doctors enjoy their work, whereas we do not?" He wanted to be happy like them, but he did not know how to attain to this, nor did it occur to him to connect their life with their faith in Christ.

He supposed that joy might be attained by securing money and position; so he worked hard and built up a good practice, and had an excellent income. But he was not happy. His wife lost her reason and became hopelessly insane. He himself became morose and difficult to work with, and his heart had no peace. He says now that his photographs then looked like those of a murderer. Finally he could stand it no longer and decided to sell his possessions and to go to America in search of happiness. He had had a dream that in America he would find his fortune. His friends tried to dissuade him, especially as the exchange was very bad at the time, and his Iranian money only bought him 3000 dollars, instead of 6000. But he turned a deaf ear and started off with his two little girls. Other friends tried to persuade him to study in France, but he pressed on. He had bought dollars, and to the place from which dollars had come he would go.

In America things went badly with him, and he became very discouraged. When asked why he had gone to America, he replied: "I wanted to see why you are happy and we are not." He went to Boston to study, and as his English was poor a friend advised him to go to church on Sundays and listen carefully to the sermons and learn from them. Thus be began to attend church, at first with not the slightest interest in religion; but by degrees the message attracted him and he came to enjoy going. At one mid-week meeting the doctor found himself for the first time a sinner before God. He was cross and left the church in anger; but the Spirit had begun to work in his heart in convicting and saving power. That night he had a dream. There was a river which he and his friend had to cross, and the crossing was extremely difficult and dangerous. The friend tried to leap, but fell and was fast stuck in the mud. [53/54] The doctor found a bridge and crossed in safety. When he awoke his heart was at peace. The bridge was Christ, and he had passed from the death of sin into newness of life.

The next day he went to the minister and apologized for his past conduct; he said that he wanted to become a Christian. He knew little of the Bible or of Christian teaching; but he was taught and prepared for baptism, and in May, 1935, with his two little girls he was baptized. Since that day he has been a radiant Christian.

He decided to return at once to his native land with the Good News. So he packed again and arrived back in June, and set up in practice once more. His friends noticed the change in him. No one had thought of him as being interested in religion, and so his testimony had a greater effect. He began to practise medicine for God, instead of for self. He was ready to go out at any time of the day or night to visit the sick, and when asked what his charge would be, he replied: "Give me whatever you wish, I don't work for money." People were amazed at this conduct, and when they asked why he thus acted, he replied that Christ had changed him. He started a little meeting, and once a week a group of friends gathered at his office to hear the way of salvation. Among them were a lawyer, a judge, a government employee, a former servant of the doctor, a land owner, a barber, and others of the better-educated class. After a time the meeting was removed to the church, and there the doctor continued to give his witness, and hundreds have come in touch with Christ through his testimony. At Christmas, 1935, there were twenty-seven candidates for baptism in that church, and during 1936 forty men and women were baptized, a number of whom owed their conversion chiefly to his witness.

This story will show that the fields indeed are white unto harvest, and if the right labourers can be obtained the harvest can be reaped. Foreigners, however, work under such disabilities that the reaping must be the work of Christian Iranis, though it may be many years before the Church can dispense with the help of the missionary.

At all the mission stations the Gospel is regularly preached, and large crowds attend. Lantern services are very popular, [54/55] and the people listen without any interruptions or talking. We have full freedom to preach the Gospel on our own premises, and in 1936 when there was disturbance one Sunday morning at one church the police insisted on sending an officer the following week to ensure quiet and order. If this had happened some years ago the probable result would have been the closing of the meeting, instead of the present-day protection and security, which we owe to the enlightened rule of the Shah. Open-air meetings are forbidden, but Christians are able to visit the villages and talk with the people. During the summer holidays a large number of Christians go out to adjoining villages to witness for Christ.

With the increase of education the work of book shops has become more effective, and we have Christian book shops in each of the four C.M.S. centres. One has recently been opened in the main street of Yezd, and has proved very popular. The Christians were allowed to exhibit a large text at Christmas and openly to keep their festival, as the Moslems and Jews keep theirs. This is part of the religious liberty enjoyed under the present enlightened rule. Two churches are now officially recognized as registries for Christian marriage, and the others will apply soon. This has given to the churches an official status which was not previously enjoyed.

The pioneers of the Gospel in Iran have really been the medical missionaries. In the old days of prejudice and opposition it is doubtful if any progress would have been made apart from the hospitals. By their ministry of practical Christianity they served to remove hostility and were centres for contact with the people. Even they did not obtain foothold without difficulty. In Isfahan the early missionaries had to be content for many years to work in the Armenian suburb of Julfa because it was not considered wise for them to live in Isfahan. They began by opening a dispensary in the town, and the people who appreciated the medical help wanted them to move into the town. After a time they succeeded in buying a plot of land on which to build a hospital, and Dr. Carr and Dr. Emmeline Stuart decided to move into Isfahan.

The mission hospitals in those days did a great service to Iran inasmuch as there were no Iranian hospitals. [55/56] To-day there are a large number of Iranian doctors serving their country. An Iranian medical school has now been started in Tehran, and in a few years will have complete facilities for medical training; schools for nurses and midwives are also being opened both in the north and in the south. The government hospitals are not yet numerous enough to cope with all the medical work, and the mission hospitals still work overtime to keep pace with the opportunities. They are centres where thousands every year hear the message of redeeming love. A large number of converts first heard the glad tidings when they were ill in hospital or were visiting friends there. There are now eight hospitals in the C.M.S. Mission, two in each station, for when they were built it was necessary to have separate hospitals for men and for women.

The C.M.S. schools have also been doing a pioneer service, both for the country and for the Gospel. We have had to move with the times and adopt somewhat new methods. In 1932 foreigners were forbidden to have primary schools. This order was not directed against Christianity, but it naturally affected the Church as there were six primary schools connected with the two boys' colleges and four girls' schools of the C.M.S. Three of these had to lose their primary departments, but the other three, the girls' schools of Isfahan, Yezd, and Shiraz, changed their status and became national schools; this was possible since their principals were missionaries born in Iran. Naturally with the present religious freedom Bible teaching cannot be given to Moslem children as part of the curriculum, but they are free to come to voluntary classes and a large number do come. The Christian schools open with Christian prayers, and are closed on Sundays. Perhaps the greatest opportunity of all comes to the Stuart Memorial College which, in addition to 250 day boys, has a hostel with about seventy boarders, and always has a waiting list. This college, by the way, is now called the Dabiristan e Adab (the School of Good Manners) since foreign names are no longer allowed.

There is a Christian Union at this college which is affiliated to the Student Christian Movement. Every year at the beginning of term a devotional week-end and conference is run by the boys themselves. A daily prayer meeting is held [56/57] in the college chapel, and every Sunday there is an evangelistic service at which some of the students take turns in speaking.

The Christian Iranian teachers are taking a far greater part in the control than they did before; in fact in one school they took charge during the furlough of the head mistress. It was in this school that the question of Sunday closing arose. It had been decreed that children should be allowed to keep their religious holidays; Moslem schools on Friday, Jewish schools on Saturday, and Christian schools on Sunday. But it was objected that there were very few Christians at the school, so why should the school close on Sunday? The matter was put to the Iranian staff, and their reply was: "Tell them that both the head mistress and a large number of the teachers are Christians, and, therefore, the school cannot open on Sundays." Thus the Christian Iranis, without any instigation on the part of the missionary, had publicly claimed their freedom. This also witnesses to the liberal policy of the Iranian Government. The popularity of the schools is seen in that, although they are Christian and also usually charge higher fees than most other schools, they frequently have to refuse scholars, and could expand considerably if they had the buildings and teachers.

Education is advancing at a great pace under the progressive rule of the Shah. The youth of Iran is almost certificate mad. In March, 1936, there were 1738 schools with a total of 256,308 pupils and an enrolment of 75,106 for adult classes; the vast majority of these schools have been opened during the reign of the present Shah. Even so there is a place for the Christian schools, not only for the education of Christian children, but for Christian witness and influence.

The mountains still remain. And the reader may say that the methods of crossing them do not seem to have been changed much. That is true, but had you worked in Iran you would see the change. The Iranian element in the Church is increasing, and the foreign element is decreasing. The church councils are now dominantly Iranian; the church officials, apart from the clergy, are also dominantly Iranian. The future lies with the Iranis, not with us. We are only hasting ahead, while it is day, so to train them that when we go they may carry on. It is this that adds urgency to our task.


[58] THE reader who wishes to take away the impression that missionary work is all glorious victory had better skip the next page or two. There is a darker side of which we are apt to hear little. A missionary's life is not all adventure and excitement; in fact it is chiefly plodding, and there are many disappointments. In England we have a Christian heritage and a nominally Christian environment, and yet it is a minority who respond to the call and challenge of Christ and are really consecrated to His service. Can we be surprised at tragic lapses in a Moslem land? To call forth prayer and sympathetic understanding we will give some instances.

In 1928, suddenly and surprisingly, a little church was formed in a small town in central Iran. The founding of that church was romantic. Some years previously the colporteur, Hovannes, had come to the town and an Iranian boy bought a gospel and read it. He was so much interested that he decided to go to Kerman, and there be entered the C.M.S. boys' school. After further teaching he was baptized in 1923, and then moved to Isfahan and became a student at the Stuart Memorial College. He was a keen Christian, and his friends suggested that he might be ordained, but he refused, and said: "I want to go back to my own town to be a chemist as I always intended to be. I will be a Christian chemist." When Bishop Linton was passing through the town some years later he stayed with him, and had a wonderful experience. The chemist brought forward six of his friends, all of them Christians, who had been won by his witness. They had no church, no font, and no pastor, but after examining them the Bishop called for water and they were baptized. That was in 1928.

Every year believers were added to that little church. When the Christians numbered about twenty the leader, now a doctor, [58/59] was appointed to another district and left the church to the care of his brother, a tailor. Owing to shortage of missionary staff it was possible only very occasionally to visit this little group, and after a time there were rumours that things were not very happy there. At the conference in 1936 when the church accounts were presented it was found that there was a deficit, owing, it was said, to entertaining, and it was decided that the affairs of the church should be investigated. Bishop Thompson sent for the man who had founded the church and is standing firm for Christ, to go with him, and together with the late Dr. Dodson and two Christian Iranis they visited the town. Imagine their horror when they found that the tailor was using the church room for immoral purposes, and had recently taken a second wife. It will be some years before that little group is able to live down this shame and disgrace.

Had you been to the Christian Union in the Stileman Memorial School in Isfahan in 1934 you would have been attracted by an outspoken girl who took a leading part in the meeting. She was a village girl who had been supported through her school days and had become an active Christian, in fact she was looked upon as a future leader. One Saturday evening not long before the opening of the autumn term in 1935,  her brother-in-law came in from the village with another man, a Bahai, and she suddenly announced that she was going back that evening to her village to be married to him. She had been among the loudest in denouncing marriages of Christians and non-Christians, and yet without warning to any of us she fell herself. A small group of Christians went out the next morning to try to persuade her not to be married. But it was of no avail. She laughed at them and would not listen. Now instead of being one of the leaders of the Church, she is among those who oppose the Gospel. She had not merely fallen to a sudden temptation, she had been playing double.

In one town there were in 1935 no less than four doctors, one of them a member of Parliament and another the local officer of health, all of whom had been baptized, but, like Demas, had forsaken our Lord having loved this present world. They had all found that their testimony conflicted with their ambitions [59/60] and progress and they had, therefore, chosen the easier path of denial. What of us in England?

One Wednesday morning, noticing a very fine-looking mullah in the hospital, I asked permission to take his photograph, and he graciously consented. I had never met him before and had no idea who he was. Imagine, therefore, my surprise on showing the photograph to another missionary to be told that he had been baptized about fifteen years previously, but had fallen away. He had then been a patient in hospital and vowed that if he recovered he would become a Christian. When the crisis of his illness was over he began to read the gospels, and before long declared himself to be a Christian and asked for baptism. The missionaries were very dubious and thought he ought to wait, but he insisted, and the Iranian clergyman supported him. He told them that if he were not baptized before he left hospital his relatives would certainly stop him, and, therefore, if they refused to baptize him they were responsible to God for their refusal. After some delay and further teaching he was baptized and returned to his home. This was before the days when a minimum period of a year's teaching was prescribed for all candidates. After that he attended hospital on a few occasions, but he would never attend the church services, and before many months had passed he ceased to make any profession of Christianity. He had not counted the cost; he put his hand to the plough and then turned back.

These facts illustrate the disappointments. The difficulties which St. Paul found in the young churches of Corinth and Galatia reappear to-day. The chief difficulties in Iran are marriage, money, and fear of man—much the same problems that we face in England.

The marriage problem is exceedingly complicated. As we have said before it is almost a disgrace in a Moslem country for a woman to remain unmarried; but usually there is no suitable Christian man for a woman to marry. What is to be done? Notwithstanding the very bitter opposition of non-Christian parents some have faced the cost bravely, but for many the choice has proved too difficult.

Money also is a very serious difficulty. [60/61] It is a great disadvantage in life for a man to be a convert from Islam to Christianity, and in many directions all advance and promotion are stopped. Many fear that they will lose their employment if their employers learn that they have become Christians. Perhaps they have a wife and children dependent upon them. What are they to do?

The fear of man also holds many back. Frequently the Christian is alone in a large family of Moslems, and his relatives plead with him on the ground of loyalty to his family. They bring moral pressure to bear upon him, and in the case of girls and women claim the family right to their obedience. Many have been faced with the alternative envisaged by our Lord when He said: "If a man hate not his father and wife and children, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple," and in the time of temptation and trial they have fallen back. How many in England have the courage to stand firm and witness for Christ in trial and temptation?

This is the darker side of the picture, but as this book has shown there are many victories. There are those who have faced these temptations and have gloriously overcome. There are Christian teachers who have been offered far higher salaries in other employment, one twice his salary, but have refused on the ground that they can witness better for Christ with fuller liberty in Christian schools. There are girls who have refused marriage to non-Christians and have given up ease and luxury, even being ostracized by their families for Christ's sake. There are women who have been divorced by their husbands for the sole reason that they had become Christians.

In 1935 a young man applied for baptism. He had been a pupil in the Stuart Memorial College eight years before and had wished then to be baptized, but fear of his father hindered him. He left school and went away. During this time his family contracted an engagement for him with a Moslem girl. On his return he declared that his faith had not altered and that he was determined to be baptized, and that he would not marry the girl unless she too became a Christian. His father's bitter and angry comment when he heard of his son's decision was: "You will die by the road."

[62] There is a spiritual battle going on and at times we realize only too vividly that we are not fighting with flesh and blood, but with the spiritual powers of wickedness in high places. "A great door and effectual is open, but there are many adversaries." It is a battle which challenges us because of the possibility of victory and hardness of the contest.

In 1916, the late Dr. Catherine Ironside, a missionary in the C.M.S. hospital in Isfahan, wrote: "God is working and who can stay His hand? Let us not doubt or be disheartened, but wait and watch in faith and hope. He is preparing for a great advance in Iran, and we do not know how soon the opportunity for it will be given. One question, a very serious question, I would ask myself and my readers: 'When our Captain gives the word to advance, shall we be ready for it?'"

The day has now come. We have heard that call to advance, and the question, a very serious question, is this: "Are we ready for it?" To the east of Iran is Afghanistan, a Moslem country entirely closed to the Gospel; to the south, across the Persian Gulf, there is Arabia, the cradle of Islam and fanatically bigoted; to the west, Irak where the right of a Moslem to become a Christian is not yet legally admitted; to the northwest, Turkey where missionary work is almost forbidden; and to the north, Soviet Russia. Alone of all these lands Iran grants full religious freedom and is open to the Gospel. That open door is an urgent challenge to the Church of Christ.

Put bluntly the question is this? "What are we ready to do about it?" or rather in the singular: "What am I ready to do about it?" Missionary work will only advance as it ought to advance when we realize that the Christian Church cannot continue unless it witnesses, and cannot live unless it grows. This task is not optional but essential, the very life blood of the Church. Sacrificial service is needed; people who are ready to sacrifice to pray, to sacrifice to give, and to sacrifice to work wherever God shall lead them. "This kind goeth not out, but by prayer and fasting." Perhaps if we had prayed for those Christian Iranis who have fallen in the counter attack, in God's strength they would have remained faithful. What greater service can be given than to hold out the hand of fellowship and stand by them when they are taunted by their own people; [62/63] when they speak of Christ before their Moslem neighbours; when they are tempted to take the wide path to prosperity? And what greater honour can there be than to give with love and good cheer towards the financial necessities of the work of Christ's missionaries?

Above all we need to remember that the first and most insistent call is that we should give ourselves to the Lord for His service. Not all our gifts and good works, nor even our prayers, can be a substitute for the primary duty of taking the Gospel to those around us. "I want to be a foreign missionary," said a newly-converted engine fireman to a famous evangelist. "That's good," was the reply, "and how about the engine driver, is he converted?"

To Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth was the apostolic commission. Every Christian is called to be a witness unto Christ, that the glorious light of the Gospel may be shed abroad. Our Captain has given the word to advance. Who will follow?



[64] THE Church Missionary Society entered Iran in 1869. The area in which the C.M.S. is working is in south and central Iran; it is about one and a half times the size of France, and has a population of about 5,000,000 people. There are forty-seven missionaries and seventy-five Christian Iranian workers in four mission stations—Isfahan, Kerman, Yezd, and Shiraz. A diocese was formed in 1912, and the Rt. Rev. C. H. Stileman was consecrated Bishop. He was followed by the Rt. Rev. J. H. Linton, in 1919, and by the present Bishop, the Rt. Rev. W. J. Thompson, in 1935.

The C.M.S. stations are widely separated. Kerman is 420 miles south-east of Isfahan, and Yezd is half-way between these. Shiraz is 300 miles south of Isfahan. There is an organized church of converts from Islam at each of these stations, and village communities at Qalat, near Shiraz, and Rafsenjan, near Kerman. The total of baptized Christians is about 600, but the electoral rolls of these churches is only about 350. Of the other baptized Christians a number have gone to the Oil Fields where they have a Christian meeting each week; a number have moved to the north; and others have lapsed. Bishop Thompson is also responsible for the church of Armenian Protestants at Julfa, where the Mission once had a station, and for the church in Tehran connected with the Church Missions to Jews. Bishop Thompson and the secretary of the Mission, the Rev. G. J. Rogers, both reside in Isfahan.

Schools (1937)

(a) Isfahan: Stuart Memorial College (boys) Dabiristan e Adab; 328 pupils, 69 boarders
(b) Isfahan Stileman Memorial School (girls) Dabiristan a Behesht Ayin; 242 pupils, 12 boarders
(a) Kerman Girls' school, Dabiristan e Ettahadieh, 45 pupils
(a) Kerman Boys' school, Dabiristan e Jam, 111 pupils
(b) Yezd Girls' school, Dabiristan e Ized Payman, 240 pupils
(b) Shiraz Girls' school, Dabiristan e Mihr Ayin, 44 pupils

Schools marked (a) are foreign schools with middle departments only. Schools marked (b) are Irani and have middle and primary departments. The Yezd Girls' School has a co-educational primary department.

Hospitals (1937)

Isfahan (Men)(Women): 180 beds; 2615 in-patients; 40,070 out-patients visits
Kerman (Men)(Women): 120 beds; 751 in-patients; 30,967 out-patients visits
Yezd (Men)(Women): 77 beds; 773 in-patients; 11,973 out-patient visits
Shiraz (Men)(Women): 60 beds; 1013 in-patients; 17,055 out-patients visits

There are midwifery and welfare departments in connexion with all the hospitals.

Industrial Centre (1937)

Isfahan.—Garden of Arts (Bagh e San'ati). Industrial school for small girls and industrial centre for women.

Those who wish to pray for the work in Iran may obtain further information from the Secretary of the Iran Diocesan Association, c/o Church Missionary Society, 6, Salisbury Square, London, E.C.4.


The American Presbyterian Society has been working in the north and north-west since 1834, and now has nine town and twenty-one village churches, and a total membership of 2213. The majority of the members, including the village members, are Armenians and Assyrians who have joined the Protestant Church. [65/66] Their church is called the Evangelical Church. They have six hospitals and ten schools. Their college in Tehran, the Dabiristan e Alborz, is one of the largest and finest in the country, and has a large boarding-house. The society has seven mission stations with a total staff of 101 missionaries. They are chiefly responsible for the work of the Inter-mission Literature Committee of Iran, which sells over 30,000 Christian books a year.

The Church Missions to Jews began work in Tehran in 1888,  and in Isfahan in 1847; the C.M.S. has temporarily taken over responsibility for their work in Isfahan. They have a fine church in Tehran, and also a boys' and a girls' school, Their work is in the charge of the Rev. Joleynoos Hakim, an Iranian Jewish Christian, who was ordained by Bishop Linton in 1934.

The Bible Churchman's Missionary Society has one station in south-east Iran at Zahedan, with a hospital in the charge of a Christian Indian doctor. So far no church has been built up. The work was opened in 1928, partly in the hope of contact with the Afghans.

The British and Foreign Bible Society started its work in 1814 by subsidizing the publication of Henry Martyn's New Testament. Its head-quarters are in Isfahan and its agent is the Rev. A. S. Nakhusteen, who was ordained in 1935. The present circulation of Bibles and portions is over 40,000 each year.


[67] THE Mohammedan religion derives its name from its founder the prophet Mohammed, an Arab, who was born at Mecca in Arabia about the year 570 A.D. It is also called Islam, or the Islamic faith, from an Arabic word meaning submission, that is to say submission to God. In the same way a Mohammedan is often called a Moslem, that is one who has submitted to God.

There are many different sects, but the chief divisions are Sunnis and Shi'as. The Sunnis are orthodox and generally speaking very bigoted. The Shi'as are unorthodox and are considered heretics by the Sunnis; they are practically confined to Iran which is almost solidly Shi-a (pronounced Sheea). The Shi'as have always been much more open to the Gospel and less bigoted than the Sunnis. Instead of following the Caliphs, or leaders of Islam, they follow the twelve Imams or leaders of the faith. They trace this line through Mohammed, Ali (the son-in-law of Mohammed, who was the fourth Caliph), and then through the sons of Ali, Hassan and Hussein. The latter were murdered, and the Shi'as consider that their deaths were a form of propitiation.

The Sunnis trace their leadership through Mohammad, Abu Bekr, Omar, Othman, Ali, Mu'awiyah, and Yezid, the murderer of Hussein. To them religious and secular government is one, and the head of the State is the head of religion. Before the great war the Sultan of Turkey was the head of the Moslem world. After the revolution in Turkey that land practically rejected the Moslem faith and abolished the Caliphate.

The Bahais originated in Iran as a section of Islam, but they are now separate. The Shi'as believe that the twelfth Imam disappeared into hiding and is still living. He is Al Mahdi, and will return again. The original founder of the Bahai religion [67/68] was Mirza Mohammed Ali, who was born in Shiraz in 1820. He assumed the title of the Bab, that is "the door," or the channel of grace between the absent Imam and his followers. His followers were called the Babis, and he gave them a new book called the Beyan, which he intended should supersede the Koran. There were riots in the land over this new religion, and the leader was put to death in 1850.

The Bab was followed by Baha'ulah and Abdu'l-Baha, and the religion is now called Bahaism; the Bab now has little more than an historical importance and his teaching is no longer the standard. This religion is strong in Iran, but it is not officially recognized, and its schools were closed by the Government in 1934. The Bahais are not unduly hindered by this as it is part of their creed that they may deny their faith if they desire, and deception is one of the chief methods of progress. Some of their leaders have toured Europe and America and other lands with much publicity and boosting, with the result they have a few hundred followers in some of these lands. In the West Bahaism is a movement, not a religion.

Bahais have many high ideals, but make no contribution towards the attainment of them. They hold that all men should be brothers, that there should be no war, that all should speak one language, and have one international court of justice, and, moreover, that all religions are one at heart. They accept the fact of Christ coming into the world, but deny all that is fundamental in the Christian faith. They hold that their holy book, the Agdas, supersedes all previous scriptures, and endeavour to prove their case from the Scriptures. They practically deny the existence of evil.

The reader who wants to understand the position is referred to The Religion of the Baba'is, by the Rev. J. R. Richards. In Iran the Bahais are active opponents of the Gospel. A Bahai has been known to profess conversion and to be baptized so that he could propagate his own faith among the Christians. There have been many converts who have later become apostate and joined the Bahais, and probably they were all the time Bahais in heart. On the other hand there is a Christian evangelist, once a Bahai, who has served the Church for over twelve years, and is a sterling Christian.



Clergy for pastoral and evangelistic work. As this book shows Christian Iranis are the best witnesses to their own people, but leaders are still essential to teach and train them. Men and women educationists for the schools. Doctors, nurses, dispensers, and welfare workers for hospitals and clinics.


The work of foreign missionary and Christian Iranis is dependent upon the power of the Holy Spirit, and the greatest help that most readers can give is by prayer. Remember the Christians, young in the faith and surrounded by Moslem influences, that they may be open to the teaching of the Holy Spirit.


Subscriptions or donations, large or small, will be received gratefully. Please give without waiting to be asked personally. The members of the Young People's Union in England give invaluable help by supporting Bishop Thompson; the Irish members have adopted Miss Woodroffe as their Own Missionary. Other missionaries are available to be supported as Own Missionaries, by individuals or groups. A Share in one of the four C.M.S. stations will be allotted for £5 a year. A bed may be supported in any of the mission hospitals at a cost of £10 a year. Missionary boxes of several kinds and sizes are obtainable by those who find a box a helpful means of giving regularly.

Full particulars of any points mentioned above can be obtained on application to The Secretaries, Church Missionary Society, 6, Salisbury Square, London, E.C.4.


FOR most people the best way to keep up to date is to read. The daily newspapers give items of foreign news which stimulate the thought and prayer of the reader who has a background of knowledge and interest in the affairs of the Kingdom of God. This knowledge and interest will be maintained by reading regularly a missionary magazine.

This is the popular and official magazine of the C.M.S., and contains articles by missionaries and others, and overseas news. Well illustrated. Price 2d. a month (annual subscription 2s. 6d., post free).

A smaller magazine with popular stories and attractive descriptions. Is acceptable to boys and girls of fourteen and upwards as well as to grown-ups. Price 1d. a month (annual subscription 1s. 6d, post free).

The illustrated magazine of the Medical Mission Auxiliary of the C.M.S. Reports and hospital news from the sixty-eight hospitals overseas. Price 2d. a month (annual subscription 2s. 6d., post free).

The children's magazine of stories of life and adventure, pictures, competitions. A serial story is an attractive feature, and a prayer page aims to help boys and girls to pray. Price 2d. a month (annual subscription 2s. 6d., post free).

Specimen copies may be obtained from and orders sent to The Manager, Publishing Department, Church Missionary Society, 6, Salisbury Square, London, E.C.4.


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