Matt Perry met Mohammad Bagherian recently in the FEBC Jakarta station. Mohammad has thousands of listeners and Matt asked him to tell his story.
Mohammad (Mo) had many questions, and no one could give him answers. You could buy drugs on the streets of Tehran, but you couldn’t buy a Bible. If you attempted to enter one of the old Catholic or Orthodox churches, armed guards would check your ID and send you away if you were Muslim.
In 1998 he went to Dubai for university studies in I.T. There he met a Swedish missionary. “Do you have a Bible?” Mo asked. “And does it talk about Muhammad of Islam?”
“Look for yourself” said the missionary as he gave Mo his King James Bible. Mo took it home. He found no mention of Muhammad, even though his High School teachers had told him the prophet of Islam was featured favorably in the Christian Bible. Instead, he found Jesus.
“I was totally disappointed in Islam. I could not read the Bible and accept my old religion anymore. I was totally amazed at the difference between Muhammad and Jesus. One of these prophets ordered his followers to attack and kill their enemies. The other ordered his followers to love and forgive.”
Mo was also delighted to find Persian people featured positively in the Bible, such as the Magi who greeted the baby Jesus, and the Medes, Parthians, and Elamites in Acts 2 who still live in modern day Iran.
“These people are my neighbors. Persians have an ancient relationship with the Bible and with Christianity. But today, Iran is the great denier and persecutor of the church.”
In his frustration he turned his back on Islam, but was yet to encounter God in a life-changing way.
Making the Decision
In 2004 he decided to pursue his love of diving by seeking his scuba instructor’s license in Phuket, Thailand. After qualifying, Mo boarded a plane to return to Tehran. It was Christmas Day 2004. On arriving home, news of the devastating Boxing Day Tsunami, in which all but one of his 12 classmates were killed, shocked and stunned Mo. He had literally been saved that day!
It was time to get serious about God.
He had met a beautiful girl named Shirin at University, who was a law student and well versed in Sharia, the strict Islamic rule of law. Thankfully, she too was searching for truth and freedom, and together they were able to strengthen each other on the journey.
Mo went in search of a church he could worship in, and a pastor who could disciple him. He found an evangelical pastor and an underground fellowship, and went straight to the leaders and said, “Lay your hands on me, and pray for me!”
They did so, and sent him home with his very own Farsi Bible. For the first time in his life he read the Word of God in his heart language. Shirin excitedly ripped it out of his hands when he showed it to her—she had never held one either, and together they began rebuilding their lives on God’s Word and Promises.
For the next few years Mo and Shirin ran a diving business in the Persian Gulf. Life was sweet.
Persecuted for Their Faith
Then in 2007 Mo was arrested for his underground church activities. He was beaten, warned not to preach or evangelize and then released. Then on Valentine’s Day 2010 Mo was arrested again. This time he was kept in solitary confinement in a 2×2 meter cell, and beaten badly. Mo appeared in court, there the judge helped Mo make an important decision.
“In this country the only truth is Islam” said the judge. “If you cannot live with this, you must leave.”
After being released on bail and after months recovering in hospital, Mo and Shirin decided to flee Iran. There were good prospects for dive instructors in Indonesia. They would be refugees, but free, unlike their friend and pastor who was with Mo in prison, and remains there today.
Although scuba diving remains a great pleasure for Mo, he happily admits that today his first calling is to evangelism among his own people, especially refugees. After finding friends to live with in Jakarta, Mo met Dr. Samuel T., the National Director of FEBC Indonesia. He plucked up the courage to ask Samuel a very important question:
“Would you let me produce my own radio program in the Farsi language? I want to reach out to my people scattered around Indonesia, in the detention centers, prisons and streets.”
Samuel a man of vision and faith, allowed Mo two programs per week, on one condition: “Please promise me you won’t say anything political! Because I don’t speak Farsi I cannot monitor you. Just share the hope of Jesus.” In 2015 Mo started Radio Pars (Radio Farsi). It airs on FEBC’s Heartline FM in Jakarta, and streams live everywhere on the internet.
By day Mo visits detention centers, prisons, and wherever Farsi people gather. The main route for refugees heading for Australia is right through Indonesia, and while many are Iranian, around 90% of Mo’s audience are Afghans.
On a visit to a notorious detention center where Mo meets with listeners and hands out Farsi Bibles, a fundamentalist approached him. Abu Faady challenged Mo, “If you love us, bring us the Quran.” The next day Mo returned with 10 Qurans and 10 Bibles. Abu Faady gathered a group to study the holy books and challenge Mo on his radio program from the nights before. After some months, Mo heard again from Abu Faady. He is now following Jesus the Savior, and has baptized 15 of his fellow inmates!
Reaching the Unreachable
Refugees in the cities awaiting UN recognition often avoid authorities and visibility. Access into detention centers is fickle, but radio gets in every time. Radio Pars reaches every available ear. By giving out his contact details on-air Mo hears from many of his listeners. Sometime he hears from two or three refugees in the same detention cell. They’ll call in and say,
‘Hello Mohammad, my name is so-and-so in room 202 of XYZ detention center. I listen to every program. I like what you say, but please don’t share my name. Can you please explain something…’
Unbeknownst to each other, several listeners from the same unit will call in and ask for help, but because they’re a mixture of moderates, seekers, and fundamentalists, no one wants to be identified until they are out and free.
Mo has had several calls from refugees who’ve arrived in Australia and after months of resistance to his radio programs have found freedom in Christ. They phone in to apologize. They now want help finding a life-giving church.
From Australia to Turkey, small groups are meeting on Sundays and Wednesdays to gather around a radio or mobile phone and listen to Radio Pars. By refugees; for refugees.
Mohammad Bagherian (Mo) grew up in Iran and followed the religion of his parents, yet he knew something was wrong. Today he follows Jesus and tells thousands of Iranian and Afghan Muslims around the world that real life is about love and forgiveness, not jihad. He does this from his FEBC radio program out of Indonesia. Who would have thought that his life would end up like this?