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Abe Ghaffari, founder of ICI, was born in a small town in northeast Iran in 1945. There was no Christian witness there at that time. All he had heard about Christ and Christianity was the Islamic misinformation preached by the Muslim clergy. For example, he heard from the local Muslims that Christians believe Jesus is the physical son of God. This is blasphemous in Islam. He was also told that Christians believe in three gods. Additionally, he was told that Christians had changed and corrupted their Bible, particularly the part that in the original version had proclaimed that after Jesus prophet Muhammad would come as the next apostle of God.

As a teenager, Abe was a fairly good Muslim. He performed the Islamic daily prayers and fasted during the month of Ramadan. However, after practicing for a few years, Abe was very disappointed with it. He observed that Islam had no power to change him to a better person. He still lied, cheated and his heart was filled with hatred and a feeling of anger toward other people who had wronged him in the slightest of ways.

After Abe finished high school, he decided to go to college in the United States. His father supported his decision. Soon after arriving in the U.S.  Abe visited a church and read the Bible for the first time in his life. For some time, he had suspected that what Islam said about Christ and Christianity was not true. By the end of his first year in the U.S., Abe had visited a church a few times and with his limited English had read parts of the English Bible. He found that Christians were generally kind and loving people. He also became convinced that the Bible was the word and message of the true and living God. He saw that the main Bible message was that the followers of Christ must love God and other human beings. This subject impacted Abe in a great way.

At the same time, he met a Christian girl in college by the name of Marie and they married in 1968. Marie had grown up in a Christian family who supported missions and outreach to non-Christians around the world.

However, after accepting Christianity as his personal faith, it took Abe several years until he met another Muslim convert Iranian Christian. This happened in 1971 when Abe and Marie were visiting Iran and through God’s providence they met Haik Hovsepian, a Christian pastor. Haik was an Armenian Christian who led a very small church in northern Iran. What set Haik apart was that he had a great zeal for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with Iranian Muslims. After the experience of meeting Haik and seeing his ministry with the local Muslims, Abe began to develop a vision for his own ministry with Muslims.

Upon finishing his college education Abe and Marie returned to Iran to live there for the rest of their lives. They soon became fully involved in a house church in Tehran that was pastored by an American missionary. In the next four years Abe received training in leading a Bible study to leading worship and doing Muslim evangelism. This time period was also very useful for Abe’s discipleship and developing a fuller vision for Christian transformation of Iranian Muslims.

Martyr Haik Hovsepian (1944-1994)

Disbursed Throughout The World

Iran’s Islamic revolution of 1978-1979 forced Abe and Marie to return to the U.S. Within a year of their arrival back to the U.S., they started implementing their mission vision among the over one million Iranians who lived in the U.S. at that time.

With the Islamic clergy’s takeover of the government in Iran, many Iranians of non-Muslim background were demoted to second class citizenship status. Therefore, tens of thousands of Christians from Armenian, Assyrian and a few dozen of Muslim convert Christians left Iran. Many of them came to the U.S. Along with these people all Western missionaries were also forced out of Iran.

Upon arriving back in the U.S., Abe, and Marie who was suffering from a back injury from an auto accident, felt somewhat disheartened by the situation in Iran. However, through prayer they were guided and encouraged to start the first indigenous Iranian Christian mission to Iranians outside of Iran. This project began by meeting and consulting with such American missionaries as William Miller, Richard Corely and Edwin Yaeger, as well as Iranian Christians like Shahrokh Afshar and Nathan Mirza.

The ministry of Iranian Christians International (ICI) began with a gathering of Christians (Americans, Canadians and Iranians) in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania in May 1980 on the occasion of Muslim Day of Prayer. It was there that Western missionaries and Iranian Christians encouraged the founding of ICI. It was also in this gathering that plans were made for the next Iranian Christian conference to be held in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Additionally, on this occasion plans were made for the publication of an Iranian Christian magazine named Mojdeh (Good News).

ICI began doing ministry immediately. It began to encourage a number of Iranian believers who were on a mailing list. ICI sent them the Mojdeh magazine (first in the English language and after two years as a bilingual English/Persian publication.)

ICI was registered as a non-profit organization in Michigan in 1981, and expanded its ministry to publishing and distributing Persian Christian literature which was so necessary for the spiritual nourishment of Iranian Christians.

Several Iranian Christians who attended ICI conferences developed a vision for their own ministry to Iranians and established Iranian Christian fellowship groups and churches in their own geographical area of the U.S. and Canada. The ICI conferences were such a blessing to Iranians that by mid-1990’s ICI was holding four or five conferences in a year. The conferences even spread to Canada and Germany.

In 1981, ICI also began a ministry to the persecuted Christians of Iran and Afghanistan. Over the next 30 years ICI helped about 2,000 such persons by documenting their refugee or asylum cases as well as assisting them with their resettlement. The beneficiaries of this ministry were resettled in the U.S., Canada, Australia and European countries.

Within 20 years of the establishment of the Iranian Islamic regime, the number of Iranian Muslim convert Christians around the world grew from a few hundred to over 50,000. The current number is estimated around one million.

Nowadays you can find Iranian Christian churches and groups in most states of the U.S. and many cities in Canada, Australia, and Europe. The growth of the Iranian Muslim convert church is so strong that the Islamic government of Iran has increased its persecution of the believers and has vowed to stop the growth of Christianity among Iranians! At the time of this writing, the Iranian Church is the fastest growing in the world.