Handwritten letters are making a tangible difference in the lives of imprisoned believers around the world.
in 2009, Maryam and Marziyeh were taken before the Iranian Revolutionary Court and commanded to recant their faith. In return, they would be granted their freedom. “We will not deny our faith,” the women responded, “If we come out of prison, we want to do so with honor.”
I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for Maryam and Marziyeh, two young women living in Iran who put their lives on the line to share the Gospel. For years, they worked under the nose of Iran’s radical Islamic regime, operating a massive Bible smuggling ring. With only the darkness of the night for protection, they distributed thousands of New Testaments to Muslims in Iran.
“We bought a big map; it was the map of Tehran, the capital of Iran, and we put it on the wall. We decided to cover each area of Tehran. Usually, at night, we would carry all of those New Testaments in our backpack, about 130 New Testaments. Each night, we would take them to different areas and put them in the mailboxes,” said Maryam. After finishing each area, they would draw a cross on the map and pray for that region. Maryam and Marziyeh’s evangelism efforts came to a screeching halt when the police apprehended the two women. A Flood of Letters It wasn’t long after their imprisonment in Iran’s infamous Evin Prison that the prison guards began to receive letters. The letters, over 7,500 of them in total, were sent to the women by fellow believers all around the world—men, women, and children who each took a couple of minutes to write a
few words of encouragement to two young believers imprisoned for their faith. Now here’s the interesting thing: the letters never even got through to them and yet they had a tremendous effect! Maryam and Marziyeh weren’t allowed to read a single one of the thousands of letters sent to them. Instead, their judge made the guards read the letters. As the guards read letter after letter, they began to treat Maryam and Marziyeh with the understanding that the world was watching their actions—that people cared what became of Maryam and Marziyeh. The guards even became curious about the Bible verses written in the letters and would ask Maryam and Marziyeh for explanations. Even though they couldn’t read the letters themselves, they were deeply touched and encouraged. Maryam and Marziyeh told ICC that they believe the letters helped to protect them from physical torture, and it certainly encouraged them to know that believers all around the world were supporting them. The young women were released in November 2010, but other brothers and sisters remain in prison all around the world. They face the daily terror of guards who feel free to treat them in horrible ways because they are not being watched. They suffer extreme loneliness in dark prison cells, with little access to the outside world. We are often asked how the Western Church can help the persecuted. Writing letters to prisoners is a really powerful way to serve your brother and sister. Even better than writing a letter yourself, you can mobilize those around you to write letters, too. Whether that’s in a college dorm, a church small group, or simply with a group of like-minded friends, join our letter-writing campaign by signing up today. We’ll send you a packet that contains everything you need to organize your own letter-writing event, complete with profiles of prisoners, stationery, simple guidelines, and even a few sample letters to get you on the right track! To get started, visit https://www.persecution.org/letter-writing-campaign/ to request a digital letter-writing packet. Together, we can shine the light of Christ into the darkest prison cells.