Iran is an extremely hostile environment for any endeavor that is not instigated and controlled by the Islamic Government and its sympathizers. This creates significant challenges for the Christian Community to create and operate businesses that promote Biblical values. In addition, due to the xenophobia of the Islamic Government and the imposition of International Sanctions, it is very difficult for the larger world wide Christian Community to provide any assistance or support.
Internally, the Christian Community is viewed as a threat to the Islamic Government and to openly identify oneself as part of that community is to invite persecution and potential death. Thus any identification of individuals or businesses as being an expression of the Christian Community is extremely dangerous and invites opposition.
In the area of economic activity, any enterprise of significant value is controlled and managed by the Islamic Government and is subject to its Islamic rules and regulations. Thus, to create and operate a significant business enterprise that is not owned and operated by a supporter of the Islamic Government and its values is nearly impossible.
However, despite the challenges of doing business in such a hostile environment, there are business examples to learn from. The BAM in Iran report shares a summary of findings from a survey of 25 businesses in Iran. Many of these business are smaller in scale and tend to stay under the radar.
Types of Business
The 25 businesses surveyed range from 6 months to 8 years in operation and generally have 4-8 employees, often all members of one family. Out of the 25, 3 or 4 have failed. Companies include taxi cabs, fast food stores, beauticians, coffee shops, grocery stores and fruit orchard.
The most common reasons given for operating the business are to:
- Provide employment
- Generate income
- Provide a platform for evangelism
- Provide a platform for discipleship
Business Survival Principles
The following principles were reportedly followed by the businesses:
- Grow and expand by adding more businesses.
- High customer interaction or service businesses.
- Be a cash business.
- Stay under the radar.
- Avoid attention from Government inspectors and officials.
- Keep number of employees small.
- Keep capital requirement minimal ($10K-$25K).
The isolation of the Islamic Government, whether due to International Sanctions or self-imposed, creates an environment of suspicion of any foreign support or involvement. Thus the National Christian Community suffers from the same isolation and thus the opportunity for active support from outside the country is limited. However, there are some activities that could be of benefit, including:
- Develop BAM contacts across the Underground Church Networks.
- Develop China and Latin American contacts that can access the Iranian market.
- Develop and execute Business and BAM Training for key leaders.
- Reach out to the Iranian Christian business community in the West and challenge them to return to Iran, when the Black Curtain falls, and to rebuild their country with the vision of transformational business (BAM).
In spite of the dark conditions, God is at work in Iran. It is a testament to the Grace of God and the perseverance of His people in Iran that in fact there is a powerful underground movement in the country that is having a great impact on the people and society, and yet is hidden from sight.
There are many parallels between the old Soviet Union—and what was known as the Iron Curtain—and the Iran of today. We could say that Iran has a ‘Black Curtain’ of religious and political darkness that shrouds the nation. The oppression and control is similar and we believe that the eventual collapse of the Black Curtain is also inevitable. In the meantime, it is our honor to continue to stand with and support our brothers and sisters in Iran, as we also look forward to and prepare for the day that the curtain comes down!
The BAM Global Think Tank report aims to provide some insight into these courageous efforts to bring the transformational power of the Gospel though businesses to the dear people of Iran.
This post was adapted from original material published in the BAM Global Think Tank Regional Report on BAM in Iran.
BAM is a global phenomenon. God is on the move around the world, calling men and women from all continents to start businesses for His Kingdom purposes. To highlight just some of what He is doing, and emphasise that business as mission is a global movement, we will take a tour around the BAM world for the next six weeks or so. We hope you enjoy the trip!