The Rev’d. Jonathan Samadi, Leader of Persian Anglican Community of London, helps us to understand more about the support and resources available for churches in London as they welcome Farsi speakers into their communities.

What support is available for churches in London as they welcome Farsi speakers?

Our vision is to support those Anglican churches and parishes who have a number of Persian parishioners and who want to offer them effective service and ministry. By supporting these parishes and parish leaders, we can make sure that they are equipped to serve those Persians more effectively.

Some of the ways that the Persian Anglican Community of London does this is:

  • Advising leaders of parishes across the Diocese in order to serve these Persians.
  • Providing discipleship courses, so that language is not a barrier, and they can learn about Jesus and Christianity in their own native language.
  • Discipling and training emerging Persians leaders, facilitators and servants, in order to grow the Persian ministry back in their local contexts.

Could you tell us more about the Persian Anglican Community of London?

I planted the Persian Anglican community of London as a new worshipping community back in 2019.

It has a vision of a supporting those Persians (Farsi speakers from Iran, but also from other countries like Afghanistan), the majority of whom are first generation immigrants. Those who are exploring Christian faith, or are already Christians, and in need of learning about Christian faith and worshipping God in their own native language.

Also to create a safe, friendly place for Farsi speakers to meet each other, because they are scattered around London, and usually not aware of other groups of Persians who are worshipping God in other parts of the city. So this community serves as a network of connecting people together and giving them the opportunity to come together at least once a month and to worship God and have fellowship with each other.

How can a church community link in with the resources and support available?

At the moment I am the main contact, so they can contact me through email. We would agree on next steps which might be meeting them and those Persians, to encourage them, and to link them into our community.

In what different ways are our churches already journeying with Farsi speakers?

Some of the parishes I have been working with have been so open, so welcoming, and so passionate about doing whatever they can to support these people.

Some of them have very simply offered opportunity of their using the church kitchen once a week to cook for themselves a Persian meal, and enjoy fellowship around the table together.

One parish started a discipleship course after lunch. We all had a meal together, and then we have couple of hours of learning about a foundational subject in Christian faith. Then we have a time of questions and answers, and praying together which worked really well.

What resources are of resources are available to support Farsi discipleship?

One of the resources is a discipleship course which I put together over the last 18 years of my ministry to Farsi speakers in the Middle East, and later in the UK. This covers some foundational areas of faith such as who Jesus is, or about the Holy Trinity for example.

The second resource is the Farsi translation of the Alpha course. In some settings I find this very helpful because they can watch a video for half an hour, and then bring up any comments and questions about what they have heard. Also to follow that with a meal- sitting together to create an atmosphere of friendship for them.

Are there any resources available which could be used in a Sunday service?

There is the Farsi translation of Holy Communion (approved by the House of Bishop a few years ago), which is available in a small pocket size booklet, in both English and Farsi so that people can have this booklet with them every Sunday for participation in Eucharist and Holy Communion. Baptism and confirmation liturgy has been translated into Farsi.

I can provide all of these resources if church leaders contact me.

What is the best way of churches getting hold of Bibles in Farsi?

If parishes contact me, then I can direct them to a website where they can order their Bibles or New Testaments. We have a limited number for those people who come to us in person, so I can provide them with a copy of the New Testament to read.

Otherwise, there are online resources such as the You Version of the Bible app, which has many translations including Farsi.

In what ways are our church communities in London blessed by welcoming those from Iran into their communities?

I think Persians bring a unique warmth with them in terms of their openness, and the gift of friendship with those they come into contact with in our churches.

The second thing is that they are very much hungry to know God. They are very passionate about knowing God personally, and perhaps that’s a very special blessing that they bring into our communities.

They are also are very practical- ready to help in any aspect of church life, so I would strongly encourage parish leaders to offer them practical thing to do in church, in order to be more engaged in parish life. Also in order to be more integrated in the life of the local community.

To help our understanding, might people have had a Christian faith already in Iran, or might they be exploring faith for the first time?

The vast majority of Christians I have been working with in the diocese are hearing the Christian message here in the UK for the first time, because of lack of freedom in Iran. People in Iran don’t usually have any access to churches or the Gospel.

Some of them have already heard the Gospel in Iran, through friends or through media, and come here to explore more.

Some of them already decided to follow Jesus, and when they come here, we are able to help them to grow in the faith and take the next step forward on the journey.

Are there any sensitivities, or things that church leaders and those within church communities should be aware of when journeying with those from Iran?

Language barriers can be difficult, and there are cultural differences. Iranians are very emotional in terms of their approach, so you have to be careful that our British reserve, or our seriousness is not pushing them away. It’s important to make sure we are warm and welcoming.

Also to try to give them time to settle in the community and help them make friends, linking them in with those who have strong pastoral skills in our communities.

I think it’s also really important to know that these people are very unsettled, especially when they first arrive. They have gone through trauma- leaving their family, their home, their country behind and have gone through difficult journeys, and some of them have gone through major traumas. We need to be conscious of that, and the effects of those traumas they have gone through and really allow extra grace.

It is there anything else that you think is important to mention?

I would just like to encourage my colleagues in parish ministry to consider ministry to Persians as a great opportunity of bringing God’s love and transformation into these people’s lives.

I know some might think they are only in my parish temporary, and it can be hard when you have invested and then they are moved by the Home Office to a different location, where you have no contact.

But I think the window of opportunity God is giving us, especially on the first year of these immigrants arriving, is absolutely a golden opportunity for sharing God’s love and the message of gospel with them. If we serve them effectively, if we allow them to know Jesus through us and his church, I think the mark that ministry will leave on their life is going to be there with them for the rest of their lives, and even to eternity.

So instead of focusing on their moving away from us and not seeing them anymore in the future, we must focus on the opportunity God has given us. To help these people to know God, and to experience his transformation and blessing in them.

If people want to read or learn more about Iranian culture or history, are there things that you would point them to?

  • Iran in World History, by Richard Foltz
  • The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran, by Roy Mottahedeh
  • A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind, by Michael Axworthy
  • Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings, by Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Dick Davis (translator)
  • Christianity in Persia and the Status of Non-Muslims in Modern Iran, by Van Christian A. Gorder
  • Iran and Christianity: Historical Identity and Present Relevance, by Mark Bradley