Marzi Amirizadeh is not a Persian queen. Unlike Esther from the Purim story, who was an orphan in Persia expelled from Judea following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and exile of the Jewish people, Marzi is a native of Persia, modern day Iran.
Marzi lives in the United States, her adopted country where, like Esther, she has risen to the occasion “for such a time as this.”
Like Esther, who put her life on the line to approach her husband, the king, to save her people, Marzi also put her life on the line. She did not go before the modern “king,” the ayatollahs, to save her people from imminent death, but rather worked stealthily behind the scene, against the ayatollahs, to affirm her faith and for the well-being of Iran.
Marzi is an Iranian-born Christian who fled the land of her birth, the land in which she came to faith. Just doing so put her life at risk. In Islam, Jews and Christians are granted the status of dhimmi, a protected second-class citizen. But in Iran, the reality is somewhat less “favorable.” Jews and Christians are persecuted, as is pretty much anyone who does not fit into the narrowly-defined version of extremist Shia Islam that’s hijacked Iran since 1979. Sunnis, Kurds, Bahais and other religious and ethnic minorities are all in the regime’s crosshairs.
Coming to faith as a Christian in Iran is not something to be taken for granted. As much as there are morality police guarding how people dress and behave in public, simply being a Christian and publicy affirming the faith in any way can be dangerous, if not life threatening. Marzi knows all too well. She was arrested and interrogated, brought to trial and received a death sentence on the grounds of what Iranians called “apostasy.”
But Marzi is not just brave like Esther, she’s smart too. In her interrogations – and even at trial, when accused of apostasy (converting from Islam to Christianity) – Marzi simply said, “No.”
She was never a Muslim, despite the Islamic religion declaring that a child born of a Muslim man is a Muslim, and that children born as such in Iran are registered as Muslims. Marzi was forced to study Islam, but never avowed it, never embraced it, so she could never disavow it. Her Iranian accusers were not left with much to challenge, despite that she and everything about her upset the Iranian system.
But she didn’t stop there. Marzi shared her faith with her accusers, her captors, her interrogators. If Allah was really God, why could she not have a personal relationship with him? Why could Allah not speak to her directly? There were many “whys” in her search for faith, and then her affirmation of it.
Marzi shared that their god is a god who is distant, with whom you cannot have a close relationship, is always ready to punish you and one who will even inflict torture for the most minor infractions.
She never accepted Allah, revered in Islam, as the true God. She was always searching for a personal relationship with God, to find the truth. Even something as mundane as only praying to God in Arabic, not in Persian or any other language, challenged her and caused her to challenge theology. If their god were God, he would surely be multilingual and receive prayers in all languages.
She understood they were lying and she became thirsty to get to know God. Eventually, He spoke to her in a dream, revealing the true face of Islam and God’s love for her and all people. A God of love was comforting, made sense and upended their god of fear. God made Himself present in her life, and became her rock.
In coming to faith in the land whose Islamic leaders brand Israel “the Zionist entity” and “the little Satan,” Marzi also had a spiritual awakening about Israel and the Jewish people – how important they were to her faith and very existence as a Christian.
This alone could have earned her another death sentence. During our conversation on the Inspiration from Zion podcast, she notes dispassionately, that Iranian extremists would be quick to accuse her “spying” for Israel.
Marzi enraged the judge, in whose hands her life was at stake, by recounting how God spoke to her against the judge’s (and Islam’s) belief that He only speaks to prophets and holy people.
Some of her captors admired the strength of her faith and that she stood up to the many forms of intimidation and threats to renounce her Christian faith, even while challenging the underpinnings of Islam.
But Marzi does not do anything in half measures. While Iran is the land of her birth – and the U.S. is the land of her current citizenship, where she has even run for elected office – Israel is a dream on her radar. Next month she’ll get to fulfill her dream and visit the Land of the Bible, the land in which her faith was born, where Jesus lived. She wants to see all of biblical and modern Israel and to be inspired in her own faith.
But she also wants to bring a message of love to Israel: Even though the Iranian regime hates Israel, average Iranians do not. She knows that just as she was arrested and sentenced to death, and only a miracle saved her, the Iranian threat is very real, but that God will protect Israel, as well.
Esther beseeched the Jewish people 2,500 years ago to pray and fast for her to be able to use her position to save the Jewish people from the death decree forced by the enemy, Haman. Today, Marzi represents Esther’s bravery and boldness, and is very much a bridge between Jews and Christians.
We should join with her in prayers for Iran, that somehow miraculously the Iranian people can be saved from its evil rulers.
Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians and serves as president of the Genesis 123 Foundation. He writes regularly on major Christian websites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He is host of the popular Inspiration from Zion podcast. He can be reached at [email protected].