What Does the Death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi Mean for Christians in Iran and for the West?

On Sunday May 19, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, together with senior officials in Iran’s government were killed in a helicopter crash. What does the replacement of these senior government figures mean for Iran and for the rest of the world?

What Happened to Iran’s President?

On the morning of Sunday May 19, President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan inaugurated a dam in the northwest of Iran, after touring several parts of the facility which is located on the border river of Aras. Some sources have speculated Raisi may have also been using the opportunity to secure support for further attacks on Israel. This remains pure speculation at this point.

That same afternoon, the helicopter carrying President Raisi together with senior Iran government officials crashed in Dizmar forest, a mountainous region in the country’s northwest, over the East Azerbaijan province.

There was no immediate cause for the crash with some conflicting details emerging later. Iranian state news called it a ‘technical failure’. Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the helicopter was “forced to make a hard landing due to the bad weather and fog”.

Search and rescue teams spent hours in the rain and fog looking for the crash site. There were no survivors.

Who Was on Board the Helicopter that Crashed in Iran?

Passengers on board were Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Malik Rahmati (governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province), Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Al-Hashem (representative of the Iranian supreme leader to East Azerbaijan), Sardar Seyed Mehdi Mousavi (head of Raisi’s guard team), the pilot, co-pilot and flight technician.

Was Iran President Raisi’s Death an Accident?

On the surface, and according to all official statements, President Raisi’s death was an accident. No one has claimed responsibility and most significantly, Israel has denied all involvement. In fact, there is no real strategic benefit to Israel from Mr Raisi’s death.

However there are real questions that have not been answered to satisfaction. This should have been a short routine flight home. The other two helicopters in the same convoy made it back safely. Some analysts have gone as far as saying that the helicopter was very old and yet another example of Iran putting more value on military arms than keeping their domestic fleet up to date. 

Surely the helicopter that carried such precious cargo would have been fitted with the best technology to avoid such a crash? If the weather conditions were so bad, why were they cleared for takeoff?

What Will Happen Now Iran’s President has Died?

While there are many questions surrounding the nature of President’s Raisi’s death, we know that the situation will only cause division and more tension within the nation of Iran. Though state media has been quick to show images of Iranians mourning, countless more have been celebrating – in Iran as well as Syria. The hardliner President who had earnt himself the title “Butcher of Tehran” is no more.

As First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber steps in as acting president and Ali Bagheri as acting foreign minister, there will be no positive change for the people of Iran as these leaders are sure to assert their authority in support of the dangerous and repressive regime.

In addition, the structure of Iran’s government gives ultimate power to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who despite his age and reported failing health, remains in his post. He has been quick to announce that nothing will change as a result of these losses.

Worth noting, Raisi was tipped as a strong candidate being prepared to step into the powerful Supreme Leader role. With Raisi’s death, the successorship of Khamenei becomes the key question on everyone’s mind.

What is the Implication for Iranian Christians Following Raisi’s Death?

We are witnessing a time when the Ayatollahs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) all vie for power. When there is an internal power struggle, it disrupts everyday life within the country, and uncertainty will cause those in power to rule with an even tighter fist.

New elections have been promised within the next 50 days in Iran. However Iran’s elections have been heavily controlled since the birth of the Islamic Regime in 1979 and there is little expectation other than for the position to be filled by a hardliner, sympathetic to the wishes of the Supreme Leader. 

Specifically, persecution against Iranian Christians will certainly remain and could intensify with these changes in leadership. We must strengthen the Church and ensure that the message of the gospel is heard throughout the nation as Iranians will be searching for solid ground during this time of uncertainty.  

It is important to note that before promising restoration for Elam (modern day Iran), we hear the Lord declaring “I will set my throne in Elam and destroy her king and officials” (Jeremiah 49:38). We cannot presume to know God’s mind, but could it be that he is in the process of preparing the way for what is coming next for Iran?

What Should Christians Do Following the Death of Iran’s President?

Let’s not be caught sleeping! Iran’s story is being shaped as we stand and watch! Iran is a key player in her region and beyond. Imagine the impact on global affairs if the ‘hearts of the kings of Iran’ were steered towards good rather than evil! Pray! Be informed! Engage in the mission (raise awareness, support in finance)!

We need all hands to the plough. Iranians are turning from Islam and looking for alternatives. The Church needs to be ready and equipped to respond in a timely way.

Pray for the Government of Iran

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Pray for God’s will to be done. Pray for democracy to prevail. Pray for fair elections. Pray for the will and needs of the people to be heard. Pray for salvation amongst the ruling authorities – for visitations in their dreams and visions and for powerful Damascus Road encounters that will turn their hearts towards Jesus. Pray for protection for those that have already turned to Jesus.

Pray for the People of Iran

Pray for peace at a time of uncertainty and unrest. Pray for protection over vulnerable lives where a mental health crisis and rising suicide rates would seek to cause further devastation.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Pray that the lost, broken and hopeless will find their way to Jesus.

Pray for the Christians of Iran

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

The Church, the body of Jesus Christ, is the hope for a dark and dying world!

Pray for protection over the Christians of Iran who face intense persecution every day. Pray for courage to be a light on a hill for their communities and nation. Pray for strength and encouragement at a time of great uncertainty. Pray for the Church to grow.

“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18

If you can, donate so we can continue to share the gospel with Iranians, disciple the converts, and help those in need. We will not rest until the Word of God reaches every home and heart in Iran.

Published on
20 May 2024
Understanding the Iranian Attack on Israel: The Christian Response Letters from Iran

Donate Today

Funds go directly to ensuring the gospel is preached, converts are rooted in the Word, and leaders are raised that will bring the transforming love of Christ to Iran – and beyond.