Former militant discovered “immoral” people had revolutionary love
A former close supporter of Ayatollah Khomeini, Dr Daniel Shayesteh had to flee to Turkey when his life was threatened by the Iranian revolutionary leader he had dedicated his life to serving, and there discovered a different perspective on what he had always believed.
He says that for years he was “preparing young boys and girls to hate Christianity”, but in Turkey he was amazed to find that Christians were sacrificially loving and helping refugees from all nations.
During his university years, Daniel was a radical leader and teacher in the militant Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement and welcomed Ayatollah Khomeini’s return from exile after the 1979 Iranian revolution.
He then co-founded the revolutionary army of Hezbollah in Iran and Lebanon, and trained young boys and girls in terrorist techniques in Iran with the aim of sending them out to western countries.
A year later, Daniel became an influential politician opposing Khomeini, because he had deliberately deceived the Iranian people into believing he wanted a democracy.
With 98 per cent of the vote, the election of Daniel’s colleague as president angered Khomeini and his clergy, who ordered the execution of those who politically opposed him. Some, including the president, escaped, but many were killed, Daniel recalls sadly.
In the decade after the 1979 revolution, Daniel says the executions numbered “between 50-60,000, only young Iranian girls and boys.”
“I was kidnapped at night, put in a death cell and lived for three months in a toilet. In that prison you beg them to kill you.”
His own popularity and prophecies by others enabled Daniel to flee to Turkey, where he began university studies and invested in a business partnership with an Iranian friend.
After that partner ran away with his money to Germany, Daniel reluctantly visited a Christian church in Istanbul that was helping many Iranian refugees, including his former business partner.
He remembers that “they welcomed me very warmly”, promised to write to friends in Germany and encouraged him to return for further news.
This amazed Daniel, who says he had thought that “every cruel thing has come from [Christians].”
“I was amazed that these people so loved us and were sacrificial in helping many Muslims,” he remembers.
“Gradually, I discovered that they must have a treasure inside them that was motivating them to do this.”
One night, he recalls having a dream of earthquakes everywhere, fire, houses destroyed, and people dying.
“I was alone in my father’s house. I called to God for help. A light appeared and said, ‘I am Jesus. I will help you, but you need to come out from your father’s house.’ I immediately went out, the house fell down and I woke up.”
The following Sunday at church, Daniel was shocked to hear the preacher saying, “Come out from your father’s house… live in Jesus’ house of absolute joy, freedom and peace.”
Amazed, Daniel began to read the New Testament.
“I discovered from the first pages that God in the Bible is a relational God. Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of God is in you.’
“If God is not relational how can He come in you? All other gods are impersonal. How can an impersonal god create personal beings… shape dust, breathe into it and give to it a living spirit?”
“The gospel was not saying this directly, but because I was teaching philosophy it was so powerful.”
Daniel says he was also amazed by Romans chapter 5: “It says that one man (Adam) brought sin into this world… whereas in all other religions, god has brought sin into this world… [Romans 5 also says that] through the life and work of a righteous one all will be saved.
“If a god creates sin, are you able to call that god righteous? No!
“This was making sense. In all other religions, there is no one righteous to send. That was powerful and really touched my heart.”
Another amazing discovery for Daniel was that he could truly love his wife “as you love your body” (see Ephesians 5). He had been taught that ladies are mute animals.
“I said, I am going to give my life to Jesus. He is so good. After that He did other amazing things in my life.”
Daniel’s wife and daughters joined him in Turkey. After two weeks, his wife asked him, “Why are you treating me like this? Are you changed?”
When she learned the reason was Jesus, Daniel’s wife was terrified. Then, two months later, his wife trusted in Jesus after she had a dream.
Daniel explains: “There were several ladies walking with Jesus in a mountainous area. They all went through a steep valley, but she was afraid to go. … Jesus said, ‘Be not afraid, take your first step.’ As she took her first step the valley was lifted up. All mountains became level and she walked to Jesus.”
Daniel told his wife; “This is the message of Isaiah in the Bible: ‘The voice of the man calling in the desert, all mountains and valleys will become level’… because God is walking in front of you.
“That morning she opened her heart to the Lord. I apologised for all the terrible things I had done to her… For the first time I called her honey.”
To those seeking God, Daniel says, “If you do not know about the values of Jesus Christ, please, as soon as possible, start to read the gospels in the New Testament. He is so good. He is so beautiful.”
In 2000, Daniel established the organization ‘Exodus from Darkness’ to share the good news of Jesus both in churches and to immigrants from the Middle East in Australia and around the world.