I watched Cyrus Nowrasteh’s ‘Infidel‘ movie this weekend and highly recommend!
When I first heard about this movie, I was startled – shocked even – to think it was coming out.
It dealt with all sorts of bizarre and uncomfortable topics: terrorism, persecution, corruption and injustice at the highest levels of government and society.
The story begins with a high-profile Christian blogger, Doug (Jim Caviezel), who is captured in Egypt and later imprisoned in Iran. His crime? “Proselytizing” on a live TV show by stating his belief that Jesus is God.
His wife (Claudia Karvan) embarks on a desperate attempt to see him even as he is kept hostage as a political prisoner, accused of spying, and sentenced to death in a kangaroo court.
The movie also came with an R rating, which in all honesty isn’t my usual cup of tea. I shudder at horror movies and cringe at violent scenes and imagery.
While I was glad to see a movie bringing attention to persecution in the church, I didn’t think I wanted to see it up close.
But I got to thinking…
…When Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” came out (interestingly enough, Jim Caviezel starred in that too), I saw that movie. Even now I’m still not sure that I’ve recovered from watching it.
But in a sense, I don’t want to recover from watching it.
To see the bloody and inhumane torture inflicted upon one man, to understand a little more fully the suffering my Savior endured, to experience the anguish face on, made a huge impact on me.
I left that theater after watching “Passion” feeling like I had changed, somehow, from my earlier self.
The same thing happened to me this weekend after watching “Infidel.”
I had a new, deeper appreciation for the persecuted church in Iran.
I reveled in the hauntingly beautiful sights and sounds of the Middle East (the dancing, food and music scenes are amazing!).
I ached for the misery and heartbreak that real people are suffering, under a brutal regime that cares nothing for civil liberties, women’s rights, or due process of law.
I also loved that the movie took care to address all these issues at the human level – never stooping to stereotypes, but keeping even its would-be villains (and heroes) human and complex.
For example, one of the most sympathetic characters is a Muslim prison guard who brings a message from Doug’s wife to Doug in prison. It’s a move that clearly threatens the guard’s job (and life!), yet something he does from simple compassion and kindness.
In one scene Claudia meets the underground church in Iran – a women-led movement, interestingly enough – and receives a small piece of paper where she can write a secret message to Doug.
That scene choked me up. The acting is so personal, the cinematography so delicate, that you can almost feel her simultaneous hope and despair.
On one hand, she is powerless to effect any immediate change for her husband. And yet, that small note of paper is her only link to him. And she has to write something – right now! – in the presence of everyone watching.
Further reading & action
If there is anything to take away from this movie, I really believe the ongoing persecution of people because of their faith needs to be front and center.
This should not be a partisan or political issue. Other people from religions outside Christianity are targeted, too, like the Iranian Jews mentioned in the movie.
Here’s just a smattering of news I could find after searching online:
- https://www.christianpost.com/news/3-christian-men-facing-combined-35-years-in-prison-flee-iran.html (Sept. 13, 2020) – “Three Iranian Christian converts, who were facing a combined 35 years in prison because of their faith, have fled the country after a court rejected their appeal, according to a Christian persecution watchdog group.”
- https://www.persecution.org/2020/08/17/appeal-lost-iranian-christian-couple/ (Aug. 17, 2020) – “An Iranian couple in their 60s has lost their appeal regarding 5 and 10-year jail sentences which were issued because of their Christian faith.”
- https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/02/persecution-driving-christians-out-of-middle-east-report (May 2019) – “Pervasive persecution of Christians, sometimes amounting to genocide, is ongoing in parts of the Middle East, and has prompted an exodus in the past two decades, according to a report commissioned by the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt.”
Fellow Christians can also connect with ministries such as Open Doors for more info and how we can help pray for, and support, our brothers and sisters around the world.