Introduction / History The Larestani live in southwestern Iran, in the southern portion of the province of Fars in an area called Larestan. This sparsely settled region near the Persian Gulf is characterized by valleys and low mountains. The town of Lar is the chief settlement. Lari is the language spoken; it is closely related to Farsi, the language of most Iranians.
The Larestani are of Persian descent. In the thirteenth century, Lar became a center of trade and commerce in southern Persia (today called Iran). Larestan was nearly always an obscure region, never becoming involved in the politics and conflicts of mainstream Persia. In 1979, the monarchy of the Shah was overthrown, and Iran became an Islamic republic which rigidly controlled the lives of its citizens, governing them according to Islamic sharia law. Today, Larestan is one of the poorest regions of Iran, and many Larestani have migrated to more prosperous parts of the country.
What are their lives like? Just as their Persian ancestors were, many of today's Larestani are either farmers or shepherds. The farmers grow a variety of crops, including cereals and citrus fruits. Since date palms grow in abundance, dates also are a major crop. Tobacco, cotton, mustard, and sesame are important cash crops. Most farmers depend entirely on rainfall to water their crops, but in a few areas, farmers practice irrigation.
The nomadic shepherds raise animals such as camels, horses, and sheep. The agricultural and nomadic economies have traditionally supported each other: farmers and shepherds trade their products. The nomadic way of life has begun to disappear, however, because the government has encouraged nomads to settle as farmers.
Larestani history tells us many of its people were traders. Today that influence still remains, for many Larestani are traders or peddlers. Others are employed in various industries, including the making of firearms, bricks, and tiles and the weaving of cotton cloth and carpet.
Except along the coast, little rain falls, and the weather is usually very hot. Trees such as tamarisks, acacias, and conifers are common. A major problem in Larestan is water supply. Underground water sources are often too salty to drink; thus, the people have built cisterns in many places to catch rainwater.
The Larestani have a rich literary heritage, with many writings that have been published in the Lari language. A number of Larestani poets also have become well known throughout the country, and their works are published in the Farsi language.
What are their beliefs? Although most Iranians are Shi'ite Muslims, the Larestani are predominantly Sunni Muslims. Islam was founded by the prophet Mohammed in the seventh century. The religion is based on works, and has five basic tenets. First, all Muslims must profess that there is only one God and that Mohammed was his prophet. Second, they are required to pray facing Mecca, Islam's holiest city, at least five times a day. Third, they must give alms to the poor. Fourth, all Muslims are required to participate in ceremonial fasting, especially during the month of Ramadan. Finally, Muslims are required to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca, if possible.
What are their needs? The Larestani have great physical needs. Larestan is one of the most economically undeveloped regions of Iran, and many of the people must struggle to earn a living. Larestan lacks a reliable supply of fresh water. This tends to hinder growth and development, especially of agriculture.
The material needs of the Larestani are many, yet the spiritual needs are even greater. With regard to missions, Iran is perhaps the most closed country in the world. Few foreigners and no missionaries are permitted to enter the nation. Christians are mercilessly persecuted for their faith. Consequently, there are no Christians among the Larestani, and no Christian materials are available in Lari.
Prayer Points * Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that God will save key Larestani leaders in government who will share the love of Jesus with their own people.
* Pray that the Larestani will begin to hunger for a personal relationship with God.
* Pray that laws restricting the preaching of the Gospel would be changed.
* Ask God to raise up laborers who understand the culture and have a heart to work with the Larestani.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Larestani. * Pray for translation of the Bible to begin in this people group's primary language. * Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people.