The 1.5 million Western Baluch in southeastern Iran are part of a larger group of Baluch numbering around ten million spread across Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan – an area known as “Baluchistan.” The majority of Baluch, who migrated from the Caspian Sea region around the 6th/7th centuries, kept traveling eastwards, while these “few” settled in Iran for unknown reasons.
Balochi society is structured by tribes and clans, where the chief is the local authority. The Baluch live by an honor code of honesty and hospitality. Their nomadic past is changing. Many have settled into villages of mud or stone huts and work mostly as farmers or shepherds. Some young men move to cities in search of jobs. This geographic area is the least-developed in Iran, mostly because of its harsh physical conditions. Rain is scarce – but when it does fall, catastrophic flooding results.
The Baluch most likely originally practiced Zoroastrianism, an ancient, pre-Islamic religion, but eventually became Muslim. Though Iran is 90% Shia, the Baluch, like other ethnic minorities in Iran, are Sunni Muslim.
The Baluch have suffered enormously, especially over the past forty years under the Iranian Islamic regime. They have endured years of poverty, hardship, and pain. Basic infrastructure is insufficient. Economic development has been nearly nonexistent, and the lack of government responses to natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes has been a disaster itself. Floods in January 2020 wiped out much of their livestock and agriculture.
Living as a suppressed ethnic and religious minority among the Shia Muslim Persian population in Iran has been extremely difficult. The Baluch are deprived of their rights and are considered third-class citizens. They face state-sponsored intimidation, harassment, arrest, and torture if they speak out against the regime. The Balochi language, banned by the government, is at risk of extinction in two or three generations. Farsi is the only recognized language of education, commerce, television, and social media.
There is little outreach work happening among the Western Baluch. Some are working to complete a New Testament translation, but because of the very low literacy rate and the dangers of possessing printed Christian materials, orality ministries should be developed using satellite TV, radio, and the internet. Most people – even nomads – have access to these kinds of media! The JESUS Film is a great resource in a variety of Iranian languages as is a one-hour evangelistic video entitled “God is Love.”
While the church in Iran is the fastest growing church in the world today – even without property or buildings – there are only a handful of Western Baluch believers. All 10 million of the Baluch (including these 1.5m Western Balochi speakers) are considered entirely unreached and almost completely unengaged.