Born into a Muslim family in Iran, Hamid Forotanfard, an RTS Global Master of Arts (Theological Studies) student, would not have imagined his life to turn out as it has. Fleeing the dangers of religious persecution in Tehran in the late 1980s, a pre-adolescent Forotanfard and his family made a new home in Sweden. Years earlier, when he was four years old, his mother had converted from Islam to Christianity—a religion claimed by less than 0.2% of the population of Iran at the time. Christianity was not just rare in Iran—it was illegal. Churches were shuttered by government authorities and Christians could be imprisoned or killed for practicing their faith.

“We have had several pastors in the past who were martyred after the Islamic Revolution,” shared Forotanfard.

Hamid Forotanfard

One of the greatest influences in his life and faith was his mother. He credits her for his development of a love for theology and the Bible at an early age. In college, he continued to pursue those interests, earning a bachelor’s degree in Bible and theology. He was later ordained in the Swedish Alliance Mission denomination. His studies at RTS introduced him more formally to Reformed theology, despite briefly attending a Presbyterian church in Iran before emigrating to Sweden.

“More and more, I was drawn to Reformed theology,” he recalled.

Though college whet his appetite for Reformed theology, it did not satiate it. Most of his training took place outside of the Reformed tradition.

What he did learn in college, however, sparked what became a lifelong interest that eventually fueled his decision to enroll in Reformed Theological Seminary’s Global program in October 2022, after more than a decade in ministry.

Forotanfard explained, “I believe a deeper study in theology and the Word of God will always affect my personal walk with the Lord. It is through the studying and understanding of the Word of God and being submitted to the Scripture that I can grow in my faith and walk with the Lord.”

Forotanfard did not think of his decision to enroll as one of practicality, but one of pleasure: “For me, this is the nourishment that feeds my mind and heart.”

Through continued study, Forotanfard was eager to develop a deeper understanding of Reformed theology and tradition and to be fed spiritually. He sees his participation in the MATS program as something of a duty that will pay dividends in his ministry as well as his personal faith.

“I believe as pastors and ministers we should never stop learning and developing a deeper understanding of the Scripture and true biblical doctrines,” Forotanfard shared.

“Studying theology and the Word of God at RTS is not just about getting an advanced academic education, but about gaining exposure to, engaging in, and being challenged by Scripture on a personal level.”
Hamid Forotanfard
Over the past 10 years, Forotanfard has lived with his wife and daughters in Stockholm and has served as associate pastor at the Persian-speaking Iranian Grace Church. His congregation provides him with the opportunity to connect with and minister to other former Muslims from Iran who have since relocated to Sweden, as he has walked in their shoes. He also serves as a prison chaplain through a partnership between his denomination, his local church, and the Swedish Christian Council, an ecumenical umbrella organization for Christian denominations in Sweden. He visits two prison facilities a week to provide counseling and organize worship services.

Due to his location and other family and ministry commitments, RTS’ Global program seemed ideal. A friend also recommended it to him as an option. It has not disappointed. Forotanfard does not currently foresee a role change upon completion of his program. But he is interested in learning as much as he can and even continuing his studies after he graduates, Lord willing.

“I really enjoy my studies at RTS and am grateful to have this opportunity. Studying theology and the Word of God at RTS is not just about getting an advanced academic education, but about gaining exposure to, engaging in, and being challenged by Scripture on a personal level and growing in my walk with the Lord,” he explained. “It is valuable not because it is required of me, but the value is spiritual and it will equip me more for the ministry that God has called me to.”

Alicia Akins works in international education by day, is a part-time Master of Arts (Biblical Studies) student at RTS Washington, and is the author of Invitations to Abundance, published by Harvest House.