ASIA/IRAN - New restrictions on Christian worship in the Persian language: the faithful under pressure

Friday, 24 February 2012

Tehran (Agenzia Fides) - Christian worship in the Persian language, which is the national language in Iran - is not welcomed by the authorities: the last two Christian churches offering rituals and celebrations in Persian in Tehran were ordered to immediately cease this activity. As sources of Fides note, the Iranian authorities are trying to limit the presence and influence of Christians in the country, even through a campaign of arrests among Christians attending "house churches" or historical churches.
As reported to Fides in a note by the NGO "Open Doors", which defends religious freedom in the world, on 10 February, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security banned two Presbyterian churches in Tehran, the church of "San Pietro" and the church of Emmanuel to use the Persian language for worship on Friday. Instead, a celebration on Sunday is allowed in Persian, but on that day most Iranians work and few faithful can participate. With the new restriction, both churches have lost more than half of their followers. The measure is intended to prevent the faithful from Tehran to go to church and the Christian faith to increase: it is directed, in fact, especially to the Iranians who do not speak Armenian or Assyrian, spoken by the historical Christian minorities in Iran.
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, an Iranian emigrated abroad, founder of the NGO "Iran Human Rights", told Fides: "From our information it seems that pressure on Christians and other religious minorities is increasing, and their condition worsens. We have reports of arrests of many Christians, especially those converted from Islam, the so-called 'apostates' who are the main target. It is a matter which started in previous years, which is intensifying. The Islamic authorities have expressed their concern for those who leave the Islamic religion, and act accordingly. There is a blatant abuse of freedom of expression and religion on political minorities, ethnic and religious members ." Fides has recently received alarming reports on the possible order of execution of the death sentence imposed on the Christian Pastor Nadarkhani Yousef, sentenced for apostasy. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 24/2/2012)