ASIA/IRAN - A Protestant church ordered to close, the crackdown on churches continues

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Tehran (Agenzia Fides) - A Protestant church of the "Assembly of God" in the Janat-Abad area of Tehran, has been ordered the immediate closure by intelligence Branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. According to local sources, the Pastor who led the community was told to cancel all church activities. The faithful Christians who attended it are suddenly without a place of worship, is what is said in a statement sent to Fides by the NGO "Christian Solidarity Worldwide" (CSW). The Revolutionary Guard is known for using aggressive methods and deployed in situations deemed "to threaten the national security or stability" of the country. Its speeches on issues of religious freedom, therefore, are quite worrying, notes CSW. Local sources confirm that all Christian churches in Tehran which celebrate the cult in Farsi language (national language) have been threatened with closure as authorities seek to eliminate them altogether.
The closure of the Assembly of God Church is the latest move in a crackdown launched since the end of 2011, when an AOG church in Ahwaz was raided and all attending were detained, including Sunday school children. In 2012 the leaders of the Anglican Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Isfahan were arrested by the police and one of them released in May on bail of about $40,000. A month ago the leader of another Assembly of God church in central Tehran denounced controls and intrusive inspections on all community members. More recently, members of the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Tehran were detained, and the church was ordered to cease all weekly activities, with the exception of its Sunday liturgical services. Since the beginning of 2012, Iran has seen an upsurge in arrests, persecutions, trials and imprisonment of converts to Christianity, particularly in Tehran, Kermanshah, Shiraz and Esfahan. According to CSW it is "a clear escalation, in which one wants to depict the Christian activity as a threat to the state." (PA) (Agenzia Fides 09/06/2012)