Central Assembly of God, Tehran (Photo courtesy Farsi Christian Network)
Iran (MNN) ― Concerns over church growth prompted Iran's Revolutionary Guard to crack down on a government-sanctioned church earlier this month.
In a country where almost all Christian activity is illegal--especially when it occurs in Persian languages, President and CEO of Open Doors USA Carl Moeller says, "Our work in the Persian-speaking world is very involved in supporting churches. The reality is that this church in Tehran--an Assembly of God church--was closed. It's one of the few legally Farsi-speaking churches in all of Iran."
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) says that until the order is reversed, no services will be held at the Janat-Abad area church.
Islam is the official religion in Iran, and everything falls under the interpretation of Sharia law. Moeller adds, "There are religious minorities that have historically been granted permission to worship in Iran: primarily Armenians, who are ethnically Armenian but living in Iran as Iranian citizens. They've been given certain limited permissions to meet." However, over the last year or so, many Christians have reported imprisonment, physical abuse, harassment, and discrimination because of their faith.
Moeller goes on to say that the most disconcerting part of the closure is: "There are few legally-protected Farsi-speaking churches, and yet those few now are coming under extreme pressure, and this one church has been ordered to be closed."
Last month the leadership of the AOG Central Church of Tehran asked its members to volunteer their names and national ID numbers. Compass Direct News reports that the government move was aimed at limiting attendance by converts from Islam to Christianity, as well as to better monitor its members.
It's more than keeping an eye on Christians, though, explains Moeller. "In much of the country, Christians are being labeled by the government as 'agents of foreign governments' and so forth, and simply as 'spies to the regime.'"
It's a consistent line of thinking when the Islamic regime's desire is to eliminate Christianity from Iran. "The way in which it seems to make sense, from their perspective, is that Christians, by their definition, are 'foreign agents.' Again, [with] the pressure that they're feeling globally on scrutiny about their nuclear program and the various other pressure that the Iranian government feels it's under, the first easy target for them to go after are Christians."
Disillusionment coupled with fear and social pressure are widening the crack in the regime's façade. Moeller says that their harsh treatment of Christians only further fuels the flames of the Gospel. "Increasingly, the government has to resort to stronger and stronger tactics to control the population. We see this happen as the influence of Christians in the country grows. And as people are more and more emboldened by their Christian faith to stand up against the government, the government is going to crack down even more. "
Open Doors UK/Ireland estimates that are roughly 460,000 Christians (from an Islamic and Assyrian/Armenian background) in Iran. Pray for boldness for believers there. Check our Featured Links Section for more prayer needs around the world.