Iran (MNN/Mohabat News) — Increasing pressure from the government has forced a church to do something no church ever wants to do: it told certain attenders to stay away. The church in Iran closes its doors to Farsi speakers.
According to Mohabat News, the pastor of a church in Tehran was forced to announce that Farsi-speaking Christians are not welcome anymore. The news service reports this is just another in the list of churches where Farsi-speaking Christians are not allowed anymore.
The pastor made the announcement to the majority Farsi-speaking attendees. Some have been attending the church for more than 20 years.
Just one week after the announcement, the church’s custodian prevented a few of the Farsi-speaking members from entering the church. Those prevented included Sunday school teachers, ministers, and elders of the church. They were told they cannot enter the church building even for purposes other than attending the service.
Iranian churches are under pressure from government–more specifically Revolutionary Guard Intelligence–to stop their service in Farsi.
Earlier, the Ministry of Intelligence asked members of this church to submit their ID cards and personal information to the ministry. This was done to intimidate church members and keep them from attending church services.
It is noteworthy that only a few Armenian and Assyrian families attend this church. It’s unlikely this church can continue with so few attenders remaining.
Some analysts believe that Assyrian Member of Parliament, Yonatan Betkolia, is behind this prohibition order. Past experiences have clearly shown his close cooperation with the Ministry of Intelligence. Through this cooperation, he has been able to convince a number of Assyrian and Armenian pastors to close the doors of their churches on Farsi-speaking Christians.
Since 2011, pressure and restrictions on Iranian churches have increased dramatically.
Many Christians, especially newly-converted Christians, have faced imprisonment, pressure, and harassment in the past few years. Iranian intelligence and security forces have recently focused their efforts to close down more churches around the country. Among the already closed churches are the Assemblies of God Church in Ahwaz, the Farsi-speaking church of Janat-Abad, and Central Assemblies of God Churches in Tehran. The Central AG Church was the largest Farsi-speaking Church in Tehran which was completely closed down during the past presidential election campaigns in Iran.
Even a Latin Catholic Church in Tehran was forced to ban Farsi-speakers from attending, although only small parts of their services were held in Farsi. Government authorities threatened church officials and warned them against allowing Farsi-speaking Christians in their services.
There are a few other churches across the country, as well, that are ordered to prohibit Farsi-speaker attendance. They are also banned from registering new members.