Iran: Church property confiscated by state

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Iranian Christians have requested prayer following continued action against the Christian community, including assaults on church property.

As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (ICCPR) the Islamic Republic of Iran is obliged to uphold freedom of religion or belief. However, it frequently violates those rights. Christian converts from Islam are pressured to recant, sign commitments to refrain from Christian activities or else face criminal charges, such as “acting against national security.”

The regime continues to claim it respects the rights of religious minorities mentioned in the constitution: Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians (meaning ethnic Armenian and Assyrian Christians).

However, on 9 May, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) and EIKO (an organisation under the direct control of the Supreme Leader) raided the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Tabriz, a National Heritage site. They changed the locks, tore down the cross from the church tower, installed monitoring equipment and ordered the church warden to leave. Church members had been expecting problems, as pastors from other churches had been prevented from visiting the Tabriz church for a joint Christmas worship service.

The church, which belongs to the Assyrian Presbytery, was confiscated by order of the Revolutionary Court in 2011, but the ethnic Assyrian congregation was allowed to continue meeting, provided the service was conducted in Aramaic, the Assyrian language.

Nearly all the Farsi-language churches in Iran were closed between 2009 and 2012, with church leaders threatened if they continued to allow ethnic Persians (Farsi speakers) to participate in services. Since then, churches have been allowed to minister to Assyrian and Armenian congregations in their respective languages, but the Iranian regime has continued to oppress the church and confiscate church property.

Last year, on 7 March 2018, representatives of EIKO, along with Iranian law enforcement authorities, officially confiscated the Garden of Sharon Christian retreat centre belonging to the Assemblies of God church in Tehran. The state attempted to legitimize the takeover by claiming that the Assemblies of God church is funded and utilized by the CIA as a cover for a spy work in Islamic countries.

Iranian Christians request prayer that:
a.    Christians in Iran of all ethnicities, creeds and language groups, including converts from Islam, will have the freedom to practice their religion
b. the Lord will encourage and comfort the pastor and congregation of Tabriz Evangelical Church
c. The Iranian regime will be responsive to national and international calls for the protection of religious minorities and their property

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