EIKO confiscates church property in Karaj

EIKO confiscates church property in Karaj

A church retreat centre in Karaj has been told that it will be confiscated tomorrow by the Executive Headquarters of Iman’s Directive (EIKO), which is under the direct stewardship of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The ruling by the Third Branch of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran was initially passed in July 2015, but it has taken three years to be enacted.

The Sharon Garden, located in the Valad Abad area of Karaj, has belonged to the Iranian Assemblies of God denomination since the early 1970s. The 10,000-square-metre plot, with a value of nearly $3million, was purchased with donations from church members. It has been used for children’s camps and family retreats.

The ruling issued by the Revolutionary Court stated that “the council is one of the branches of the American Philadelphia Church, which is funded by the United States and by the CIA spy agency to infiltrate the countries of the Islamic world, especially Iran, and engage in evangelical activities”.

Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, says the confiscation is part of a trend, as Iranian authorities seek to “eliminate Protestant and evangelical Christians from the social scene of Iran”.

Following the announcement of the Revolutionary Court’s verdict, Borji told BBC Radio 4: “The ultimate goal of the campaign is to render Protestant and Evangelical churches, with more than 630 million adherents worldwide, as an outsider cult with no official recognition in Iran.

He added that now “every church leader, every church member will be quite frightened because of the prospects of prison and being labelled as collaborators with the ‘enemy’”.

Christians are an officially recognised religious minority in Iran, but in recent years both clerics and government officials have made numerous derogatory statements against Protestants.

British MP Tobias Ellwood said in a statement to parliament: The UK regularly raises human rights cases with the Iranian government, including the continued persecution of religious minorities. We are aware of restrictions on translating Christian texts in Iran. We condemn these restrictions alongside reports of Christian property being seized and reports of theological schools being closed. We call on Iran to cease harassment of all religious minorities and to fulfil its international and domestic obligations to allow freedom of religion to all Iranians.”

The Assemblies of God was established prior to the Islamic Revolution and was reinstated as a recognised religious institution a year after the revolution.

Edward Hovsepian, the former superintendent of the AoG in Iran, told Article18: “The Assemblies of God in Iran has not had any association with American congregations in any period of its history, whether before or after the revolution, and has always been independent of it. Our partnership with other AoG churches around the world was only in shared religious beliefs.”

The General Superintendent of the global AoG, George Wood, said in a statement: The 68 million worldwide adherents of The General Council of the Assemblies of God wish to express dismay at the recent confiscation of campground and garden property from the Iran Assemblies of God. We hereby request the return of the property to its legal owner.”