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Iranian church council condemns threats against Tehran church

Iranian church council condemns threats against Tehran church

A sign was posted on the door of the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran, telling church members it had been closed for “major repairs”.

Pastor Edward Hovsepian, who oversees a collection of Iranian out-of-country churches called the Council of United Iranian Churches, or Hamgaam Council, has told Article18 he believes the “threats and unlawful pressures on Persian-speaking churches are an attempt to put an end to these churches – as soon as possible – by officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

The Hamgaam Council has condemned the recent attempts by security officials to exert pressure on the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran, which was recently threatened with closure because it held meetings in the Farsi language.

The council has also called for the release of the arrested pastor Robert Asseriyan.

In a statement dated 1 June, the council wrote:

“The Council of United Iranian Churches condemns the continuing violations of the rights of religious minorities in Iran to freedom of religion or belief, particularly against Persian-language churches.

“Widespread and illegal arrests, interference in the internal affairs of the churches, imposing unlimited restrictions on their time and manner of worship, threatening members and leaders of the churches, baseless allegations, and preventing the dissemination of the Bible and Christian literature in the Persian language are a few of a series of actions that unfortunately have gained momentum over the last few years.

“The Church in Iran is now in a critical condition. The threat of the imminent closure of the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran, as well as the arrest of some of the leaders of this church, are the latest attempts to completely eliminate Persian-speaking Christianity. 

“The recent arrests and imprisonment of Pastor Robert Asseriyan, Pastor Farhad Sabokrooh and his wife Shahnaz Jayzan, and church workers Nasser Zamen-Dezfuli and Davoud Alijani, are only a small fraction of this behaviour violating human rights and law. Such a process should be neutralised by the unity and common action of Iranian and non-Iranian churches around the world.

“The Board of Directors of the United Council of Churches invites all Iranian Christians around the world to pray for the safety and blessing of their Christian compatriots and not to hesitate from using any effective action to defend and support them.

“The council, together with human rights organisations, political institutions and the international community, has been actively seeking to put a stop to the persecution of Persian-speaking churches in Iran and calling for the accountability of the Islamic Republic of Iran in this regard.”