Iranian Christian group ‘dismantled’ for ‘creating moral deviations’

Iranian Christian group ‘dismantled’ for ‘creating moral deviations’

There are currently at least 15 Christians in prison in Iran for alleged ‘actions against national security’.

An Iranian news agency linked to the Revolutionary Guard Corps has reported the arrest of a “network” of Christians in “several provinces” for “creating moral deviations” and “promoting [religious] conversion”.

According to the report, published by Fars News Agency on Saturday, the “Zionist” group was “dismantled” in a coordinated operation, though there is no indication of the number of Christians arrested, nor when or where the arrests took place.

The report accuses “Christian-affiliated networks” of “extensive” efforts against Iran’s national security over the past two years.

There are currently at least 15 Christians in prison in Iran for alleged “actions against national security” – because of their membership or leadership of house-churches.

Six senior UN experts recently wrote to the Iranian government to express “serious concern” over the reported “systematic persecution” of Christians in Iran.

But Iran denied the claims, stating that “nobody is prosecuted on religious grounds” and that action is taken only against members of “enemy groups” and “private churches” (house-churches) belonging to a “Zionist Christian cult” with “anti-security purposes.

These latest reported arrests are just another example of how Iran seeks to portray house-church members as distinct from mainstream Christianity, which is recognised as one of three minority religions in Iran.

The terms “Zionist”, “cult” and “sect” are regularly used when referring to house-churches – both by pro-regime news outlets like Fars, and the judiciary – as opposed to the friendly terms afforded to “Christian compatriots” of Armenian and Assyrian descent (unless they evangelise).

It is only in this way that Iran is able to at once claim that Christians in Iran are not persecuted, while at the same time continuing to crack down on the burgeoning network of house-churches across the country.

House-churches have proliferated across Iran over the past decade in response to the closure of churches offering Persian-language services, meaning they are now the only church on offer for converts to Christianity – of whom there are believed to be as many as one million.

But this extraordinary growth has led to a concerted crackdown by the regime, ever since Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei specifically singled out house-churches as one of the “critical threats” facing the Islamic Republic. 

And it is a crackdown that shows no sign of ceasing.