Iran’s Revolutionary Guard ordered the closure of a church in the capital, Tehran, amid a government campaign to crack down on the few recognized churches offering Farsi-speaking services.
The church in Tehran’s northwestern district of Janat-Abad belongs to the Assemblies of God (AOG) Church in Iran. Its closure has hit a media headline in the last few days. BBC’s Persian Radio service has conducted an interview with Mansour Borji, a London based church pastor and advocacy officer for Human Right initiative, Article18.
BBC: Iranian Christian News Agency, Mohabat News, has reported that Iran’s has ordered the closure of a church in Jannat-Abad, Tehran. According to this report, Janat-Abad church, which is located in west Tehran, has about 100 members and its services are held in Farsi language. Mohabat News has seen this church closure as a sign of an increasing government crackdown on Christians and specially converts from Islam. To find out more, BBC’s Persian Radio has interviewed Mansour Borji, a pastor of Iranian church in London.
BBC: Although activities of these churches in Tehran goes back to a few hundred years, what is the reason for the restrictions currently imposed on these churches?
Borji: Iranian government is particularly concerned with the activities of the evangelical churches. These pressures are mainly focused on the churches that are active in promotion of Christian faith. Evangelical churches emphasize that every person has the right to choose his or her own religion and people’s faith is not a matter to be imposed on them. These churches also face so much pressure because they refuse to comply with the illegal demands by the security forces to deny entry to non-Christians wishing to attend their services. The Church leaders have said in many occasions that we want to be law-abiding citizens. But we can’t accept demand that are firstly against the Word of God and secondly are in contradictions with Iran’s national and international laws and commitments.
BBC: Mr. Borji, I still don’t understand what issues the Iranian government has with this church, if the reports we read about its closure are accurate
Borji: What has worried Iranian authorities these days is the phenomenal church growth which has caused high ranking Iranian authorities, including Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatullah Khamenei, to comment on it. Just recently concerns were expressed in one Iranian state media that due to restrictions enforced on the City Churches, a house-churches movement has grown in smaller cities and rural areas.
Obviously this [house-church] phenomenon that we are currently witnessing is a part of the concerns the authorities have. Iranians are very receptive and open to the Gospel.
Janat-Abad church was initially established to serve an Assyrian Christian congregation. But gradually the number of Farsi-Speaking believers increased. Of course a large number of them are new converts from a Muslim background. This has alarmed Iranian authorities.
(Translate by MohabatNEWS)