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Iran Shuts Down Assyrian Church, Removes Cross as Christianity Continues to Win Hearts in the Islamic Regime

05-28-2019

Iranian intelligence agents stormed a 100-year-old Assyrian Presbyterian church in Tabriz, removed the cross from its steeple, and shut it down. 

The Assyrian International News Agency reports that the incident took place on May 9. 

"They made it clear that the Assyrian people are no longer allowed to hold any worship service there," a source told the London-based Iranian Christian advocacy group, Article18.

According to the source, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and the Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order (EIKO) "entered our church compound and changed all the locks on the doors, removed the cross from the church's high tower, installed some monitoring instruments and started to threaten and force our custodian to leave his place inside the compound immediately."

The church, which is considered a National Heritage site, was "confiscated" following a Revolutionary Court order in 2011. However, Church members were allowed to use the facilities until Iranian government authorities closed it earlier this month. 

It is dangerous to be a Christian in Iran. Believers are forbidden to share their faith with their Muslim neighbors or even holding church services in Persian, Iran's national language. 

"Many churches owned by Protestants have been confiscated in Iran," explains Article18's Advocacy Director, Mansour Borji. "In most cases, the government has been unable to repurpose them, especially if they were listed. So they typically remain as empty buildings, often neglected, and turn into ruins before being demolished."

This recent church crackdown comes at a time when Iran's leaders are publicly acknowledging the spread of Christianity throughout the Islamic republic.

Iranwire.com reports Mahmoud Alavi, the Islamic Republic's intelligence minister, was giving a speech in front of several Shia Muslim clerics when he announced "Christianity is spreading in 'parts' of Iran."  

"We had no choice but to summon them to ask them why they were converting," Alavi told the group. "Some of them said they were looking for a religion that gives them peace. We told them that Islam is the religion of brotherhood and peace. They responded by saying that: 'All the time we see Muslim clerics and those who preach from the pulpit talk against each other. If Islam is the religion of cordiality, then before anything else, there must be cordiality and peace among the clerics themselves."

"It is not the job of the intelligence community to find the roots of these conversions from Islam. But it's happening right before our eyes," he added.

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