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Iran: New Crackdown On Christians
Tehran , 4 Jan. (AKI) – The Iranian Evangelical Church has denounced a crackdown by authorities on its members. Under a new government measure, pastors with the official churches will have to provide a list of names of all those who take part in functions to the intelligence ministry. Pastors will also need an authorisation from security forces to celebrate mass. Christians are less than 1 percent of Iran ‘s population of over 68 million.
However, unofficial data shows that the number of converts from Islam to the Evangelical Church is on the rise. Contrary to Catholics and Gregorian Orthodox Christians who discourage conversions for fear of reprisals on their members, Evangelical Christians are in fact extremely active in Iranian society and their number is believed to be growing.
In Iran , Evangelical Christians are often not authorised by authorities to practice their religion and most of their churches are clandestine. The faithful are often forced to celebrate mass in private homes, which is illegal in Iran .
Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president in June 2005 there has been a significant crackdown on Christians and in particular on members of the Evangelical Church . At least 50 members of the church have been jailed since then and are still being detained without trial.
The last reported crackdown on Evangelical Church members occurred before a conference questioning the existence of the Holocaust on 11-12 December. At the time leaders of the congregation denounced the arrest of members in Tehran and in the north of the country.
Authorities provided no official reason for the arrests of the members of the Protestant Church , who had all converted from Islam, but fellow congregation members suspected the reason was their criticism of the government-sponsored conference which questioned the extermination of six million Jews during World War II.