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Persecution of Christians in Iran

ICC Note

Iran has been cracking down on Christians in the country following the conversion of large number of Muslims to Christianity.

By Wahied Wahdat-Hagh

04/03/2009 Iran (Iran Press Watch)-Christians are unlikely to be doing missionary work in Iran. Following a court ruling, even churches are closed down if they preach in Farsi. And bloggers who put biblical quotations on the internet are detained.

On 25 March 2009, the Farsi Christian News Network FCNN reported that the Assyrian church in the town of Shahrara was to be closed down following a ruling by an Iranian revolutionary court. On 19 March, Jonathan Betkolia had informed the Assyrian community in the Iranian capital Tehran of this decision.The reason for the ruling was given as “Farsi-speaking Iranians newly converted to Christianity taking part in church masses”.

Court ruling on church closure

Jonathan Betkolia, who represents Iran’s 35,000-strong Assyrian community in the Islamic “Parliament”, has come into conflict with Iranian priests in the Assyrian community.As a politician, in the past few months he has often criticised the activities of the priests, who had allegedly enabled Farsi-speaking Christians to gain access to the Assyrian church. After warnings from the Assyrian politician, Father Viktor admittedly announced that only Assyrians could take part in church masses, otherwise the church would be closed down. A court ruling to close down the church has nonetheless been issued. The Christian committee of the organisation Human Rights Activists in Iran reported that this ruling had taken place in the context of growing pressure on Iranian Christians.

Sermons only allowed in the Armenian or Assyrian languages

Two Christians detained in Isfahan

The FCNN further reported on 24 March that two Iranian Christians had been detained in Isfahan.One of them, called Mazaher R, is 30 years old and a “Christian internet activist”. According to the FCNN, he had proclaimed the Bible’s message in his blog.One of his readers, who contacted him by email as “Father Reza”, arranged a meeting with him to discuss “the message of Jesus Christ“. On 22 February, Mazaher went to the meeting together with his sister and another fellow Christian called Hamed C.The supposed “Father Reza” was present with a woman who introduced herself as Maria.”Father Reza”, who later turned out to be a police informer, invited the three Iranian Christians to a residence where a new Christian was allegedly to be baptised.Together they went into the building indicated as a house church,where they were arrested by civil servants and security forces.With their eyes covered, they were led away to an unknown place.

No information on detention of Iranian Christians

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