07/13/2019 Iran (International Christian Concern) – The cross of an Assyrian Presbyterian Church in the northwest city of Tabriz was replaced on July 9th following an international outcry. In May, Iranian intelligence agents had raided the church, changed the locks, tore down the cross, and ordered the church warden to leave.
Immediately after the incident, Yonathan Betkolia, the Assyrian representative to the Iranian Parliament, criticized the move in an open letter to the president. Then a senior advisor to the president publically questioned the legality of the closure, citing the constitution which states that religious minorities are recognized and free to perform their religious ceremonies. Meanwhile, the removal of the cross prompted large international outcry.
The reinstatement of the cross is a welcome move but it is worth noting that no other changes were made to rectify the situation. Members of the church are still left without access to the building. Iran continues to routinely violate the religious freedom of Christians in ways worse than removing a cross. Christians are routinely arrested, beaten, and tortured for their faith. If Iran is serious about protecting the rights of Christians, then it must take more concrete steps to ensure that the free practice of their faith is protected.
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