The cross was removed from the church’s tower. (Photo: Article 18)

An Assyrian church in northwestern Iran has been closed down and the cross removed from its tower, reports advocacy organisation Article 18.

A “large number” of agents from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and EIKO, an organisation presided over by the Supreme Leader, reportedly stormed the 100-year-old-church on 9 May, changed all the locks, tore down the cross and ordered the church warden to leave.

Article18 quoted a source as saying: “They made it clear that the Assyrian people are no longer allowed to hold any worship service there.”

The source said church members had been fearful since Christmas, when pastors from other churches were prevented from visiting for a joint service with other Assyrian and Armenian Christians.

In Iran, members of the historically Christian Assyrian and Armenian communities are a recognised religious minority, whose freedom of religion is protected by national law.

However, churches that have attracted Muslim-born Iranians by holding services in the Persian language have been forced to close, or to at least stop those services and hold them only in their respective native languages.

Church members who are found to have evangelised to Muslims, such as the Assyrian pastorVictor Bet-Tamraz, have been charged with “actions against national security” and handed long prison sentences.

The church, belonging to The Assyrian Presbytery, was “confiscated” by Revolutionary Court order in 2011, but church members had been able to continue using the building for services in the Assyrian language – until now.

“Many churches owned by Protestants have been confiscated in Iran,” commented 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, as was the case with the church in Kerman [a city in the southeast].”

(Source: World Watch Monitor)

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WRITE A LETTER OF ENCOURAGEMENT

In December 2018, at least 150 Christians were arrested in Iran, with an additional 9 more detained since 2019 started. The crackdown reminds us of the dozens of Christians who are currently behind bars in the country for believing that Jesus is God, and for telling others about that truth.

Send encouragement to four such believers today: Nasser-Navard Gol-Tapeh, Ebrahim Firouzi, Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz, Shamiram Isavi Khabizeh WRITE A LETTER OF ENCOURAGEMENT