Published: 14:00 GMT Standard Time - Tuesday 21 February 2012
Churches ordered to stop holding services in Iranian national language
Country/Region: Iran, Middle East and North Africa
Two Tehran churches have been ordered to stop holding services in Farsi on Fridays in an apparent bid to prevent Muslims from hearing the Gospel in their own language.
The pastors of Emmanuel Protestant Church and St Peter Evangelical Church were issued with the order by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security earlier this month and announced it to their congregations on 10 February.
Iranian Christians at worship
The order was not applied to Sundays, but Friday is the main weekend-day in Iran, and it is difficult for people to attend church on any other day because of work commitments.
The two churches are among the small number of officially registered churches that principally serve the Armenian and Assyrian communities of Iran. Most of their activities are conducted in the Armenian and Assyrian languages. But Farsi is the language of the Muslim majority in Iran.
Middle East Concern said that the order to stop Farsi services was consistent with the authorities’ policy of restricting Christian activities to these traditional communities. It is illegal to conduct church services and Bible studies in Farsi, which prevents Muslims from hearing the Gospel and converts from Islam from worshipping in their own language.
Individual members of the two churches have also been targeted; some have lost their jobs after the authorities put pressure on their employers.
In a separate case, Maasis Mosesian, an elder of the Assemblies of God church in Tehran, was arrested in a raid on his workplace by state security agents on 8 February. No reason has been given for the arrest of the married father of two, whose family have not been allowed to see him.
The Iranian authorities are also continuing their campaign against the country’s growing house church movement. On 8 February, a house church in Shiraz was raided by security officers; they searched the premises, confiscated Bibles and arrested at least seven Christian converts. Their homes were also searched, and items including Gospels, Christian books, CDs, computers, faxes and satellite TV receivers were seized.