The link below is to an article reporting on the conversion of a CIA spy operating within Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, who later escaped to the West.
In its news night program on Friday 10th September Iranian State television announced that nine people had been arrested on the charge of carrying out evangelism just outside Hamedan. The report was announced by one of the security authorities, reports FCNN.
In this report State television mentioned that two of these people were being supported by organizations that are based outside the country, in particular the United States and Great Britain, but they did not mention the nationalities of these people.
In this report it has been said that: ‘the other seven people who were arrested are Iranian and were cooperating with these Christian-Zionist organizations’. This report labels the arrested people as ‘Christian Zionists’ and ‘evangelicals’ but it did not say anything about their relationship with Israel or Zionists.
In the Iranian government culture ‘Christian-Zionists’ is a title that they use to call Evangelical Christians who are benefiting from having access to a number of networks and TV satellite programs for evangelism.
This State TV report has not been reflected in other media and it is only the Fars news agency, which is connected to the Revolutionary Guard, which has mentioned that people had gathered to thank the security agents of Imam Mahdi and the legal authorities. This news agency has also published the lecture by Chief Justice Hojat Al-Islam BeegLare on this matter.
During the last few months and years there have been several times when Christians in home groups and new converts have been arrested by security agents, but this appears to be the first time in three decades that the State TV has broadcast the news of the arrest of a group of Christians in its program for a particular purpose.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
Christians in Iran are facing even more persecution. International Christian Concern has learned that the Iranian government forced the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran to shut down its Friday worship services. The incident took place October 30. Some fear this episode is the beginning of a new campaign of government suppression of public Christian worship gatherings, reports MNN.
According to reports by Farsi Christian News Network, Rev. Sourik, the bishop of the Assemblies of God churches in Iran, resolved to close the church on Fridays, the weekly Islamic day of prayer, after encountering acute pressure from the security network within the Ministry of Information.
Initially, Sourik resisted the government sanction. However, the Revolutionary Guard demanded that the church close Friday public services by October 31, and threatened to shut down all services and close the church permanently. Sourik ultimately submitted to the government’s ruling out of concern for the congregation. “The announcement of the termination of the Friday services was received with shock and utter surprise, and resulted in many openly weeping in the church service,” reported FCNN. The church leadership affirmed that its Sunday services will remain open.
The Assembly of God Church in Tehran is among the largest church buildings designated for public worship in Iran, a country where the majority of Christians observe their faith in underground house churches. Registered “above ground” churches in Iran have been allowed relative independence to worship freely while being closely monitored by the government. However, ICC sources fear that the closure of Friday services–a heightened trend of government coercion upon “above ground” churches–may commence.
The targeting of registered churches discloses a regression in Iran’s policy of toleration toward Christians who choose to worship publicly. “I believe the main reason they closed those service is to send a strong signal to all Christians inside and outside Iran that they will not tolerate Christianity in Iran. Its purpose is mostly to intimidate,” said one ICC source.
Historically, it has been the underground church, not the open public churches, that have faced the brunt of government-imposed oppression.
Iran issued no official statement explaining the reasons for its recent crackdown.
Aiden Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, says, “We oppose Iran’s resolution to prevent the Christians of the Assembly of God Church in Tehran from fellowshiping freely on Fridays, or any other day of the week. We urge Iran to respect the rights of Christians to practice their faith freely without government interference, or authoritarian rule.”
Clay adds, “History has shown us that external persecution actually causes the church to grow.”
Clay says that the services have had “great success in bringing in new believers, converting Muslims to Christ, and I think Iran views that as a threat.”
Report from the Christian Telegraph
Riot police attacked hundreds of demonstrators with tear gas and fired live bullets in the air to disperse a rally in central Tehran Monday, reports MNN. Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard issued a warning to demonstrators that they would face a “revolutionary confrontation” if they continued to protest results of the June 12 presidential vote. It’s unclear how many people have died or have been injured in the unrest.
Despite the violence SAT-7 PARS — Christian Persian satellite television — continues to beam programming into Iran, says SAT-7’s David Harder. Harder says SAT-7 isn’t taking sides politically, but they are concerned. “We are concerned about the innocent being injured. We have many youth who watch SAT-7 PARS, and we are concerned that they may have gotten caught up in these different clashes where, tragically, people are being killed.”
Harder isn’t surprised by the violence. “It reflects the desire that many people have–especially young people–in that country for some greater freedoms, and often that’s leading people to seek spiritual answers,” he says.
Satellite television is still illegal in Iran, but SAT-7 PARS continues broadcasting even though some channels have been blocked. Harder says, “Those who may be disenchanted with the political situation, whatever it is, can still seek and find answers and find the truth in the Lord Jesus by watching SAT-7 PARS.”
While their programming continues, Harder says he’s still concerned for Christians living there. “Often when there is anti-western sentiment, Christians are the scapegoats. Local Christians are blamed. So, we do have concern for the Christians and the churches in Iran, and we’re praying they’re not blamed for being political agitators.”
SAT-7 believes about 1-million people watch SAT-7 PARS, but Harder believes that’s a low estimate. He says the number of Christians in Iran is growing, and they need help. “There is reported to be a great movement of house churches within Iran. And so we want to provide training for house church leaders. Often the people who are leading these house churches have only been followers of Jesus for a short period of time.”
That’s why they’ve started a broadcast called SOTA, which stands for Seminary of the Air. Harder says, “They are Iranian professors, and they can help answer questions that really reflect life in Iran and help these churches grow. We want to see them become self-sustaining with leaders who are being equipped and then can be successful in leading those churches.”
SAT-7 PARS, says Harder, is also broadcasting programming for youth. “75-percent of Iranians are under age 30. So we’re trying to meet the needs of the youth who are watching, as well.”
Christian satellite radio and television programming is essential for spiritual growth for Christians in Iran. “There simply aren’t many resources for Iranian Christians. For many of them, television and radio are just about the only way they can get resources. For some people, they can’t get a Bible. They write down verses as they see them on the screen.”
Report from the Christian Telegraph