Last month, the Assyrian Presbyterian Church in Tabriz, Iran was stormed by intelligence agents of the Iranian government. In response to this, the Founding Committee of the SECID called for an urgent appeal for advocacy.
On May 9, 2019, intelligence agents of the Iranian government stormed the Assyrian Presbyterian Church in Tabriz. According to several news reports, the agents changed all the locks on the doors, installed monitoring equipment, tore down the cross from the church tower, and ordered the churchwarden to leave.
While the church had been confiscated by the Revolutionary Court in 2011, local worshippers had been permitted to continue using the building and carry out services in Assyrian.
Under the constitution of the Islamic Republic, the country's Assyrian and Armenian Christians are permitted freedom of worship. However, they are not allowed to hold services in Persian, as this could be interpreted as proselytizing, and converts face harsh sentences of between 10 and 15 years in prison.
Discrimination and injustice against the churches and the Christian communities in Iran are not new. However, over the last eight years, persecution of Christians have escalated. According to a source, last Christmas, Iranian government agents prevented pastors from Tehran and other cities from visiting Tabriz to hold a joint worship service with the Assyrian and Armenian Christian communities.
In response to the recent raid of the Assyrian Presbyterian Church in Tabriz, the Founding Committee of the Synod of the Evangelical Church of Iran in Diaspora (SECID) sent a letter to the Christian communities worldwide calling for them to take action, “The threat against the presence of a peaceful group of Christians in Iran for 2000 years has become more serious than ever before. Throughout the decades, you have stood by the Synod of the Evangelical Church of Iran in a variety of ways. Now, once again, we come to you seeking your prayers and prompt action. We hope that you would consider utilizing any means to advocate on behalf of a historic partner.”
The recent news has shed another light into what is happening to the Christian communities in the Middle East. The Reformed Church in Hungary (RCH) is deeply saddened to hear of the injustice happening to our Christian brothers and sisters around the world and expresses its solidarity with the SECID. The RCH has been committed to supporting the Reformed communities in the Middle East and has decided to advocate to state authorities for the minority communities suffering persecution.
“Reading the signs of our times, we are especially concerned by the great human suffering and political difficulties that our people are facing in the Middle East. We have been greatly disturbed by the incidents of violence that innocent civilians and entire communities, especially Christians, have been subjected to. As “Ambassadors for Christ” in promoting peace and reconciliation, we strictly condemn and oppose any form of religious discrimination, oppression and persecution. [...] Our commitment to Christian values, to human dignity for all, to justice, peace and reconciliation, to human rights of minorities, and to equal citizenship in our societies of all communities, irrespective of their religious and ethnic background, is unquestionable” (From Memorandum of Commitment with UAECNE and NESSL).
RCH Ecumenical Office