Emmanuel Protestant Church and St. Peter’s Evangelical Church were the last two official churches offering Farsi-language services on Fridays in Tehran, according to Middle East Concern (MEC). Officials issued the order on Feb. 10
Authorities had ordered the Central Church of Tehran to close its Friday Farsi services in December 2009. The Central Church, an Assemblies of God (AOG) congregation, had conducted multiple services on Fridays.
Friday services in Tehran attracted the city’s converts to Christianity as well as Muslims interested in Christianity, as Friday is most Iranians’ day off during the week. Authorities told the churches they can hold the services on Sunday, a working day when most Iranians are not able to attend.
“This decision means that there are now no Farsi-language services on Fridays in any officially registered church in Tehran,” an MEC report issued this week stated.
Emmanuel and St. Peter’s are Presbyterian churches, and, along with the Central Church, are among Tehran’s few registered churches. They exist mainly to serve the Armenian and Assyrian communities. The three churches’ Armenian- and Assyrian-language services are typically held on Sundays.
The MEC report stated that “the order to stop Farsi services is consistent with the authorities’ policy of restricting Christian activities to these traditional communities,” indicating that Tehran is determined to eradicate access to Christian worship for the country’s growing number of Christian converts.
Authorities have prohibited musical worship and Bible distribution at the Central Church of Tehran, the largest and most visible AOG church in the country. Last December officials enforced a policy under which only invited guests could attend a Christmas service at the church.
The Iranian Christian said authorities recently have pressured leaders of Emmanuel and St. Peter’s churches to turn over to officials the national identity numbers of Christians. As a result, many Christians from these churches, as well as the Central Church of Tehran, have lost their jobs.
“We have some people who were fired from their jobs,” the Christian said. “The authorities pushed the bosses to fire their Christian employees.”
The source explained that this is a new tactic by the government to discourage Iranians from becoming Christians and to deter Christians from being involved in church.
“If I have too many difficulties in my life, I won’t have time to be involved in church, and people will see how difficult it is to be a Christian,” the source said. “This is not a good face for the Christians. The others see and say, ‘Oh, they became Christians and God stopped His blessing to them.’”