Sunday, November 27, 2011

Iranian Christian News Agency Exposes Unsubstantiated claim of Security Authorities Regarding Evangelical Activities by AOG Church

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS) -- Exaggerating has become a habit of news providers for government-supported and regime-dependent media in Iran who introduce themselves as hidden soldiers, says Mohabat News ( ) the Iranian Christian News Agency.

The inside of the Assemblies of God church of Markaz in Tehran. (Photo courtesy Mohabat News).
The news agency says that an unsubstantiated report about evangelistic activities of the Assemblies of God church of Markaz in Tehran “was obviously written by one of the hidden soldiers of the 12th Imam (Secret Security authorities) to motivate senior security authorities. It also appears that this shabby act was intended to spark anti-Christian feelings within Iran.”

MohabatNews says Iranian security services, through state-sponsored media outlets, “have claimed that the Markaz Church, an Assemblies of God church in Tehran, is extremely active in propagation and sending evangelical Christian groups throughout the country to attract Muslim youth to Christianity.”
The state-sponsored news media websites say: "The congregation of the Church of Markaz are Christian extremists who use various ways to bring members to their church and to convert Iranian Muslim youth. 

They try to destroy the image of the sacred regime of Iran in the world. They deceive young people who are financially in need by promising to grant them refugee status in other countries." Mohabat News says the websites also report that these evangelists, with the support of American mass media, want to show a negative image of the Islamic republic to the international community.

Mohabat News stated: “But making such repeated claims by the staff of government-sponsored media is more like a report to the security authorities and organizations rather than a piece of news. Such action seems to have an unstated purpose behind it.

“Presentations of this kind of biased news about Christianity and Iranian Christians has taken place at the same time as the Supreme Leader, scholars and Islamic clerics -- as well as senior authorities and staff of the Revolutionary Guards and other security and intelligence forces -- are making serious efforts to oppose Christianity in Iran.”

Mohabat News went on to say: “These unsubstantiated and misleading claims about the activities of churches to attract Muslim youth to Christianity are being made at time when government, religious and security authorities have become particularly sensitive on such issues. The churches don't consider it necessary to take such actions to invite Muslim youth to Christianity!

“Meanwhile, as a result of the increasing awareness of Iranian citizens following the establishment of the pure Islamic government and in spite of threats, torture, beatings, imprisonments and executions, Iranian youth are turning from Islam in large numbers and seeking to base their lives and religious beliefs on their own investigation.”

From closure of churches to shutting down of worship services of Farsi-speaking Christians

Despite all the pressures and threats by the regime, the movement to Christianity in Iran has grown to the extent that some (generally Farsi-speaking) churches in some cities were closed and locked by the security forces, Mohabat News reports.

“In the other churches that were not closed, these forces prevented Farsi-speaking Christians (mainly Christian converts) from entering. The Assyrian church of Shahr-Ara in Tehran is an example of this. Farsi-speaking Christians formed a large number of its congregation before security forces with the cooperation of the representative of the Assyrians in the Islamic parliament (Majles-e-shoraye-eslami), dismissed the pastor of the church and cancelled the Farsi worship services there.”

In another case and prior to this incident, there were routine Farsi church services being held in the AOG church of Markaz in Tehran, but on Friday, October 30, 2009 security authorities threatened the church leaders and cancelled the Friday evening services which were being held in two services because of the huge number of attendees.

However, says Mohabat News, these restrictions have made every believer's house into a church and have caused the regime to be afraid of the house church movement and active churches. The authorities also seem to be afraid of historical churches which have become historical monuments and belong to the history of the country.

Mohabat News added: “The destruction of the historical church in the city of Kerman didn't cause an outcry from any Iranian authorities, not even the voice of the spineless representatives for religious minorities in the Islamic parliament of Iran. These are all examples of the attitude of the regime towards Iranian Christians and their places of worship.”

Spying on the activities of the churches
According to Mohabat News, “The dear person who writes such reports about the activities of the AOG church of Tehran and raises such claims, knows very well that all church activities, programs and services in Iran and, in this case the AOG church of Tehran, are under careful observation by security and intelligence agents.

“Though the writer of this article comes from the same church, it is well known that all the efforts and activities of the leadership of the AOG church of Tehran have always been according to the word of God which says: ‘Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right." (1 Peter 2:13-14).

A church is not like a mosque in receiving government funding
Mohabat News goes on to say: “It's been claimed that the AOG church in Iran is taking advantage of the poverty of jobless youth, especially those who lack sufficient funds to get married and deceives those who are weak in their Islamic faith.

“The purpose of this claim is not clear. However, the churches of Iran don't receive any kind of government support. All their funding comes from their congregations and believers who want to give to God and ministries in the form of tithes and offerings. In a situation where churches are facing financial challenges to even repair the church building, how could they support the youth in matters of marriage, employment and financial problems? Is it possible that such ideas come from the way mosques are managed since they receive huge amounts of money from government only to bring people to the prayer sessions? Allocation of a budget of $50 million USD to the mosque of Jamkaran only to develop its facilities to attract more people to the mosques, or huge funding of the Revolutionary Guards (Sepah-e-Pasdaran) to build mosques in Europe, are some of the examples of the major investment of the Iranian regime in propagating Islam.”

Mohabat News asks: “Isn't it true that all these attempts have failed to satisfy the spiritual needs of young people and to release them from their financial and social challenges?”

Seminary scholars complaining about the tendency of the youth toward Christianity
Despite three decades of effort and millions of dollars of investments to support the propagation of Islam, the regime feels it must use force, fear and threats to oppose Christianity, Mohabat News stated.
“It is interesting that all these attempts have been ineffective and the seminary scholars are complaining day and night about the drift of youth to Christianity. (Mohabat News has discussed this matter in detail in previous articles).

Mohabat News said: “The distaste of Iranian youth for Islam is a troubling reality that religious and government authorities are aware of and acknowledge. Their speeches and the actions of security authorities to crack down on Christians are also a clear confirmation of this fact.”

It adds: “The unsubstantiated report on the evangelistic activities of the Assemblies of God church of Markaz in Tehran was obviously written by one of the hidden soldiers of the 12th Imam (Secret Security authorities) to motivate the security authorities. It appears that this shabby act was intended to spark anti-Christian feelings within Iran. Without any reasoning, it seems that the author of the report is trying to influence the authorities of the regime and to show his loyalty towards the regime.”

Mohabat News concludes: “Such claims have been published over and over in media supported by the regime. They also mentioned other subjects, including distribution of books and flyers, etc., but Mohabat News does not consider it necessary to mention them here in view of the length of the article.”

** Michael Ireland is the Senior International Correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China,and Russia. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649, at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can make a donation online under 'Donate' tab, then look for 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' under 'Donation Category' to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' Michael is a member in good standing of the National Writers Union, Society of Professional Journalists, Religion Newswriters Association, Evangelical Press Association and International Press Association. If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior International Reporter

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

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