AOG church in Tehran faces pressure to identify members to authorities.
Leaders of the Assemblies of God's (AOG) Central Church of Tehran told their congregation on Sunday (May 6) that authorities have demanded a list of names and identification numbers of church members, a major risk to converts from Islam.
Church leaders then asked members in attendance to volunteer their information. The AOG church holds two Sunday services, both conducted in Farsi. It is the only church remaining in Tehran that offers Farsi-language worship on Sundays.
"This [government move] is basically to make sure the church is not taking in new members and to make it difficult and risky for non-Christians to attend," Monsour Borji, an Iranian Christian and advocacy officer for rights initiative Article 18, told Compass. "It is an effort to limit the church, basically."
Article 18 is a London-based initiative of the United Council of Iranian Churches (Hamgaam), which seeks to defend and promote religious freedoms in Iran. Hamgaam is composed of Iranian Christian churches in Europe.
The result of the most recent demand, according to Borji, is that as members of the Central AOG church consider whether they are willing to turn over their names and identification numbers, some are faced with the ethical dilemma of whether they would be denying Christ by declining to reveal themselves in this way.
"It has created an ethical dilemma for some church members who are not sure what to do, because giving their information feels suicidal," Borji said.
The announcement indicates an intensification of government efforts to control official churches in Iran that meet in church buildings. The Central Church of Tehran was forced to shut down its Friday Farsi-speaking services in 2009. Since then the number of Christians at Sunday services has significantly increased, according to sources.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Compass Direct News