Luke 21:12 “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.
I have come to believe that imprisonments and persecutions are not unusual experiences for God’s children. Joseph was unjustly imprisoned, Daniel found himself joining the Lions’ Club against his will, and Paul wrote some of his most powerful letters from prison. Church history is replete with men and women who sincerely loved the Lord yet were tortured, persecuted, or jailed because of their commitment to Christ.
-Jim Bakker in Prosperity and the Coming Apocalypse
The Assemblies of God now have one less church. Iranian security forces have closed down Jannat Abad Church in Tehran and one hundred members are without a facility in which to meet. It is all part of a wider crackdown. The Iranian Evangelical Christians explained they have been meeting in that building for 15 years. There have been two services a week, prayer meetings and Bible studies conducted in that church building.
The order came from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s Intelligence branch. A human rights group in Tehran said that it was part of a government “drive to close Christian churches,” and it “is an assault on free religious practice, in violation of Iran’s international commitments, and a sign of growing religious intolerance within the Iranian government,” added Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson of the International Campaign for Human Rights. Over 20 Christians are also known to be imprisoned in Iran, because they profess Jesus as Lord.
There are only three remaining Farsi speaking churches in Tehran including the Assemblies of God Central Church, Emmanuel Protestant Church and St. Peter’s Evangelical Church. As the churches are being closed, more secret home groups spring up and the underground churches are growing.
Authorities have shut down several other established churches outside of Tehran. The Assembly of God church in the southern city of Ahvaz was forced to close its doors just before this past Christmas.
Yousef Nadarkhani is in prison facing a death penalty on charges of “apostasy” (abandoning Islam.) He is part of the Iranian Home Church movement and has been continuously prayed for since his incarceration in October of 2009.
When confronted by these facts, Iran has denied wrongdoing saying it upholds Islamic values. Christian groups report there may be at least 100,000 evangelical Christians in Iran, despite the reported crackdown. Iranian church leader Mansour Borji said it will be difficult, if not impossible for Iranian authorities to stamp out Christianity in the Islamic nation.
Borji quoted the late Assemblies of God Pastor Mehdi Dibaj as saying “Christianity is like a ball, the harder it hits the ground, the higher it goes into the air. Similarly, the more intense the pressures on the church are in these years, the more it grows.” Dibaj was sentenced to death and executed because he converting from Islam to Christianity in 1994. At his trial Dibaj reportedly declared: “I am not only satisfied to be in prison for the honor of His Holy Name, but am ready to give my life for the sake of Jesus my Lord.”