According to Mohabat News, a source from Tehran reported that another church, St. Peter Church in Tehran, was added to the expanding list of churches where Farsi-speaking Christians are not allowed anymore.
According to the report, pastor of St. Peter Church, Pastor Sargis Benyamin, announced on Sunday, December 8, that Farsi-speaking attendees, who are in majority, are not allowed in the church anymore. This is while some of these Farsi-speaking members have been attending the church regularly for more than 20 years.
Just one week after the announcement, church's custodian prevented a few of the Farsi-speaking members from entering the church. Those prevented included Sunday school teachers, ministers and elders of the church. They were told they cannot enter the church building even for purposes other than attending the service.
Also, according to unconfirmed reports, Pastor Benyamin even announced that from now on, entire service, including sermons, will be held in a language other than Farsi, Iran's official language. Iranian churches are under pressure from government, more specifically Revolutionary Guard Intelligence, to stop their service in Farsi.
Earlier Ministry of Intelligence asked members of St. Peter Church to submit their ID cards and personal information to the ministry. This was done to intimidate church members and keep them from attending church services.
It is noteworthy that only a few Armenian and Assyrian families attend St. Peter church and Farsi-speaking Christians form majority of the congregation. Therefore, once all Farsi-speaking members are banned, it would not be unlikely that the church be closed down completely.
Some analysts believe that Assyrian Member of Parliament, Yonatan Betkolia, is behind this prohibition order. Past experiences have clearly shown his close cooperation with the Ministry of Intelligence. Through this cooperation he has been able to convince a number of Assyrian and Armenian pastors to close the doors of their churches on Farsi-speaking Christians.
Since 2011, pressure and restrictions on Iranian churches have increased dramatically.
Many Christians, especially newly converted Christians, have faced imprisonment, pressure and harassment in the past few years. Iranian intelligence and security forces have recently focused their efforts to close down more churches around the country. Among the already closed churches are the Assemblies of God Church in Ahwaz, Farsi-speaking church of Janat-Abad and Central Assemblies of God Churches in Tehran. The Central AoG Church was the largest Farsi-speaking Church in Tehran which was completely closed down during the past presidential election campaigns in Iran.
Even a Latin Catholic Church in Tehran was forced to ban Farsi-speakers from attending, although only small parts of their services were held in Farsi. Government authorities threatened church officials and warned them against allowing Farsi-speaking Christians in their services.
There are other few churches across the country as well, that are ordered to prohibit Farsi-speaker attendance. They are also banned from registering new members. /Farsi
(Mohabat News will publish a more in-depth, analytical article regarding issues addressed in this report)