Iranian Christians are dismayed at the state’s appropriation of a Christian retreat centre in Karaj, near Tehran.
The retreat centre, known as the Garden of Sharon, had been the property of the Council of Assemblies of God (AoG) in Iran for forty years. However, two months ago the Revolutionary Court ordered the confiscation of the premises, claiming that the centre is “funded by the US through the CIA spy agency to infiltrate the Islamic world and particularly Iran by conducting evangelistic activities”.
The AoG Church in Iran was founded over fifty years ago and is recognised by the state as Jama’at-e Rabbani. It operates independently from the US AoG denomination, but the government body responsible for the confiscation order has tried to establish a connection to provide grounds for appropriation.
In recent years the Iranian government has attempted to take possession of a number of properties belonging to evangelical churches. Aside from financial considerations, the confiscation of church buildings has a negative impact on the Christian community by removing the visible evidence of the church to promote the illusion that the evangelical church is an outsider movement not recognised by Iran.
Mansour Borji of Article 18 told the BBC that linking the church in Iran to the CIA will cause church leaders and members to fear that they will be seen as collaborators.
Dr George O. Wood, Chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, issued a statement condemning the seizure of the property, saying:
“The 68 million worldwide adherents of the Assemblies of God wish to express dismay at the recent confiscation of campground and garden property from the Iran Assemblies of God. We hereby request the return of the property to its legal owner.”
Open sources used:
MAY BE CIRCULATED TO GENERAL MAILING LISTS AND OUTSIDE ORGANISATIONS, AND QUOTED FROM FREELY IN REPORTS CITING “MIDDLE EAST CONCERN” AS THE SOURCE OF THE INFORMATION.
Iranian Christians request prayer that:
a. the retreat centre will be returned to the AoG Church in Iran
b. church properties in Iran will be respected and protected
c. Iranian Christians will be accepted by society and will not need to fear wrongful accusations from the government
d. Iranian officials will respect the rights of all citizens, including Christians and Christian converts