Published: 12:00 GMT Daylight Time - Monday 21 May 2012
Iranian authorities demand personal details of church members
Country/Region: Iran, Middle East and North Africa
The Iranian authorities have ordered church leaders to submit a list of the names and National ID numbers of their members, in a move that threatens the security of Christian converts.
People attending the central Assemblies of God church in Tehran on Sunday 6 May were asked to provide their details following pressure from security officials.
This could be a pre-emptive strike by the authorities: gathering information about Christian converts to later monitor their and the church’s activities, or even to arrest individuals.
It could also be a further attempt to put pressure on believers to stop them from attending church services. Some of the converts are university students or employed by government-run organisations; being known to the authorities as a Christian or especially a convert would undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on their record and prospects.
The church has been under close surveillance for many years, and a number of its members have been killed.
The Ministry of Intelligence demanded a list of the names and personal details of church members 20 years ago but at that time the leaders refused to comply.
In 2009, the church was banned from holding its services in the Iranian national language, Farsi, on Fridays, a measure that has since been imposed on other churches in the capital.
And more recently, the authorities have closed down discipleship classes for new Christians run by the church on Saturdays for decades.
The Iranian authorities are constantly deploying different tactics in their efforts to clamp down on the country’s fast-growing Church.
Security officials attend services at established churches to spy on Christians, and are also believed to have installed hidden CCTV cameras in church hallways.
Their campaign of harassment has forced many Christians out of official churches, but they attend house churches instead; these have been powerful and effective communities for the progress of the Gospel, which the Iranian authorities have been unable to stop.