The #Place2Worship Campaign
In recent years, the Iranian church has seen many Christian converts sentenced to long imprisonment for their membership of house-churches. Now, some Iranian Christian prisoners have taken it upon themselves to ask the government for an answer to the very basic question of where they can worship.
Christian converts are not permitted to attend churches of the recognised Armenian and Assyrian minorities, who are themselves prohibited from holding services in the Persian language to further dissuade converts from attending. This means the only available place for converts to worship is within their own homes, in what have become widely known as “house-churches”.
But the Iranian regime views membership of these churches as an “action against national security”, punishable by two to ten years in prison. With no place in which to worship, Iranian Christian converts are being denied their very basic rights under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – of which Iran is a signatory without reservation – and therefore obliged to provide all its citizens with freedom of religion, including the right to change religion and to worship “individually or in community with others, and in public or private”.
In the #place2worship campaign, four points have been set out:
- Persian-speaking Christians, comprising of converts to Christianity from a Muslim background, and ethnic Armenian and Assyrian Christian-background believers who choose the national language of Persian (Farsi) to worship together have no place to worship.
- Only four small and highly surveilled Persian-speaking churches remain open in the country, and they are not allowed to accept visitors or take on any new members. The rest of the Persian-speaking churches – both Catholic and Protestant – have been forcibly closed down in recent years.
- Peaceful religious activity must not be considered an arrestable security off Increasingly, Iran’s intelligence and security forces arrest Christians on allegations that their peaceful religious activities—such as gathering in house-churches for prayer and Bible studies—are unlawful or against the “security” of the state.
- In 2020 there were at least 115 incidents of Christians being arrested, affecting 237 individuals, while a total of 147 years (1,760 months) in prison sentences were handed down to Christians. So far in 2021, at least 53 arrests have taken place, and many more are awaiting a court hearing soon. Meanwhile 17 Christians are currently in prison, serving sentences of two to 10 years, all on charges related to their faith.
Open Doors has signed a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights asking for intervention in the situation in Iran.
One of the prisoners in question is Behnam Agklagi: In this video, Behnam lays out his case.
Will you stand with your brothers and sisters seeking to live out their faith in Iran?
Start by sharing this story and the videos with the hashtag #place2worship, and commit to praying for your persecuted family who are trying to follow Jesus!
Find out more about #Place2Worship with the organization Article 18.