By Mansoureh Galestan
The Assyrian Christian community in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz has been left it a state of shock, after the Presbyterian church was forcibly closed earlier this month.
The Iranian regime’s intelligence agents stormed the 100-year-old church, which is a National Heritage site, on May 9, changed all the locks, tore down the cross from the church tower, and ordered the church warden to leave, the Assyrian International News Agency reported.
They made it clear that the Assyrian people are no longer allowed to hold any worship service there, the May 23 report said.
A source said church members had been fearful since just a few days after Christmas, when pastors from other churches were prevented from visiting the Tabriz church for a joint worship service with other Assyrian and Armenian Christians.
Then on May 9 “a large number” of agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and EIKO, an organization under the direct control of the regime’s Supreme Leader, “entered our church compound and changed all the locks on the doors, removed the cross from the church’s high tower, installed some monitoring instruments and started to threaten and force our custodian to leave his place inside the compound immediately.”
The church, belonging to The Assyrian Presbytery, offered services in Assyrian for many years, was “confiscated” by the Revolutionary Court order in 2011, but church members had been able to continue using the building for services in the Assyrian language — until now.