Jun 11 2012
Iran Demands List of Church Members in Effort to Contain Growth [Excerpts]
Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs USA says he's met with members of the Assemblies of God (AOG) Central Church of Tehran before. Recently, church leaders told their congregation that authorities have demanded a list of names and identification numbers of church members--a major risk to converts from Islam.
Nettleton explains, "The Armenians: [the government] considers to be ethnically Christian. Persians: they consider to be ethnically Muslim. [The government is] very concerned to see Farsi speakers who they would consider to be Muslims coming to Jesus Christ and worshipping together in this church."
If Farsi-speakers are considered ethnically Muslim, then their participation or conversion to Christianity would fall under the country's apostasy law, says Nettleton. "That really is the concern of the church leaders here. If we start turning over names and ID numbers, they can start tracking who these people are, what their background is, and they could come under the fire of that apostasy law."
However, in an effort to circumvent force, church leaders took an unconventional approach. Nettleton urges prayer for them. "One of the things we can really pray for is the wisdom of the church leaders. They announced in the services, 'The government is asking for your name and your ID number. If you want to volunteer that information, we will give it to the government.'"
Nettleton notes the familiarity of the government approach, too. "What that shows us is the frustration of the Iranian government at how many people are coming to Christ and choosing to be Christians. They don't know how to put a stop to that. They aren't being successful against the house churches in spite of raids and arrests. They're going to try now with the building churches, and they won't be successful there, either."