By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Iranian authorities seized thousands of Bibles in north-west Iran and destroyed a church in the Islamic country’s south-east as part of a wider crackdown on Christianity, Iranian Christians said in messages monitored by BosNewsLife Tuesday, August 16.
Iranian Christian news agency Mohabat News quoted Majid Abhari, an advisor to the social issues committee of Iran’s parliament, as saying 6,500 Bibles were seized in recent days between the cities of Zanjan and Abhar in Zanjan Province.
He reportedly told government news agency Mehr that the action was necessary as “missionaries with reliance on huge money and propaganda are trying to deviate [Iran’s] youth.”
Abhari added that the Bibles “were made with the best paper in the world in pocket size.” He said, “The important point in this issue that should be considered by intelligence, judicial and religious agencies is that all religions are strengthening their power to confront Islam, otherwise what does this huge number of bibles mean?”
Earlier in November of 2010 police officers and revolutionary guards seized 300 bibles from a bus after its inspection and burned them all in the village of Darishk, Christians said.
The seizure of Bibles comes amid mounting pressure on churches, including in the south-eastern city of Kerman, where authorities have destroyed a main church, added Mohabat News, which is produced by rights activists and Iranian Christians.
St. Andaryas, or Andrew, Church was built in 1950 in the center of the city when Reza Shah Pahlavi was Iran’s king, Christianssaid. “It was the place of worship for many people, thirsty for the Truth,” explained Mohabat News, which published pictures of its destruction.
Before the destruction, the church building was already registered as “a national monument” in 2009 and later converted into a taxi service office, according to pictures seen by BosNewsLife. Soon officials “didn’t care about it’s reconstruction” and destroyed the building “completely,” Mohabat News said.
There are concerns that church buildings in other cities will also be destroyed, Iranian Christians said.
While not addressing the reported destruction of the church, Iran’s government has made clear it wants to “defend” Iran’s Islamic values.
Iranian church leaders claim President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government is concerned about many Muslims converting to Christianity in a country where devoted Christians number at least 100,000, up from just about 500 known believers in 1979, according to church group estimates.