Iranian government impounds 6,500 Bibles
Some 6,500 Bible were seized recently by Iranian government officials in what has been perceived to be an intensified crackdown on Christians in the country.
The Bibles were seized in Abhar city, situated in Zanjan province, Northwest Iran. A government official said the Bibles were tools of propaganda that are used to deceive the country’s people.
Dr. Majid Abhari, an adviser for the social issues committee of Iran’s parliament, said, “These missionaries with reliance on huge money and propaganda are trying to deviate our youth,” Mohabat News reported.
Abhari claimed that the Bibles are used by Christian missionaries for purposes of deceit and propaganda, saying, “With regard to the activities of these Christian missionaries to deceive people, especially youngsters, they have begun a huge campaign by spending huge sums and false propaganda for deviating the public,” according to Mohabat News.
Abhari said, “These books were made with the best paper in the world. 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?”
Missionary work is not permitted in Iran. Despite this, there has been a rise, of late, in the number of Muslims converting to Christianity in recent years, an act which is illegal and can lead to arrest, detention and torture. New legislation aims to render apostasy (conversion from Islam to another religion) punishable with the death penalty.
Past incidents of confiscation
Last February, during a bus inspection, some 600 Bibles were seized by revolutionary guards and police officers, and burned in Darishk, a village bordering Turkey.
Last year on October 28, more than 300 New Testaments were seized by border inspectors and security from a bus that was crossing Salmas, in Azerbaijan province. The home of a Christian man living in the town was also raided.
There has also been a stepped up anti-Bible propaganda campaign. During confiscations of Bibles, phrases such as “apostate gospels and old testament” are used to describe the Christian scriptures.
Iran’s constitution recognizes that Christians, Jews and other religious minorities have the right to own and use their sacred scriptures to practice their faith.
Despite this, the government has shut down the Iranian Bible Society, and forbidden the publication and/or reprinting of the Bible and other Christian literature. Possessing a Bible in the Farsi language is a crime.
These restrictions have led to the publication of Farsi Bibles overseas at high costs, then smuggling them to Iran.
There has also been a heightened persecution campaign against Christians. Recently, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, 33, was threatened with death if he refused to renounce his faith. (See http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2011/08/evangelical-iranian-pastor-facing-execution-stands-strong-amid-government-clampdown-16953/).
In Feb. 2010, Rev. Wilson Issavi, an evangelical pastor, was arrested and the church he led, the Assyrian Evangelical Church in Kermanshah, was shut down.
In March 2009, the Assyrian Pentecostal Church in Tehran had to shut down amid threats from government officials. Several other Christian churches in the country were also shut down to curb conversions.
The Iranian government is also concerned that conversions to Christianity continue even as there is clear risk of persecution and arrest.