Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An interview with Ali Golchin (Part 2)

Photo from FCNN
We recently shared part 1 of an interview with Ali Golchin an Iranian Christian convert who was charged in 2010 with evangelism and action against national security. Ali has since been released and has left Iran.

Here is part 2 of his interview with Mohabat News.

Do Christian converts in Iran face any restrictions for going to church? If so, what are they?

I think Christian converts have problems going to church for various reasons. Many factors taken together cause these problems. One of these is having a non-Christian family. In the first place non-Christian families can cause problems for Christian converts to go to church.

Second is the limited number of official churches in Iran and their distance from Christians’ homes. With more than 12 million people in Tehran, the number of churches in this huge city is less than the number of fingers on your hand. And the reason for this is that the Islamic regime of Iran does not allow Farsi-language churches to operate and also does not grant construction permits to Christians in order to build new churches.

Third is the atmosphere prevailing over the church. Especially, in recent years pressures have escalated and the Intelligence Office of the Islamic Republic has ordered church officials to prevent new-believers from entering their churches or risk the complete cancellation of their Farsi services.

The wave of arrests of Christian leaders, who were holding Farsi church services, is another reason for these restrictions, which terrorizes new Christians.

Identification of Christian converts by security authorities is another important reason. After identifications, Christian converts are summoned or arrested and then released after being interrogated and terrorized.

The next restriction is the order issued by the Iranian Intelligence Office calling on churches to cancel their Farsi church services on any days other than Sundays.

However, none of these restrictions became a serious barrier for Christians, but resulted in the growth of house churches in every corner of the cities.

With respect to these pressures and restrictions imposed by the Islamic regime of Iran to prevent Christians from attending the churches, how do Christians have their fellowship?

I have personally experienced it. After I was released from prison, I could not be active in the church as I was before. The reason was because all my activities, going to the church and my contacts with other Christians were being watched closely. However, we tried to have fellowship with new believers or other Christian converts through holding house-church meetings. We were filling the vacuum of not being able to go to official churches by going to house-church gatherings which were held underground. This way we managed to partially satisfy this need.

What kind of place is a house-church? And what kinds of activities are done there?

As I said, due to pressures and restrictions against them, Christians turn their own homes into places of fellowship and worship. Generally, Christian converts gather there considering security matters. One person leads the group in worship and they have fellowship there. The activities in house-churches include worshiping, singing hymns, praying, teaching and preaching from the Bible. There are even people who have access to some Christian doctrinal books. They bring their books with them so that others can receive teaching and grow in their Christian faith. Nothing is going on in house-churches but spiritual fellowship and worship.

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