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Iran: Church of huge significance for Christians to be sold by organization headed by Supreme Leader

There are roughly 300,000 Christians in Iran. Most of them are members of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Other Christians in Iran are members of the Assyrian Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, and the Roman Catholic Church; there is also a growing number of Pentecostals, Evangelicals, and other Protestants. 

For previous coverage of Iran, see here.

“Church Haik Hovsepian founded set to be sold by Iranian state,” Article 18, March 14, 2023:

A church of huge significance for Iranian Christians is set to be sold by an organisation headed by Iran’s Supreme Leader. 

The Assemblies of God church in Gorgan, northeast Iran, has over the years been led by some of the most well-known Iranian pastors, including three who were killed for their faith.

The church was founded by perhaps the best known of them all, Haik Hovsepian, who went on to become the head of all Assemblies of God churches in Iran, before his murder in January 1994.

Bishop Haik established the Gorgan church in 1970, and led it for a decade. After him, other pastors included Hossein Soodmand, who was executed for his “apostasy” in 1990, and Mohammad Bagher Yusefi (known as “Ravanbakhsh”), who like Haik was killed in suspicious circumstances in the mid-90s. 

Another of the Iranian Church’s martyrs, Ghorban Tourani, was also for a time a member of the church in Gorgan, even after the building’s forced closure.

For more than 25 years, the church building in Gorgan has stood empty and dormant, a relic to a former time when, even in the early days of the Islamic Republic, it had seemed possible, for a short while, for Christians – even converts – to meet inside a church building. 

But, as with many other Christian properties in recent years, the Gorgan church has since followed a familiar pattern of forced closure, years passing, and then, when all is almost forgotten, clandestine confiscation and gradual appropriation by the Iranian state. 

And as with the former Anglican bishop of Iran’s house in Isfahan, which last year was turned into a museum, and the Sharon retreat centre in Karaj, which has also been repurposed, the Gorgan church was simply put up for sale on a state-run website – that of the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO)….

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