Iran Seizes 6,500 Bibles to Stop 'Deceiving' Christian Missionaries
Iran has seized 6,500 copies of the Bible in northwest Iran in what appears to be the latest crackdown by Iranian authorities against Christianity in the country.
Few details are known about the seizure, however, Christian news agency, Mohabat News, reports that Dr. Majid Abhari, adviser to the social issues committee of the parliament in Iran stated, "These missionaries with reliance on huge money and propaganda are trying to deviate our youth."
In a government interview with Mehr news agency, Abhari explained that the Bibles were taken because of governmental concerns that Christian missionaries mean to "deceive" young Iranians with "false propaganda."
"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?" he told Mehr.
According to persecution advocacy group, Voice of the Martyrs, missionary work is banned in Iran, though Christian conversion has been growing in the majority Islamic country in recent years.
Conversion from Islam to another religion, known as apostasy, is also a crime in Iran, and offenders are often arrested and tried in court. Recent legislation is aiming to have the crime of apostasy punishable by death.
Mohabat News noted that in another Bible seizing in November 2010, a bus was inspected in the village of Darishk and 300 Bibles were taken and burned.
Several Christian churches in Iran have also been closed in order to discourage conversion. One such church is the Assyrian Pentecostal Church in Tehran that closed in March 2009 after threats from the government.
The Christian Post reported in February 2010 that Evangelical Pastor, Rev. Wilson Issavi was arrested and his church, the Assyrian Evangelical Church in Kermanshah, closed.
Mohabat News commentates that Islamic republic officials have been concerned about Christian conversions despite their own Islamic propaganda against Christianity in recent decades. The fact that conversions continue in the wake of arrest and persecution is also noted.
"Islamic republic considers itself the responsible guide for people's thoughts. So what is their fear of the importation and distribution of non-Islamic religious books?" Mohabat News has reported.