Iranian security agents stormed into a 100-year-old Assyrian church and tore the cross from its tower in a major city in the north-west of the country on 9 May (AINA 2019-05-23).
They also changed the locks, installed monitoring equipment and "made it clear that no longer the Assyrian people are allowed to hold any worship service there," wrote a pastor in a letter to the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches.
The pastor has called on Christians worldwide to send letters to Iranian embassies in a "strong wave of protest" after the evangelical church in Tabriz was raided by security agents and also by members of a state-owned "charitable" organisation that answers to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei.
The church had been officially seized by a court order in 2011, but worshippers had been allowed to continue using the building.
The pastor said the persecution began last Christmas when government agents prevented local pastors in nearby cities and the capital, Tehran, from visiting Tabriz to hold worship services for the Assyrian evangelical community and some Armenian guests.
The pastor urged that protest letters to the Iranian embassies should request "unconditional restoration of the Assyrian Evangelical Church of Tabriz ... and giving permission to worship in Assyrian language freely."
Historic Assyrian and Armenian Christian minorities who have their own languages, not spoken by the Muslim majority, are usually allowed to worship freely in those languages.
A husband, wife and son recently appealed against long jail terms imposed for "acting against national security". The couple had been holding worship services at home after their Assyrian church in Tehran was shut down by the authorities.