Published on: 16 March 2018
Iranian authorities carried out a court order to seize the Garden of Sharon Retreat Centre, a Christian centre, owned by Assemblies of God of Iran, in favour of the Executive Headquarters of Imam’s Directive (aka EIKO, Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order), headed by Iran’s Supreme Leader.
According to Mohabat News, Representatives of EIKO, along with Iranian law enforcement authorities, officially took over the Garden of Sharon Christian retreat center on March 7, 2018.
The Garden of Sharon is located in Valad Abad district in Karaj and covers an area of 10,017 square meters. The property is estimated to be worth nearly three million dollars and was purchased in the early 1970’s using tithes collected from the Assembly of God congregation in Iran to be used as a retreat center for Christian youth and families.
Christian rights advocates from Article 18 ministries told Mohabat News the Islamic government opened a political case against the retreat center calling for it to be seized in favour of EIKO and accusing the church leaders running the retreat center of being agents of the U.S. spy agencies.
The case claimed “the Assembly of God church in Iran is a branch of the AOG church in Philadelphia that seeks to evangelize Iranians and is funded and utilized by the CIA as a cover for a spy work in the Islamic countries, especially in Iran”.
Further details from this case are not clear and it is not known exactly when the case was opened or who, if anyone, defended the interests of the AOG church in court.
The Central Assembly of God church in Tehran was officially closed in 2013 as pressure on Farsi speaking official churches increased. The congregation and leaders of this church, however, have been under the Iranian government’s persecution for many years prior to its closure in 2013.
Some analysts see this move as retaliation for court rulings by a few American and Canadian courts that froze the Iranian government’s assets in those countries and used them to compensate families of victims of terrorism.
The Iranian government has been known to label people and organizations with spying charges in order to legitimize confiscation of their property and other assets. This time the victim of the Iranian government’s property grabbing is the Assembly of God church and the targeted property is a retreat center owned by the church and used by the Iranian Christian community.
The organization to which the property is ruled to be transferred, is directly controlled by the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. The primary function of this organization is to manage the properties confiscated under Article 49 of the Constitution of Iran which grants the government the right to confiscate all wealth accumulated by illegal means and restore it to its legitimate owners and if those owners could not be found to entrust it “to the public treasury.”