Iranian-Armenian Orthodox Bishop: I Do not Approve of Evangelism

The Armenian Orthodox Bishop of Tehran expressed his disapproval of evangelism, encouraging Iranians to adhere to their own religious, national and ethnic identity.

Mohabat News — Bishop Sibo Sarkisian, Armenian-Orthodox Bishop of Tehran told the Spanish news agency EFE in an interview, “Christians enjoy complete freedom of religion under the Islamic Republic of Iran and are not being persecuted in any way”.

He continued, “we have freedom of religion in Iran and the Islamic government grants its Christian citizens every right to practice their faith, including observing their feasts such as Christmas. They’re just not allowed to share their faith publicly as it is forbidden under the Islamic government’s law”.

Bishop Sarkisian continued, “I do not approve of the idea of evangelism. Each individual should adhere to their own religious, national and ethnic identity”.
Analyzing Bishop Sarkisian’s remarks, Mohabat News found a few points worth mentioning.

First and foremost, evangelism is not just an idea in Christian faith as Bishop Sarkisian suggests. Evangelism is a command given by Jesus Christ to all His followers and it is an essential part of practicing Christian faith (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:1-8 and 1 Peter 3:15).

As it is written in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”, preaching the gospel (evangelism) is a Biblical mandate given to all Christians around the world regardless of their denominational affiliation. Bishop Sarkisian, as a religious figure of the Orthodox Church in Iran, did not provide any Biblical ground for his disagreement with evangelism.

Secondly, Bishop Sarkisian’s claim that “all Christians in Iran enjoy complete freedom” overlooks the fact that millions of Christians around the world, including many in Iran, consider evangelism an essential component of their faith. This is a clear contradiction in the Bishop’s claim that Christians have “complete” freedom except for public expression of their faith.

Thirdly, Bishop Sarkisian’s remark about all people having to “adhere to their own religious, national and ethnic identity” seems one sided as he has never protested the Islamic government’s propaganda when a non-Muslim converts to Islam. In such cases, the Islamic regime publicly announces the person’s conversion and portrays it as “triumph of Islam over infidelity”.

The underlying reason behind Bishop Sarkisian’s remarks is clear. Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Armenian Orthodox Church in Iran has lost its independent identity and autonomy to make its own decisions. Bishop Sarkisian’s remarks is a perfect example of the Armenian Orthodox Church’s lack of freedom in following the teachings of the Bible in Iran.

Of course, had the Orthodox Church in Iran not complied with the Islamic laws in the country, it may not have been in existence today, as has been the case with many official churches in Iran that are closed today and their members are forced to leave the country or move their worship gatherings underground.