Under the leadership of the Zagreb Malesnica Baptist Church and its minister Mihal Kreko, and with help of the visiting pastor Reza Ansari from Vienna, Austria, a group of 30 Iranian refugees established the first organized Iranian Christian Community, HAMGAM in Zagreb, Croatia. The Iranian Christian Community in Zagreb conducts all its weekly church services, Bible classes and prayer meetings in Farsi language.
Baptist Church Zagreb, Malesnica, with the Iranian Christian Community in Zagreb has embraced a group of Iranian refugees in Croatia, who are at this time waiting to have their asylum requests approved by the Croatian Government. All of them left Iran due to the life threatening religious persecution directed against the Iranian citizens who left Islam and embraced the Christian faith. They all became Christians, or sympathizers of Christian faith by their own decision, many of them before they left Iran.
Although Iran is a signatory member to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which obliges the Iranian Government to guarantee its citizens the full scope of “freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, including “freedom to change one’s religion or belief” (article 18), Iranian government punishes the Christian converts with persecution, social and religious ostracizing, severe prison sentencing and torture, and frequently by sentencing them to death. Although the Iranian government claims that it has granted the freedom of religion to its citizens, numerous international documents, released by a number of religious freedom and human rights agencies claim otherwise. They prove that serious and life threatening forms of persecution follow all discovered or suspected converts to Christianity.
Pastor Mihal Kreko, whose local Baptist church has become a spiritual home to the Iranian refugees in Zagreb, said: “Croatian Constitution and the Croatian laws are among the most democratic legislations in Europe, and as such they are fully qualified to respond affirmatively to all requests for international protection, including those made on the ground of religious persecution.” He added: “My church community empathizes with all refugees who are seeking help from Croatia at this time regardless of the religious identity of the asylum applicants. However, we recognize that the Iranian refugees who have embraced the Christian faith are in the unique situation to be misunderstood by the Croatian authorities and disqualified as legitimate asylum seekers. Should this happen their lives would certainly be put in serious jeopardy. We hope, pray and are doing whatever is in our power to see that no one in our Iranian Christian Community is sent back to what would amount to certain persecution, even death sentencing for most of them.”
In addition to providing a spiritual sanctuary for the Iranian refugees in Croatia, the
Zagreb Malesnica Baptist Church is offering the refugees various means of practical assistance. They include social help, humanitarian care, and legal and integrational assistance in forms of the Croatian language and cultural integration classes. Also, members of the church are readily opening their homes to refugees, and by doing so they are surrounding them with so much needed warmth and friendship. Moreover, the CBA – Croatian Baptist Aid provides additional support to the refugees in the care of the Zagreb Malesnica Baptist Church.
Today there are exists 200 HAMGAM Iranian Christian worshiping communities across Europe.
Zagreb, Croatia, 13th March, 2017.