Iran Christians Urge Prayers Amid Massive Arrests

Sunday, January 16, 2011

By Worthy News Chief International Correspondent Stefan J. Bos

TEHRAN, IRAN (Worthy News)-- Iranian Christians requested prayers Sunday, January 16, amid a new wave of arrests of Christian converts, many of them former Muslims.

Iranian Christian said they called for a "day of prayer for Iran", and particularly for those Christians who remain detained in the strict Islamic country.

Middle East Concern (MEC), an advocacy group closely monitoring the situation, said recent arrests started in the early hours of December 26 when 25 believers were detained in the capital Tehran and other cities. "Fourteen of those remain detained. Eleven were released following intense questioning and after signing statements that they would no longer participate in Christian activities," MEC said.

Further arrests have been reported in several reas, including the cities of Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan and Urumieh, with figures of up to 70 being held mentioned by several Christian sources. "While some have been released many remain detained, including those identified as leaders of fellowships. There are reports that some have been physically mistreated while in detention," MEC said.


Detained Christians have limited telephone contact with relatives, according to MEC investigators. No formal charges were known to have been filed against any of those detained Sunday, January 16.

Those arrested reportedly include also some from traditional Christian backgrounds, including ethnic Armenian Pastor Leonard Keshishian of the Assemblies of God church in Isfahan who was detained on December 31, Christians said.

The Governor General of Tehran Province, Morteza Tamadon, said in a statement this month that several evangelical Christians had been arrested. He referred to their "corrupting"' influence and warned that further arrests were imminent.

Additionally, several Christians have already been imprisoned for several months, MEC noted.  "These include Mohammad and Ali, house church leaders arrested in [the area of] Varamin on November 14, Pastor Vahik and his wife Sonia, Arash and his wife Arezo, and two others arrested in Hamedan on September 4, Pastor Behrouz arrested in Shiraz on June 16, and Pastor Yousef, arrested in Rasht in October 2009," the group explained, using only one name for the different Christians.

MEC also said there has been no known statements related to pastor Yousef's appeal to the Supreme Court, following his conviction for "apostasy", or abandoning Islam, in September and sentencing to death.