September 10 (Compass) -- Iranian police invaded the annual general conference of Iran’s Assemblies of God Church yesterday, arresting at least 80 church leaders gathered at the church’s denominational center in Karaj, 20 miles west of Tehran.
Without warning, a large number of policemen surrounded the church’s garden property yesterday morning, bursting in to arrest all the men and women present at the first day of their annual meetings. “The police came from everywhere,” one Iranian Christian said, “and there were a lot of them.”
“Every single person present was put under arrest, blindfolded and taken in for interrogation,” an Iranian source confirmed to Compass today. The detained Christians were driven around blindfolded for several hours so they would be unable to understand where they were being taken.
Reportedly each individual was questioned separately by security officials, who had a specific list of questions. The interrogation revealed that the authorities had very precise information about each person, including his or her activities, relatives and other personal data.
By evening, the authorities had released all the arrested Christians except for the 10 pastors among them. The location of these 10 men is unknown, and their families have not been allowed any contact with them.
Six ordained ministers were named among the prisoners, identified by their given names of Vartan, Soren, Harmik, George, Omid and Farhad. Another two men serving as pastors and two church elders were identified as Neshan, Hamid, Henry and Robert.
The pastors serve in congregations located in Tehran, Urumiyeh, Rasht, Ahwaz, Boshahr and Karaj.
All the evangelicals released last night were forbidden to attend church services today, the weekly day of rest in Iran when most churches meet for worship. “Anyway, all their pastors are now under arrest, so there will be no one to preach when the congregations gather for services,” the source noted.
“This is the biggest crisis for evangelical believers in the country since three Protestant pastors were murdered 10 years ago,” another source told Compass.
As the world’s only theocracy, Iran has strictly proscribed the activities of its evangelical Christian citizens, closing down their churches and arresting known converts to Christianity. Under Islamic law, apostates who leave Islam are subject to the death penalty.