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Pray and fast

In response to recent government crackdowns on Christians, the Iranian church pleads for intercession

ICC Note:

About seventy Christians have been arrested in Iran since December 26, making the most significant number of arrest of Christians by the Iranian government since 80 Assemblies of God leaders were arrested in 2002, World Magazine reports.

By Mindy Belz

1/13/2011 Iran (World Magazine) – Iranian church leaders are calling for an international day of prayer and fasting on Sunday, following a spate of arrests of dozens of house church leaders that began last month and is continuing.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 26, government authorities arrested 25 Christians in Tehran and across the country and announced plans to detain others if they could be located. On Jan. 4 the governor of Tehran issued an unusual statement, announcing the arrests and the state’s intent to arrest more—claiming that the Ministry of Information had “uncovered” house church networks “and will stop them.”

About 70 Christians overall have been arrested since last month, according to David Yeghnazar, U.S. director for Elam Ministries, an organization started by Iranian church leaders to train pastors and churchgoers. Many of those have been released, but Iranian church leaders say that at least 14 remain in jail. They are believed to be in Block 209 of Tehran’s Evin Prison, a notorious basement holding-cell for detaining non-Muslims in the Islamic republic. Those jailed there are kept blindfolded at nearly all times.

“In recent years since [Iranian President] Ahmadinejad came to power we have seen more and more of this kind of activity,” said Yeghnazar. But these are the most significant numbers of arrests since 2002, he told me, when 80 Assemblies of God leaders were arrested. Most of those were eventually released.

The latest crackdown began last October, when Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, gave a speech describing members of a “network of house churches” and denouncing them as “enemies of Iran and the people.” It was the first time the ayatollah had publicly identified and branded the church in Iran. The government has claimed to allow freedom of religion and has granted licenses to operate for historic churches such as the Armenian and Assemblies of God congregations.

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