A pastor in Tehran was detained yesterday after being arrested while conducting a prayer service in Iran’s capital. This comes as just another arrest as Iran continues to crack down on churches across the country. Many Christian leaders are becoming fearful of this crackdown, saying the government has threatened them with imprisonment, torture and even execution. Several other Christian pastors remain imprisoned in Iran which remains one of the most hostile places towards Christians in the world.
5/22/2013 Iran (Worthy News) – A pastor of the Central Assemblies of God (AoG) Church in Tehran was detained Tuesday, May 21, as part of Iran’s wider crackdown on evangelical believers, Christian rights activists confirmed. The arrest of Reverend Robert Asserian came as his church prepared for possible closure by the end of June due to pressure from the feared Iranian Intelligence Ministry, said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Security forces reportedly raided Asserian’s house and confiscated some of his belongings, including computer and books. “They then proceeded to the church where he was leading a prayer meeting. He was arrested and taken to an unknown location,” CSW told BosNewsLife in a statement.
Earlier this month another AoG pastor, his wife and two church workers were returned to jail after their one year sentences for converting to Christianity and “propagation against the Islamic regime through evangelism” were upheld by a High Court on May 1, BosNewsLife learned Tuesday, May 21.
Pastor Farhad Sabokrooh, his wife Shahnaz Jayzan and church workers Naser Zaman-Dezfuli and Davoud Alijani were initially detained in December 2011 when authorities in the southern town of Ahwaz raided their church’s Christmas celebrations, arresting everyone in the building, including children attending Sunday School, Christians said.
They were temporarily released, but summoned to court on May 1, and re-arrested, trial observers explained. Alijani was reportedly transferred to Ahwaz’s Karoon Prison to complete his sentence while Pastor Sabokrooh, Shahnaz Jayzan and Zaman-Dezfuli were taken to Sepidar Prison.
The detentions come as another setback for the embattled AoG Church in Tehran, the capital, as it was one of few churches that offered services in the Farsi language. In 2009, they were already ordered to end Farsi services on Friday, a day off for Iranians, and were only permitted to hold services in Farsi on Sundays, Christians said.
Iranian authorities reportedly ordered the ending of Farsi services on Sunday, giving church leaders the option of conducting Sunday services in Armenian or facing closure.
Article 18, an Iranian human rights group, said church leaders have informed the congregation that they would make an important decision about the future of the church, later this week. A local Christian was quoted as saying: “The pressure has become unbearable, they [the authorities] constantly threaten the church leaders and their families with imprisonment, unexplained accidents, kidnapping and even with execution. We cannot go on like this.”
Additionally Mostafa Bordbar, a Christian arrested in Tehran in December 2012 and whose case details remained unclear, was confirmed to be detained in Ward 350 of Tehran’s norotious Evin Prison, along with evangelical Church of Iran member Alireza Seyyedian and AoG Pastors Farshid Fathi and Saeed Abedini, CSW said.
Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who Christians said had been placed in solitary confinement for supporting a peaceful protest against prison conditions, was returned to Ward 350 after being taken to hospital following “a further deterioration in his health,” according to Christians familiar with the case.