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Iran: Arrest of Converts Shows Close Surveillance of Christians

There are officially around 300,000 Christians in Iran, but this article says that the actual figure is much higher: “Various aid and rights groups affirm that the underground church is growing in Iran in spite of the crack-down. As many as 800,000 Iranians are worshipping Christ within Iran’s borders, according to Open Doors, and other organizations believe the figure could be as high as 1 million in the country of 80.3 million.” This rapid growth could account for the increasing harshness of the regime.

Evangelical Protestantism is on the rise in Iran; traditionally, most Iranian Christians have been members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, an ancient Church that broke off communion with Holy Orthodoxy after the fourth ecumenical council, the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Other Christians in Iran are members of the Assyrian Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, and the Roman Catholic Church.

Although the Iranian government guarantees Christians the right to representation in the Iranian Parliament, the right to produce non-halal food, and more, all too often these rights exist only on paper. Christians in Iran not infrequently suffer expropriation of their property, the forced closure of churches, and other forms of persecution.

“Arrest of Converts Shows Close Surveillance of Christians in Iran, Advocate Says,” Morning Star News, November 21, 2018:

JERUSALEM (Morning Star News) – Two Christian converts from Islam planning to meet in a northern city of Iran were detained on the same day, part of what rights advocates say could be part of a rash of arrests in the area.

Behnam Ersali and Davood Rasooli, both of Karaj, were arrested on Friday (Nov. 16) before they were scheduled to meet in Mashhad, according to advocacy organization Middle East Concern (MEC). It is believed that Iranian intelligence intercepted calls between the two men to learn of their plan to meet, according to MEC.

“It reveals how closely the Iranian authorities are closely monitoring the Christians,” said Rob Duncan, regional manager at MEC.

Ersali, a former member of the Assemblies of God church in Tehran, had traveled to Mashhad and was arrested at his friends’ home there. Six plain-clothes officers, including a woman, entered the home without legal permission. He was arrested along with another person who was later released, according to Mohabat News.

On the same day, Rasooli was arrested in front of his home in Karaj by two plain-clothes officers at 6 a.m. as he was preparing to leave for Mashhad, according to Mohabat news.

Both have been taken to unknown locations and have had no contact with their family or relatives, according to MEC.

“The fact that there has been no information and relatives haven’t been informed shows security agents are involved,” Duncan said.

After the officers took Rasooli away, agents returned to search his house and confiscate books and other belongings, according to MEC.

A friend believes Rasooli was taken to Rajai-Shahr Prison in Karaj, which has cells for interrogation and solitary confinement, Duncan said….

The U.S. State Department has designated Iran as a Country of Particular Concern for severe religious freedom violations, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recently recommended it remain on the list.

In Christian support organization Open Doors’ list of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Iran had a score of 85 out of 100 in the 2018 World Watch List, leaving it ranked 10th out of 50….

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