Hat tip to The Religion of Peace.
Iran: Pastor among nine Christians arrested
Tehran, 26 Feb. (AKI) – An evangelical priest was among nine Christians arrested in central Iran on Friday as authorities continued a crackdown against Christians in the Islamic country. The Christians’ evangelical church in the city of Isfahan was closed down last month, according to advocacy group International Christian Concern.
“Iranian Christians are under constant threat of discrimination, imprisonment, torture, and even execution by the Iranian government,” said Washington DC-based ICC president Jeff King, quoted by Christian news agency BosNewsLife.
“This severely restricts religious freedom,” King added.
Reverend Wilson Issavi was arrested by Iranian state security agents in Isfahan, some 340 kilometers south of the capital Tehran, King said.
“Reverend Issavi, his hosts and others were apprehended by the security agents and immediately taken to prison. Friends and family are deeply concerned as they are unable to contact Reverend Issavi,” King stated.
Christian and opposition groups say Christians are the target of oppression by the Iranian government. Iranian intelligence services arrested six Christians accused of proselytism on 15 January, according to the opposition website ‘Rah-e sabz’.
Hundreds of thousands of Christians have left Iraq since 2003 to escape the violence and the economic crisis caused by the war sparked by the American invasion. Many fled to neighbouring Iran.
There are at least 100,000 Christians in Iran currently, compared with less than 500 in 1979, according to Elam Ministries, an organisation supporting churches in Iran.
Elam Ministries believes Iran’s conservative clerical leadership is concerned about the spread of Christianity in the Islamic nation.
King said he could not reveal the names of eight people who had been arrested, citing security concerns.
Issavi was visiting a friend’s home in Isfahan’s Shahin Shahr area when state security raided the house unannounced, King said.
The location where the nine Christians are being held and their physical condition is unknown, he said.
King said before Issavi’s church, the Evangelical Church of Kermanshah, was closed down on 2 January, it was among the few remaining churches still open in Iran.
Iran’s hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has come under international pressure to improve religious rights but he has denied wrongdoing.
The Vatican has urged the government of neighbouring Iraq to uphold the rights of religious minorities in the country amid a spate of attacks on Christians in the multi-ethnic northern city of Mosul that has caused hundreds of families to flee the area.
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