From Barnabas Fund:
Iranian Christians rounded up in sweep of arrests across the country
The Iranian authorities are rounding up Christians across the country in a wave of arrests targeting ordinary church members – including a 78-year-old woman – and leaders.
|An Iranian Christian being baptised|
Since Christmas, security agents have conducted sweeps of house churches in Ahwaz, Shiraz, Esfahan, Tehran and Kermanshah. Some officially registered churches have been targeted too. Christians have also been seized in their homes and workplaces.
In one incident, 78-year-old Giti Hakimpour was arrested in a raid on her home in Esfahan at 6am on 22 February. Officers searched the active church member’s apartment and confiscated some of her belongings. Giti, who had recently undergone knee replacement surgery, was not in good health; her doctor had ordered that she needed special care and should not be subjected to stress. Following persistent efforts from church leaders, Giti was released on 25 February.
Hekmat Salimi, the pastor of another church in Esfahan, was arrested on the same day as Giti. His home was ransacked by security agents, who seized his computer, books and other personal belongings.
Elsewhere, in Kermanshah, Masoud Delijani, a Christian convert from Islam, has been jailed for three years. He was charged with being a Christian, holding illegal house church gatherings, evangelising Muslims and action against national security. Masoud, a school teacher, was not given the opportunity to defend himself in court.
Following his arrest in March 2011, Masoud was held in custody, mostly in solitary confinement, for 114 days, during which he was subjected to severe mental and physical pressure before being temporarily released upon a bail payment of around US$100,000.
Entire congregations have been gathered up in some swoops. On 21 February, the authorities raided a house church in Kermanshah and arrested all 13 Christians who had gathered for worship. According to latest reports, three remain in custody.
This latest wave of arrests comes as Iran is under mounting international pressure over its nuclear programme. The country is on a collision course with the West, which is likely to make the Iranian authorities intensify their campaign against Christians, who are considered to be in allegiance with foreign powers because of their faith.
The authorities’ unrelenting efforts to quash the spread of the Gospel in the Islamic Republic of Iran are failing as the Church continues to grow rapidly. An Iranian Christian told Barnabas Fund:
I feel sorry for the Iranian authorities because they don’t realise that they’re up against the Holy Spirit.
Barnabas Fund supports a number of projects to help Iranian Christians. We cannot publicise specific details in case it puts them at risk.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:
The authorities are turning the screw on our brothers and sisters in Iran and it appears that none of them, not even elderly church members, are safe from this campaign of intimidation and harassment. Those who are detained, and their families, often need practical assistance. As pressure on Iranian Christians intensifies, this need is growing, so I urge our supporters to give generously to this sensitive ministry.