Last Friday, five converted Iranian Christians were detained by agents of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
The five men, who were with their wives and children at the time of arrest, went to the city of Boroujerd in Tehran province for fishing and picnics. At around 1:30PM, they were attacked and separated from their wives by security forces. One man, Amin Nadrafshar, was severely beaten after requesting to see an arrest warrant.
“The security forces detained and transferred men to an undisclosed location, and families are unaware of their condition,” said a source close to the families.
One man, Ramil Bet Tamraz, is the son of Victor Bet Tamraz, the Assyrian priest who was arrested at his home during Christmas celebrations in January, 2014.
Obstacles for Christians in Iran
Numbering around 300,000, Christians form a small minority in Iran, where the overwhelming majority of the population is Muslim. Due to their small numbers and Iran’s theocratic Islamic government, Iranian Christians face a variety of persecutive practices in many different contexts.
All forms of evangelization are strictly prohibited, including the publishing of Christian texts in Farsi and the conducting of services in Persian. Many Christians are threatened with imprisonment or execution. Christian services are overseen by police.
Christians who converted from Islam are subject to particularly severe persecution and harassment. Stories of detention of converted Christians accused of forming “underground churches” abound, and “falling from the Islamic faith” can be sufficient reason for execution in Iran.
After the “Iran Deal”, it was hoped that a relaxing of persecution of Christians would occur. At the same time as two Christian pastors were released, however, more Christians were arrested on Christmas day of 2014.
Iran’s 600 Christian churches have been allowed to continue functioning since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but they and their congregants are registered with the police.
Christians are often detained without explanation, held in solitary confinement and subject to harsh physical and psychological conditions. Many are told they must convert to Islam or they will be executed.
It is believed that Iran’s extremely hard line on Christianity may be related to possible disillusionment with Islam among Iranians due to political repression by the fundamentalist Iranian regime.
American pastor Saeed Abedini spent three and a half years in Iranian prison for his Christian faith before being released in January last year as part of a hostage-prisoner exchange. He refused to renounce his Christian faith while in jail. This year, he spoke at the “Free Iran” rally held in Le Bourget, France on July 9th.
“We will soon see this rebellion in our country, in our hearts, and in our world, because Jesus Christ is bringing this message. The resurrection of the Iranian people shall arrive very soon,” he said.