According to representatives of the evangelical Protestant Church, “as many as 400 people have been detained” so far since the beginning of October, while there are reports that authorities have raided services of worship in the capital Tehran and other cities across the country.
“It has become clear that Protestant Christians are now viewed as enemy number one of the state,” Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the Church of Iran house church movement, told the BosNewsLife online Christian news agency.
Khandjani, who is currently in hiding in the country, further alleged that some of the detained have been told that they must give an undertaking not to attend church services if they wish to regain their freedom.
There was no official statement on the raids and detentions from the Iranian authorities as The Irish Catholic went to press this week.
Meanwhile, five Christian converts who have been held in detention since earlier this year were put on trial for their ‘activities’ as the raids got underway.
According to Mohabat News, an agency run by Christian rights groups in Iran, after eight months behind bars, Mojtaba Hosseini, Mohammad-Reza Partoei Kourosh, Vahid Hakkani, Homayoun Shokouhi and his wife Fariba Nazemian were brought before the revolutionary court in the south-western city of Shiraz on October 15 to answer charges of “participating in house church services” and “defaming Islamic holy figures through Christian evangelising”.
The fresh drive against the Christian community comes just over a month after the release of Christian convert Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who had faced the death penalty for abandoning Islam. His case garnered international attention and brought an unwanted light to bear on Iran’s judicial system in dealing with its discomfort with the growth of Christianity in the country.