Skip to comments.Iran: Police raid church, arrest at least 80 leaders
Posted on 09/12/2004 10:10:27 AM PDT by faludeh_shirazi
© 2004 WorldNetDaily.com
At least 80 Christian leaders attending the general conference of the Iranian Assemblies of God, being held near Tehran, were arrested and questioned following a police raid three days ago. Ten pastors taken into custody are still being held, and their families are not being allowed to communicate with them.
According to Compass Direct News Service, authorities surrounded the denomination's headquarters in Karaj, 20 miles from the capital, on the conference's first day and burst in suddenly, arresting all those present.
"The police came from everywhere," one Iranian Christian told Compass Direct, "and there were a lot of them."
According to the U.S. State Department's 2003 International Religious Freedom Report, "Christian groups have reported instances of government harassment of churchgoers in Tehran, in particular against worshippers at the Assembly of God congregation in the capitol. Harassment has included conspicuous monitoring outside Christian premises by Revolutionary Guards to discourage Muslims or converts from entering church premises and demands for the presentation of the identity papers of worshippers inside."
Indeed, according to a Compass Iranian source, "Every single person present was put under arrest, blindfolded and taken in for interrogation." They were reportedly driven around for several hours with their eyes shielded in order to disorient them before they were questioned. According to reports, the questioning was conducted separately for each of the detainees, and the interrogators revealed extensive personal knowledge of the individuals and their families.
Tehran's constitution declares the "official religion of Iran is Islam and the doctrine followed is that of Ja'fari Shi'ism." The government severely restricts freedom of religion, particularly efforts by Christians to evangelize. Since conversion of a Muslim to another faith is considered apostasy under Shari'a law, non-Muslims who proselytize followers of Islam put their own lives at risk.
The State Department warns that Tehran "vigilantly enforces its prohibition on proselytizing activities by evangelical Christians by closing evangelical churches and arresting converts. Members of evangelical congregations have been required to carry membership cards, photocopies of which must be provided to the authorities. Worshippers are subject to identity checks by authorities posted outside congregation centers."
Iran's theocratic government has also pressured evangelical Christian groups to compile and submit membership lists for their congregations, but this demand has been resisted in the past.
The 70 or so Christians released after questioning this weekend were told not to attend church services this weekend, a moot point since their pastors were still being held incommunicado. "There will be no one to preach when the congregations gather for services," Compass Direct's source noted.
Six of the detained pastors are ordained and serve in six different cities in Iran. The other four are lay ministers and elders.
"This is the biggest crisis for evangelical believers in the country since three Protestant pastors were murdered 10 years ago," another source told Compass. One of those killed, Rev.Haik Hovsepian Mehr, was general secretary of the Assemblies of God in Iran. An outspoken advocate of religious freedom, he was one of a small number of pastors who refused to sign the government's declaration that his denomination would not allow Muslims to enter its churches.
Before his disappearance and murder, Rev. Hovsepian-Mehr had written, "If we die or go to jail for our faith, we want the whole Christian world to know what is happening. ... We have nothing else to lose. We have tolerated all these years and kept silent. Nothing has changed. ... Please don't worry about me. I am ready for anything."
Just the sort of thing that sparked the Crusades.
What I wish more people realized is that millions upon millions of Iranians despise Islam and many are Zoroastrian and Christian and Jew - of course these Iranians are heavily persecuted..
What are the latest indications of the Iranian Muslim community's opinions? How close are they to overthrowing thier fanatical leaders and establishing a government that would uphold the democratic value of keeping religion and state separate?
Already posted here
Don't forget Baha'is, though I suspect most of those are over here now as they seem to be especially hated by the Muslims.
The first part of what you're asking is "how close are they to the flash point"? Hard to say. They're a bit more volatile than, say, the phlegmatic Belgians and when one doesn't know exactly where the point is to begin with...
The second part of your question is also a good one. But the one sense I have of them is that they're quite fed up with theocracies; that they won't fall into socialism or other traps is another matter...
More specifically: are they interested in change that would be compatible with American aims of a peaceful region? I ask because we have some support in Iraq but not enough to call the atmosphere in the days before our invasion verging anywhere near a "supportive" flashpoint.
But the one sense I have of them is that they're quite fed up with theocracies;
That's encouraging. But I'd like some evidence.
If you're in the Seattle area I think I might be able to arrange that. Otherwise I can't help you, because the way I've come to my conclusion is rather a chicken & egg situation.
The best way is to get to know a number of Iranians in different groups and obtain their stories and opinions. But that's not easy if you don't know Iranians and Farsi; doubly so if you know little about Iran.
In my case the wife speaks Farsi (she lived in Tehran in the 70s), and everywhere we meet Iranians this opens doors wide. We know Muslim, Christian (Evangelical and Anglican), Baha'i and agnostic/atheist Iranians. Lots of potential for disagreement, and (my observation) there seems to be little if any association between these "factions."
But from numerous discussions with members of all groups here I conclude they all see the situation in Iran with much the same eye and all express a desire for the same outcome. It was with a bit of shock that I heard a Baha'i express last winter the desire that the trees of Tehran should all be decorated -- with the bodies of the mullahs dangling from their limbs.
(I will note in passing that the Iranian Muslims we know are generally quite "secular", not anything like what you would call fanatical/fundamental. Whenever I have met fanatical Muslims, it has not been a pleasant experience.)
Although we're both probably more concerned about Iranians in-country, I'd be interested in hearing what your "secular" Muslim acquaintances think about the potential for Israel to have WMD while those are denied to Iran as long as it is a militant theocracy. Also, how do they come down on the choice between Kerry and Bush, and why? Are they worried about "American hegemony" in the world?
The difficulty with exchanging these ideas with secular Iranian Muslims may be to differentiate between the random Democrat-urge propelled by exposure our own media and the anti-semitism instilled by Iran's Islamism. I'm willing to admit that it could be the former as much as the latter.
This group is thoroughly disgusted with Powell's State Department and are trying to get Bush's ear. As they say, they know the mullahs better than we do, and they are very concerned. They also think a Kerry victory would be a disaster for both the U.S. and the Middle East.
What was more intriguing was his perspective that the imminent acquisition of nukes might trigger an uprising, because a revolution against a nuclear power wouild be too fearful a task. Again, I'm not convinced.
At the function we were addressed by a Dr. Houmayoum (sp?), who appears quite knowledgeable in Iranian affairs (he was state minister or some such under the Shah?). Sadly I brought nothing on which to take notes, and was dead on my feet from jet lag anyway, so I can't relate what he said.
Dr. Homayun was the Iranian Minister of Information & Tourism under the rule of the late Shah of Iran in late 1970s.
ping to sionnsar's #13
I believe that these observations are even more FR-compatible than what I would estimate is typical. It's important for us to clearly understand who is lobbying whom and why. I don't think Americans want to be Chalabied again.
Then again, it may be our Vietnam-like unwillingness to take the war to the enemy in Syria and Iran that has put us in the situation of being what I am calling "Chalabied" in Iraq -- without understanding it better.
Many weeks ago one of them pulled up a list of the many parties vying for position when the mullahs fall; it was dishearteningly long. He noted the fact, and made some comment about how they are always arguing among themselves.
What was also interesting was how the host made a call for more Iranian support for Homeland Security. He noted the long-standing hatred between Iranian and Arab (I had gathered there was dislike, but active hate?), and noted too that they, being from the middle east, would know who are the extremists likely to be terrorists -- they give themselves away in various ways that Americans just wold not be attuned to.
Speaking of the Islamic green belt we helped install in Iran, Zbignew Brezinsky was on Charlie Rose again last night and he's certain that America is headed for disaster by alienating the whole world.
If you don't accept dhimmitude, you get the brunt of jihad. They do not know that the blood of Christians they kill is only seed of the Church.