International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that during the month of November, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry launched an arrest wave of Christians which cumulated on December 1, 2018. It is estimated that 114 Christians were arrested last week and approximately 28 others were arrested in the three preceding weeks.
The wave of arrests was announced on December 1 by Iranian Mehr News Agency, which operates as the semi-official mouthpiece of the government. It is common for the Iranian regime to increase the number of arrests ahead of Christmas. However, the latest wave is truly “staggering” according to Article 18.
“They had arrested so many of them and didn’t know what to do with them all.”
Early information indicates that because of a lack of space, most Christians spent only a few hours imprisoned and only the leaders were detained for a longer period of time. Sources, who remain anonymous for security reasons, say that several of those arrested were told that they would be charged with propaganda against the Islamic regime.
These types of charges often fall under the purview of Iran’s Revolutionary Courts, which maintain close ties with Iran’s clergy and the Intelligence Ministry. Dr. Mike Ansari from Heart4Iran, an Iranian Christian partnership platform, told ICC:
“Most of the arrested individuals are coerced to divulge information about their house church activities and those of their friends, under threat of criminal prosecution or arrest of family members… Therefore, the case of every arrested Iranian believer is of utmost importance.”
“As Christianity grows rapidly in Iran, the Islamic government and the clergy in power are alarmed. Their only strategy to slow down this growth is through a campaign of fear, violence, and intimidation… We expect the persecution in Iran will increase as the Islamic government feels threatened by the spread of Christianity among Muslims in Iran,” explained Dr. Hormoz Shariat, president and founder of Iran Alive Ministries.
During this past year, ICC has tracked a total of 248 ongoing cases where the Iranian authorities violated the religious freedom of Christians. These individuals face continued harassment, interrogation, detainment, imprisonment, or some other type of legal action intended to repress the Church. Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said:
“Iranian authorities initiated this arrest wave to strike fear in the hearts of Christians just weeks ahead of Christmas celebrations. It is part of the regime’s strategy to further isolate the Church and keep it underground. The persecution that Iran’s Christians experience is incredibly intense, and historically it usually worsens ahead of Christmas. We must keep the Iranian Church in our prayers.”