NINE Iranian Christians were arrested at a house church in Shiraz on Christmas Day, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has reported.
Agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security “ransacked much of the place”, and confiscated personal items, says the report, which was issued on Tuesday of last week. It also says that, two days before Christmas, another Christian, Meysam Hojjati, was beaten and arrested in Isfahan.
Shahin Gobadi of the Foreign Affairs Committee of NCRI said that there had been a “steady deterioration of human-rights abuses in Iran” during Hassan Rouhani’s tenure as president, “including executions and suppression of religious and ethnic minorities”. The regime was “one of the top violators of rights of religious minorities, including Christians, in the world”.
The latest UN report on human rights in Iran, published in September, notes a “steady upward trend” in the number of executions from 2008 to 2015, with a peak of at least 750 in 2014. Amnesty International has condemned a “staggering spree” of executions. Last year, the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, expressesed concern about “reports of persistent discrimination . . . against ethnic and religious minorities”.
The Iranian organisation Elam Ministries, which seeks to “strengthen and expand” the Church in Iran, reported this week that a record number of Iranians celebrated Christmas in the region, including thousands of non-Christians. About 900 people were present at one service.
Elam is also celebrating the release of Pastor Farshid Fathi, an Evangelical leader who had been in prison since December 2010 (News, 2 November 2012). Elam requested prayers for those who remain in prison, including Pastor Saeed Abedini (News, 8 March 2013) and Maryam Naghash Zargaran, an Iranian Christian convert.
Open Doors ranks Iran as number seven in its World Watch List, which highlights the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.