“You are the Light of the World.”
ISTANBUL, March 16 (Compass Direct News) – In a rare crackdown on a concentrated area, Iranian authorities have arrested Christians living in the country’s third largest city in what is seen as a tactic to discourage Muslims and converts to Christianity from attending official churches. Since last month officials have arrested about 12 Christian converts in Isfahan, 340 kilometers (211 miles) south of Tehran. Authorities have arrested leaders and members of churches meeting in buildings, as well as some from underground churches, according to Mohabat News.
The targeted arrests started on Feb. 22, when intelligence officers arrested approximately seven Christians at their homes between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., Mohabat reported. The Christian Iranian news service identified those detained on Feb. 22 as Hekmat Salimi, pastor of St. Paul Anglican Church, a convert of 30 years and author of theological books; Giti Hakimpour, 78, a female pastor at St. Luke’s Anglican Church; Shahram Ghaedi, an actor; Maryam Del-Aram, 54; Shahnaz Zarifi, a mother of two; and Enayat Jafari.
Another Christian, house church member Majid Enayat, was arrested on the same day at his workplace. Of those arrested, Mohabat reported that authorities released Hakimpour on Feb. 25. On March 2, authorities arrested another convert in Isfahan, Fariborz Parsi-Nejad. None of those arrested in Isfahan last month has been officially charged. Though religious freedom monitors in Iran said it was not clear what triggered authorities to target Christians in Isfahan, one Iranian Christian outside the country said it may be yet another tactic to stop converts from attending Farsi-speaking meetings in official church buildings.
“The government is very sensitive in Isfahan, which is the only city apart from Tehran with official church buildings,” the source said on condition of anonymity. “Now the government is focusing on the church buildings to scare the people so they don’t go.”