How did you spend your Christmas? Different cultures in different parts of the world spend Christmas in different ways, even observe Christmas on different days. But for most of us, Christmas is a day of rest, of refreshment, and of joy. Not for the Christians in Iran, however. We recently received the following update from our friends at Elam Ministries, reporting that 70 Christians were arrested during Christmas day raids by the government.
In the early morning hours after Christmas day, the Iranian government arrested 25 Christians in Tehran and other locations. They also planned to detain sixteen others, but were unable to locate them. There are also unconfirmed reports that the authorities have arrested over 50 other Christians. According to BBC Persian, the Governor of Tehran has vowed to arrest more evangelical Christians.
One of those detained was able to make a call to friends from an unknown location on the morning of the arrests, leaving this message -
“Unfortunately early this morning the authorities came to our homes. They arrested us and many other believers. I want to ask you to pray for us.We are sure God will never leave us or forsake us. God bless you. Sorry for giving you bad news over Christmas, but I believe God will do something for us.”
Those who received the voice message were impressed by the caller’s courage and calmness.
Armed, plain-clothes, special security officers forcefully entered the homes of Christians while they were asleep, and verbally and physically abused them. They were handcuffed and taken for interrogation. Among those arrested were five married couples. One couple was separated from their two-year old baby. Another couple was also forced to leave their baby that the mother was breast feeding. A number of single young women were also among those taken.
Another sixteen Christians would have been arrested, but were not at home. The security forces broke into at least five such homes, ransacking them, taking personal possessions, changing the locks and placing a government seal on the door. Family members of these Christians have been called by the authorities and threatened and harassed. They were instructed to tell the Christians to surrender themselves.
After many hours of interrogation, eleven of the detained were released. The other fourteen are still in prison. There has been no contact from eight of the arrested. Six have been able to make a very short call to their families. In one of the brief calls, one of the arrested complained that they are being subjected to sleep deprivation.
None of them have been granted any legal representation. No charges have been made, though it is clear that they were arrested for their active Christian faith.There has been a gross lack of due process. The government authorities have not provided any written documents as to the reason for the arrests, any record of the items confiscated, and family members are not allowed to visit the detained.
There is an urgent need for Christians all over the world to intercede for our brothers and sisters in prison in Iran.
Let us pray that they will experience the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit, even in their prison cells. Pray they will have supernatural endurance and courage through this trial, and be shining witnesses to the guards and other inmates. Pray for peace and wisdom when they are being interrogated. Pray for their health. Pray for comfort and confidence for their families. Pray they will soon be released.
Pray for the welfare and protection of those the government is still seeking to arrest. Pray the Lord will guide their every step. Pray for the wider church in Iran to continue faithfully and fearlessly proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel. Pray for those who are working to help the persecuted and their families.
It is comforting to know that our sovereign, omniscient, all-powerful God knows about every single arrest that has been made, and that He will bring glory to His name through this suffering. He will cause this persecution to bring victory for His Kingdom in Iran.
Thank you for your prayers,
The Elam Team
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