Another AG Pastor Arrested in Iran
Security forces in Iran arrested Pastor Robert Asserian yesterday, May 21, after disrupting a morning prayer service in progress at Central Assembly of God in Tehran. Before going to the church, authorities raided Pastor Asserian’s home where they confiscated a computer and several books. They then found Pastor Asserian at the church leading the prayer service, immediately arrested him, and announced the church’s imminent closure. At last report, the pastor’s whereabouts are unknown.
“I had the privilege of meeting Pastor Asserian a couple of years ago,” said Dr. George O. Wood, general superintendent of the U.S. Assemblies of God. “Every indication points to the possibility that Iranian authorities are pursuing closing down Central Assembly in violation of Iranian law and human rights.”
Pastor Asserian’s arrest is one of several that have taken place in the days leading up to Iran’s presidential elections, which are scheduled for less than a month from now. Three weeks ago, a pastor, his wife and two church members were arrested and are now serving sentences.
Pastor Farhad Sabokrooh, his wife, Shahnaz Jayzan, and two church members, Naser Zaman-Dezfuli and Davoud Alijani, were arrested in Ahvaz in December 2011 after authorities raided their church during the Christmas season. Each received a one-year sentence for “converting to Christianity and propagating against the Islamic regime through evangelism.”
After serving only a portion of their sentences, the group was released. On May 1, they were again brought before the authorities, who ordered them to two different prisons to complete their sentences.
“We are deeply concerned for our fellow believers who are suffering in Iran,” says Omar Beiler, AGWM regional director for Eurasia. “The need for Christian believers to intercede for one another is greater than ever before.”
“The fact that our
brothers and sisters in Christ around the world face pressures and persecution
reinforces the need to be united as a body to seek God’s intervention,” says AGWM
Executive Director Greg Mundis. “Why God has chosen to engage us in prayer is a
mystery, but it is also His command. It is the nature of being members of the Body
that when one suffers we all suffer.”
The general consensus is that this wave of threats and closures stems from an attempt to stop worship services from being conducted in Farsi, the language of the majority of Iranians. Services are allowed in Armenian, a minority language that most Iranians do not speak or even understand.
Believers in Iran fear that closure of Central Assembly in Tehran will set a precedent for closing all Farsi-language churches in Iran. Such a move would essentially remove all open witness of the gospel of Christ in the country.
“We appeal to all believers to earnestly pray for Pastor Asserian and those within the Iranian Assemblies of God,” Dr. Wood states. “We also request prayer that the authorities in Iran will uphold the rights of people to worship freely according to their conscience.”