By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- Iran released four Christian prisoners but concerns remained Friday, December 11, about Christian pastor Fardhid Fathi who was to have been freed after five years behind bars, Christian aid workers told BosNewsLife.
"Unfortunately, Farshid has not been released today..." said Elam Ministries, a mission group founded by Iranian church leaders.
"Today is the start of a three-day national holiday in Iran, and there are indications that Farshid may be released soon. We are hopeful that he will soon be free, and we ask you to continue praying for his release," the group told BosNewsLife in a statement sent late Thursday, December 10.
Yet Iranian Christians confirmed that four prisoners other Christtians have been released since November 11, including Suroush Saraie, Mehdi Ameruni, Seyed Bijan Farokhpour Haghigi and Eskander Rezai.
"Officially, they have been granted temporary leave from prison. However, they have been led to believe that they will not be summoned to return to prison," added Middle Eastern Concern (MEC) , an advocacy and aid group closely following the situation. "Official confirmation that this is the case is still awaited.
The Christians were detained for ties to a house church amid a major crackdown on devoted Christians in the strict Islamic nation. Converts from Islam are especially targeted by Iran's secret police, BosNewsLife established.
"Of those originally arrested at the prayer meeting only Mohammad, the leader of the house church, and Massoud remain in prison," MEC told BosNewsLife.
Their family members and friends said they "rejoice" at the release of the three men. However, former prisoners often continue to experience hardship, MEC cautioned. "In some cases released prisoners have been pressurised by security officials to become informers. Many former prisoners suffer psychological trauma and struggle to find employment," the group added.
I remarks obtained by BosNewsLife, Iranian Christians said they have been requesting prayers that "Mehdi, Seyed and Eskander will quickly recover from their imprisonment, and that they and their families will be strengthened in the Lord and adapt to normal family life."
Additionally they asked prayers that "those who remain in prison, including Mohammad and Massoud, will be comforted and released soon", that "all prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God" and that "all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him."
Elam Ministries, the mission group, reminded its supporters to Bible verse Hebrews 13:3: “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”