By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Iran has allowed jailed pastor and Gospel artist Vruir Avanessian to receive routine dialysis after warnings he would die, but two other house church Christians were detained early Monday, December 31, Christians said.
Pastor Vruir Avanessian, 60, was taken to a specialized clinic dressed in prison uniform and accompanied by several guards, added Mohabat News, a news agency of Iranian Christians and activists.
At the hospital he was reportedly allowed a brief visit with his wife, Rima Avanessian, who had been concerned about the pastor’s health since his detention last Thursday, December 27.
She warned prison and security authorities they would be responsible “for any mishaps” that could endanger the health and life of her husband, according to Iranian Christians with close knowledge about the case.
Avanessian was arrested when security forced raided a house church in northern Tehran where some 50 Christian converts gathered for a delayed Christmas service, BosNewsLife reported earlier.
CHURCH OF IRAN
News of his hospital treatment was overshadowed by reports that two Christians from the Church of Iran house church movement, Behzad Taalipasand and Mohammadreza (Johann) Omidi, were detained early Monday, December 31, in the northern city of Rasht.
Human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) called the arrests “the latest developments in a December crackdown on house churches by the Iranian government.”
Earlier on Christmas Day, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani of the Church of Iran was jailed again in Rasht at the alleged instigation of prison authorities to serve the remaining 45 days of a three year sentence for evangelizing Muslims.
Nadarkhani made world headlines after he was acquitted in September on charges of “apostasy”, the word used for abandoning Islam, which carries the death penalty in strictly Islamic Iran. Churches had earlier warned they feared more detentions and raids over the holiday season, BosNewsLife learned.
Also in December, news emerged of the imprisonment without charge since September of Pastor Saeed Abedini, a 32-year-old dual Iranian and American citizen, who was detained while visiting his parents.
He has been given several dates for a court hearing, which has been repeatedly been postponed, Christians said.
The latest detentions are part of what activists call an “annual” crackdown. In 2010, 70 Christians were arrested in December, while in 2011, the authorities in the southern city of Ahwaz aided and detained an entire Assemblies of God (AoG) congregation, including the Sunday school children, Iranian Christians said.
CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas called the “Iranian government’s annual campaign of arrest and harassment during a significant religious holiday…wholly unacceptable.”
He said Iran as signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), is “obligated to uphold freedom of religion or belief for all of its citizens, and this must include the right to observe days of worship and manifest their belief in communion with others.”
CSW has urged the release of all who have been imprisoned on “account of their faith.”
Iranian authorities have defended their policies, saying those detained are violating laws and, for instance, “threaten the security” and values of the Islamic state.
Officials have also condemned the growth of house churches in the country.
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