According to Elam Ministries, there are at least 25 Christians still being held behind bars out of around 120 imprisoned by the authorities since last December.
Elam director Sam Yeghnazar is appealing to Christians to pray for their brothers and sisters in Iran, that they would be mentally prepared to face interrogators. It is also asking that they pray for the persecutors, that they would realise that what they are doing is wrong, and for fellow prisoners, that they would hear the Gospel.
“Prison is a place that people dread,” said Yeghnazar.
“This is where our brothers and sisters are suffering. It is where they win victories or suffer defeat.
“So it would be good to start [our prayers] from prison.”
The Christian community in Iran has been hit by a wave of arrests since last December. On February 13, around 45 Christians were rounded up and detained overnight in several towns and cities across Iran. At least five of them were held in Tehran’s notorious Evan prison.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide suspects that the arrests and detentions are part of a wider attempt by the Iranian government to intimidate the Christian community.
Christians are regarded as an enemy of Islam and the Iranian state. Tehran Governor Morteza Tamadon recently likened Christian missionaries to the Taliban and warned of more arrests.
Elam Ministries said some of the Christians to have been released have reported being placed in solitary confinement and subjected to harsh interrogation in Section 209 of Evin Prison.
“Ex-prisoners who have endured Section 209 testify it is the worst part of the whole grim experience of arrest and imprisonment,” said Elam.
“They say the mental pressure is unbearable.”
Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani was released on bail on February 15 after being detained in Shiraz since last June. He stands accused of crimes against the Islamic order and blasphemy, and now awaits a further hearing, expected to take place in April.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide said there was still no news on the fate of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who is appealing against a death sentence for blasphemy.
CSW’s national director Stuart Windsor condemned the harassment of Christians.
“CSW deplores the systematic targeting of religious minorities by the Iranian government,” he said.
“As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran is illegally obligated to uphold international standards of religious freedom for all its citizens.”