It was early Sunday morning, the day after Christmas. Rasool and Maryam Abdolahi and their two children were sleeping peacefully. That all changed, however, in an instant. Without warning, plainclothes policemen broke through the front door of their Tehran apartment and stormed inside. As some of the police rummaged through their personal belongings searching for evidence of their faith, Rasool and Maryam were handcuffed and taken away—as their two children watched in horror.
Rasool and Maryam are just two among as many as 38 Christians in several Iranian cities who were arrested on December 26. A few were released after they were interrogated and forced to sign documents promising that they would no longer attend any house churches. More than a month later, a few more were temporarily released on bail, reporting that they had been kept in solitary confinement. Just recently, Maryam was finally released. As of this writing, however (in late February), Rasool, as well as many other Iranian believers, remain in prison.
With the exception of Rasool, all of those still detained have been permitted to make brief phone calls to family members. No one has heard from Rasool since his arrest, including his wife, Maryam. Iranian Christians are extremely concerned about him. His two children are traumatized.
Muslim leaders in Iran have grown increasingly alarmed at the growing number of Iranians who are finding Christ and attending house churches, and persecution of Christians has been on the rise since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005. In just the past eight months, there have been over 200 arbitrary arrests in 24 Iranian cities.
Incarcerated Christians are often deprived of sleep, verbally abused, interrogated for hours, denied family visits, and sometimes beaten unmercifully and threatened with execution if they don’t confess to charges against them or recant their faith. Some have reported loud speakers outside their cells that continually broadcast Islamic teaching. One incarcerated Iranian pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, convicted of apostasy, has been sentenced to death. In 2008, Ahmadinejad’s government passed a law mandating the death penalty for any Muslim who converts.
Outside of prison, believers are often demoted or fired from their jobs or find their businesses being boycotted. Christians can find it very difficult to earn an income and provide for their families.
In spite of all this, Jesus’ church is thriving in Iran, and surveys show that as many as one million Iranians have become Christians in the past decade. Multitudes of Iranians are now watching Christian programming using satellite dishes that have been illegally smuggled into the country by corrupt members of the same government that banned them. House churches are multiplying in Iran’s holiest Islamic cities.
Please pray that Iran’s recent political upheaval will result in more freedom for the gospel. And please pray for the release of Rasool Abdolahi, and for the many other members of our incarcerated spiritual family in Iran who are waiting in solitary confinement.