Detained Iran Pastor Briefly Home For Easter


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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

TEHRAN (Worthy News) – A detained pastor of ’s largest evangelical network of house churches spent Easter Sunday with his family but was due to return to prison Monday, Worthy learned.

Yousef Nadarkhani, a leader of the of Iran, was released from jail on furlough last week amid international pressure. Still, authorities told him to come back within five days, supporters confirmed.

Nadarkhani was detained along with three other members of the Church of Iran during a series of raids by security agents on homes in Rasht in May 2016.

All of the men were released on bail in 2017 but re-arrested in a series of raids from 22-25 July 2018, Christians said.

The pastor is currently serving a six-year sentence, reduced from ten years, on charges of ‘acting against national security by ‘promoting Zionist Christianity.’

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has condemned his detention as “arbitrary.”

LONG PROSECUTION

Iran’s Islamic authorities have long prosecuted the 45-year-old married father of two. He previously spent three years on death row on charges of “apostasy,” the word used for abandoning , until his acquittal in 2012.

Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which campaigned for Nadarkhani’s release, expressed mixed feelings about Nadarkhani’s furlough. “CSW welcomes news of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani’s temporary release. [But] we urge the Iranian authorities to go one step further and release this innocent man,” said CSW’s Founder, President Mervyn Thomas.

Freedom, Thomas added, would allow the pastor to “enjoy his freedom without fear of harassment or re-arrest.”

The CSW chief stressed his group also calls “for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained on account of their or belief or in relation to the defense of .”

Christians say converts from Islam to Christianity, such as Pastor Nadarkhani, face the most persecution in Iran, a strict Islamic nation under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s “Supreme Leader.”

Devoted Christians are targeted by Iran’s government and, to a lesser extent, by society and their own families, according to Christians familiar with the situation.

Iranian authorities view the growth of the Church of Iran and other denominations as an attempt by Western countries to undermine Islam and the country’s Islamic leadership.

MANY RAIDS

House groups, often made up of Christian converts from backgrounds, are frequently raided.

Their leaders and members have been arrested, prosecuted, and given long prison sentences for “crimes against national security” or “apostasy.”

Iran ranks 9th on the annual ‘World Watch List’ of 50 countries where advocacy group Open Doors claims Christians suffer most for their faith in Christ.

Despite reported persecution, church and advocacy groups say there are at least 800,000 Christians in Iran, many of them with Muslim backgrounds.

Mission groups believe the Christian faith is rapidly spreading among Iran’s population of more than 86-million people.

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