Iran Detains Christian Converts, Prayers Urged
by Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
TEHRAN (Worthy News) – Iranian Christians requested prayers Thursday for Iranian Pastor Abdolreza (Matthias) Haghnejad and his wife, Anahita (Anna) Khademi, after their detention in northern Iran.
The call for prayer was shared with Worthy News just days after Christians said intelligence agents raided their house church in the city of Bandar Anzali on December 26 during a Christmas celebration was underway.
“Matthias and two other converts were arrested and transferred to Lakan Prison in [the city of] Rasht. On January 3, Anna was summoned to intelligence offices in Bandar Anzali, arrested, and also transferred to Rasht,” confirmed advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).
Friends of the couple said they “are concerned about Anna’s health in detention as she has back problems.”
In comments sent to Worthy News, the friends said they “request prayer” from other believers “that God will strengthen and encourage” the couple “and that their teenage daughter will be adequately cared for while her parents are in prison.”
They also pray that “criminal charges will not be brought against Matthias and Anna and the two other [Christian] converts arrested at the Christmas gathering.” The friends hope that the “authorities in Iran will cease to criminalize the peaceful activities of the different religious communities.”
The pastor was already held in Anzali Prison since his arrest in January 2022 to serve a six-year sentence for allegedly threatening national security.
That sentence was successfully appealed in 2014 but overruled last year by another court, trial observers said.
The court found that “Matthias is an enemy of the state and that the sentence given at that time is still in force. Although detained in prison, Matthias was allowed regular leave and continued to minister in the local house church” till his latest detention MEC told Worthy News.
In a separate court case, the pastor was one of nine converts released from prison in December 2021 after a review of their five-year prison for “endangering state security and promoting Zionism.”
They were acquitted by the 34th branch of the Appeal Court in Tehran, the capital, in February 2022, Christians said.
Yet the renewed detentions underscored concerns about growing pressure by Islamic authorities on Christians and other minorities at a time of anti-government protests.
More than a hundred days after they began, the longest-running rallies in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution have shaken the regime but killed many, rights activists said.
More than 500 protesters, including scores of children, have been killed, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA).
At least two protesters are known to have been executed, and at least 26 others face the same fate after what rights groups call “sham trials.”
The protests followed the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16 while in police custody for allegedly not her hijab “correctly” and sporting skinny jeans.
Her family says Amini was beaten, and her head struck several times.
Iran’s government and police denied the accusations, claiming her death was due to an “underlying disease.”
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