TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Families and friends of five Iranian Christians detained during a picnic and fishing expedition in Iran say they are “deeply concerned” for their welfare and are “requesting prayer,” BosNewsLife learned.
Troubles began last Friday, August 26, when Christian men August Ramiel Bet Tamraz, Amin Nader Afshar, Hadi Askary, Mohamad Dehnay and Amir Sina Dashti along with their wives went to to Firuzkuh north of Tehran to go fishing and have a picnic.
Christians and rights activists told BosNewsLife that that at about 1.30 pm local time security officials from the feared Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) “raided” the event and separated the men from the women.
“Amin Nader Afshar asked to see the arrest warrant, which the officials did not produce, and Amin was then beaten,” added advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).
“The MOIS officials then took the five men away and family members have been unable to obtain information about their whereabouts.”
Ramiel Bet Tamraz is the son of Assyrian Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz who was detained on December 26, 2014 at a Christmas celebration at his home. Amin Nader Afshar was also detained at that time, Christians recalled.
“Pastor Victor was charged verbally with “conducting evangelism”, “illegal house church activities” and “Bible printing and distribution”, MEC said.
The pastor was released on bail March 1, last year shortly after Amin Nader Afshar was released on bail in February 2015. They are still expected to be summoned to court to face charges related to their Christian activities.
“Family members see no reason for the arrests apart from the connection to the arrest of Pastor Victor and Amin at the Christmas celebration in Pastor Victor’s home in 2014,” explained MEC, which is closely following the case.
Christians reportedly feared that MOIS officials are trying to force confessions and to extract “evidence” against “the victims” of the 2014 Christmas arrests.
In published remarks families and friends of the five men reportedly asked Christians to pray that “those detained will know the presence, peace and provision of Jesus, will be able to answer their interrogators with wisdom, and will be released soon.”
They also wanted to pray that “they will remain strong in their faith and clear in their witness” and that “family members will know the comfort, peace and presence of Jesus” and that “the charges against Pastor Victor and Amin will be dropped.”
Christians also said they also hope that “all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.”
The arrests are seen by believers as part of a winder crackdown on especially evangelical Christians and former Muslims in the strict Islamic nation where officials have expressed concern about the spread of Christianity and house churches.