Pastor Robert Asseriyan, an Assemblies of God leader in Iran, who was arrested on May 21st, in the middle of a church service, has been allowed to contact his family by a phone call to inform them that he is in good health.
His arrest was the beginning of a wave of hardships for the Central Assemblies of God church in Tehran, which has now been closed down by the authorities.
According to Mohabat News, during this limited phone call, he was able to briefly talk to his family members. However, his exact location is still unknown, while there are speculations that he is transferred to the detention center of the Intelligence Service of the Revolutionary Guards of the Islamic regime for further interrogation.
"The continuation of the pastor's arrest and uncertainty about his fate; his lack of access to a lawyer and being deprived of visitation rights are all happening while no charges have yet been officially laid. The pastor's family, as well as the Iranian Christian community are deeply concerned about his situation," said Mohabat News.
Pastor Asseriyan is an Iranian-Armenian Christian psychologist, author, and translator. He is also a member of the governing council of the Central Assemblies of God church of Tehran; serving as a teacher and administrator of the Bible school at the Farsi-speaking AOG church. He has translated numerous valuable Christian theology books, which have been published by domestic publishers in Iran.
"Based on this report, the arrest of Pastor Assyrian was an initial move and an excuse to close down the Central AoG church in Tehran," said Mohabat News. "The church was closed on Wednesday, May 22, due to pressures from the Iranian security authorities. A closure sign is currently hung from the church's entrance door."
Although the church's congregation were told to attend the church service on Sunday May 26, to hear the final decision of the church's council regarding the permanent closure of the church, Mohabat News sources have reported that, "Apparently the Sunday's service was not held due to church's early closure, and the continuation of any church services is yet remain unknown."
The Iranian Christians News Agency stated that Christian believers, whether outside or inside Iran have expressed their concern over the closure of the Central AoG Church in Tehran, through releasing statements, referring to it as an initial move to even a greater wave of persecution on church, especially newly converted Iranian Christians. Some are even concerned that this can lead to the closure of all Farsi-speaking churches in Iran.
"Highly ranked Iranian Ayatollahs and religious experts have been attacking non-Islamic religions in the past recent months," Mohabat News continued. "In an organized and coordinated move, Iranian media also broadcasted some programs, mostly aimed at the Central AoG Church, trying to distort the image of Christianity in people's minds. Using these programs they are trying to induce the judicial and security authorities to impose more pressure on Christians and deal with them more seriously. Their effort seems to have fulfilled its purpose in convincing Iranian authorities to increase their persecution of Christians.
"We have seen that the attacks on Christians' house gatherings (house-churches) for worship have increased in the past few months and now the largest Farsi-speaking church in Tehran is about to be permanently closed!"