Christian converts surveilled, arrested

MASHDAD, Iran — Two Christian converts from Islam planning to meet in a northern city of Iran were detained on the same day, part of what rights advocates say could be part of a rash of arrests in the area.

The men were arrested Nov. 16. Behnam Ersali, a former member of the Assemblies of God church in Tehran, had traveled to Mashhad and was arrested at his friends’ home there. Davood Rasooli was arrested in front of his home in Karaj by two plainclothes officers as he was preparing to leave for Mashhad, according to Mohabat news.

Advocacy organization Middle East Concern said Iranian intelligence may have intercepted calls between the two men and learned of their plan to meet, indicating increased monitoring of Christian activities in the country. There are reports of several arrests of Christians in the northern cities of the country.

Iran ranks 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ list of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. However, the underground church is growing in Iran with some 800,000 Iranians worshipping Christ within Iran’s borders, according to Open Doors. (MS)