(PNS) The recent murder of an Iranian pastor is generating fears that the government in Tehran is cracking down on Christian “house churches.”
The body of Ghorban Tourani, 50, was tossed in front of his house shortly after he was abducted there by unidentified assailants.
Tourani converted to Christianity after hearing the gospel from visiting evangelists while held in a Turkmenistan jail for manslaughter, having killed a man in a knife fight. His house church was in Gonbad-e-Kavus, a town on the Turkmenistan border, just east of the Caspian Sea.
In his obituary, Tourani was described by an unnamed Iranian pastor as a “fearless Christian” who would “boldly share about Jesus in … the streets, shops and bazaars.”
In Iran, such proselytizing is punishable by death.
Compass Direct, a news agency that reports on persecutions of Christians, said 10 other Christians in several Iranian cities, including Tehran, were arrested shortly after Tourani’s murder and tortured by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
Compass Direct said one of the arrested Christians was interrogated about relief work after Iran’s 2003 earthquake, and another, who worked with a legal organization defending human rights, was accused of using the job as a “cover” for church activities.
It also reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged the governors of the nation’s 30 provinces to crack down on the burgeoning house-church movement.
Amnesty International is investigating the allegations, but had no comment on them at press time.
Amnesty spokesperson Elise Auerbaach told the Presbyterian News Service that Ahmadeinejad’s government is more hard-line than the former regime and the political climate is difficult. “It appears that the overall situation in Iran is worsening,” she said. “… It has never been good, but it has gotten worse.”
Alexa Smith is news associate of the Presbyterian News Service in Louisville, Ky.