Iran releases pastor of largest Pentecostal church

Pastor Robert Asserian.
Pastor Robert Asserian.

Originally published in Assist News Service

One of the leaders of the shuttered Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran has been released from prison after spending 43 days in custody.

According to a story by Mohabat Iranian Christian News Agency, Pastor Robert Asserian was arrested by security authorities in the middle of a worship service on May 21.

Mohabat News said it’s not clear exactly how Asserian was released. However, it appears he was temporarily freed on bail on July 2.

Mohabat News said Iranian security authorities have asked Asserian and his family not to give any media interviews about his case, release or trial.

Mohabat News said in one sense, silence is a condition of his release. This same standard has previously been applied to other Christian prisoners.

Commenting on the requested silence, Mohabat News said it means that Iranian authorities want to portray actions such as releasing prisoners as a “human rights improvement,” and don’t want anything said to contradict this.

Mohabat News said responding to the news of Asserian’s May arrest, George Wood, General Superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God in the US, released a statement expressing his concern over the pastor’s arrest and ongoing pressure on Farsi-speaking churches. He also called on Iranian authorities to stop Christian persecution in the country.

Mohabat News said Wood also mentioned the closure of the Central Assemblies of God Church as a starting point to shut down all Farsi-speaking churches across the country, and put an end to the public proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Iran.

Mohabat News said for a long time Christians have been arrested and imprisoned in Iran just for sharing their faith or having house churches. 

Mohabat News said the newly elected Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, promised in his second statement that he will preserve the rights of religious and ethnic minorities and respond to their legitimate demands. 

Mohabat News asked, “Now the question is, does (Rouhani) count Muslims who have converted to Christianity as religious minorities and include them in his promises? What is his view on recently closed Farsi-speaking churches and what will he do to re-open them?”

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