More than 100 Christians have been arrested in Iran in just one week and ordered to cut all contact with religious groups and house churches.
They were detained by Iranian authorities, questioned on their involvement in Christian activities, and told to expect a call from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence.
Christian charity Open Doors UK, which speaks out against persecution of believers, has described the news as ‘highly concerning’.
Many of the 114 believers were converts to Christianity from Islam who were accused of proselytising.
Conversion to Christianity is an offence punishable by more than ten years’ imprisonment.
The recent events are part of a growing crackdown on Christians by the Islamic Republic.
Head of Advocacy at Open Doors UK, Zoe Smith, said: ‘It follows an established trend of the Iranian government. As the number of converts to Christianity increases, so the authorities place greater restrictions on churches.
A 2018 report by the Commission for International Religious Freedom highlighted that religious freedom in Iran has continued to deteriorate for Christian groups.
Smith added: ‘The restrictions are worse for churches seen to be attended by Christians who have converted from Islam.
‘Not only that, but the government is asking unreasonably high bail amounts and seeing longer prison terms for Christians.
‘Some Christians disappear from their communities after serving a sentence; church leaders are put under pressure to leave the country or face an arrest’.
She describes how house churches weaken ‘as their members choose to decrease their meeting hours and minimise their activities; some Christians lose the contact with their churches altogether becoming isolated’.
Christianity has existed in Persia for 2,000 years, but many believers fled after the Shah was deposed in a coup and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was installed in the Islamic revolution of 1979.
However, Christian advocacy groups report a growing underground evangelical movement in Iran.