Four days after their arrest, ten Pentecostal pastors and elders of the Assemblies of God Church in Iran were released late Sunday night. The ten were among the 70 other Assemblies of God members detained after police raided their meeting at a church center in Karaj, 20 miles west of the capital Tehran.
News about their release came just hours after the U.S. Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) urged its supporters to pray for the detained group.
“Iranian brethren contacted AGWM to call the Body of Christ to prayer,” said Mark Hausfeld, Area Director for AGWM’s Central Eurasia Missions.
The arrest occurred just as the general conference of Assemblies of God in Iran had gathered for the first day of meetings at the church’s denominational center in Karaj. Sources say police burst in, arresting everyone in attendance. The police apparently had specific personal information on each person attending.
According to Compass news, Iranian security forces reportedly blindfolded all men and women present and interrogated them. Compass news quoted church sources as saying that “they were not given any reason for their arrest,” although they were asked “many questions about themselves and each other.”
All those detained were released by nightfall except for ten pastors and elders, the church confirmed. The location of the ten men was unknown and there had been no contact with their families due to close police surveillance. Those who had been released were forbidden to attend church services.
The ten were not released until Sunday “quite late in the night” an unidentified Iranian source told Compass.
Iran is one of the over 200 countries where AGWM claims to be represented by 4,000 people, including 1,900 appointed missionaries, 600 missionary associates and 1,500 missionary children. The Pentecostal denomination supporting AGWM has roughly 50-million members and adherents with 250,000 churches and preaching points worldwide, according to Assemblies of God estimates.
Iranian representatives of the church had expressed concern that authorities may prepare a new massive crackdown on evangelicals in the Islamic nation.