Date: December 30, 2012
By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- Iranian security forces have detained a pastor and Gospel artist after raiding a house church in the capital Tehran, despite warnings he will die within days without adequate medical help, Iranian Christians said Sunday, December 30.
The frail Pastor Vruir Avanessian, an ordained pastor of Armenian descent, was taken into custody while attending a delayed Christmas gathering of some 50 Christian converts at a home in northern Tehran, added Mohabat News, a news agency of activists and local Christians.
Christians said 15 plain clothes police and security officers, "in a well-orchestrated and coordinated plan", interrupted the gathering after alleged complains from neighbors about the noise.
The worshipers were reportedly held for several hours and forced to sign "interrogation papers" with questions related to when and where they became Christians as well as personal details such as names, home addresses, emails and passwords for websites Facebook or "other social media", Christians said.
Several mobile phones were confiscated and Christians were told they would be summoned later, according to witnesses. While most could eventually leave, Pastor Avanessian was taken into custody, though he requires kidney dialysis, Mohabat News said.
Iraian Christians said the pastor is suffering "from serious heart disease and diabetes" which caused him "to almost completely lose his voice and his kidney functions." The church leader, who is also a "talented and dedicated" singer and songwriter "has lost his ability to sing to his Lord and requires dialysis every other day," Mohabat News commented.
"Without proper care and ongoing dialysis, Vruir Avanessian will soon succumb to blood poisoning and die," Mohabat News warned, citing local Christians. "His wife and children are extremely worried that the security forces will not pay close attention to Mr. Avanessian's medical needs and would threaten his health."
In a separate raid on the pastor's residence, his family was allegedly forced to watch how Iranian security forces ransacked their house and confiscated books including Bibles as well as a personal computer, Compact Disks, worship cassette tapes and music albums that Avanesian had sung or composed.
Pastor Avanessian was among well-known pop singers in the Armenian community of Iran. In the late 1970s he dedicated his talents to his faith in Jesus Christ and recorded songs and albums that testified of his life story.
After the Iranian revolution of 1979, he became a full-time worship leader and church pastor as well as a publisher of Christian books.
Avanessian is among several church leaders detained in recent days, adding to concerns about an ongoing crackdown on especially former Muslims embracing Christianity.
Iran's government has repeatedly accused underground house churches of threatening national security and being foreign funded.
There are at least 100,000 devoted Christians in the autocratically ruled Islamic nation according to mission groups, though others say the real figure may be several times higher.