Iran (MNN) — The recent arrest of Rev. Wilson Issavi points to a growing trend in persecution against religious minorities in Iran, according to Voice of the Martyrs, USA.
Officials arrested Issavi earlier this month, taking him to an unknown location and not specifying charges. Farsi Christian News Network said that as of Monday, his family and friends still do not have any information about his whereabouts.
However, Issavi's arrest was not the first sign the government was not pleased with his church. VOM's Todd Nettleton said Issavi's church, the Assyrian Evangelical Church in the city of Kermenshah, was shut down in January.
Assyrians are culturally viewed as Christians. Therefore, Issavi and his church are not being targeted because they are committing apostasy.
"This is a part of a concerted effort to pressure and close churches that previously have been been tolerated by the government," Nettleton said.
Pressure began back in March of 2009, when the government threatened and shut down the Assyrian Pentecostal Church in Tehran. Then in October, the Assemblies of God Church in Iran was forced to end Friday service and only hold gatherings on Sundays.
Nettleton said that in the past they have seen persecution against individuals leaving Islam. However, this is taking persecution to the next level and even going against the country's constitution, which protects religious minorities.
There is good news, however, as the government tries to force Islam on even more people.
"One of the amazing things about Iran is the government, and the failure of the government, which is driving people to explore Christianity," Nettleton said. As officials say they are leading the country exactly how Muhammad would want them to, "the people look around. They see the broken country. They see the election that appears to have been stolen, and they say, ‘Wait a minute. If this is Islam, I want to know what else is out there.'"
Pray God's Spirit will draw many of these seeking individuals to faith in Jesus Christ.