At least 13 Christians, mainly converts from Islam, were arrested by intelligence agents from Iran's Revolutionary Guard in coordinated operation across three Iranian cities on 30 June.
An informant, who gained the Christians' trust and infiltrated their meetings, is understood to have led agents to the Tehran home of a recent Christian convert, where about 30 believers had gathered.
Five Christian converts, including two elderly sisters and an Armenian-Iranian Christian, were handcuffed, blindfolded and taken to their homes, which were searched. Other Christian converts were arrested in the cities of Karaj and Malayer.
Dozens more Christians, many of them converts, were ordered to give their contact details to the security agents and told they would soon be called in for questioning.
The director of a theological college for Persian-speaking Christians saluted the "fidelity and faithfulness" and "unwavering devotion" to God of four students who were among those arrested.
"They have learned that the key to living a meaningful life is to live a faithful life, a yielded life," he said. "They have learned that God builds his Kingdom not on their achievements but on their commitments and sacrifices. So though I weep when they suffer and pray for their freedom, I delight in their astounding witness."
The director told of another student who, two weeks before the arrest of the four students, began a one-year prison sentence imposed because of his faith. In an email to a tutor, the student wrote, "Please find attached my 19th assignment. From tomorrow I will go to prison. I am in need of your prayers but I go there with a deep joy ... unfortunately, this means I will have to take the course exam in a year's time, once I am released. I am sorry." The director added, "How should one respond to such a note?"
Assyrian and Armenian Christians are normally expected to worship in their respected languages, which is not understood by Farsi speaking Christian converts. Moreover, since the language of the education system is Farsi, the majority of young Armenians and Assyrians are not able to read the Bible in their own language or participate in their church's liturgy. Christian worship in Farsi, the language spoken by most Iranians, is often targeted by authorities in their efforts to discourage the conversion of Muslims to Christianity and limit the understanding of Christian faith among Armenian and Assyrian youth. All Farsi-speaking churches have been closed by authorities, who target Muslim-background converts and their house churches for harassment and persecution.