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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Arrest of the Assyrian leader of the Kermanshah Church in Iran

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

KERMANSHAH, IRAN (ANS) -- The Farsi Christian News Network (www.fcnn.com) is reporting the arrest of the Rev. Wilson Issavi, the Assyrian leader of the Evangelical Church of Karmanshah in Iran.

Rev. Wilson Issavi

The news source says that the pastor was arrested on February 2, 2010, by local agents of state security while visiting one of his old friends in Shahin Shahr, Isfahan, and moved to an undisclosed location.

“The security agents entered the house unannounced and took him and the host couple and a visiting lady away,” said the FCCN story. “Later on, the host’s wife was released. Since the day of the arrest it has been impossible for friends and family to find out about the whereabouts or well being of Rev. Issavi.

The story says that the Rev. Wilson Issavi is the serving pastor of the Assyrian Evangelical Church in Karmanshah, which is an old and historical building in dire need of repair, and is not been extensively used, except for weekly Christian worship.

“On January 2, 2010, one month before the arrest of Pastor Wilson Issavi, after forced entry into his house by a number of plainclothes local security agents, the Kermanshah Church was sealed and ordered not to be reopened,” the FCCN story stated.”

Despite the fact that FCNN correspondents had immediately become aware of this “abhorring invasion of a small and only church in the west of the country,” after a telephone and direct enquiry, Pastor Wilson had requested FCNN not to publicize the news “lest the authorities are provoked into inflicting more harm and hoping to find a reasonable dialogue and reopen the church!”

FCNN says that it had respected the wishes of Rev. Issavi and held back until now on releasing the news.

“This cowardly act was perpetrated by the security agents after they had called him on his mobile [phone], enquiring about his whereabouts, and being sure that he was not home to defend his house and his household,” said the FCCN story. “As stated by family members to friends, the security agents had ransacked the house in his absence and had taken away much of his personal possessions."

The story went on to say, “The gray haired Rev. W. Issavi is known to friends and foes alike as a meek, humble and tireless servant of the church leading a very modest life and serving all those who needed his prayer and assistance. He has served in the region for many years along with his family, hoping to keep the beautiful and historic Kermanshah church building open as a house of prayer.

“He has lived and served in the region respecting all the pronounced laws of the country and despite the suffocating and inhibitive yet unwritten rules enforced by the government and despite numerous incidents of harassment kept a very low profile not to give any excuse to the authorities to quench the dwindling lights of this church and stop Christian worship for very small remaining minority of Assyrian and Armenian Christians.

“No wonder that because of the content and unassuming character of Rev. Wilson, there was no attention given to the church’s many woes not the least its serious financial need and its state of disrepair. The now sadly closed Kermanshah church, one of the very few remaining open throughout the country, whose rulers claim to rule with equality and justice, is remote from the attention given to the capital and the many visiting Christian tourists. There were no wealthy visitors to the church in Kermanshah!

“Rev. Wilson was tirelessly working on two fronts. First, with the authorities and local government to receive necessary permission and, secondly, contacting many parishioners who have immigrated to the west in order to raise the required funds to do the repair. Progress on both fronts was slow to come!”

As thoroughly investigated by FCNN, the “cowardly act of invasion of the privacy of his home and subsequent sealing and closure of the church and Rev. Wilson’s meekness and humility and longsuffering, not willing to publicize the news,” had, said FCCN, “emboldened the authorities to seal the fate of this historical church once and for all by frightening him off the region and then plotting to completely take over the building. Is there any other reason to arrest him in another city while he was serving transparently in his parish?”

Informed sources and friends told FCNN correspondent in Isfahan that before the Islamic revolution, Rev. Issavi was employed by the Helicopter Industries of Esfahan; hence he has many friends and acquaintances there which he kept his friendship alive by visiting them irregularly.

“At the time of his detention, he was a guest in the house of one of his friends in Shahin Shahr. The security agents swarmed into the house with no arrest warrant or even showing their badges and took him away along with the host and other guest and also took much personal possession of the host without any explanation. His very distressed family have not been given any explanation about this inhuman conduct or his whereabouts,” added the FCCN story.

The Committee of Iranian Christians, which is part of the Iranian Human Rights Campaign, is strongly protesting against this “inhuman and unlawful arrest” of the pastor which they says “has been conducted without any legal or judicial proceedings and indeed without any conceivable reason.

The director of the Committee of Iranian Christians has condemned what they called "this deplorable act” and have demanded his immediate release "considering his age and state of health."

A spokesperson said, “As a citizen of the country, albeit in the Christian minority, he deserves to be respected and receive all the legal and judicial care and protection.”

FCCN said, “It is ironic that that in the last two months, while this act of injustice is allowed and perpetrated against a small law abiding and praying Christian minority, the Islamic Republic of Iran delegates at the United Nations Human Rights Forum on Monday, February 15, 2010, advocated the testimonial of an Assyrian delegate, whose true identity is yet undisclosed, that the Christian minority in Iran enjoys full and unequalled freedom and lives in peace!”

The Committee of Iranian Christians says that it demands that the Iranian Ministry of Justice disclose the whereabouts of the detainee and inform why he has been arrested, meanwhile it says that “all Iranian Christians demand the unconditional and immediate release of Rev. Issavi.”

FCCN concluded its story by saying, “It is noteworthy that, in line with closure of churches and also shortly before the inhibition imposed on ‘Jamaate Rabani’ (Assemblies of God) church to stop Friday evening meetings (which have been conducted from the day the church was inaugurated!), the Assyrian Pentecostal church of ‘Shahre Ara’ district of Tehran was closed in March 2009 by direct threats of the government and most regretful collaboration of ‘Jonathan Beit Kolia’, the representative of the Assyrian minority in the parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Note: Kermanshah is the capital city of Province of the same name, located 525 kilometers (326.219 miles) from Tehran in the western part of Iran and about 120 kilometers (74.5645 miles) from the border of Iraq. Kermanshah has a moderate and mountainous climate. The estimated population of the city is 822,921 (year 2005) and the majority of people speak Persian with Kermanshahi accent. It is only the older generation that speaks the Kurdish dialect of Kermanshah.


Dan Wooding, 69, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 46 years. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC., and now hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on KWVE in Southern California and which is also carried on the Calvary Radio Network throughout the United States. The program is also aired in Great Britain on Calvary Chapel Radio UK. Wooding also a regular contributor to The Weekend Stand on the Crawford Broadcasting Network, and a host for His Channel Live, which is carried via the Internet to some 192 countries. He is the author of some 43 books. Two of the latest include his autobiography, “From Tabloid to Truth”, which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, press this link. Wooding, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, also recently released “God’s Ambassadors in Japan” which is available at amazon.com.

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