By Jeremy Reynalds Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS) -- Well known Armenian-Iranian pastor Vruir Avanesian, 60, was one of about 50 Christians arrested in a raid on a praise and worship service on Dec. 27 2012.
According to a story by the Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN), Avanesian is now reportedly held in the notorious Evin Prison. He was visited by his wife while undergoing dialysis in a local hospital on Dec. 30.
FCNN said the other individuals arrested were conditionally allowed home after intense interrogation.
FCNN said the group had been there to visit the ailing Avanesian for Christmas, a normal event. While they were singing worship songs, about 20 balaclava-clad agents entered the house. They arrested and began interrogating everyone.
Despite Avanesian’s wife objecting to the arrest of a sick person in need of constant medical attention, FCNN said the agents bundled the pastor, his books, laptop and some CDs into a car and drove him to an undisclosed destination.
FCNN said Avanesian is a well-known figure amongst Tehran’s Christians.
FCNN commented, “For many decades his powerful voice and musical expertise have been a delight to listen to, and a source of inspiration.”
FCNN said before Avanesian’s long sickness, he was an active member of Christian prayer groups, a senior elder of the Central Assembly of God, and pastor of Narmak’s Assembly of God church in Tehran.
FCNN said it was Avanesian’s kidney infection and diabetes that forced him into retirement, resulting in him only occasionally assisting in services. A highly popular Armenian singer, particularly during festivities, he is often visited by friends and followers.
Avanesian is in need of dialysis every three days. He also suffers from high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, and needs numerous medications.
The reasons for Avanesian’s arrest are unclear. FCNN said some agents have told his family that the raid was in response to a neighbor’s complaints. However, they were unable to explain a number of forms already partly filled out with the names and addresses of those there.
An eye witness told the FCNN that the cell phones of all those present were confiscated, and their Facebook passwords obtained. Cell phone owners will reportedly be called in at a later date for further questioning and the possible return of their devices.
FCNN commented, “The news of this virulent attack, baseless arrest, intimidating interrogations, and imprisonment of the sick, has yet again turned Christmas into (a) time of tribulation, fear and bitterness for Christians living in the Islamic Police State. The Islamic Regime and its organs of state security are directly responsible for the life of the ailing pastor.”
FCNN asked for prayer for Avanesian and his family.
Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, http://www.joyjunction.org He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "Homeless in the City."