10/04/2006, 00.00
IRAN
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Two Iranian Christians arrested in Mashad. One is the daughter of a murdered Christian clergyman

One of the two is a convert from Islam. There has been no news about them for days. Iranians are increasingly looking favourably to Christianity, tired to hear hateful and war-like preaching.

Mashad (AsiaNews/ANS) – An Iranian woman and her husband, a Christian convert from Islam, were arrested by Iran's secret police in Mashad (north-eastern part of the country). Their relatives have reported that they have had no news about them for several days now.

Fereshteh Dibaj, 28, is the daughter of an Evangelical minister, also a convert from Islam, assassinated in 1994. Her husband Amir Montazemi, 35, converted to Christianity at the age of 20. According to the "Pray for Iran" website, at "about 7:00 am local time on Tuesday September 26, 2006, several men from the Iranian secret police raided their apartment and confiscated their computers, Christian literature, and other items they thought may be of interest to them."

Before being taken away, Amir had a chance to quickly phone his mother to ask her to come and take their six-year-old daughter, Christine (see photo). By the time she arrived, Amir and Fereshteh had already been forced into the police car and two agents were still searching the flat. They hold the grandmother that the couple was being taken to a certain police station, which later turned out not to be the case. Instead they were taken to a secret police station belonging to the Revolutionary Guards.

The search for the missing couple proved fruitless. On September 28, the authorities informed Amir's parents that husband and wife were to appear before a revolutionary court, but failed to provide more precise information.

Fereshteh and Amir lead a house church in Mashad, one of the holiest cities of Iranian Islam and a popular Muslim pilgrimage destination.

The pastor of their church, Rev Hussein Soodmand, was hanged in December 1990 as a convert from Islam who refused to recant.

When Fereshteh was six years old, her father Mehdi Dibaj was arrested and charged with apostasy. He was sentenced to death but spent more than nine years in prison until international pressure secured his release from prison. A few months later, he was abducted and killed.

Fereshteh's brother, Issa Dibaj, who lives and works in Great Britain, has called on people to spread this news abroad about has happened to them to make sure that the rest of the world "knows about this and cares."

Issa has come to terms with his father's death and forgiven his executioners. He is very hopeful about Christianity in his country. "The average Iranian is fascinated by this message of love," he said. "They look at their own religion and see nothing but fighting and hatred. Then they see Christians who love each other, who are so joyful; they see the difference immediately and they want to know how to become like that. The government doesn't like this."

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