TEHRAN, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Amid widespread outrage over Christian persecution, Iranian authorities said they arrested dozens of Christians who had converted from Islam.
Tehran Gov. Morteza Tamadon said Iranian Christians were arrested during the Christmas holiday for converting from Islam or trying to convert others to Christianity.
"Just like the Taliban, who have inserted themselves into Islam like a parasite, (evangelicals) have crafted a movement in the name of Christianity," he was quoted by Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency as saying.
The Wall Street Journal reports that about 1 percent of the Iranian population is Christian. Iran enjoys a relatively open religious society, though Iranian law prohibits Bibles and the Christian mass in Persian. Christians don't allow Muslims into their services.
An Iranian evangelical group in Canada, the Journal notes, claims plainclothes security guards stormed Christian households during the Christmas season looking for religious items.
The international community condemned Christian persecution after 21 people died New Year's Day when a Coptic Christian church in Egypt was bombed. Christians in Nigeria were also the target of recent attacks and the United Nations estimates that about half of the Christian population in Iraq has fled the country.