April 7, 2012 Update: “As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Easter, Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani remains in jail – alive, yes — but having already passed his 900th day behind bars for being a Christian and still facing a possible execution. Nadarkhani, whose first name also can be spelled “Youcef,” was able to visit with a son on the son’s birthday Monday (April 2), according to the American Center for Law and Justice, which is closely monitoring the case. His 900th day in jail occurred in late March.’ [read full news]
* On this Easter weekend, join me in praying for Pastor Nadarkhani and so many others around the world who are facing persecution – even death – for their faith in Jesus Christ. “In more than 40 nations around the world today Christians are being persecuted for their faith. In some of these nations it is illegal to own a Bible, to share your faith Christ, change your faith or teach your children about Jesus.” [via Persecution Worldwide]
A trial court in Iran has issued its final verdict, ordering a Christian pastor to be put to death for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity, according to sources close to the pastor and his legal team.
Supporters fear Youcef Nadarkhani, a 34-year-old father of two who was arrested over two years ago on charges of apostasy, may now be executed at any time without prior warning, as death sentences in Iran may be carried out immediately or dragged out for years.
The entire world – regardless of faith or non-faith backgrounds should be in solidarity to declare that “a person cannot be put to death because of one’s faith.” This is an egregious human rights tragedy and clear affront to religious freedom. Please take a few minutes to educate yourself, read this post, contact your elected officials, and help spread the word.
What would you do if your pastor was going to be executed simply for his or her faith?
For that matter, what would you do?
Such is the situation for more people around the world than we want to believe. We know that persecution of Christians began…well…when it began with the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. Some Christian missions organizations cite that an estimated 100 million Christians face some form of persecution including death and concentrations camps – particularly in North Korea, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. I’ve written before of the concentration camps for mostly Christians in North Korea.
And this leads us to the story of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. He may be executed simply because of his faith. According to Islamic law, a person is given three opportunities to recant. He has already been asked twice. After the third time, he can be executed at any time. Pastor Youcef’s response upon one of his trials when asked to recant:
“Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” The judges replied , “To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.” To which he replied, “I cannot.”
Youcef and I are similar in numerous ways. He is a follower of Christ and thus, my brother-in-Christ. He is a pastor as I am. He is a husband (to Fatemah Pasindedih) as I am (to Minhee). He is father to two children (ages 8 and 6) as I am to three children (12, 10, and 8). And yet, he is facing death for his faith and practice of Christ.
His story is beyond the disputes we have about theology, denominations, nationalism, politics, and whatever else bent that influences us.
Here’s what I’d like to encourage you to do:
- EDUCATE. Read the story below from the Washington Post and educate yourselves. [here for RSS readers]
- ADVOCATE. Click this email form to write the Iranian embassy, urging them NOT to go ahead with the execution following the trial. I’ve included a copy of my letter in the comments.
- PRAY. Pray. And pray some more.
- SHARE. Share Pastor Yousef’s story and faith.
Here’s the news report from the Washington Post:
Just days after Iran released two Americans accused of spying, an Iranian court has upheld the apostasy conviction and executionsentence of Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.
The 11th branch of Iran’s Gilan Provincial Court has determined that Nadarkhani has Islamic ancestry and therefore must recant his faith in Jesus Christ. Iran’s supreme court had previously ruled that the trial court must determine if Youcef had been a Muslim before converting to Christianity.
However, the judges, acting like terrorists with a hostage, demanded that he recant his faith in Christ before even taking evidence. The judges stated that even though the judgment they have made is against the current Iranian and international laws, they have to uphold the previous decision of the 27th Branch of the Supreme Court in Qom.
When asked to “repent” by the judges, Youcef stated, “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” The judges replied , “To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.” To which he replied, “I cannot.”
It is reported that Youcef was able to see his children for the first time since March and was in good spirits speaking of how he longed to serve the church upon his release.
Pastor Youcef will be brought to the court for two additional “hearings” on September 27th and 28th for the sole purpose of being called upon to recant his Christian faith. The ACLJ’s sources report that although Pastor Youcef’s attorneys will attempt to appeal the case, there is no guarantee that the provincial court will not act on its own interpretation of Sharia law and execute pastor Youcef as early as Wednesday.
Technically, there is no right of appeal, and under Iran’s interpretation of Hadith and Sharia law, Pastor Youcef is to be given three chances to recant. He has already been asked to recant twice, and will be asked to do so again Tuesday. If he does not recant his Christian faith, he could be executed at any time.
We are continuing to press for the international community to take note of Youcef’s situation and call for his unconditional release. We are also continuing to work with members of Congress and are urging the State Department to get involved to save the life of this Christian pastor.
There is still time to save this pastor’s life.
Please share Youcef’s situation with anyone you know and pray for his release and the safety of his attorney, a brave Muslim who has been sentenced to nine years in prison and banned from practicing law by the Iranian government.
Firouz Sadegh-Khandjani, a Member of the Council of Elders for the Church of Iran and a close personal friend of Youcef, called into my radio show Tuesday from Iran to provide an update on Pastor Youcef. You can listen to the interview here.