Friday, January 20, 2012

Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death - Update

Those of you following this story will recall that Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani has been condemned to death for apostasy because he converted from Islam to Christianity. When news of this travesty created protests from other nations, Iranian officials claimed that he was to be executed for sex crimes. This was obviously fabricated since none of this was mentioned in the court proceedings. Revealingly, he was recently given another chance to walk away - by denying his Christian faith.

Pastor Yousef recently refused to state that the Muslim prophet Muhammad was a messenger sent by God, despite the fact that it would have secured his release. On December 30, local authorities said they would release the pastor if he agreed to make the statement, but he rejected the offer and remains in prison awaiting a final decision on his case. The request violates article 23 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that no one should be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.

The pastor at the Church of Iran was arrested in Rasht in 2009, and in September 2010, he was tried and found guilty of apostasy and sentenced to death. He was made three similar offers in 2011 where recanting his faith would have saved his life, but he refused each time. His case was eventually referred to Iran's Supreme Leader. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the case may have been passed on to the head of the Iranian judiciary, delaying execution for up to a year to allow time to convince the pastor to renounce his faith. (Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

This Pastor is one of many Christians around the world who are facing imrisonment, torture or even death for their faith. Another such case is that of Asia Bibi of Pakistan, a Christian wife and mother sentenced to die for allegedly committing blasphemy against Islam. She says she has forgiven those who are persecuting her. She recently told a Pakistani journalist, who asked her a list of questions prepared by an American journalist, that she spends her time praying and fasting for her family and other persecuted Christians.

Asia is confined to a cell and is allowed to go outside 30 minutes each day. She sees her two daughters and husband one hour each week. Asia told her interviewer that one of the prison workers recently tried to strangle her, and she must prepare her own food since it is feared she will be poisoned if workers in the prison prepare it. Life for All is supporting her family and has hired a lawyer to try and overturn the conviction. She says she is hopeful that she will be released, but there is a bounty of about $8,000 offered by the Islamic clerics to anyone who will kill her. Asia says she is content that her future is in God's hands and she will accept His will. (Source: VOM-USA, Atlas Shrugs)

When I read of these, and so many others like them, I am reminded of what the writer of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 11:38 - "...the world was not worthy of them." It is a challenge for we Christians living in relative ease to stand with our brothers and sisters in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria and a host of other countries where claiming the name of Christ can get you killed.

There are at least three things all of us can do at a minimum. 1. Be informed. Subscribe to news feeds like VOM, because, Lord knows, you certainly won't hear the whole story from the mainline media. 2. Pray. We are Christians. The Bible tells us to pray for those who are suffering, and also for those doing the persecuting. Remember that at one time the Apostle Paul, perhaps the greatest of all Christian missionaries, was a persecuter of the church. Pray that the church would advance in spite of the persecution and that those facing challenges would have courage and know God's peace. 3. Spread the word. Use whatever means and networks you have at your disposal to let others know what is happening. Don't let these brave men and women stand alone.

Related Articles:
Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death - Part 2
Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death
Remember My Chains
Shahbaz Bhatti - Christian Martyr
Modern-Day Martyrs in Turkey - A Reprise
Modern-day Martyrs in Turkey
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