by Rob Schwarzwalder
August 4, 2011
In late June, FRC reported on the story of Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to death because of his “apostasy” — he left Islam and has become a Christian and house church leader.
Now, according to Compass Direct news, Pastor Nadarkhani “awaits the outcome of a judicial investigation into his spiritual background to see if he will be executed or, if possible, forced to become a Muslim, according to Christian groups with ties in Iran.” Yet “even if the investigation releases him from the charge of apostasy, it is likely the charge of evangelizing Muslims will still carry a lengthy prison sentence, sources said.”
In other words, the Iranian judicial system is trying to manipulate the pastor into saying he was forced to convert to Christianity as a teenager. Here’s what the Iranian court said about his appeal to his death sentence: According to Part 2 of Article 265 of the Islamic Republic Criminal Law, this case was received by and must be returned to the state court of Gilan Section 11, and further investigated to prove that from puberty (15 years) to 19 he was not Muslim by his acquaintances, relatives, local elders, and Muslims he frequented. He must repent [of] his Christian faith if this is the case. No research has been done to prove this; if it can be proved that he was a practicing Muslim as an adult and has not repented, the execution will be carried out.
The death sentence was issued even though there “is no Iranian criminal statute requiring the execution of those who abandon Islam. In September 2008 members of the Iranian parliament began writing a law instituting the death penalty for men, and life imprisonment for women, who leave Islam.” Instead, according to Jason DeMars, president of a ministry that works with Iranian believers, “the judges who issued the ruling appear to be relying on at least one fatwa, or religious edict, written by the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and on edicts issued by Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, a current religious leader in Iran. The edicts are based upon Shiite interpretations of the Quran and Hadith, a written record of the sayings and actions of Muhammad.”
Thankfully, Christians around the world are praying for Pastor Nadarkhani, his family, and for the hearts and minds of those making a decision about his fate (for example, see the Swedish Christian site World Today). We can be assured that the God Who knows the hairs of our heads is in control, even as we petition Him to strengthen this courageous brother in Christ and deliver him from his persecutors.
In addition to praying, call the Iranian Interest Section at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, DC at (202) 965-4990. You can also contact the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the United Nations: Email — firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone — (212) 687-2020.