PRAYER NEEDED FOR PASTOR YOUSSEF IN IRAN.
Pastor Youssef Nadarkhani never practiced the Muslim faith and converted to Christianity at age 19, becoming a pastor later. But the Iranian courts say that since his mother and father were practicing Muslims, he must recant his Christian faith or die. So far, in three court appearances, he has refused to do so – risking execution at any moment. The Iranian Supreme Court often acts quickly in administering the death penalty.
According to a report, when asked by judges to “repent,” Youssef replied: “Repent, 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 Youssef replied: “I cannot.”
This dreadful saga has been going on for years. As soon as you receive this email, pray immediately. Forward to your Church so that they may all pray too. Then forward this prayer request to every Christian you know so that they may pray also.
The Bible says “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” (Hebrews 13:3) Youssef Nadarkhani (born 1977) is an Iranian Christian pastor who has been sentenced to die in Tehran. Initial reports, including a 2010 brief from the Iranian Supreme court, stated that the sentence was based on the crime of apostasy, renouncing his Islamic faith. Government officials later insisted that the sentence was instead based on alleged violent crimes, specifically rape and extortion. The Iranian government has offered leniency if he will recant his Christianity. He pastors a network of Christian house churches of 400 members. He is a member of the Protestant evangelical Church of Iran. He is married to Fatemeh, and they have two sons, ages 9 and 7.
Nadarkhani was first imprisoned in December 2006, on the charges of apostasy from and evangelism to Muslims. He was released two weeks later, without being charged. In 2009, Nadarkhani discovered a recent change in Iranian educational policy that forced all students, including his children, to read from the Qur’an. After he heard about this change, he went to the school and protested, based on the fact that the Iranian constitution guarantees freedom to practice religion. His protest was reported to the police, who arrested him and placed him before a tribunal on October 12, 2009, on charges of protesting.
On June 18th, 2010 his wife was arrested and charged with apostasy. She was sentenced to life imprisonment, and placed in prison. She was released in October 2010. The charges against Youssef were later changed to apostasy and evangelism, the same charges he was initially arrested under in 2006. In September 2010, he was sentenced to death on the charge of apostasy.
After conviction, Youssef was transferred to a prison for political prisoners, and denied all access to his family and attorney. Iran’s secret police tried to force him to recant Christianity. On November 13, 2010, the verdict indicated that Youssef would be executed by hanging. The sentence was appealed but upheld. In July 2011 Mr. Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Mr. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a prominent Iranian human rights defender, received the written verdict of the Supreme Court of Iran, dated 12 June 2011, which upholds the death sentence. The Supreme Court decision asks the court in Rasht, which issued the original death sentence, to re-examine some procedural flaws in the case, but ultimately gives the local judges the power to decide whether to release, execute or retry Mr. Nadarkhani. The recent written verdict includes a provision for annulment should Mr. Nadarkhani recant his faith. He is currently being kept in a security prison.
A number of Western organizations and governments have issued statements in support of his release. On October 29, 2010, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom asked President Barack Obama to press Iran for Nadarkhani’s release.
President Barack Obama’s September 30, 2011 statement read: “The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youssef Nadarkhani. Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people. That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran’s own international obligations.”
On September, 28, 2011, British Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a statement condemning the imminent execution, stating “I deplore reports that Pastor Youssef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Church leader, could be executed imminently after refusing an order by the Supreme Court of Iran to recant his faith. This demonstrates the Iranian regime’s continued unwillingness to abide by its constitutional and international obligations to respect religious freedom. I pay tribute to the courage shown by Pastor Nadarkhani who has no case to answer and call on the Iranian authorities to overturn his sentence.”
We all need to pray for our brother and his family in what must be a living hell.