Skip to comments.Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani Carries His Cross as a Christian 'Walking the Walk'
Posted on 08/31/2012 8:00:28 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been imprisoned in Iran for his faith since 2009, and a New York City deacon has suggested that the persecuted pastor serves as the epitome of a faithful Christian.
Nadarkhani 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 claimed that the sentence was instead based on alleged violent crimes, specifically rape and extortion; however, no formal charges or evidence of violent crimes have been presented in court. According to Amnesty International and Nadarkhani's legal team, the Iranian government has offered leniency if he will recant his Christianity. His lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah stated that an appeals court upheld his sentence after he refused to renounce his Christian faith and reconvert to Islam.
Nadarkhani is from Rasht, Gilan Province, in Iran. He was originally a Muslim by default, however Nadarkhani claimed that he converted to Christianity as a child having never practised Islam. However, court documents claim that he converted at age 19. Prior to his arrest, he was the pastor of a network of Christian house churches. He is a member of the Protestant evangelical Church of Iran. He is married to Fatemeh Pasandideh, and they have two sons, ages 9 and 7.
In an email interview with The Christian Post, Deacon Greg Kandra of the Diocese of the borough of Brooklyn said he admires Nadarkhani's faith and courage. The Iranian evangelical pastor has repeatedly refused to recant his Christian faith in exchange for freedom from prison and a death sentence.
"[His faith is] both inspiring and humbling and I wonder how many of us in the West, confronting something similar, could be so steadfast," Kandra said.
"He is a young man truly walking the walk, and staying true to the Gospel. Like the early Christians, he seems willing (like Christ himself) to take up his own cross and surrender his life. His uncompromising stand serves as a reminder to us all that following Christ also means having our own share of the cross," the minister added.
Kandra chose to center his Aug. 26 sermon, published on the religion information website Patheos, on Nadarkhani's enduring faith, comparing him to Peter in the Bible. "[ ] every day, God asks us: 'Do you also want to leave?'" Kandra wrote in his sermon.
"And every day, we answer Him. With our lives, with our choices. With the way we go into the world," he added, implying that Nadarkhani was the prime example of one who follows God regardless of what others tell him is "right."
"Every day is a choice between what is right and what feels right. Between our will and God's. Between timeless truth and attractive illusion," Kandra added in his sermon.
Kandra told CP that Christians must unite internationally to pray for Nadarkhani, who was imprisoned in Oct. 2009 for apostasy and attemtping to evangelize Muslims, and all other Christians suffering persecution around the world.
"Christians need to be united in prayer for people like Nadarkhani, and be reminded of what our brothers and sisters of the faith are suffering in other parts of the world. The days of the martyrs are not over. Far from it," he said.
"Whatever attention we can give to the plight of persecuted Christians can serve to make all of us aware of the price that some must pay for following the Gospel. And it can help all of us in the west who enjoy religious freedom to not take it for granted."
Nadarkhani continues to await his Sept. 8 court date in prison, while his wife, Fatema Pasindedih, and his two sons await further news on his case.
Deacon Greg Kandra worked for 26 years as a writer and producer for CBS News, and currently serves as the executive director of ONE magazine, published by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).
After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Christianity in Iran is recognized as a “protected religious minority” and according to the Constitution of Iran have the freedom of religion and even have a Member of Parliament (MP) representing them.
However, evangelism and missionary work and converting Muslims to Christianity is prohibited by law, and Christians in practice may also face some discrimination as well in their lives.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, there is officially no crime known as apostasy in the penal code (although there was a law about it prior to 1994). The last known execution for this crime was in 1990. However, despite there being no official civil law of apostasy, judges may still convict a defendant of that crime if they rule based on religious fatwas. As a result, a few people had been convicted of it, but there were no known executions.
In 2011 a man was executed in Ahvaz, Iran for blasphemy and “speading corruption on the earth” (Mofsed-Fel-Arz) when he claimed that he was God, and attracting a “following” around himself. According to the fatwas, for a man, if convicted, the punishment would be death by hanging, for a woman, it would be life imprisonment. The apostate would be given three chances to repent and convert back to Islam.
Barack Obama’s September 30, 2011 statement read:
“The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youcef 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.”
Here is Iran’s response:
Gholamali Rezvani, the Gilan Provincial Political/Security Deputy Governor, stated:
Youcef Nadarkhani has security crimes and he had set up a house of corruption. ... Nobody is executed in our regime for choosing a religion, but he is a Zionist who has security crimes.
St. Paul was persecuted and sentenced to death for his faith. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he wrote, “ I know that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18). Also, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)
All Christians know that we are strangers and pilgrims, traveling the oft-times bumpy road to Heaven. We won’t remember the hard times when we get there.
Yes, you are correct. Thanks for writing that. For the past many months I have been fixated on the life of John the Baptist. Go back and study the sequence of his life in Matthew.
From the time he lept in the womb of his mother at the hearing of Mary’s voice he was Spirit-filled.
He vigorously followed the OT law and had many disciples as a result of the example and teachings of his life.
He recognized Jesus as God and proclaimed he was unworthy to untie his sandals.
He protested and then baptised Jesus.
He personally saw and heard God the Father speak about Jesus as the Dove decended.
Clearly, a life devoted to the Creator, faith in Christ, and signs and wonders witnessed along the way of his life.
Now, go and read Matthew 11:2