Now or never for pastor awaiting execution

This article was published in the St.Catharines Standard.

The 34 year old pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, father of two, sits waiting in an Iranian prison. His execution could be at any moment. His crime? Apostasy against Islam.

Last Thursday, in what some are calling a miracle, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on a resolution calling for Pastor Nadarkhani’s release. Both the White House and the State Department made statements earlier in the week. The World Evangelical Alliance and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada have called on the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take action. Whatever is going to be done must be done now.

The pastor was first arrested in October 2009 for protesting. His charge was later changed to apostasy, or preaching the Christian message to Muslims. At first he was found guilty in a lower court, and then his case was referred to the Supreme Court where officials gave Nadarkhani the ultimatum: “Renounce your faith or die”. After Nadarkhani, on three separate occasions, refused to renege on his faith in Jesus Christ, the Supreme Court passed the case back to the lower court requesting more information about Nadarkhani practicing Islam after the age of 15, which would strengthen the government’s case of apostasy.

According to Iran’s official law, the falling away from Islam is not a crime, and certainly not punishable by death, so in addition to the charge of being an evangelizer, Nadarkhani was also indicted for being a Zionist, an extortioner, and a rapist.

I wrote about Pastor Nadarkhani last October. At that time it looked like international pressure had resulted in a reversal in the Iranian courts. The execution was suspended, and a legal review by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was expected. Unfortunately, that was a too optimistic assessment.

So far, the Supreme Leader has refused to look at the appeal. He and Mr Sadegh Larijani, the Head of the Iranian Judiciary, are the only people with the authority to stop the execution, but without their intervention the authorities are obliged to carry out the Supreme Court ruling.

That’s why the reality is that the execution could happen at any time.

Pastor Nadarkhani spoke to his wife late last week, and a renewed call has gone out for international support. Meanwhile his lawyers and the Church of Iran leadership are seeking clarification and written confirmation of a report that the order for execution has been issued.

According to Iranian law, once the execution order is officially confirmed, Pastor Nadarkhani’s lawyers would have a final opportunity to stop the execution if notified in time. However, it is not uncommon for the Iranian authorities to execute a prisoner without notification. In 1990, Pastor Hossein Soodmand was executed without notification.

One thing is certain. Pastor Nadarkhani is willing to die for his faith. According to reports he has been offered four additional opportunities to recant his faith since October 2011, but he has refused and remains unwavering in his faith that Jesus Christ is Lord.

We can take action in several ways:

  • 1. Contact The Honorable John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs at john.baird@parl.gc.ca. Ask for the Canadian government to intervene on behalf of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.
  • 2. Join thousands of others who are using the Social Media to call for the release of Nadarkhani.

Edmund Burke’s famous statement, “All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing”, is highly applicable. It is now or never for Nadarkhani.

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