This article was published in the St.Catharines Standard.
Until just a few days ago, Iranian Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was languishing in jail, expecting his imminent execution, having been found guilty of apostasy and numerous other crimes. This week’s stunning reversal in Iran’s Supreme Court is fresh evidence of the power of activism. For several months thousands of Christians and non-Christians have made their voices heard to their political representatives and Iranian embassies around the world, until Iran’s supreme religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini became involved, and now the Supreme Court has granted a new trial for Nadarkhani.
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. During the months of ‘kangaroo court’, individuals around the world intensified the pressure making their voices heard in a protest against the unjust treatment of the pastor. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote a letter, co-signed by 39 members of Congress, asking for the release of the pastor. From Brazil to Denmark to Australia, Christians contacted Iranian embassies, sometimes meeting rude rejection, but nevertheless making their outrage known.
The pressure became so great the Iranian lower court appealed to Ayatollah Khomeini, and with his connection to the case, which would most likely never have happened without the massive involvement from individuals around the world, the entire matter became more significant inside Iran.
In spite of this weeks’s turn of events, Nadarkhani’s fate is by no means decided, as no one knows the outcome of the new trial. There is still a need for all, who love freedom, to contact the Iranian embassies as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in whatever country you live. Express your concern and ask the authorities to work for Pastor Nadarkhani’s release.
Whether the Tea Party in the United States, or the Occupy Wall Street movement that is now touching many countries, activists get their point across. We may agree or disagree, but it is not the arm-chair quarterback that gets attention, but the one, who gets off the couch and onto the street.
Christian activism is what Jesus called for when He told his followers to go” into all the world” and give the Good News to “every creature”. British Columbia pastor Don Gossett coined the phrase “If no one reaches, no one gets touched”. In short, it’s not enough to have a passive belief that something needs to be done or needs to be said, because nothing happens until somebody takes action or speaks up. Make your life count. Take a stand for those who are hurting, for justice, and for getting the good news of what God has done for the world through Jesus Christ to everyone.
When we come to the end of our life journey, we will never regret having done too much, but we may wish we had done more. Whether standing up for someone in need, by protests or letter-writing, like so many have done and are still doing for Nadarkhani, or by reaching across the street or to someone in need in your community; your voice and your action make a difference!