Iran (MNN) — In
a March 7 press release posted on the American
Center for Law and Justice Web site, Iran says there is no death sentence on
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.
The release was
made available to the ACLJ by Department of the Press, Embassy of the
Islamic Republic of Iran. In it, the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran at
Brasilia not only denies the report, but also states:
"Article 13 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran recognizes
followers of major Heavenly religions, including Christians, as religious
minorities, accepting and assuring their rights as religious citizens."
According to this Article, they are free to hold services and religious
teachings and to practice civil rights based in their background.
It goes on to say,
"Also these minorities, like the other Muslim organizations inside the
Constitution, have representatives in the Parliament. It also says that a
peaceful living exists in the Islamic Republic of Iran between the followers of
divine religions, with a sincere fatherly spirit that is established between
the State and different aspects. Also, we made sure of an independent power of
the Court, reminding that the referred individual was arrested based upon laws
and regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He has a lawyer who is
protecting all of his legal rights, including contact with his family.
Department the Press Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
It's a statement
released in the face of mounting international pressure. First, the American Congress unanimously
approved a new resolution condemning the Iranian government for sentencing to
death a Christian pastor accused of renouncing Islam. Then, on March 12 the Human Rights envoy at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva also condemned Nadarkhani's imprisonment.
The pastor has
been imprisoned for almost three years on accusations of apostasy, having left
Islam for Christianity. According to
reports from Compass Direct News, in his last appeal hearing in September,
Nadarkhani refused to recant his faith when the court applied Sharia and gave him three chances to recant Christianity and return to Islam in
order for his life to be spared.
Open Doors, an advocacy group for the global persecuted church,
notes that Iranian authorities view Iranian Christians as pawns of the West
trying to bring down the regime. Almost all Christian activity is illegal–from evangelism to Bible
training to publishing Christian books. Many church services are monitored
by the secret police. The governor of Tehran has criticized Christian
evangelicalism as a "corrupt and deviant movement" and "a cultural invasion of
Not surprisingly, Iran ranks fifth on the Open Doors World Watch List, a compilation
of the 50 countries where the persecution of Christians is the worst. Even
as this case remains unresolved, there is word that the Gospel is having a huge
Keep praying for the Gospel workers. Pray for boldness for them and for rength for
Muslim-background believers who have been arrested, jailed, and beaten.