Iran (MNN) — A Christian pastor in Iran faces a potential death
penalty for a "thought crime."
Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says "The President of Iran,
(Mahmoud) Ahmedinijad, says they don't have a ‘thought crime' law — that there is
no such thing as a ‘thought crime' in Iran. And yet, the reports are that
that's what this pastor is charged with."
Voice of the Martyrs confirms the report concerning Pastor
Youcef Nadarkhani's case. His trial
wrapped up within the last 60 days, but the formal verdict has not been
announced nor a sentence imposed.
Nadarkhani was arrested on October 12, 2009, after protesting the
Islamic instruction of his sons in the school system. Nettleton explains, "Religious
education there is a part of the curriculum. He said, ‘We're a Christian
family. I would like my sons to receive Christian religious instruction instead
of Islamic religious instruction.'"
Nadarkhani's wife, Fatimh, was arrested several months earlier, and she
too, remains behind bars. Their arrests
can be linked to a crackdown by
authorities concerned about the spread of Christianity among Muslims in the
Voice of the Martyrs sources say that while apostasy can be punishable
by death, an actual death sentence and execution would be highly irregular
based on recent cases.
Most of the time, cases involve prison time and heavy fines with
no formal resolution of the case. Nettleton observes, "Iran has sought to
control every facet of society religious expression; this is just one of the things
that they are really cracking down on."
Nettleton says there is always the threat of re-arrest or
charges hanging over the head of the accused. This tactic is frequently used as
an "incentive" to get them to stop sharing Christ or stop participating in church
In the meantime, while Youcef and Fatemeh are behind bars, there are more
threats to their family. Says Nettleton,
"They have two children that are currently being cared for by their
relatives. But the Iranian government has said, ‘We could take your children away and assign them into foster care,
assign them to where we want them to be.'"
Keep praying for this
family. Ask God to draw near to them
and keep them firm in their faith.
can be severely disrupted, too. Nettleton explains, "When this
type of a crackdown and this type of a threat is hanging over one of their
leaders, it can have sort of a ‘chilling effect' on the entire church body.
‘How bold do we want to be in our witness? How outspoken do we want to be about