Happy Fourth of July! It is a beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest. We are celebrating and enjoying the freedoms of our wonderful country. One freedom that I particularly appreciate is our religious freedom. Because I live in the United States I am free to worship Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I am free to own multiple copies of the Bible, the Word of God. I am free to write this blog in which I can express my belief that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that there is no other name by which people can be saved. I am free to attend church and my church is free to hold worship services any time we want.
But as I joyfully celebrate these freedoms, I am reminded that not everyone in the world is so blessed to live in a country that offers them religious freedom. So I decided to share a “Prisoner Alert” that I received via email from Voice of the Martyrs just the other day. The following is copied from their website. If you want to help, Voice of the Martyrs provides ways to help persecuted Christians throughout the world.
Location: Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Arrested: October 2009
Youcef Nadarkhani, a 34-year-old pastor from Rasht, about 750 miles northwest of Tehran, was arrested in October 2009 after he protested a government policy that required children, including his 8- and 9-year-old sons, to study the Quran in school. Youcef told school officials that the Iranian constitution allows for freedom of religious practice. As a result of his protest, secret police called him before a political tribunal and arrested him for protesting. The charges were later amended to apostasy and evangelism of Muslims. Youcef was tried on Sept. 21–22, 2010 by the 1st Court of the Revolutionary Tribunal and sentenced to death on Nov. 13 for apostasy.
The pastor is imprisoned in Lakan prison, where authorities have used various methods, including medication, to convert him back to Islam.
After Youcef refused to convert to Islam, his wife was arrested, put on trial without an attorney and sentenced to life in prison. She was later released after an attorney appealed her sentence. The Nadarkhanis’ children were cared for by a relative while they were both in prison.
Death Sentence Upheld
The Iranian Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of Pastor Youcef. He has been in prison since October 2009, and the appeal of his death sentence was rejected by the Iranian Supreme Court on June 28, 2011. He is to be executed by hanging. If the death sentence is carried out, it will be the first court-ordered execution of a Christian in Iran in 20 years.