Did you know there was an Evangelical Church of Iran? If so, the ayatollahs of Iran would be very disappointed. They’ve been working very hard to suppress it, and now they’re on the verge of executing one of its most “effective” pastors… unless he agrees to renounce his Christian faith.
The pastor in question is Yousef Nadarkhani, 32, who converted to Christianity as a teenager. A Fox News report says that “some believe he has about 400 people in his church.” The International Campaign for Human Rights estimates there could be up to 4,000 evangelical Christians in Iran, but Church spokesmen say the clandestine congregation is much larger, in the neighborhood of 200,000.
This does not sit well with the primitive theocracy that rules Iran, so Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to death for “apostasy and evangelism.” There is supposedly no provision for apostasy as a capital crime in Iranian civil law, but the mullahs aren’t worrying too much about the fine print on this particular death sentence.
The government has occasionally floated rumors that his death sentence would be overturned, but now according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, “Iranian church sources claim that the Supreme Court has made execution conditional on the pastor recanting his faith.” Those who know Nadarkhani say he will never submit to this demand.
There hasn’t been much attention to the Nadarkhani outrage in the global press, despite outcries from religious and human-rights groups, but the U.S. State Department is thinking about sending a Strongly Worded Letter if Iran carries out his execution. “We are dismayed over reports that the Iranian courts are requiring Yousef Nadarkhani to recant his faith or face the death penalty for apostasy, a charge based on his religious beliefs,” reads a State Department statement. “If carried out, it would be the first execution for apostasy in Iran since 1990. He is just one of thousands who face persecution for their religious beliefs in Iran, including the seven leaders of the Baha’i community whose imprisonment was increased to twenty years for practicing their faith and hundreds of Sufis who have been flogged in public because of their beliefs.”
That 1990 execution, by the way, was another pastor, Hossein Soodmand of the Assemblies of God. He died on the end of a noose.
The ayatollahs are concerned that their government “has not successfully stemmed the growth of Christian house churches, despite its massive efforts to do so.” They’re not the first to deploy massive efforts against Christianity, and they won’t be the first to fail. We might not be able to stop these savages from executing Pastor Nadarkhani for his faith, but by refusing to look away, we can stop them from making him disappear.