Iranian Pastor Awaits Decision on Execution
Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, 34, has often been a focus of our prayers. Found guilty last July by the Iranian courts for leaving Islam, he quickly appealed the sentence. Now he is awaiting the outcome of a judicial investigation into his spiritual background to see if the judgment will be upheld that he be executed or, if possible, forced to become a Muslim.
The court issued a written response to the appeal, upholding the death penalty, but ordering the investigation. Even if the investigation releases him from the charge of apostasy, it is likely the charge of evangelizing Muslims will still carry a lengthy prison sentence, sources said. The investigation will take place this autumn to determine whether Nadarkhani was a Muslim as a teenager before he became a Christian at 19. It is unclear how this investigation will take place as both of his parents are deceased.
Pastor Nadarkhani, who leads a 400-strong house church movement in Rasht, was ordered to be put to death by hanging for “converting to Christianity” and “encouraging other Muslims to convert to Christianity.” But, according to Compass News, Nadarkhani said he had never been a Muslim and so could not be found guilty of abandoning Islam. The charges against Nadarkhani stem from a complaint he made to local officials over a government decision to teach Islam to all children at school, regardless of their respective religions. He was called to appear before a tribunal on October 12, 2009, and arrested the same day. He has been held in government custody since then.
Father, thank you for the strong faith you have placed in Pastor Yousef’s heart and mind and for his courage to stand on behalf of the Christian children in Iran. We ask that the current investigation would lead to the overturning of his death sentence. We pray especially that You would guard his heart as well as the hearts of his wife, and their two sons. For Pastor Yousef and other church leaders in prison now or under surveillance, we pray for courage and perseverance, and for opportunities to be Your witnesses to the many in Iran who live in the darkness of Islam. Amen