State Violence and Persecution On the Rise in Iran

President-Mahmoud-Ahmadinejad-150x150.jpgUnder President Mahmud Ahmadinejad Iran has become more assertive in its quest to lead the Muslim world in Islamic Revolution. 

The regime has been greatly aided towards this by the war in Iraq which has dramatically altered the balance of power in the Middle East. To woo Arabs and Sunni Muslims into its axis, ascendant Iran is cranking up its anti-Israel and anti-US rhetoric while taking every opportunity to demonstrate its superior Islamic credentials. Support for international terrorism, state violence and religious persecution are at an all-time high. The American Centre for Law and Justice reports at least 285 Christians were arrested in 35 cities in Iran during the first six months of 2011 without any public reaction.

It is in this climate that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s 25 September trial court review will be heard. Youcef (32) was arrested in October 2009 while trying to register his church. He has been in prison since October 2010, when the trial court found him guilty of apostasy and sentenced him to death by hanging. On 28 June 2011 the Supreme Court in the Shia holy city of Qom upheld the apostasy conviction and death sentence but returned the case to the trial court for a final review. If on Sunday 25 September the trial court deems Youcef Nadarkhani was indeed a Muslim before his conversion — and it may well determine he was a Muslim at birth — the apostasy conviction and death sentence will stand and the court will be free to execute him.
All Youcef Nadarkhani has ever had to do to leave the brutal and inhumane conditions of prison, avoid the gallows and return to his wife and children is renounce Christ and ‘return’ to Islam. Youcef’s lawyer, the notable human rights attorney, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, has been sentenced to nine years jail for defending Youcef and some 20 others charged with apostasy. No doubt all Mohammad Ali Dadkhah has to do to stay free is to abandon the apostates. Avoiding persecution can be easy and very tempting. Perseverance, however, requires immense conviction and inner strength. The spiritual battle must surely be intensive.
If Iran defiantly executes Youcef Nadarkhani and is not affected by Western threats or sanctions, the life of every Farsi-speaking Christian convert from Islam will be imminently imperilled. Over the weekend of 25 September President Ahmadinejad will be in New York to attend the UN General Assembly. Whilst UN matters will doubtless absorb the media — particularly the proposed bid for Palestinian statehood — Christians worldwide must not forget the Nadarkhani family and the Christians of Iran.
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Elizabeth Kendal

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