February 24, 2012 1 Comment
I mentioned in a previous post the danger which faced a Christian pastor in Iran who for years has been the subject of uncertainty as to his fate in the Iranian courts. Youcef Nadarkhani was found guilty of apostasy in 2010 and last year failed in an appeal against the death penalty which he was sentenced to receive for his ‘crimes’. At his appeal trial last year the following dialogue took place, when asked to ‘repent’:
Nadarkhani: Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy I had before my faith in Christ?
Judge: To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.
Nadarkhani: I cannot.
This sort of dialogue before the authorities rings in my ears a bit like Martin Luther’s stand at the Diet of Worms. Luther was ordered to recant of the things he had written:
Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of god. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.
(quoted from: Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, p. 144)
That was in 1521 when we think of such hardship on Christians as being commonplace; yet in Iran in 2012 men and women are facing the ultimate penalty for their faith in Christ because there are reports this week that Iranian officials have issued the execution orders for Nadarkhani which means (if true) he could be executed at any time. Even though Barack Obama’s office condemned these actions yesterday (bear in mind, of course, that Iran-bashing is politically expedient for Mr President at the moment), could this possibly be one of the most under-reported forms of religious persecution today? There are news reports at (in no particular order) ACLJ, Jerualem Post, Fox News and Huffington Post; but as for the British media – where are they?
I mention these events here so that God’s people might be encouraged to unite in prayer for this Pastor and his family – prayer changes things! Also, let’s tell people about what is happening to Christians around the world simply for being Christians. Lastly, let’s be inspired by persecuted Christians so that, just as Paul could say in the midst of his persecution:
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Philippians 1:12-14 ESV