Pray for Pastor Nadarkhani
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is expected to face a new trial today, Saturday 8th September, for crimes that are yet to be specified. According to sources, judges were reportedly instructed to formulate charges that would justify a maximum sentence. There are growing concerns that the charges may ultimately pertain to national security or even blasphemy. This would be in line with a recent tendency by the Iranian government to justify the arrest and imprisonment of church leaders by charging them with politically-related offences. Examples include Benham Irani, a Church of Iran pastor who was charged with ‘crimes against national security’ and ‘crimes against the order’, and Assemblies of God (AOG) pastor, Farshid Fathi Malayeri, accused of undertaking ‘action against the regime's security’, ‘being in contact with foreign organisations’ and ‘religious propaganda’.
Pastor Nadarkhani was arrested in his home city of Rasht in 2009 soon after questioning the Muslim monopoly of religious instruction for children, which he felt was unconstitutional. He was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010, a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2011. Although the previous Iranian penal code did not specify death for apostasy, a constitutional loophole allowed judges to refer to Shari'a and authoritative fatwas to justify such a sentence. The current Iranian penal code does not specifically mention apostasy as a crime, but allows judges to continue utilising these sources in order to sentence defendants to death for apostasy.
The death sentence for apostasy handed out to Pastor Nadarkhani and currently awaiting a ruling by the Iranian Supreme Leader elicited widespread international protest and appeals to Iran to desist from carrying it out. There have been statements from the UK Government and in Parliament; the US White House and resolutions from Congress, the European Union, and perhaps of most significance to Iran, censure from the Brazilian Senate - Brazil being one of the few states maintaining links to Iran.
Today is a global day of prayer for the Pastor. There are legitimate concerns regarding the fairness of the trial, and also questions about the veracity of any charges that are leveled at this late stage. His Grace joins with those governments and groups all over the world which are calling for Pastor Nadarkhani’s immediate and unconditional release.
It looks as though the Iranian authorities are migrating from the death sentence for apostasy, and are now trying to bring secular charges relating to national security, simply as an alternative way of getting rid of him.
The charges are somewhat nebulous, and a copy of the summons to him in prison can be seen HERE. His Grace encourages all his readers and communicants to consider joining in the prayer cover being sought today, and to encourage other intercessors and friends to do the same. Christian Solidarity Worldwide have a more formalised prayer rota they are organising, but really any prayer by any means is the most important thing.
Prayer points which may help from CSW are:
1. That all charges against Pastor Nadarkhani would be dropped and that he would be swiftly released.
2. That the death sentence against Pastor Nadarkhani would be overturned.
3. For strength, peace and endurance for Pastor Nadarkhani.
4. That God would uphold and encourage his wife and children, giving them peace and comfort at this time.
5. That the Iranian authorities would be sympathetic when considering Pastor Nadarkhani's case.
6. For wisdom and discernment for Pastor Nadarkhani's legal team as they represent him.
7. For Pastor Nadarkhani's church as they await the outcome of the trial and news on his case.
8. For an end to religious and political repression in Iran.
It is worth considering the reply to another accusation in that part of the world:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the figure of gold you have set up (Dan 3:16-18).and also what St Paul wrote to Timothy in a like situation:
At my first defence, no-one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood by my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the Lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever" (2Tim 4:16-18).It is a pretty awful situation, but prayer and publicity by so many as part of God's protection is probably why Youcef Nadarkhani is still alive and because of him and his case, other Christians have not been executed. God bless you praying for God to stand by Pastor Nadarkhani's side, and God bless and protect Youcef Nadarkhani.