Pastor Nadarkhani, 34, leads a church network in Rasht, Iran. He is being held and now has been sentenced to death by hanging because he refuses to recant his Christian faith. He was arrested in October 2009 because he protested the Iranian government's decision to force all children to be taught about Islam. He did not want his own (or other) Christian children to be subjected to that. He has been in prison ever since. Over time the charges against him were changed to apostasy (falling away from Islam) and evangelism (from Islam to Christianity). In September 2010, he was convicted and sentenced to death. The sentence for apostasy is hanging. Appeals to the Supreme Court of Iran failed. The court said his death sentence could be annulled if he recanted his faith. Nardakhani never was a Muslim but because his parents were Muslim, he is considered a national Muslim and required to recant his Christian faith. This past week he refused to disavow his faith four times, the final one being on Wednesday. Now many fear his death is imminent. Pastor Nadarkhani's wife, Fatema Pasindedih, and his two sons, Daniel (9) and Yoel (7) wait to learn further news on Pastor Youcef's fate.
According to the Christian Post, the White House and the U.S. State Department issued statements to demand Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani's immediate release on February 23, 2012.
This story has grabbed international attention and has highlighted the plight of many Christians who suffer because of their faith. The killing of Christians started very soon after Jesus' death and resurrection. Stephen was stoned for his faith as recorded in Acts 7.
I cannot relate to that level of suffering. Sure, I have had some tough times but I have never faced death because I believe in Jesus. During Lent, as I "sacrifice" eating sugar and refined carbs, I am painfully aware how shallow this is compared to what my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world face on a daily basis. Will you join me in praying for Pastor Nadarkhani, his family, and all the other Christians who are suffering for their faith? An organization dedicated to supporting persecuted Christians is The Voice of the Martyrs. Do you know of other stories of people suffering for their faith that we could support in prayer? Let's really make this time of Lent count by praying for suffering Christians!