The plight of Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkahni has attracted the concern of China's online Christian community. New information regarding his case is posted and reposted on Christian websites and Weibo (micro-blog) pages, often accompanied by urgent calls to pray for Pastor Nadarkahni.
The following article was posted on Jidijiao.com, a Jiangsu-based website that aggregates news about churches in China and commentary from a Christian perspective, on November 3, 2011.
When asked by the court to repent, Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkahni responded: "Repent means to return. Where would I return to? Return to the time before I was a Christian and desecrated God?" The judge responded: "Return to the religion of your ancestors, Islam. The court demands that you recant your Christian faith." Pastor Yousef responded. "I cant!"
Last Wednesday (September 28) Pastor Feng Wei (@冯伟牧师) posted a call for prayer on his micro-blog: An urgent call for prayer! 35 year old Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkahni returned to the court for his fourth appeal hearing today. This was his last chance to appeal to the sentence imposed on him for refusing to recant his Christian beliefs. The court had upheld the original verdict. Under Islamic law, this makes him a traitor to his faith, which carries a penalty of death. He may be put to death as early as this evening.
Later, many brothers and sisters posted messages on their Weibo pages calling for earnest prayer on behalf of Pastor Yousef.
On Thursday, September 29, according to a report on the Voice of America (VOA), the defendants lawyer said that he believed that Pastor Yousef has a 95% chance of being acquitted of the charges this week.
According to the English report, Pastor Yousef converted to Christianity when he was 19, and is now pastor of a church of 400 Iranian Christians. He was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to death. This was met with international outrage. The White House issued a statement condemning the sentence on Thursday. The United States House Speaker and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, together with the British Minister of Foreign Affairs issued statements condemning the Iranian high courts verdict. They opposed the death sentence imposed upon Pastor Yousef for refusing to recant his Christian faith.
In the following days, brothers and sisters all over the world expressed concern for Pastor Yousef and earnestly prayed for him. On Saturday, October 1, Fox News broke the story from Iranian media that the court had announced that his sentence was not due to religious reasons but rape and extortion. Rezvani, the Assistant Governor of Gilan Province of Iran told Fars, the semi-official news agency: "His crime was not encouraging people to believe in Christianity but violating safety and security." However, in the previous indictment, "traitor to religion" was the only crime mentioned. Pastor Yousef is still facing execution.
(At this point, the article includes a Chinese translation of the original court ruling. It is a translation of the English translation posted by the American Center for Law and Justice)
This court ruling gives a wonderful testimony to brothers and sisters. We should be eternally grateful for such a testimony.
Matthew 5:10-12 says: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Pastor Yousef is a wonderful example for us, reminding us that in an environment of personal freedom, we at the same time should be prepared to defend our faith with our lives. At the 2007 China Evangelical Conference, a South Korean brother shared the testimony of a pastor who had given his life in Afghanistan. The pastor had a personal motto: "always prepared to go; always prepared to preach; always prepared to die." The testimonies of Pastor Yousef and the Korean pastor remind us to again consider the words of Jesus: Have no fear of the things which you will have to undergo: see, the Evil One will send some of you into prison, so that you may be put to the test; and you will have great trouble for ten days. Be true till death and I will give you the crown of life. (Rev 2:10). Lord, please help us remain faithful to death, so that we will receive the crown. Amen.
Brothers and sisters, please continue to urgently pray for Pastor Yousef and his family, and for the church that he pastors.
Image credit: Symbolic Prison Cell, by Babok Farrokhi, via Flickr
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