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Those in the free world who are supporting a Christian pastor condemned to death by Iranian authorities say the need is urgent for people to speak out on behalf of Youcef Nadarkhani.
The death order for Nadarkhani has been signed on charges that he left Islam for Christianity, but spokesman Gene Kapp of the American Center for Law and Justice today confirmed the pastor’s sentence has not been carried out.
“Our attorneys received confirmation that Pastor Youcef was still alive,” Kapp said.
But he said the situation is precarious for the pastor arrested in 2009 and charged with blasphemy for “leaving Islam.” International Christian Concern’s Middle East analyst Aidan Clay says death could come at any time.
“There is fear that Nadarkhani could be executed in secret any day. However, sometimes these cases are drawn out and Nadarkhani could languish in prison for months or even years,” Clay said.
However, one factor that could work against Nadarkhani is the Iranians’ desire to avoid pressure and publicity.
“Iranian officials want to avoid as much international press and condemnation as possible, meaning that Nadarkhani’s execution may occur sooner rather than later before the international community can apply additional pressure,” Clay said.
Clay added that the publicity could be keeping Nadarkhani alive.
“One reason that Nadarkhani is still alive is due to aggressive international pressure on Iran to release him. If not for the work of the ACLJ and other organizations, it’s possible that Nadarkhani’s execution would already have been carried out,” Clay said.
“Remember that in December, the Iranian judiciary decided to delay Nadarkhani’s final verdict for a year,” Clay added.
However, Clay said that the push for sanctions against Iran could be making the situation rough for the pastor.
“Crippling U.S. sanctions on the Iranian government have likely not helped Nadarkhani’s case. There is some fear that the court unexpectedly issued an execution order partly as an act of retaliation and defiance toward the U.S.,” Clay said.
However, Clay said now is not the time to back off.
“Now is the time to remain faithful in prayer and to spread awareness of Nadarkhani’s plight. As seen throughout Nadarkhani’s imprisonment, the louder the international community has spoken up, the better his situation has been,” Clay said.
“Social media like Twitter and Facebook have helped. Please join the ACLJ’s Twitter campaign at: http://aclj.org/Nadarkhani. We must defend and stand beside Nadarkhani until he is either released or executed by being
ardent in prayer and to fighting against this injustice,” Clay said.
Nadarkhani’s case is again gaining international attention at the same time that Iranian officials have told churches they can no longer hold worship services using Iran’s official language.
Barnabas Aid reports that the Iranian government is trying to prevent Iranian Muslims from hearing the Gospel in Farsi.
“The pastors of Emmanuel Protestant Church and St Peter Evangelical Church were issued with the order by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security earlier this month and announced it to their congregations on 10 February,” the Barnabas Aid report said.
The order means that no churches in Iran can use the official language on Friday.
“It means that there are now no Christian services in Farsi, the language of the Muslim majority in Iran, in any officially registered church in the capital on Fridays,” the Barnabas Aid report said.
“The order was not applied to Sundays, but Friday is the main weekend day in Iran, and it is difficult for people to attend church on any other day because of work commitments,” the report said.
Pastor Nadakhani was arrested and convicted of apostasy in 2009 for allegedly leaving Islam, a charge he denied by saying that he was never a Muslim.
But WND previously has reported that Colorado journalist Jack Minor’s research revealed that Nadarkhani’s Christian background isn’t enough, according to some Iranian Shia clerics.
“On page 28, in the introduction of a copy of the Quran, printed by Ansariyan Publications in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the translator, M.H. Shakir in the section ‘Islam and Muslims’ states, ‘In fact, every child that is born is a Muslim. It is the parents who make him a Jew, Christian or Hindu,'” Minor said.
“Based on this teaching, even if Nadarkhani had never visited a mosque a day in his life he is still considered a Muslim. Therefore, when he accepted Christ as his savior and became a Christian he left the Muslim faith whether he knew it or not,” Minor reported.