GILAN, Iran (Catholic Online):
Last year we reported on the former Muslim, now Protestant
Christian Pastor in Iran named Youcef Nadarkhani. He was
sentenced to death in the Islamic Republic of Iran for the crime
given a death sentence for becoming a Christian and then
refusing to convert back to Islam under intense pressure. He
would not recant his faith! The character and courage of Christ
is evident in the heroic witness of this Pastor.
When asked by the Islamic
judges to repent, he stated: "Repent means to return. What
should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith
in Christ?".To the religion of your ancestors, Islam," the judge
replied. "I cannot," the Christian Pastor said.
Now, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, the lawyer
representing this good pastor, has been sentenced to nine years
in jail. He has also been banned from teaching at Universities
and practicing law. He is a human rights activist practicing law
in a Nation which fails to respect human rights.
He recently told the Guardian Newspaper of the
United Kingdom of his ordeal, "I was in a court in Tehran
defending one of my clients, Davoud Arjangi, a jailed political
activist on death row when the judge told me that my own
sentence has been approved and I will be shortly summoned to
jail to serve the nine-year sentence."
The Islamic Republic of Iran and its
"Revolutionary Court" regularly demonstrates before the eyes of
the whole world its brand of Sharia Law. It is engaged in clear
and ongoing violations of fundamental human rights. What the
arrest of this lawyer will mean for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is
unclear. However, it is certainly not helpful.
The martyrs of the early Church died for their
faith in the God who was revealed in Jesus Christ, and for this
very reason they also died for freedom of conscience and the
freedom to profess one's own faith - a profession that no State
can impose but which, instead, can only be claimed with God's
grace in freedom of conscience.
A December 2005 address given by Pope Benedict
XVI to the Roman Curia summarized the position of the Catholic
Church concerning Religious Freedom as a fundamental human
Vatican Council, recognizing and making its own an essential
principle of the modern State with the Decree on Religious
Freedom, has recovered the deepest patrimony of the Church. By
so doing she can be conscious of being in full harmony with the
teaching of Jesus himself (cf. Mt 22: 21), as well as with the
Church of the martyrs of all time."
"The ancient Church naturally prayed for the
emperors and political leaders out of duty (cf. I Tm 2: 2); but
while she prayed for the emperors, she refused to worship them
and thereby clearly rejected the religion of the State. The
martyrs of the early Church died for their faith in that God who
was revealed in Jesus Christ, and for this very reason they also
died for freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one's
own faith - a profession that no State can impose but which,
instead, can only be claimed with God's grace in freedom of
missionary Church known for proclaiming her message to all
peoples must necessarily work for the freedom of the faith. She
desires to transmit the gift of the truth that exists for one
and all. At the same time, she assures peoples and their
Governments that she does not wish to destroy their identity and
culture by doing so, but to give them, on the contrary, a
response which, in their innermost depths, they are waiting for
- a response with which the multiplicity of cultures is not lost
but instead unity between men and women increases and thus also
peace between peoples."
The Fundamental Human Right to Religious Freedom
is under a growing assault all around the world. We are facing
our own version of that growing assault here in the United
States of America. We must come to understand that we are a
missionary Church living in a new missionary age and live our
The persecution against
Catholics and other Christians is escalating. Sometimes it comes
from militant Islam, other times from the hostility of Marxist
and Maoist ideology, and increasingly from the advance of the
dictatorship of relativism and the rabid secularism which has no
room for religious freedom spreading throughout the West.
We regularly report on this growing persecution
against Catholics and other Christians all over the world. We
are admonished, both in the scriptures and in the unbroken
teaching of the Church for two millennia that we must stand with
our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted.
Jay Sekulow, the Chief Counsel of the American
Center for Law and Justice, recently posted an update on the
urgent situation facing Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani at the ACLJ's
excellent web site here. This is an excerpt:
"938 days. That's how long Christian Pastor
Youcef Nadarkhani has been imprisoned in Iran. His crime? He
embraced Christianity and started a church. Now, with Pastor
Youcef facing the death penalty, his situation is even more
reported, Pastor Youcef's attorney has now been targeted by the
Iranian regime. He's been convicted and told he will begin
serving a 9 year prison sentence soon. His crime? His work on
human rights and his desire to help clients like Pastor Youcef.
"Pastor Youcef is a symbol of the persecuted
church in Iran. The Iranian regime views Christianity as a
political movement, subversive to their regime.We know the world
is watching. And that's something that Iran's Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Khamenei, who controls the fate of Pastor Youcef and
his attorney, simply cannot ignore."
We agree with Jay Sekulow and are committed to
doing our part in keeping the plight of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani
and the many other Christians facing the hostility of the Regime
in Iran before the eyes of the world. We invite our global
readers to pray for the persecuted Christians of Iran. We call
on all elected leaders in the United States to fulfill their
oath of office by speaking out on their behalf.