Monday, March 5, 2012

Prayers for Pastor Youcef

Spirit & Truth # 263
“Prayers for Pastor Youcef”

By Greg Smith

            By now, many have heard of the Iranian pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, who has was jailed for converting to Christianity from Islam in 2010.  Placed on trial, Nadarkhani was given the death sentence, but (as of this writing) that sentence has not yet been carried out.  Late last month, however, the Iranian government affirmed the court’s decision, and ordered the execution—which means that the sentence could be carried out at any time.  The international community has appealed to Iran’s sense of mercy, but frankly that government is in a bind.  

            In her column The Optimistic Conservative,  J.E. Dyer explains the complicated situation that goes to the very core of that nation’s identity and future:

What sort of nation will Iran be? If the clerical regime kills Nadarkhani, it will have to keep on killing, very possibly with the brake of compunction fully released. If it whisks him out of the public eye without explanation, it will have affirmed a precedent that can only metastasize and become a cancer on the life of the nation, as demonstrated with the Soviet Union and Communist China in the last century. And if it releases the pastor, it will have to do so in spite of its own laws, opening up the possibility of an unplanned and unpredictable future.[1]

            Those who are aware of Iran’s history of persecuting Christians may be experiencing a bit of déjà vu.  The Rev. Mehdi Dibaj was an Iranian Christian pastor who was condemned to die on the charge of apostasy on December 21, 1993.  After legal appeals and an outcry from the world, he was released on January 16, 1994.  However, the following June he was abducted and martyred for his faithBishop Haik Hovsepian-Mehr. Bishop Haik, an Armenian pastor who had assisted Rev. Dibaj by appealing to the Iranian government and calling his case to the world’s attention, was also abducted and killed.[2]  These are not isolated incidents—many Iranian Christians have been imprisoned or martyred for their faith.

            Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10 NIV).”  He also said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23 NIV).”  Jesus knew that He must die for the salvation of all who believe in Him.  He reminds his followers that persecution and martyrdom may be the price they pay for their faith.  Would you die for your faith?  What price would be too high to pay for what you believe?

            I urge you to pray for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, and for his wife and children.  Pray, too, for those in the Iranian government who need to understand the peace of God.  Also pray for Christians who suffer persecution and martyrdom around the world.  In addition, pray that the Christian reaction to all of this might not be one of hatred or reprisals, but one of unconditional love and peace.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek…blessed are the peacemakers...Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:5, 9, 44 NIV).”  Only by love can the violent be turned from their hatred.  Let us pray with the words of St. Francis, who said, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.”



[1] Dyer, J.E.  The Optomistic Conservative.  “The Fate of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani—and of Iran.”  March 5, 2012

1 comment:

Greg said...

Follow the link below to a March 14 story titled, "Youcef Nadarkhani, Imprisoned Pastor, Won't Be Executed, Iran Claims."