**UPDATE** Further intercession has been requested for Iranian pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani who received a death sentence for apostasy (i.e. leaving Islam) in September 2010. Recall that he appealed to the Supreme Court who instructed the Revolutionary Tribunal of Gilan Province to review the case, specifically to verify whether Yousef was previously a practising Muslim. Yousef claims that, although raised in a Muslim home, he was never a Muslim by choice, conviction, belief or consistent practice, and that he should therefore not be regarded as an apostate.
It is reported that the first hearing has been scheduled for 25th September.
If the Tribunal concludes that Yousef was previously a Muslim and so is now an apostate, the Supreme Court’s ruling makes clear that he should then be executed, unless he recants his faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
Recall that Yousef is a pastor within the Full Gospel ‘Church of Iran’ denomination in the northern city of Rasht. He has been detained in prison since October 2009. Yousef and his wife, Fatemeh, have two young sons, aged 9 and 7. Fatemeh was detained for four months in 2010.
Another ‘Church of Iran’ member, Behnam, has been detained in Karaj since 31st May. Five others, for whom we requested prayer in April, have been summoned to serve a one-year sentence in Shiraz, following unsuccessful appeals against the sentence passed in March. They are considering how to respond to the summons.
We are pleased to report that two believers, Vahid and Reza from Tabriz, were released on bail on 21st August, having been detained on 15th July. Other believers remain detained for their faith in Iran. There is no further news of Noorallah from Dezfool, Farshid in Tehran, or Leila in Tehran, all of whom remain detained.
Iranian Christians thank us for our prayers. They request our continued intercession that:
a. Yousef will be declared not to be an apostate, or that the death sentence will otherwise be lifted
b. Yousef will remain firm in his faith and know the presence and peace of Jesus each day
c. His wife, Fatemeh, and their two sons will know the comfort and hope of Jesus, and that the family will be reunited soon
d. Others detained for their faith, including Noorallah, Farshid, Leila and Behnam, will know the presence, peace and provision of Jesus, and be released soon
e. The five summoned to prison in Shiraz will know the Spirit’s wisdom and guidance at this time
f. Vahid and Reza will know the Lord’s presence, healing, and restoration following their release from prison
g. Christians throughout Iran will not be intimidated but will know the Lord’s enabling and guidance
h. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him
Clearly, Yousef is still in danger of martyrdom for his faith. Please continue in prayer for him and the others mentioned in the MEC note, as well as all Christians living in such intolerant places.
It is unclear whether a Christian brother in Iran is still to be executed for refusing to “recant” his faith. Yousef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor who oversees a network of house churches, has been sentenced to die under the charge of Apostasy. A BosNewsLife Article states, “The 11th Chamber of The Assize Court of the province of Gilan had earlier said Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani must be executed by hanging as he had proved his ‘apostasy” by “organizing evangelistic meetings and inviting others to Christianity, establishing a house church, baptizing people, expressing his faith to others and, denying Islamic values.’”
It has been reported that the death sentence has been overturned, but the article states, “However concerns remained Monday, July 4, about the future of 33-year-old Yousef Nadarkhani, as he remained under pressure to recant his faith in Christ, his lawyer and Christians said.” And Baptist Press reported on July 15th, “The Christian Solidarity Worldwide human rights organization reported July 14 that the court’s written verdict had been released, confirming that Nadarkhani faces execution unless he renounces his faith. The original verdict on charges of apostasy was based on “fatwas” by Iran’s most powerful religious leaders — Ayatollahs Khomeini, Khamenei and Makarem Shirazi — meaning the Supreme Court may have been reluctant to overturn the verdict for fear of inviting controversy”
He has encouraged other Iranian believers to suffer well writing this, “As we’ve heard He has said: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (See the full letter below). A Fort Liberty article remarks on what persecution has done for the Church in Iran, “Remarkably, underground Christianity has flourished since the Islamofascist revolution of 1979. At the time of the revolution, there may have been as few as 500 Iranian Christians in Iran. Some estimates say that there may be up to 100,000 Christians now secretly worshiping in the Islamist state.”[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k5BHjLS4q8&feature=player_embedded#at=85 [/youtube]
Let’s commit to pray for him, his wife, his two sons, the congregations he oversees, all the persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, that if suffering comes for us that we will suffer as he has, and that the gospel will go forth in the face of suffering and persecution. The video above asks for Christians to write the White House about this situation and below is another video on others being arrested and persecuted in Iran for their commitment to Christ.
A Letter from Yousef Nadarkhani:
Our dear brother has been kept in custody since the October of 2009 and has recently been sentenced to death. This message has been translated from Farsi to English.
Dear brothers and sisters, Salam
In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am continuously seeking grace and mercy to you, that you remember me and those who are bearing efforts for his name in your prayers.
Your loyalty to God is the cause of my strength and encouragement.
For I know well that you will be rewarded; as it’s stated: blessed is the one who has faith, for what has been said to him by God, will be carried out.
As we believe, heaven and earth will fade but his word will still remain.
Dear beloved ones, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of a few verses, although you might know them, So that in everything, you give more effort than the past, both to prove your election, and for the sake of Gospel that is to be preached to the entire world as well.
I know that not all of us are granted to keep this word, but to those who are granted this power and this revelation, I announce the same as Jude, earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.
We are passing by special and sensitive days .They are days that for an alert and awake believer can be days of spiritual growth and progress. Because for him, more than any other time there is the possibility to compare his faith with the word of God, have God’s promises in mind, and survey his faith.
Therefore he (the true believer) does not need to wonder for the fiery trial that has been set on for him as though it were something unusual, but it pleases him to participate in Christ’s suffering.
Because the believer knows he will rejoice in his glory.
Dears, the “ judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
Therefore those who are enduring burdens by the will of God, commit their souls to the faithful Creator. Promises that he has given us, are unique and precious. As we’ve heard he has said: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you”
How can it be possible for a believer to understand these words?
Not only when he is focusing on Jesus Christ with adapting his life according to the life Jesus lived when he was on earth? As it is said ” O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.”
Have we not read and heard: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Many attempt to flee from their spiritual tests, and they have to face those same tests in a more difficult manner, because no one will be victorious by escaping from them, but with patience and humility he will be able to overcome all the tests, and gain victory.
Therefore in the place of Christ’s followers, we must not feel desperate, but we have to pray to God in supplication with more passion to help us with any assistance we may need.
According to what Paul has said: In every temptation, God himself will make a way for us to tolerate it.
O beloved ones, difficulties do not weaken mankind, but they reveal the true human nature.
It will be good for us to occasionally face persecutions and abnormalities, since these abnormalities will persuade us to search our hearts, and to survey ourselves.
So as a result, we conclude that troubles are difficult, but usually good and useful to build us.
Dear brothers and sisters, we must be more careful than any other time.
Because in these days, the hearts and thoughts of many are revealed, so that the faith is tested.
May your treasure be where there is no moth and rust.
I would like to remind you of some verses that we nearly discuss everyday, (Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.) but as long as our human will has priority over God’s will, his will will not be done.
As we have learned from him in Gethsemane, he surrendered his will to the father, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
What we are bearing today, is a difficult but not unbearable situation, because neither he has tested us more than our faith and our endurance, nor does he do as such. And as we have known from before, we must beware not to fail, but to advance in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, And consider these bumps and prisons as opportunities to testify to his name. He said: If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
As a small servant, necessarily in prison to carry out what I must do, I say with faith in the word of God that he will come soon.”However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Discipline yourself with faith in the word of God. Retain your souls with patience. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly.
May you are granted grace and blessings increasingly in the name of Lord Jesus Christ.
Lakan Prison in Rasht