Wednesday, October 5, 2011

128. Will Iran risk this execution?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 128 | Wed 05 Oct 2011

WILL IRAN RISK THIS EXECUTION?

By Elizabeth Kendal

As was reported in RLPB 127 (28 Sep 2011) the trial court has ruled that whilst Youcef Nadarkhani was not a practising Muslim before his conversion to Christianity, he is an apostate because of his Muslim ancestry. As mandated by the Supreme Court, Pastor Nadarkhani was brought before the trial court on 25, 26, 27 & 28 September and provided with a daily opportunity to renounce Christ and return to Islam. Those who maintain that this blatant disregard for religious liberty is contrary to Islam are wrong. Some schools of Islamic jurisprudence maintain that three opportunities should be provided on the grounds of Sura 4:137. Other schools of Islamic jurisprudence maintain that no opportunity should be given on the grounds of Sura 2:217 that deems fitna (anything that shakes the faith of a Muslim) worse than killing. Also the Hadith (sayings of Muhammad) is very clear: 'He who changes his [Islamic] religion, kill him.' (Sahih Al-Bukhari (9:57)) This is about Islam and politics: sanity has really nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, standing firm in his faith, Youcef Nadarkhani has refused each opportunity to renounce Christ and return to Islam.

The case has caused an outcry in the West -- not 'internationally', as is widely reported -- with Western leaders decrying the situation as appalling and demanding Pastor Nadarkhani's immediate release. But, it must be noted, no such outcry is emerging from the Muslim world or from the regimes behind emerging powers such as China or Russia, or from the UN. Furthermore, as noted in RLPB 126 (21 Sep), Iran is working hard to exploit the Arab uprisings with the aim of drawing Sunni Arab Islamists into the Iranian (political) axis. As Islam rises and Western leverage and influence declines, the Iranian regime may decide that a stand for Islam in defiance of the West can only profit them.

Now that the court has confirmed Nadarkhani is an apostate and sentenced him to death, the regime has three options. It may: (1) defiantly execute Pastor Nadarkhani for apostasy, making a stand for Islam in defiance of the 'colonialist' and 'Christian' West; (2) condemn Nadarkhani's apostasy, confirm his death sentence and then release him in a very public 'humanitarian' gesture before making sure he is quietly eliminated by the secret services. This is exactly what Iran did in 1994 in the case of Pastor Mehdi Dibaj. The Church will get the message, even if the Western political and journalistic elite do not. Or it may (3) change the charge to one that otherwise discredits the accused and evokes revulsion (such as rape), and for good measure throw in a charge that, according to the constitution, is punishable by death or life imprisonment (such as treason).

Presently it appears Iran is considering using strategy (3): the false charge -- used against Christianity from its earliest days. Today, all over the non-free world, the false charge remains the most common means of removing 'problematic' Christians. Christians currently languish in prisons in China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and elsewhere after being falsely charged and slandered as drug traffickers, swindlers, rapists, blasphemers and threats to national security.

The West needs to talk to Russia, Iran's Orthodox ally, to ensure that if any harm comes to Nadarkhani severe sanctions will make it costly for Iran. The Iranian regime will only execute Nadarkhani if they believe that in doing so they stand to gain more than they would lose. If Pastor Nadarkhani were executed or assassinated, it would indicate that the Iranian Church is facing a whole new level of defiant, politically motivated, unrestrained persecution by the regime.

Further to all this, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that on 14 September eleven Iranian Christians who had previously fled Iran received emailed threats from a group calling itself 'The Unknown Soldiers of the Hidden Imam [the Mahdi: the Shi'ite Messiah]'. The letter -- presumed to be from the Iranian secret police -- demanded that the Christians repent and return to Islam, warning that if they refuse they will be killed. The threats are being taken very seriously.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY --

* that God will redeem the suffering of Iran's Church, so that this persecution will actually have the opposite effect to what is intended. 'For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.' (Habakkuk 2:14 ESV)

Lord, have mercy on Iran.
Awaken its people to the truth: for the sake of the Church;
for the sake of multitudes who are lost;
and that God might be glorified throughout the world.

* that God will fill Youcef Nadarkhani, his family and church with a powerful outpouring of his Holy Spirit, that they will boldly exercise faith, know his peace, display his grace and reveal his majesty.

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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WILL IRAN RISK THIS EXECUTION?

From 25-28 September Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani resisted four opportunities to renounce Christ before an Iranian court and return to Islam. He therefore stands condemned as an unrepentant apostate sentenced to death. Due to the outcry emanating from the West, Iran is now considering altering the charge to rape and treason so they can maintain that nobody is being executed for religious belief. The Iranian regime will execute Pastor Nadarkhani only if they believe that would gain them more than they will lose: influence in the Islamic world versus sanctions. Furthermore eleven Iranian Christian refugees living abroad have received letters, presumably from the Iranian secret police, threatening them with death if they do not repent and return to Islam. Please pray for the Nadarkhani family and for the Church in Iran.