I’ve had Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani on my mind a lot this week.
It’s hard not to: he’s been sentenced to hang for the crime of converting to Christianity when he was 19. He’s 34 now. First arrested in 2009 when he tried to follow the law by registering his church, he was tried and convicted in 2010, and the conviction was upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court.Given four opportunities to recant (do they consider that mercy?), he refused.
The trouble is, judges in Iran tend to be clerics who consider it their job to enforce a very fudamentalist version of Islamic law. Even a halfway progressive Muslim would not interpret the Quran so strictly as to pronounce a death sentence on one who leaves the faith, any more than Christians would enforce Old Testament law codes that call for stoning children who curse their parents or adults caught in adultery.
But, the clerics of Iran are determined to see it their way, and Nadarkhani’s faith stands in the way of their vision of a purely Islamic state.
Christian and political leaders around the world have begun clamoring for Nadarkhani’s release. It’s about time we joined them. Call your congressman. Write about it. Tweet it and Facebook it. Speak up, not just for Youcef Nardakhani, but for the freedom of all people to believe as their heart leads them.
[Photo from Associated Baptist Press]
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.