Youcef is 34 years old and is from Rasht, in the Gilan province of Iran. For the past ten years he has been a pastor in a network of house churches. He was previously imprisoned in December of 2006, the charges being apostasy (leaving Islam for Christianity) and evangelism (spreading the message of ), but was released two weeks later.
Please keep Pastor Youcef in prayer.
· Please pray that Pastor Youcef's courage and faith will continue to be an example to the world that the Lord is more valuable than any earthly reward.
· Please pray that his steadfast resolve to protect the integrity of the gospel message will lead others to salvation.
· Please pray for his release.
Encourage Pastor Youcef with a letter!
Let Pastor Youcef know that he is not forgotten and that Christians around the world are praying for him.
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN
Please note: When writing a letter, never mention the name of the source of your information or the name of any organization. Also, please do not state anything negative about their government.
A number of Western organizations and governments have issued statements in support of the release of Nadarkhani.
On October 29, 2010, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom asked President Barack Obama to press Iran for Nadarkhani's release. If the execution is carried out, Nadarkhani would be the first Christian executed for religious reasons in Iran in over 20 years.
On September 28, 2011 the Commission on International Religious Freedom stated:
"Despite the finding that Mr. Nadarkhani did not convert to Christianity as an adult, the court continues to demand that he recant his faith or otherwise be executed. The most recent court proceedings are not only a sham, but are contrary to Iranian law and international human rights standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party."
President Barack Obama's September 30, 2011 statement read:
"The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people. That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran's own international obligations."
On September, 28, 2011, British Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a statement condemning the imminent execution, stating
“I deplore reports that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Church leader, could be executed imminently after refusing an order by the Supreme Court of Iran to recant his faith. This demonstrates the Iranian regime’s continued unwillingness to abide by its constitutional and international obligations to respect religious freedom. I pay tribute to the courage shown by Pastor Nadarkhani who has no case to answer and call on the Iranian authorities to overturn his sentence.”
Amnesty International designated Nadarkhani a prisoner of conscience and urged his immediate release, stating, "It is shocking that the Iranian authorities would even consider killing a man simply for exercising his right to choose a religion other than Islam."
On October 1st, 2011 the Iran state media reported that Nadarkhani is facing the death sentence for rape and extortion, not for apostasy and refusing to renounce his religion, as his lawyer, human rights groups and Western news media have reported.
According to the government Fars News Agency in a 30 September story, Gholamali Rezvani, the Gilan Provincial Political/Security Deputy Governor, stated:
“Youcef Nadarkhani has security crimes and he had set up a house of corruption. ... Nobody is executed in our regime for choosing a religion, but he is a Zionist who has security crimes.”
In reply, Nadarkhani's lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran:
“If he is under trial in another court on other charges, I am not aware. But we only defended him against the death sentence in the case of his charge of apostasy. The charge the court staff announced that I defended during several different court sessions was apostasy and no other charge.”
In a ruling from the Iranian Supreme Court, translated into English by the Confederation of Iranian Students, Nadarkhani was sentenced to execution by hanging for, “turning his back on Islam” and “converting Muslims to Christianity.” The ruling also alleges that he also participated in Christian worship by holding home church services and baptizing himself and others, effectively breaking Islamic Law. There is no mention in the ruling of rape or extortion allegations.
According to Acts 2:9 in the Acts of the Apostles there were Persians, Parthians and Medes among the very first new Christian converts atPentecost. Since then there has been a continuous presence of Christians in Persia/Iran.
During the apostolic age, Christianity began to establish itself throughout the Mediterranean. However, a quite different Christian culture developed on the eastern borders of the Roman Empire and in Persia. Syriac Christianity owed much to preexistent Jewish communities and the Aramaic language. This language was most probably spoken by Jesus, and, in various modern forms is still spoken by the AssyrianChristians in Iran today (see Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and Senaya language). From Persian ruled Assyria (Assuristan), missionary activity established the Saint Thomas Christians of India and the Nestorian Stele and Daqin Pagoda in China.
Early Christian communities straddling the Roman-Persian border were in the midst of civil strife. In 313, when Constantine I proclaimed Christianity to be a tolerated religion in the Roman Empire, the Sassanid rulers of Persia adopted a policy of persecution against Christians, including the double-tax of Shapur II in the 340s. Christians were feared as a subversive and possibly disloyal minority. In the early 5th century official persecution increased once more. However, from the reign of Hormizd III (457–459) serious persecutions grew less frequent and the church began to achieve recognised status. Political pressure within Persia and cultural differences with western Christianity were mostly to blame for the Nestorian schism, in which the Persian church was labelled heretical. The bishop of the Persian capital, Ctesiphon, acquired the title first of catholicos, and then patriarch completely independent of any Roman/Byzantine hierarchy.
Persia is considered by some to have been briefly officially Christian. Khosrau I married a Christian wife, and his son Nushizad was also a Christian. When the king was taken ill at Edessa a report reached Persia that he was dead, and at once Nushizad seized the crown and made the kingdom Christian. Very soon the rumour was prove false, but Nushizad was persuaded by persons who appear to have been in the pay of Justinian to endeavour to maintain his position. The action of his son was deeply distressing to Khosrau; it was necessary to take prompt measures, and the commander, Ram Berzin, was sent against the rebels. In the battle which followed Nushizad was mortally wounded and carried off the field. In his tent he was attended by a Christian bishop, probably Mar Aba I, and to this bishop he confessed his sincere repentance for having taken up arms against his father, an act which, he was convinced, could never win the approval of Heaven. Having professed himself a Christian he died, and the rebellion was quickly put down.
Many old churches remain in Iran from the early days of Christianity. The Church of St. Mary in northwestern Iran for example, is considered by some historians to be the second oldest church in Christendom after the Church of Bethlehem in the West Bank. A Chinese princess, who contributed to its reconstruction in 642 AD, has her name engraved on a stone on the church wall. The famous Italian traveller Marco Polo also described the church in his visit.
The Islamic conquest of Persia, in the 7th century, was originally beneficial to Christians as they were a protected minority under Islam. However, from about the 10th century religious tension led to persecution once more. The influence of European Christians placed Asian Christians in peril during the Crusades. From the mid 13th century, Mongol rule was a relief to Persian Christians until the Mongols adopted Islam. The Christian population gradually declined to a small minority. Christians disengaged from mainstream society and withdrew into ethnic ghettos (mostly Aramaic and Armenian speaking).
In 1445, a part of the Assyrian Aramaic-speaking Church of the East entered into communion with the Catholic Church (mostly in the Ottoman Empire, but also in Persia). This group had a faltering start but has existed as a separate church since the consecration of Yohannan Sulaqa as Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon in 1553 by the pope. Most Assyrian Catholics in Iran today are members of the Chaldean Catholic Church. The Aramaic-speaking community that remains independent is the Assyrian Church of the East. Both churches now have much smaller memberships in Iran than the Armenian Apostolic Church.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Protestant missionaries began to evangelize Persia. Work was directed towards supporting the extant churches of the country while improving education and health care. Unlike the older, ethnic churches, these evangelical Protestants began to engage with the ethnic Persian Muslim community. Their printing presses produced much religious material in various languages. Some Persians subsequently converted to Protestantism and their churches still thrive within Iran (using the Persian language).
Due to the socio-economic and political pressures in the years following the Iranian Revolution, periods of outright persecution and times of more latent discrimination, many Iranian Christians, both as part of the general exodus of Iranians and as response to the specific pressures, have emigrated, mostly to the USA, Canada and Western Europe. In 2000, about 0.4% of Iran's population were Christians. In 1975, Christians numbered about 1.5% of the total population. Statistically, a much larger percentage of non-Muslims have emigrated out of Iran.
While the government guarantees the recognized Christian minorities a number of rights (production and sale of non-halal foods),guaranteed representation in parliament, special family law etc. government intrusion, expropriation of property, forced closure and persecution, particularly in the initial years after the Iranian Revolution, have all been documented. According to the Barnabas Fund, 'the regime rules through fear, and they want Christians to be afraid'. Most prominent has been the death of Haik Hovsepian Mehr, bishop of the Jamiat-e Rabbani, in 1994. Recently the continuing imprisonment of Hamid Pourmand, a lay pastor of Jammiat-e Rabbani, and the murder of Ghorban Tourani, the pastor of an independent evangelical church have created international concern. Youcef Nadarkhani is an Iranian Christian pastor who has been sentenced to death for refusing to recant his faith.
Iranian Christians tend to be urban, with 50% living in Tehran There are Satellite networks like Mohabbat TV and Sat7Pars that distribute educational and encouraging programs for Christians, especially targeting Persian speakers.
The Armenian orthodox Vank cathedralof Isfahan is a relic of the Safavid era.
A number of Christian denominations are represented in Iran. Many members of the larger, older churches belong to ethnic groups with their own distinctive culture and language. The members of the newer, smaller churches are drawn both from the traditionally Christian ethnic minorities and to an increasingly larger degree converts from non-Christian background.
The main Christian churches are:
§ Armenian Apostolic Church of Iran (between 110,000 and 250,000 adherents
§ Assyrian Church of the East of Iran (about 11,000 adherents),
§ Chaldean Catholic Church of Iran (about 7,000 adherents),
§ various other denominations, some examples are:
§ and the Anglican Diocese of Iran.
According to Operation World, there are between 7,000 and 15,000 members and adherents of the various Protestant, Evangelical and other minority churches in Iran, though these numbers are particularly difficult to verify under the current political circumstances.
The International Religious Freedom Report 2004 by the U.S. State Department quotes a somewhat higher total number of 300,000 Christians in Iran, and states the majority of whom are ethnic Armenians.
Iranian government sources are sometimes quoted as giving a total of as many as 300,000 Christians in Iran. At present there are 73 registered churches in Iran.