http://www.barnabasfund.org . Youcef Nadarkhani (33), father of two and a pastor in the northern city of Rasht in Iran, has been sentenced to death for apostasy.
He was arrested in October 2009 after he objected to the teaching of Islam to Christian children in schools and was held in detention until his trial in September 2010. He was formally charged with apostasy and has now been sentenced to death, receiving a written verdict and sentence on November 13. Apostasy – or renouncing Islam – is not a crime under Iran’s penal code, but the system makes provision for judges to draw on fatwas and Islamic sources where national law is silent. Islamic law states that an adult male apostate should be given the death sentence. Youcef’s lawyer lodged an appeal against the sentence with Iran’s Supreme Court on December 5.
Although born to Muslim parents, Youcef denies apostasy, saying that he accepted no religion before becoming a Christian aged 19. Nevertheless, according to Islamic law, the child of Muslim parents is considered a Muslim. The indictment against him states, “He has proven 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.”
Unless the sentence is overturned, Youcef will become the first person in 20 years to be executed for apostasy in Iran. The last person to be given the death sentence for apostasy was Hossein Soodmand, who was hanged in 1990. It is feared that this is part of a growing campaign against Christians and in particular converts from Islam, following a speech by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Speaking to a crowd in Qom on October 19, Khamenei warned against the network of house churches that “threaten Islamic faith and deceive young Muslims”.
Youcef’s wife Fatemeh Passandideh was also arrested, in June, and sentenced to life imprisonment. She was released on appeal in October after four months in prison.
- Pray that the Lord will bring peace to Youcef and his family throughout this ordeal. Pray that he will be cleared of all charges and released from prison by the Supreme Court.
- Pray for pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani (33) from Shiraz, Iran, who is also facing a possible indictment for apostasy.
- Pray that Iranian Christians will be free to worship Christ without fear of punishment under the Islamic law of apostasy.