It’s a wonder he’s still alive. And just as astonishing to those inside Iran who know how these things go, shocking that the Ayatollah Khamenei has taken the case into his own hands to decide.
I spoke with the American Center for Law and Justice on radio to get the facts of this case straight and updated. There’s no doubt Youcef is still alive and his defense advanced because of the ACLJ and international religious leaders, government bodies and world media focusing attention on the threats to his life for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.
The Vatican is working quietly for his release.
Behind-the-scene efforts by the Holy See, among others, may be helping Youcef Nadarkhani, the Iranian Christian pastor who was tried for abandoning his Islamic faith.
“As is usual in these situations,” the Holy See has been communicating with “the Iranian authorities through diplomatic channels,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office, told the Register early this week…
Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, concurred that the Iranian government may finally be responding to intense international pressure.
Ghaemi firmly believes that the only thing standing between the pastor and the executioner’s chair “is a sustained international protest, which has started with a number of countries making a strong protest.”
At this stage, he continued, “what can save his life is for the Vatican and the Pope to come forward and call for his release, as well as U.N. human-rights officials, including Navi Pillay and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Sustained international protests and attention is the most likely hope for saving Nadarkhani’s life.”
Like Christians and other minority religious groups throughout much of the Muslim world, Iran’s minority communities — including up to 300,000 Christians and 300,000 Baha’i — face the growing threat of fundamentalist Islam.
In a column in the Kansas City Star, Jennifer Marshall, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, said the “increasing persecution” of Christians in the Middle East and their resulting emigration prompted the Catholic archbishop of Baghdad and other leaders to wonder “whether brutal religious oppression could extinguish Christianity in the region altogether.”
The ACLJ told me that’s a big concern that drives their advocacy. And two lead attorneys there, Jordan Sekulow and Tiffany Barrans, told me that international pressure is vital to the hope of protecting whatever religious freedom remains in the Middle East, where Christianity was born.
They strongly urged all people of goodwill to take action, and provide easy means to do that on their homepage by signing the petition or contacting Congress.
The bishops of North America are strongly urging the same thing.
Archbishop Brendan O’Brien of Kingston, chairman of the human rights committee of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, has called upon the government of Iran to respect the religious freedom of Youcef Nadarkhani, a Protestant pastor sentenced to death for converting from Islam. At a recent retrial, Nadarkhani refused repeated opportunities to renounce his conversion to Christianity.
“Now is the time to speak up and pray out loud for Christians placed in a stranglehold by oppression,” added Neville Kyrke-Smith, head of Aid to the Church in Need UK. “The decision to execute Pastor Nadarkhani is not justifiable in the name of any religion, it is a totalitarian act – one man’s life being ended to dissuade others from opposing the political regime … The Catholic community must not be struck dumb as such suffering goes on.”
Emphasis added. Because that warning has been recurring in my interviews lately on assaults to religious freedom and conscience rights: Christians tend toward passivity and silence in the face of grave danger, and there’s nothing the enemies of religious liberty want more than to silence them.