Iranian pastor gets appeal
still faces death penalty, prayers, pressure, and support still needed.
In a move which possibly reveals the effect of significant pressure, Iran's Supreme Court has ordered a retrial for a Christian pastor sentenced to death for refusing to convert to Islam.
This hanging, of a woman, demonstrates the compassion of Iran's justice system. a tremendous amount of prayer and pressure is needed to end this kind of brutality.
Youcef Nadarkhani, a 32-year-old Christian pastor working in Iran, was arrested in October 2009 and sentenced to death for converting to Christianity. Iranian state media originally accused him of a variety of charges including, rape, extortion, and espionage, but his current charges are apostasy and evangelism to Muslims.
The case has been referred to Iran's supreme leader, something that might not have happened if the case had not gained international support. The pressure from the international community on Iran has been substantial. In addition to prayers, international human rights, political, and Christian organizations have all been tirelessly petitioning the Iranian government for leniency in the case. World governments have also made formal complaints to Iran.
Despite the petitions and protests, the lower Iranian courts sentenced Nadarkhani to death because in Iran, to convert from Islam to Christianity is a capital offense. Nadarkhani, however contends that he has been a lifelong Christian.
It is difficult to say with any degree of accuracy just what is going on in Nadarkhani's case. The Iranian legal system is notoriously secretive and it is common for the media to announce that people have been convicted for a variety of crimes for which they would have not actually been tried. Iran is also notorious for its brutal application of the death penalty. So far Nadarkhani has faced hanging as the most likely method of his execution. Such executions in Iran are typically public affairs, with individuals being crudely hanged by devices that have not been designed for the purpose.
One popular form of hanging in Iran involves transporting the condemned in the bed of a pickup truck and having a noose suspended by a crane tied around their neck. The truck pulls away leaving the condemned to dangle free and to die a miserable death. This appears to be about as compassionate as Iranian Islamic justice can get.
Recently, the world has begun to scrutinize Iran's policies, particularly how they dispense justice. For a country that wants to enter the world political arena as a modernized first-world power, they clearly have a lot of work to do. The government is rife with corruption and Islamic intolerance, while the people of the country are finding themselves increasingly embarrassed by its antics.
Supporters of Nadarkhani say that without the high level of publicity and international pressure brought in this case, Nadarkhani would likely have been executed.
Iranian government officials defend their prosecution of Nadarkhani, as well as the imposition of the death penalty. They say that to escape death, all Nadarkhani needs to do is renounce his face. An absurd proposition for a true believer in any faith, particularly Christianity.
It is hoped that Nadarkhani remains strong in his faith, despite his long confinement in an Iranian prison, that the prayers and international pressure on the Iranian government continue, and that miraculous change sweeps the region so that the Iranian people can rightfully take a place of respect in the international community.
© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Youcef Nadarkhani, Iran, Supreme Court, appeal, death penalty, Christian pastor, apostasy
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