Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Martyr? UPDATED

Contrary to some of the hyped-up rhetoric I see in my email, and in the comboxes of those covering the lastest dustup between a prominent priest (who frankly seems to need a rest) and his bishop (who has asked him to take some time for recollection and prayer), ecclesial oversight and accountability to the bishop to which you’ve vowed obedience is not martrydom.

But if we needed an example that genuine martrydom is still happening, we might pay attention to this story which is getting much less attention from Christians than it deserves:

Just days after Iran released two Americans accused of spying, an Iranian court has upheld the apostasy conviction and execution sentence of Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.

The 11th branch of Iran’s Gilan Provincial Court has determined that Nadarkhani has Islamic ancestry and therefore must recant his faith in Jesus Christ. Iran’s supreme court had previously ruled that the trial court must determine if Youcef had been a Muslim before converting to Christianity.

However, the judges . . . acting like terrorists with a hostage, demanded that he recant his faith in Christ before even taking evidence. The judges stated that even though the judgment they have made is against the current Iranian and international laws, they have to uphold the previous decision of the 27th Branch of the Supreme Court in Qom. [...]

When asked to “repent” by the judges, Youcef stated, “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” The judges replied , “To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.” To which he replied, “I cannot.” (Emphasis mine) [...] Technically, there is no right of appeal, and under Iran’s interpretation of Hadith and Sharia law, Pastor Youcef is to be given three chances to recant. He has already been asked to recant twice, and will be asked to do so again Tuesday. If he does not recant his Christian faith, he could be executed at any time.

Read it all. Lots of links there, and a copy of a recent State Department statement on Religious Freedom.

I am not sure what good it will do, but you can email Secretary of State Clinton on the issue

Kathryn Jean Lopez notes Speaker Boehner’s response:

Religious freedom is a universal human right. The reports that Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani will be sentenced to death by the Iranian government unless he disavows his Christian faith are distressing for people of every country and creed. While Iran’s government claims to promote tolerance, it continues to imprison many of its people because of their faith. This goes beyond the law to an issue of fundamental respect for human dignity. I urge Iran’s leaders to abandon this dark path, spare Yousef Nadarkhani’s life, and grant him a full and unconditional release.

And, somewhat related, here in America

The state Department of Children and Family Services can begin canceling its adoption and foster care contracts with Catholic Charities, Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt ruled Monday.

Schmidt denied Catholic Charities’ emergency request to stay his earlier ruling that the group has no right to state contracts to provide such services. Schmidt also refused to reconsider that decision.

“I see no reason to issue that,” Schmidt said of the stay request and the reconsideration motion.

Catholic Charities next will turn to Illinois’ 4th District Appellate Court in hopes of staying Schmidt’s ruling, according to attorneys for Catholic Charities agencies associated with the Springfield, Peoria, Belleville and Joliet dioceses.

Catholic Charities says it faces irreparable harm if the contracts are canceled, including the possible layoff of hundreds of employees.

State officials did not renew the contracts after Catholic Charities said its religious principles do not allow it to place foster and adoptive children in the homes of unmarried couples, including those in civil unions.

UPDATE: Today is the feastday of the Holy Archangels. Perhaps we should ask their prayers on behalf of Christians under siege, and particularly Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who it is being reported has refused his last chance to recant and deny Christ

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Alexandrag

    Thank you for writing about Joucef. May we all pray for him. May we all pray for ourselves, as well, to have his courage as a witness for Christ.

  • dry valleys

    Yes, certainly a martyr, I don’t believe in his theology but in my view someone who has essentially died for freedom of conscience can be called a martyr.

    You see, this is what people really mean when they call for governments to be secular. The “laws” against blasphemy and apostasy in Islamic countries are objectionable in themselves, as surely anyone can see, for two reasons. (Which were especially seen in the cases in Pakistan).

    Firstly, in many cases, the accused haven’t actually done what they are accused of, and are the victims of petty grievances from the sort of person who would always denounce their enemies to a repressive state, and doubtless had fun settling scores under fascism or communism.

    Secondly, because it just is wrong in general to persecute people for their beliefs. (I’d add a third, more controversial but definitely what I think, which is that capital punishment shouldn’t be used in any circumstance).

    Of course I am both an atheist, and a secularist. In no case should there be either an established religion or persecution of religions, and if Iran were less of an unhapy country it would never enter anyone’s head to do such a thing. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani faced a similar situation, if you recall.

  • dry valleys
  • Kevin

    And they say Islam is a “religion of peace.”

  • Matthew

    And since St. Gabriel, whose feast is today, is the patron of Islamic peoples, let us ask his prayers for greater rationality and peace in the Muslim world.

  • http://facebook Betty McKenzie

    Please help this dear man receive justice.

  • Andrea Shea King

    Have you heard any official statement on the from the White House?



  • Richard A

    “Submission”, not “peace”.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    God bless this Christian pastor, and sustain him.

    And God bless you, Anchoress, for bringing up the subject of Christian persecution.

  • SKAY

    Thank you for this post, Anchoress. It is so heartbreaking.
    I am glad the Speaker released a sttatement and it would be nice to hear something from the White House–we Christians in America should not be silent about this evil.

    There is also a news story about an Iraqi Christian convert – from Islam – in St. Louis who publicaly supports Israel. In August he was attacked by muslims who stabbed him and carved a Star of David on his back. There have been no arrests.

    Religion of Peace? You are so right Richard A.

  • Greta

    This is a chance for those who claim to be the majority of Muslims to stand up and make their voices heard loud and clear to stop this persecution. If indeed their religion is not aligned and the same as those who they call a minority distorting their faith, stand up now. Has their been anything from CAIR on this issue? Demand that President Obama get involved now and call on the UN to stop this or face severe action on our part up to and including the use of military action. What better issue for our President to show he is Christian and not Muslim?

    For any who still have some thought that there is a distance or separation of the moderate muslim from the Islamists, here should be solid proof that there is in reality nothing there but hidden radical views and support of this type of action.

  • JARay

    I get the odd email from someone called Wilson who has a blog which reports on the harrasment of Christians in Pakistan. I received one such email yesterday. In it he reports on a young christian schoolgirl who was beaten because she made a tiny mistake in a test on Islam. She missed out a full-stop in her answer. Her family has now had to go into hiding and the girl has been expelled from school.
    You can read the story here:-
    This blog regularly reports on such incidents and the family of Wilson…who lives in England…has been targeted in Pakistan because of his activities in reporting such harrasment.
    Sorry that I don’t know how to give the link directly to the blog. You will have to enter the details yourself in order to access the blog.

  • Manny

    “When asked to “repent” by the judges, Youcef stated, “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” The judges replied , “To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.” To which he replied, “I cannot.”

    What a noble man. May God help him through this.

  • Billiamo

    I just knew you’d write about brave Pastor Nadarkhani, Elizabeth. Thank you.

  • sj

    Right here, Andrea:

    It was read by White House press secretary Jay Carney at the daily briefing early this afternoon.

  • Evvy

    we pray for you pastor Jesus always Bless you

  • nan

    Well THAT will fix it. A strongly worded statement from the White House.

  • walden

    Ask to builder of the Islamic masque at world trade center, about this. They want our submission. They will never get it. That mosque will stand in the future as the symbol of insolence and terror and shamelessness.

  • kenneth

    The fact that a cancelled DCFS contract can be likened to an act of real martyrdom tells me that the Catholic right in this country has finally released its last tenous hold on reality.

    “Dear Pastor Youcef. While we as American Christians sympathize with your plight and admire your willingness to die for Christ, please understand that we too are doing all we can to survive. While we appreciate that execution for one’s beliefs can, at times, be stressful, we ask that you keep things in perspective. We all have our crosses to bear. Why, just the other day, Christians in this country faced a legal ruling that will TRIM THEIR GOVERNMENT ENTITLEMENTS!”

    [Yeah, because the fundamental constitutional right to Freedom of Religion, that's an "entitlement." -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Speaking of the Ground Zero Moseque. . . it would be nice if the builders would raise some money to help Pastor Yousef, and/or persecuted Christians, and use some of their influence to speak out on their behalf.

    (Kenneth, it’s not about the contract, per se; it’s about religious freedom. And, no, while it’s not as dire as what Pastor Yousef is facing, it feels like a harbinger of things to come. And, no, religious freedom is not an entitlement.)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I am glad the White House released a statement on Pastor Yousef; if Obama himself were to speak out on it, it would probably carry more weight.

  • kenneth

    We are talking about an entitlement insofar as Anchoress and others are asserting a right by the Church to get paid for not doing a job. That’s “big W” welfare.

    Freedom of religion is expansive, like all Bill of Rights freedoms, but it is not absolute. It has never been construed as a right to be exempted from all civil law that disagrees with one’s conscience. No court has ever construed it that way, and until one does, it is patently absurd to call Catholic Charities unfortunate experience “persecution.” They don’t have a fundamental right to get paid for breaking the law or a fundamental right to engage in the adoption business.

    The courts are not taking any rights away from them. They are correctly ruling that their rights to religion do not go as far as Catholic Charities asserts. Not getting one’s way 100% of the time is called life, not persecution. To then liken that setback in any way to the plight of this poor Iranian man crosses the line from the merely absurd into the disgusting, quite frankly. It is a cynical and sleazy manipulation of people’s fears.

    [Phoniness. "Not getting one's own way 100% of the time is called life, not persecution". Freedom of Religion supercedes laws written expressly in opposition to that right. If you want to upend a right, you amend the constitution, you don't make a law that encroaches on the right, and then tell people that they are breaking the law, and to shut up. You're mixing up who, exactly, is seeking "entitlements." And you don't find it at all ironic that the same government that put out a strong statement against Iran's encroaching on a man's religious choices is encroaching on it's own citizenry?-admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    It’s just the beginning, Kenneth. What other businesses, and social endeavors, is the government going to decide Christian, and Catholic, charites should not be involved in?

    In fact, when did the government get into the adoption business, period? When did it become the government’s job to punish those who do not agree with placing children in the homes of unmarried couples, or same-sex partners?

    (And is this really a good social policy for the government to be championing? Or are we just supposed to be silent now, about all social policies we disagree with, in case we get fired, lose our funding, get in trouble, etc.?)

    What next? Is the government going to start going after other religious charities, even they receive no government funding whatsoever, because they have the “wrong” view on unmarried heterosexual couples, or same sex couples, or how to raise children, and, after all, isn’t the government the one now in charge of deciding what’s right, and what’s wrong?

    Apparently, Catholic Charities doesn’t have the right to be, well—Catholic.

    As I’ve said before—you don’t particularly like Christians, judging by your posts, especially Catholics, and your support of same sex marriage blinds you to the dangers involved in some of these issues. You dismiss it as “Cynical” and “Sleazy”—well, that’s your opinon. But oppression happens in small steps sometimes, not with tanks and marching soldiers and crazed tyrants.

  • Kay

    ‎”The White House released a statement on Thursday, stating that Nadarkhani “has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for people.” It continues: “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,” read the statement. The White House made this statement YESTERDAY.

  • kenneth

    Actually, Rhinestone, oppression happens most often when people manipulate fear and anger and convince majorities that they’re persecuted and are therefore entitled to “do something” about it.

    Christian and Catholic charities (and for that matter those of any other religions), ought not to get involved with any business where they are unable to follow the law due to preference or conscience. Adoption has been government regulated for many many decades and with good reason. It became policy to consider placement with same sex couples when our society came to the legal and scientific consensus that such people are just as capable of good parenting as hetero couples.

    The government isn’t punishing Catholic Charities in any way. It’s refusing to continue hiring them to do a job in which they refuse to carry out its core duties according to standards. If I took a job in a Catholic school as a religion teacher and then refused to teach the Catechism, could I then sue and claim a right to keep that job based on the idea that teaching your religion would infringe my religious rights? Of course not.

    Catholic Charities has a right to be Catholic. They don’t have a right to be Catholic on the government dime or to claim that exemption from all civil law is required to reasonably exercise their faith.

    It is also absurd to suggest that Christians or Catholics are in some real danger of the government “going after” them for expressing beliefs that are unpopular or out of official favor. This country has a very strong legal tradition of upholding those rights. Lots of groups which are highly critical of government policies and/or highly unpopular manage to exist and even maintain tax exemption in this country.

    As for my not liking Catholics, I just don’t happen to have much respect for any privileged majority group who believes they are entitled to absolute and permanent hegemonic power over culture and law and who then cries “persecution” any time they have to make any concession to pluralism. And yes, I do happen to think conflating real martyrdom with a dispute over a government contract is cynical and sleazy. These two events are not even in the same solar system of factual or moral magnitude, and yet we can’t even do this guy the honor of engaging his story on its own merits. We have to mine it for its value in spinning an unrelated partisan agenda….

  • Brian English

    “Not getting one’s way 100% of the time is called life, not persecution. To then liken that setback in any way to the plight of this poor Iranian man crosses the line from the merely absurd into the disgusting, quite frankly. It is a cynical and sleazy manipulation of people’s fears.”

    Really? Perhaps you should explain that to the gay rights fanatics in Illinois, who, despite having 45 other adoption agencies that would assist them in adoptions, insist on driving Catholic Charities out of adoptions.

    The Catholic Church has been taking care of orphans for 2,000 years. Forcing it out of that traditional role in order to aid a political agenda is persecution. Those who support that persecution are anti-Catholic bigots. (I know you don’t care about that).

    “It became policy to consider placement with same sex couples when our society came to the legal and scientific consensus that such people are just as capable of good parenting as hetero couples.”

    When did society come to that “legal and scientific consensus”? Do you have any long-term studies to cite , and/or that didn’t involve self reporting by the participants? Just as with the 1973 decision by the APA to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, the consensus you refer to was not based upon any scientific evidence, but on political pressure.

    “Lots of groups which are highly critical of government policies and/or highly unpopular manage to exist and even maintain tax exemption in this country.”

    Come on. We all know the way this is supposed to play out. The idea is to equate disapproval of gay acts with racism (Gay marriage = the Loving case; DADT = Truman integrating the military). You then use the Bob Jones University tax exemption decision as precedent to strip the Church and the Evangelicals of their tax exemptions because they do not promote the public good.

    [It is worth noting that infringements upon FUNDAMENTAL constitutional rights, like the Freedom of Religion are palatable to some, only because they dislike religion. But the precedent being established to make "exceptions" to these rights (and to mischaracterize them as "not always getting what you want) will eventually be used to make "exceptions" to the fundamental rights to free speech and free assembly. Of course, some people will be happy to see those rights dismantled, too, as long as the speech being infringed upon is not theirs. When you have reached the point where you don't mind seeing the definitive rights of the nation being doled out to only the "proper" people, then you've sort of moved beyond Americanism, and begun to embrace a totalitarian mindset. -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Excellent post, Brian!

    And, of course, once the evangelical, and other Christian groups, have been stripped of their tax exemptions, they can continue demonizing them, and painting them as enemies of society, equivalent to Southern racists who believed in segregation, because they do not approve of same sex marriage, gays in the military, etc.

    Our government has legal traditions, yes; but tradtions can change. We’ve seen that throughout the 20th-21st Centuries.

    Also interesting, the way Kevin blames minorities, rather than majorities, for causing oppressionby manipulating “fear and anger”, and convincing the majority that they’re oppressed; y’see, it’s all those bad people who won’t go along with the “Legal and scientific consensus” who are to blame! They’re the ones making trouble, with their quest for hegamonic power! They’re forcing us to go after them! It’s not that we dislike them, it’s that we just don’t respect them!

    As for not being respectful of this poor pastor’s threatened martyrdom. . . the Anchoress made one, brief comment about this issue at the end of her lengthy post about his plight; you’re the one who became enraged, and started going on about politics.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    And, as you point out, Brian, gays do have 45 other adoption agencies they can go to; why this need to drive the Catholic one out of business, especially during the current economic crisis? What is this going to accomplish, except throwing more people out of work, and into unemployment? How does this help anybody? How does having a Christian adoption agency hurt the secular ones? There are plenty of the latter.

    But, of course, this is because this whole thing is supposed to play out as disapproving of gay = racism; as you said, this is how it is supposed to play out. There has to be the legal precedent. Why? Well, maybe so they can go on to the next step. . .

    Pastor Yousef is in trouble with the Iranians, not because he’s one, individual man they happen to find troublesome, but because he is a Christian, and they want to make an example of him to other Christians, who might be thinking of getting “uppity”. While we’re not suffering as horribly as he, and Christians in other countries are, we’d be fools to think it couldn’t possibly happen to us, someday.