Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Martyr? UPDATED

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Martyr? UPDATED September 29, 2011

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

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