Iran: Christians pray for Youcef on 35th birthday
Published 11 April 2012
Christians around the world are praying for the release of an Iranian pastor sentenced to death for apostasy.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been in prison for three years since he was first arrested by the authorities in 2009 for protesting the compulsory teaching of Islam at his children’s school. The charge was later changed to apostasy.
A prayer vigil and day of fasting has been organised by Present Truth Ministries throughout Wednesday, the pastor’s 35th birthday.
Pastor Nadarkhani appealed the death sentence but it is believed that it has been upheld by the courts.
There are concerns that his execution is imminent and may be carried out without prior notification to his family or legal representatives.
Authorities reportedly allowed family to visit Nadarkhani in prison on 2 April, the day of his young son’s birthday.
Reports of the visit have been taken as proof that the pastor is still alive.
The American Center for Law and Justice said: “Not only does this mean that Pastor Youcef is still alive, but it is a precious reminder of what we are fighting for – freedom for a loving father, a devoted husband, a caring pastor, and a devout follower of Christ.”
There are conflicting reports about the date of Nadarkhani's birthday, with Christian Solidarity Worldwide reporting that it falls on 12 April.
Tomorrow's 12:30pm Eucharist at St Paul’s Cathedral is being dedicated to the pastor. It will be led by Canon Mark Oakley and the Rev Stuart Windsor, Special Ambassador for Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Canon Oakley said: "When one brother or sister in Christ suffers, all suffer. Our concern for Yousef and his family will be voiced under the dome of St Paul's and at the same time we call on the Iranian authorities to mercifully release this prisoner of conscience and to uphold both Iranian and international law in securing the equality and human rights of all Christian people in Iran."
Rev Windsor said: “We continue to call on the Iranian authorities to lift the death sentence, grant his immediate release and follow due process, ensuring respect for the right to freedom of religion.
"Pastor Nadarkhani’s case is likely to set a precedent for how such cases are treated in future and CSW remains concerned for the welfare of a number of Iranian Christians in prison who could face a similar fate.
"We encourage the church worldwide to unite in prayer for Iran’s Christians at this time of intensified persecution.”