Thursday, July 12, 2012
By Dr. Chuck Missler Koinonia House
After 1000 days, Yousef Nadarkhani is still imprisoned in Iran, threatened with execution. While his death penalty was upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court in July of 2011, he remains alive and faces new, unspecified charges at a trial September 8th.
Nadarkhani was 19-years-old when he gave his life to Christ, and he spent many years building house churches in Iran. After he complained that his son was being taught the Koran at school, he was arrested; because he was raised by Muslim parents, the Islamic government of Iran considers him an apostate and worthy of death.
The U.S. State Department has criticized Iran for its mistreatment of Christians and for the lack of religious freedom in the country. “Pastor Nadarkhani still faces the threat of execution for simply following his faith, and we repeat our call for Iranian authorities to release him immediately,” said a statement from State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
A great deal of international attention has been paid to Nadarkhani, one Christian man imprisoned for his faith, and churches across the world have been praying for him. It may seem that this is an unfair focus on one man when many thousands are being persecuted in different countries. Yet, because he has received such international notice, it is anticipated that he has a large spiritual target on his chest. Through his arrest and his ongoing story of faithful trust in God, Nadarkhani is witnessing to the entire world, and we know the power of God is much greater than any enemy attack. Pastor Nadarkhani truly needs serious prayer—prayer for strength and wisdom, grace and protection for him and his family, but also thanks to God for the grace and mercy in Nadarkhani’s life the past 1000 days and in the days ahead.
As we Christians pray for Nadarkhani, we should also pray for other imprisoned Iranian Christians. The authorities have been doing raids on home fellowships, arresting believers and keeping them incarcerated for months and years before trying them in court. A man named Farshid was convicted this April after 16 months in jail. Believers Hadi and Alireza from the town of Neishabour, Vahid from Mashhad, and Mehrdad from Tehran were all arrested in May, and many others were arrested in February.
It can be dangerous to be a Christian anywhere, even in predominantly Christian Kenya where there is great religious freedom. Masked men killed 17 Christians and wounded at least 60 more in attacks on two separate Kenyan churches July 1. The men tossed grenades into the churches and then stormed in with assault rifles, shooting church members in the northern town of Garissa. Last fall, the Kenyan government began attacking the al Qaeda-linked Islamic group al-Shabab in Somalia, basing the operation out of Garissa. Police suspect al-Shabab sympathizers in the recent terror attack.
“This is the worst single attack since October, when our troops went into Somalia,” national police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told Reuters. “It is the worst in terms of the numbers killed, the manner of execution, the anger behind it and the anguish it has aroused, as well as the national impact it has had.”
The Christians in the churches vowed to fight back through prayer and not physical weapons.
Police interrupted a summertime home Sunday school program for children in the Chinese city of Urumqi on July 2, taking 70 children and their seven teachers into custody. Parents and school principals were called in and questioned as well. The children have been released, but the seven Sunday school teachers are still being detained.
“To prevent children from having access to religious education in the faith of their parents is a direct contravention of the U. N. Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981) and U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) which was adopted by China in 1992,” said ChinaAid’s founder and president, Dr. Bob Fu.
There is a new leader in North Korea, but things have yet to improve for the country’s Christians. Believers are considered “potential security threats,” and any persons caught evangelizing are arrested.
Those who have escaped North Korea describe a series of abuses and executions of those who serve Jesus Christ. According to International Christian Concern, defectors have brought the following types of stories out of the country with them.
- In June, 2009, a woman named Ri Hyon Ok was publicly executed because she had been handing out Bibles. Her entire family, including parents, husband and children were sent to prison camps shortly afterward.
- May, 2010: Three Christians were executed and 20 others sent to a political prison camp for gathering together in a home church in Pyongsong City.
- October, 2011: South Koreans helping North Korean defectors were attacked with poison needles by North Korean agents. One man, Pastor Patrick Kim, died as a result of the attack.
- May, 2012: Chinese authorities are coming against South Korean churches inside the Chinese border, oppressing the churches because they have been helping those fleeing over the border from North Korea.
Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani represents one of a multitude of faithful Christians who serve God even at the risk of arrest and execution, beatings and shootings and imprisonment in horrible conditions. May we continue to pray for Pastor Nadarkhan and, with him, the many precious believers around the world who suffer for the Gospel. We need to pray for the Spirit’s wisdom, for peace and power, for freedom, and for the protection and strength of the persecuted and their families. We do not know; we may one day need these prayers ourselves.