During this week’s UN General Assembly Debate, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States (aka. the Vatican’s Foreign Minister) focused attention on continued religious persecution of Christians around the world.
Unfortunately, there were numerous situations in which religious freedom was limited or denied, he said. Christians suffered the most persecution worldwide because of their faith, and a joint commitment to promote the religious freedom of each individual of each religion was important, with measures for secure lives for minorities and those of all faiths and beliefs. There were countries that promoted great pluralism and tolerance but perceived religion as destabilizing and marginalized. Yet, the sincere search for God had brought larger respect for the dignity of man.
One such example of religious persecution is Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, head of a group of Christian house churches in Iran. Pastor Nadarkhani was convicted of the crime of apostasy and facing execution. The Washington Post reports:
If carried out, the execution would mark the first time since 1990 that an Iranian pastor was killed for his Christian faith.
“Despite the finding that Mr. Nadarkhani did not convert to Christianity as an adult, the court continues to demand that he recant his faith or otherwise be executed,” said Leonard Leo, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. “The most recent court proceedings are not only a sham, but are contrary to Iranian law and international human rights standards.”
Pastor Nardarkhani has refused to recant his Christianity and convert to Islam. From the American Center for Law and Justice, Fox News Reports
the judges in the case, according to the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), demanded that Nadarkhani recant his Christian faith before submission of evidence. Though the judgment runs against current Iranian and international laws and is not codified in Iranian penal code, the judge stated that the court must uphold the decision of the 27th Branch of the Supreme Court in Qom.
When asked to repent, Nadarkhani stated: “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”
“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge replied, according to the American Center for Law & Justice.
“I cannot,” Nadarkhani said.
The White House has condemned the possible execution. We should all stand in solidarity with Pastor Nardarkhani and remember our brothers and sisters facing persecution and martyrdom.