Evangelical Iranian pastor facing execution stands strong amid government clampdown
An evangelical pastor in Iran who faces execution for refusing to denounce his faith said recently he has no regrets and urged Christians to be strong amid a government clampdown.
Youcef Nadarkhani, 33, said in a recent missive that he has no regrets, and that Christians should remain faithful to Jesus Christ even in the midst of persecution.
Nadarkhani wrote in his latest missive that a church must be based “on the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ … for beyond the protection of the Word of God the destroyer destroys,” Worthy News reported. “Let believers, who are heirs of the glory, be examples for others in order to be a witness of the power of Christ for the world and the future.”
Nadarkhani was told by Iran’s Supreme Court last month that he could face execution if he refuses to return to Islam. (See http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2011/07/u-s-state-department-slams-iran-for-forcing-christian-pastor-to-choose-between-faith-and-death-16485/).
In a separate development, the families of two Christian converts in Iran, who were arrested on July 15 and beaten up for their faiths, still have no information of their exact whereabouts and state of health.
The families of Vahid Rofegar and Reza Kahnamoei, Azeri-speaking Christians who live in Tabriz city, have been trying to establish contact with the men.
Most recently, they heard that Rofegar and Kahnamoei were transferred to a prison in Abhar city and are being kept in separate cells. However, they know little else.
Arrested and beaten
Rofegar and Kahnamoei were riding a motorbike in Kalibar City, in Eastern Azerbaijan province last month when policemen spotted them. When the Christians realized they were being followed they sped up, but lost control of their motorcycle and catapulted to the ground.
An eyewitness told Mohabat News, “The police arrested and beat them and finally transferred them into a jail (in Kalibar). Even though Reza’s leg was badly hurt, the officers didn’t care about his injuries and didn’t provide any medical assistance.”
Initially, the families of the two men had no information of their whereabouts or the state of their health. It was only when they sought help from organizations that police informed them that the two men would be set free by July 31.
Despite this, the two men have not returned home. It has been learned that Rofegar and Kahnamoei were transferred to a prison in Abhar city, and are being kept in separate cells.
Stepped up pressure
Rofegar and Kahnamoei’s arrests comprise part of an overall effort to step up pressure on Christians in Iran, especially those who speak Azeri. Pro-government websites have stated this, and complain of the “wide spread of Christianity, especially in the city of Tabriz,” Mohabat News reported.
The stepped up pressure has been blamed on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration, which views Christianity as a growing threat. In 1979 less than 500 converts to Christianity from Islam were known in Iran. To date, numbers of Christian converts from Islam range at over 100,000.