Praise the Lord, Yousef Nadarkhani has been freed!
On September 8, 2012 after 3 years of imprisonment and over a year of intense global advocacy and activism, Yousef Nadarkhani was set free and allowed to rejoin his family. The Jubilee Campaign wants to thank all of those who prayed, signed the petitions, and gave financially to support the campaign to free Yousef Nadarkhani. We urge you to continue praying for Yousef Nadarkhani and his family. While they have been freed, now they must decide if they will attempt to flee the country. While we are sure that Pastor Yousef would prefer to stay with his flock, the high profile nature of this case may put him, his family, and his church in extreme danger as long as they remain in Iran. Pray that God would grant him wisdom.
Religious minorities in Iran face some of the worst societal discrimination and government harassment in the world. Minorities such as Christians and Baha’is are snatched off the streets by security forces to be imprisoned and tortured for their ‘deviant’ beliefs. Even minority Muslim groups such as the Sufis face public lashings to punish and humiliate them.
Despite the religious freedom guarantees in Iran’s constitution, which includes a parent’s right to raise his child under the family’s religious teachings, every child in Iran faces mandatory indoctrination in the specific version of Islam favored by the elite Islamic clergy that rules the country. Pastor Yousef protested the indoctrination of his children and was promptly arrested in his hometown of Rasht on October 13, 2009.
During his imprisonment the Iranian authorities used every means at their disposal to try to force Pastor Yousef to deny his faith. In addition to the ever-present threat of death, they held him incommunicado, tortured him, imprisoned his wife and threatened his children. Even his lawyer, Mohammad Dadkah, a valiant Muslim advocate for human rights, was suspended from practicing law and sentenced to 9 years in prison for supporting the cause of freedom in Iran.
After years in prison, the Iranian Supreme Court remanded Pastor Yousef’s case back to the local court that initially sentenced him to death. In violation of international law and Iran’s own constitution, the Iranian court once again sentenced Pastor Yousef to death on September 25, 2011.
In its arrogance the Iranian government discounted the implications of publicly violating one the most basic rights of the human soul. Free people all over the world were shocked and outraged by this travesty. Many found it hard to believe that in this day and age, a government would publicly condemn a man to death solely for his religious convictions, and they called Iran to account for its violation of the most basic international covenants.
Faced with an international incident, the state court of Gilan Section 11 appealed to the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran. Caught between people of good conscience demanding Yousef’s release and bloodthirsty extremists throughout the Iranian government demanding his death, Khamenei has engaged in a variety of delaying tactics.
However Khamenei’s hesitation gave us the most valuable weapon of all—time. By March 2012, our campaign gathered over 20,000 signatures which were delivered to the Iranian embassy in Den Hague. Jubilee Campaign’s petition was but one among many efforts calling for his release. Faced with increasing international pressure and a twitter campaign run by the ACLJ which reached even into Iran, the Iranian government was forced to step back.
Then in September, after months of silence, the Iranian government summoned Yousef Nadarkhani to another hearing. At this hearing, the apostasy charge was withdrawn, and replaced by lesser charges which could be commuted to time served. Finally, after 3 years away from his family, Pastor Yousef was able to meet his family and restart his life. We pray for God’s continued hand of protection over his life, and we rejoice that this man has been freed.