The Rev. Franklin Graham denounced the looming execution of an Iranian pastor sentenced to hang because he won’t renounce his Christian faith and embrace Islam.
|The Rev. Franklin Graham: "A man is sentenced to be killed for the ‘crime’ of a sincere belief in Jesus Christ — a sentence in clear violation of international law. So where is the international outrage?"
International officials will be complicit in the death of Pastor Yosef Nadarkhani if they don’t join House Speaker John Boehner, the White House, and others in demanding a reversal of the sentence, said Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse.
Pastor Yosef Nadarkhani refused to recant his Christian faith in an Iranian court for the third and final time Wednesday.
"I am resolute in my faith and Christianity and have no wish to recant," he insisted, knowing full well that doing so could result in his death.
|Pastor Yosef Nadarkhani refuses to renounce his faith.
Nadarkhani's lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, said at the time that the panel of five judges will decide within a week whether to confirm the 34-year-old pastor's execution for apostasy. In this case, the apostasy is interpreted as abandoning Islam.
In addition, the original indictment against Nadarkhani, a father and evangelical pastor who became a Christian at age 19, accused him of organizing evangelistic meetings, sharing his faith, trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, running a house church, and rejecting Islamic values.
But Iranian officials now appear to be trumping up the charges after the fact, because they just amended the indictment to include allegations of rape, extortion, and national security, as well as accusing Nadarkhani of Zionism.
Critics of Iran’s judicial system consider the additional charges to be a cynical maneuver intended to stifle international condemnation of Iran’s prosecution of Nardarkhani for his faith, as this is the first time such allegations have surfaced since he was arrested in 2009 and tried last year.
“His crime is not, as some claim, converting others to Christianity. He is guilty of security-related crimes,” Gholomali Rezvani, the deputy governor of Gilan province, said, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.
Nadarkhani “is a Zionist and has committed security-related crimes,” Rezvani said in a separate statement, CNN reported.
Regardless of those desparate Iranian court machinations, Graham, the son of world-renowned evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, declared: “It is unfathomable to most thinking people that a person in the 21st century can be put to death simply for espousing a faith that differs from that of his nation's ruling powers. Belief cannot be prescribed or proscribed. Faith is the most basic, fundamental right of every human being.
“While this kind of religious intolerance from the Islamic government and so-called justice system in Iran [Sharia law] doesn't surprise me, the initial virtual silence of the international community does,” said Graham, who warned in a Newsmax interview
in March that radical Islam endangers Christians worldwide. “A man is sentenced to be killed for the ‘crime’ of a sincere belief in Jesus Christ — a sentence in clear violation of international law. So where is the international outrage?”
“The international community is complicit in Iran's outrage if our leaders remain silent,” said Graham, who acknowledged that “Boehner was one of the first leaders here in the U.S. to speak out against the atrocity of the Iranian court's sentence” and the White House did, as well.”
reported last week, Boehner voiced outrage at the sentence and said, "I urge Iran's leaders to abandon this dark path, spare Yosef Nadarkhani's life, and grant him a full and unconditional release.
"Religious freedom is a universal human right," the Ohio Republican said, adding that the potential execution is “distressing for people of every country and creed."
"While Iran's government claims to promote tolerance, it continues to imprison many of its people because of their faith. This goes beyond the law to an issue of fundamental respect for human dignity," Boehner said.
Similarly, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams "deep concern" at the sentence and the general persecution of religious minorities in Iran.
The Obama administration, which had deplored the death sentence when it first came to light in June, also condemned last week’s action and called for the pastor’s release. “A decision to impose the death penalty would further demonstrate the Iranian authorities’ utter disregard for religious freedom, and highlight Iran’s continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
Also expressing outrage was British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who said, “This demonstrates the Iranian regime’s continued unwillingness to abide by its constitutional and international obligations to respect religious freedom. I pay tribute to the courage shown by Pastor Nadarkhani who has no case to answer and call on the Iranian authorities to overturn his sentence.”
As the Iranian judges continue to weigh the pastor’s fate this week, Graham called for worldwide pressure to release the pastor.
“U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and others on the world stage should take immediate action to condemn the sentence imposed on Pastor Nadarkhani,” he said. “We, as U.S. citizens, must join our voices to continue to press world leaders to take action. Pastor Nadarkhani's life hangs in the balance.
“Matthew's Gospel tells us, ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Pastor Nadarkhani will certainly be blessed for his unwavering faith when he stands before God. But I hope that Christians across America will join me in praying for his rescue in this life as well,” Graham said.
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