A few weeks ago I wrote about Youcef Nadarkhani a Christian pastor in Iran who has been sentenced to death for the charge of apostasy, or believing in Christ, in a Muslim country. As of today (2/24/12) he has been illegally imprisoned for 865 days. Those 865 days means that since 2009 he has been away from his wife and two sons and held in captivity, all because of his faith.
Unfortunately the news about Youcef is not good and has taken a critical turn. The latest word from sources in Iran is that the government is moving forward with plans to execute Pastor Nadarkhani and that the execution could occur at any time. Pressure around the world for Nadarkhani’s release has increased this week towards Iran. Both the White House and the State Department have released statements in the last 24 hours calling for his release and religious and human rights groups have joined the cause. There is an online petition that I encourage you to consider signing to show your support. Please also continue to keep Pastor Nadarkhani and his family in your prayers.
“But no weapon that can hurt you has ever been forged. Any accuser who takes you to court will be dismissed as a liar. This is what God’s servants can expect. I’ll see to it that everything works out for the best”. Isaiah 54:17 (The Message)
Prayer is a powerful weapon and God’s people need to pray not only for Pastor Nadarkhani, but also for the many Christians in danger around the world.
The situation in Iran comes as that very country is highlighted this week by the mission group Open Doors as the country of the week on their World Watch List, a list of the top 50 countries around the world where Christians are most endangered because of their faith. Open Doors have a 5 Minute Challenge where they ask you to agree to pray weekly for a specific nation and its people. Over the course of the year the entire watch list is prayed for. I began the challenge this year as one of my 2012 faith action steps and each Monday look forward to the email highlighting the country to hold in prayer for the coming week. I invite you to join with me in actively and deliberately praying for persecuted Christians around the world. The more aware and attuned we become to the needs and challenges facing our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ around the world the more prepared we will be come to respond; first with prayer, then in other ways.
For those of us in the Western world we take for granted our ability to own a Bible, (or even own several versions and translations) attend any church we choose and watch religious programs on TV or hear them on the radio and Internet. In many countries our fellow Christians have to meet in secret and hide their faith for risk of persecution, imprisonment and even death. When you consider what some people have to do to live according to their faith in persecuted countries, it should make us all ashamed that we do not share our faith more here in the free world. Each of us needs to ask ourselves if we have a faith worth dying for and if we live that faith each and everyday.
Let’s do more than just pray for other countries around the world, let’s follow their example and live a faith worth dying for.