Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani

It is my moral obligation as a Jew to speak out on behalf of an Iranian Christian whom I have never met.

Imprisoned since October 2009, Yousef Nadarkhani was first accused of apostasy against Islam by the Islamic Republic of Iran.  In 2010 he was found guilty "and sentenced to death ... for abandoning the Islamic faith."  Yet, according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 18 includes a "provision for the right to 'have or to adopt' a religion, which has been interpreted authoritatively by the UN Human Rights committee as including the right to change one's religion."  Thus, Iran is violating its own obligations.  Furthermore, the Iranian constitution "sanctions Christianity as a legitimate minority faith."  Clearly, however, this did not matter as the Iranian Supreme Court sought to establish that Nadarkhani was still guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry.

Nadarkhani, who "leads a 400-person house church movement, refused in court on September 25, 2011 and September 26, 2011 to recant Christianity."  He had two more chances to recant on September 27, 2011 and September 28, 2011. 

Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has highlighted this case, as has House Speaker John Boehner, who urged "Iran's leaders to abandon this dark path, spare ... Nadarkhani's life, and grant him a full and unconditional release."

Journalist Michelle Malkin has asked the State Department several times if it would make a statement about the impending execution of Nadarkhani, and finally Secretary of State Clinton affirmed that the United States is "particularly concerned by reports that Christian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is facing execution on charges of apostasy for refusing to recant his faith.  This comes amid a harsh onslaught against followers of diverse faiths, including Zoroastrians, Sufis, and Baha'is."

The Christian Solidarity Worldwide group is urging people to send emails to the ambassador of Iran to add their voice to support Pastor Nadarkhani.  I sent my email this morning.

FrontPage Magazine asks what the Vatican, an "internationally recognized sovereign state with full diplomatic status," is doing to assist Nadarkhani.  In fact, according to author Kerry Patton, "[s]ince 2001 alone, there have been well over 2,000 innocent Christians brutally murdered by Muslims," yet "[n]ot once in any of the ... atrocities did the Vatican make a global outcry for the victims" that would "saturate international media news as they should have."  Why hasn't the Vatican spoken up on behalf of this Christian minister?

And now, in a most disingenuous display of arrogance, the Iranian state media has issued a statement that Nadarkhani is facing the death sentence not for apostasy, but for rape and extortion!

This, when in fact "there's been no mention of any other charges than apostasy in trial documents."  Is the Iranian government "actually leveling these new charges against [Nadarkhani, father of two] or just throwing out new accusations to try and deflect media attention"?  But the fact that the state-controlled Iranian media is even acknowledging the trial means that Iranian leaders are aware of the outcry around the world.  This could bode well for the pastor according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which reports that as of early Saturday October 1, 2011, the pastor was still alive.

Jews worldwide recite the prayer Avinu Malkenu during this penitential season.  The 44 verses of Avinu Malkenu begin with the words "Our Father Our King."  The prayer asks that G-d "close the mouths of our adversaries and accusers," "rid [the world] of every oppressor and adversary," and "nullify the designs of those who hate us."

On Yom Kippur, which begins on October 7, 2011 and ends on October 8, 2011, the Book of Life will be sealed for the coming year.  Let Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani be among those included because of the unremitting outcry from those who have the freedom to speak up and who do so.  As Malkin has written, "[e]very public condemnation counts.

Active in the 1970s writing campaign to free Russian Jewish refuseniks, Eileen continues to speak out against tyranny.  She can be reached at

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