Many years ago I had opportunity to visit a childhood friend in Kingston Penitentiary, one of Canada's most notorious prisons. It's not a nice place. I've never been imprisoned. For that I'm thankful. I don't know how I'd handle it - being deprived of my freedom, an enforced separation from my family and loved ones.
I particularly don't know how I'd handle it if I were imprisoned unfairly, like Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. This Pastor marks 1000 days in an Iranian prison today. His crime? Converting from Islam to Christianity. Not only is he in prison, but he is on death row. In the Iranian system, once convicted, you can be taken at any time and executed. It is likely only the attention of the Western media that is keeping the Iranian "justice" system from carrying out the sentence.
The latest word that we have is that the Iranian courts have set a new trial date for him, the reason is uncertain. Speculation is that they will change the charges to something relating to threatening national security in order to deflect attention away from the religious persecution. Nadarkhani is only the most visible of those suffering for their faith in Iran.
Remarkably, in the midst of great persecution, there have been more conversions to Christianity in the past 15 years in Iran than in the previous 300 years. This is according to RZIM, which regularly ministers in the Middle East. There have been many stories of Muslims having visions which lead them to convert to Christianity.
At a recent conference, Christian Iranian leaders felt lead to commit themselves to share the Gospel with 5 new people every day. One couple was traveling across Iran and stopped to fill up their gas tank. They had shared the Gospel with 4 people. There was an armed man who looked menacing, leaning against the wall of the gas station. The wife looked at her husband and said, "there's number 5." He responded in the negative and cast doubts on her sanity. He pumped and paid for the gas then got in the car to leave.
As they pulled away, she once again told him "that is number 5." He said to her, "would you like a dead husband?" She said, "I'd rather have a dead husband than a coward for a husband!" Like any of us would do, he turned the car around and went back. He took a Bible from the car and walked over and presented it to the man. He began to weep. In a vision, he said Christ appeared to him and told him to come to this place and wait - someone would come and give him the book of life. He had been waiting for two days!
The point is that the Gospel will not be stopped. Nadarkhani's response when he was asked to recant to save his life was simple: "I cannot!" His situation, and that of thousands of Christians imprisoned worldwide, is a silent rebuke to lukewarm Christians everywhere. Jesus didn't call us to go to church when we feel like it, as if that made us Christians. He said, "Take up your cross, and follow Me!"
Remember Youcef Nadarkhani and his family today - and take the time to pray for him and his family, as well as suffering Christians around the world. Pray that where the Gospel message is banned, doors of opportunity would be opened. And pray for yourself, that you would be faithful to bloom where you have been planted.
Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death
Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death - Part 2
Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death - Update
Iranian Pastor Conviction Is In - Death
Iran Arrests Nadarkhani's Lawyer