By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Iran’s feared security service is pressuring an Iranian pastor to covert back to Islam ahead of an expected ruling by the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini on whether the Christian can be executed by hanging for “apostasy”, trial observers said Monday, October 24.
The Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of the Islamic Republic of Iran, also known as MOIS, has given jailed Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani “a book detailing why, they believe, Christianity is a lie and that Islam is the greatest religion,” said Jason DeMars, director of advocacy group Present Truth Ministries (PTM), which assists him.
“They asked that he read it and give them his opinion of the book. They are still working to convert him back to Islam or else have documented ‘proof’ that he is a blasphemer against Islam,” added DeMars.
Last week, United Nations Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed reportedly said he was “particularly disturbed by a recent ruling of the Supreme Court that upheld a death sentence” by hanging for Yousef Nadarkhani,”a Protestant pastor who was reportedly born to Muslim parents but converted to Christianity when he was 19 years old.”
HANGED FOR FAITH?
The verdict reads that, unless he decides to renounce his Christianity, Nadarkahni will be executed by hanging for apostasy, or abandoning Islam, he stressed.
Iranian officials dismissed Shaheed’s report to the U.N. “Its content is absolutely unjustified, unwarranted and unacceptable for my country,” said Iran’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Eshaq Al-e-Habib.
He called the report “unacceptable and invalid” and said it consisted “poorly-sourced, exaggerated and outdated allegations,” despite written court documents confirming the death sentence.
Shaheed urged the Iran’s government to release the 34-year-old pastor of the Church of Iran, a major house church network.
AYATOLLAH’S RULING EXPECTED
DeMars said Christians still await the Ayatollah Ali Khameini’s opinion although “Youcef’s faith [in Christ] remains strong.”
“Presumably we will learn of [the Ayatollah’s] response shortly, but there is no precedent or law governing how quickly he needs to respond,” DeMars told BosNewsLife.
He said PTM has urged its supporters to “keep brother Youcef and his family in prayer.”
It comes amid reports of a wider crackdown on especially Christian converts in the strict Islamic nation, where church groups claim there may be at least 100,000 devoted Christians.