The White House released a statement Thursday on Iran’s conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. The Christian minister has been sentenced to death by an Iranian court for refusing to to deny his faith.
The Obama administration’s statement:
“The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people.”
“That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran’s own international obligations. 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. We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion.”
The White House statement follows the condemnations of other top American leaders, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“Religious freedom is a universal human right. The reports that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani will be sentenced to death by the Iranian government unless he disavows his Christian faith are 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. I urge Iran’s leaders to abandon this dark path, spare Youcef Nadarkhani’s life, and grant him a full and unconditional release.”
“Despite the finding that Mr. Nadarkhani did not convert to Christianity as an adult, the court continues to demand that he recant his faith or otherwise be executed,” said USCIRF chair Leonard Leo. “The most recent court proceedings are not only a sham, but are contrary to Iranian law and international human rights standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party,” said Leo.
The statement of the USCIRF also indicates that the potential execution “demonstrate(s) how the Iranian government is ratcheting up its repression of religious minorities,” confirming the findings of a recently-released International Religious Freedom Report on Iran, from the U.S. Department of State.
According to the commission’s statement, Nadarkhani, who has been imprisoned for nearly two years, “has (this week) appeared daily before an Iranian court demanding that he recant his faith or face execution for apostasy.”
The full State Department report on religious persecution in Iran is embedded below.You can read about Nadarkhani's case on page of the recently published International Religious Freedom Rep...
As Adelle Banks noted in her story Wednesday for Religion News Service, Nadarkhani’s case has mobilized many Christian communities and activists in the United States.
The National Association of Evangelicals issued this statement late Thursday:
“The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) calls on Iranian authorities to release Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the head of a network of Christian house churches in Iran, and to protect religious freedom for its citizens.
“As Christians we believe faith should be by choice, not coercion,” said Leith Anderson, NAE President. “Iran’s conviction and threatened execution of Pastor Nadarkhani is religious persecution at its worst.”