We are asking for your urgent prayer for Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor who may be executed within the next 24 hours if he continues to refuse to recant his faith in court.
Youcef is the pastor of a house church in Rasht, Iran, and was arrested in October 2009 for opposing the education practice that forces non-Muslim students to read the Quran in school. Youcef had argued that the Iranian constitution permits children to be raised in their parents' faith; however, for defying Iranian authorities, Youcef was charged with apostasy.
Iranian officials used pressure tactics during Youcef's imprisonment as an attempt to coerce him to renounce his Christian beliefs, which included arresting his wife and threatening to seize his children. Still, Youcef remained firm in his faith, refusing to deny the name of his Savior Jesus Christ.
On September 22, 2010, Youcef was issued the death sentence for his conversion to Christianity and for encouraging the conversions of other Muslims. Youcef appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Iran, claiming he had never been a Muslim and therefore could not be found guilty of apostasy. However, a written verdict upholding the death penalty and ordering an investigation was handed down on June 12. A reexamination of the case to determine whether Nadarkhani will live or die began on Sunday and has continued for the past two days. Early this morning, Youcef refused to deny his faith for the fourth time in court. Technically, he must only be granted three opportunities to return to Islam before he can be executed for apostasy.
Throughout his imprisonment, Youcef has trusted in the Lord and has been a bold witness of the redeeming work of Christ in his life. Remember, Jesus did not merely warn His followers that they might be persecuted; He promised it, saying, "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you... If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you," (John 15:18-20).
Youcef has learned to delight in hardships and persecution for Christ's sake (2 Cor. 12:10)."Many attempt to flee from their spiritual tests... [but] no one will be victorious by escaping from them, but with patience and humility he will be able to overcome all the tests and gain victory," he wrote from Lakan Prison last June. "Although heaven and earth will fade, His word will still remain."