by Matt Lacy –
An Iranian pastor who has been in prison for almost three years for the crime of converting to Christianity from Islam has finally been freed after intense international pressure was brought against the Iranian government.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which has been vigorously fighting for Pastor Youcef Nardakhani’s release said after being under threat of execution for three years he was summoned to appear before an Iranian court where after almost six hours he was released and allowed to return home to his family.
The ACLJ reported that sources close to the case are saying that he was acquitted of apostasy which carries a death sentence, but was instead convicted of evangelizing Muslims and for the crime of sharing his faith was sentenced to three years in prison, granting him time served.
Nadarkhani was initially placed in prison for the crime of leaving the Islamic faith despite his claims that he was never a Muslim.
However, Muslim teaching says that Nadarkhani is incorrect and that everyone is born a Muslim.
On page 28, in the introduction of a copy of the Qur’an, printed by Ansariyan Publications in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the translator, M.H. Shakir in the section “Islam and Muslims” states, “In fact, every child that is born is a Muslim. It is the parents who make him a Jew, Christian or Hindu.”
Based on this teaching, even if Nadarkhani had never visited a mosque a day in his life he is still considered a Muslim. Therefore, when he accepted Christ as his savior and became a Christian he left the Muslim faith whether he knew it or not.
While in prison human rights group put pressure on the international community to call for the pastor’s relief.
Christian’s in Iran often face severe repercussions in attempting to peaceably practice their faith.
Iranian Pastor Hormoz Shariet with Iran Alive Ministries, says many people in the West do not understand how dire the plight of Christians in Iran is. “Islamic law states that it is criminal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity and it is in fact punishable by death,” Shariet continued, saying it is common for revolutionary Guards to arrest a Christian and not notify the family. “They can’t have a lawyer, not even a formal charge. Sometimes they even get killed without a formal charge.”
Christians in Iraq have fared little better. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there were an estimated one million Christians in the country. A 2009 report from the State Department shows the number appears to have dropped to under 500,000.
Tens of thousands of Christians have fled the country to avoid persecution from Muslim extremists in Iraq. The violence has caused some to wonder what will happen once the U.S. military pulls out at the end of this year.