GENEVA — The Baha’i International Community has joined the call for the release of Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor from Rasht, Iran.
Pastor Nadarkhani, who is the father of two young children, leads a network of house churches. He was found guilty of apostasy – “turning his back on Islam” – and “converting Muslims to Christianity,” and sentenced to death in September 2010.
Iran’s Supreme Court recently asked for a re-examination of the case to establish whether or not he had been a practising Muslim adult before he converted to Christianity. The court ruled he was not but, nevertheless, is still guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry.
The case has sparked strong condemnation from governments, organizations and religious leaders around the world.
Then on 1 October, following this global outcry, Iranian state media suddenly reported that Pastor Nadarkhani had in fact been sentenced for other reasons – including violent crimes, extortion, Zionism and being a traitor. These charges had never once been mentioned throughout the entire period when Pastor Nadarkhani was charged, tried, sentenced, up to and including the most recent court hearing.
Statement of the Baha’i International Community
We join with the global chorus of condemnation protesting the sentencing of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, and calling for his release.
For a court of law to rule against someone from Muslim ancestry who has freely chosen to be a Christian is yet another instance of the brutality being meted out by the Iranian authorities on their own people.
The recent public proclamation reporting that the charges against Pastor Nadarkhani have been changed – as a result of the global outcry at his conviction – only further exposes the arbitrary nature of decisions made by the judiciary system of Iran and the transparent injustice of the situation.
The sentence he faces is not only reprehensible; it is a violation of every legal, moral, spiritual and humanitarian standard.
Which temporal government in the world can reasonably decide it has the power to curtail freedom of belief? Belief is not something that can be taken away or bartered; it is a matter of conviction, of the heart, the mind and the soul, beyond the realm of any government’s control.
The Baha’i community understands well the challenging circumstances facing minorities living in Iran today. And now it is evident that those minorities which are nominally recognized by the state are as equally subordinate to the majority as those who have no rights.
There is little need to rehearse here the endless list of executions, torture, imprisonments, privations and other afflictions that are being meted out on the sorely-tried people of Iran.
Everything that country’s representatives profess on the world stage is contradicted by their treatment of their own people at home. Yet, its officials travel freely to other nations where they are offered a platform from which to broadcast their untruths, denying the callous treatment of their own citizens while displaying pretensions of good will for the people of the world.
There is much to be done to alert the people of the world to the hypocrisy of a government which is widely and continually oppressing its people.
There is much to be done for humanity to be alerted to what is going on inside Iran and to be awakened to the appalling memory of what can occur when we fail to act against state-sponsored campaigns of hatred.