Iran—Pastor Youcef Confirmed to Be Apostate
After being ordered by the Iranian Supreme Court to review the apostasy charge against Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the 11th branch of the Gilan Provincial Court has confirmed his conviction and again ordered him to recant his faith in Jesus Christ. On Monday, Sept. 26, the court ruled that because Pastor Youcef has Muslim ancestors, his faith in Christ makes him an apostate from Islam. When the judges asked Pastor Youcef to “repent,” he replied, “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” The judges said, “To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.” Pastor Youcef then replied, “I can not.” Pastor Youcef will be brought before the court two more times, on Sept. 27 and 28, and ordered to recant his Christian faith. Sources in Iran report that although they have been told the case will return to the Supreme Court, they fear that the lower court may act on a law that would allow them to carry out Pastor Youcef’s execution. Please pray that God might turn the hearts of the Iranian judges in Pastor Youcef’s favor, and pray for his family.
Nigeria—More than 100 Killed in Extremist Attacks
Compass Direct News
More than 100 Christians have been killed in recent attacks on villages in Nigeria’s Plateau state, according to Compass Direct News. On Sept. 10, 2011, Muslim extremists stormed Vwang Fwil village at 3 a.m., killing 13 Christians. Attackers killed 14 more Christians, including a pregnant woman, when they attacked the Christian community of Vwang Kogot on Sept. 9. And on Sept. 8, 10 Christians from one family were killed in an attack on Tsohom Foron village. Compass Direct reports that some of the attackers were wearing Nigerian Army military uniforms. Please pray for the Christians in Plateau state who have lost family members. Pray that government officials will protect Christians rather than aid their persecutors.
Myanmar—Family Refuses to Support Young Christian
A student at an underground seminary in Myanmar has chosen to give up a comfortable life with her aunt and two stepsisters in order to follow Christ. The young girl, Ying, became a believer two years ago and began attending seminary immediately after her conversion. Recently, Ying’s relatives locked her in the house while she was preparing to leave for seminary. They threatened to disown her, beat her and withdraw all support, including food, if she continued to attend a seminary or church. In addition, her aunt and two stepsisters said they would send her to a remote village with no known Christians unless she recanted her faith. But instead of denying Christ, Ying ran away and left her family behind. Ying’s mother is deceased, and her father disappeared after leaving her with her aunt. Please pray for Ying. She has lost all support by leaving her family, and she has no one to provide for her needs as she continues in seminary.
All week we have been covering the pending decision by Iran concerning the fate of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, and we're very thankful that many secular outlets have picked up this vital news, including CNN.
CNN reporter Dan Merica spoke to VOM's Todd Nettleton about how American Christians are responding to the plight of Youcef.
Nadarkhani's trial and his possible execution have engaged American Christians, as well. Todd Nettleton, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs, a Christian organization that attempts to assist with persecuted and minority churches around the world, called the news of the new charges proof that international attention on the issue is working.
"They are feeling the attention, they are feeling the weight of the eyes of the world watching how they are treating this man," Nettleton said. "I am dumbfounded, though that at this stage in the game, this is what they would trot out."
Voice of the Martyrs manages a Facebook page that has brought a lot of attention to Nadarkhani's trial. With comments updated by the minute, thousand of people have taken to Facebook to spread the word about the pastor.
In light of this news, Nettleton said the Facebook page would continue to be active.
"I think our first response will be prayer for pastor Youcef," Nettleton said. "Prayer that justice will be done and that he will remain faithful no matter that the days ahead may bring for him."
You may read the full CNN article here. Thank you all for praying for Pastor Youcef and his family during this difficult time.
Over the last few days the world has become aware of the plight of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian suffering in prison and currently awaiting a death sentence from the Iranian government because he refuses to deny Jesus Christ and convert to Islam.
Pastor Youcef has inspired many prayers on The Voice of the Martyrs Facebook page from concerned Christians who are praying for him around the world.
Scott and Lori posted, "We are praying here. I was out earlier, at a local bank and people in there were talking about this. People that aren't even Christians were talking about his courage."
Girlie posted, "Father, the life of my brother is in your hand."
Dennis C. wrote, "May his life be a living testimony to you LORD to all who hear of his convictions. May his life bring a multitude to repentance and faith in the Living God. Jesus give him strength, peace that surpasses all understanding and endurance until you call him home."
And Sharon P. prayed, "May God give him a miracle and spare his life. May we all have the faith of Pastor Nadarkhani when trials and persecution come. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"
We here, at the Voice of the Martyrs, thank you all for your continued prayers for Youcef and his family.
We are also thankful that the White House released a statement today saying,
"Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people," the statement released by the White House read. "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." (Source: Fox News)
Please continue to pray for Pastor Youcef and join the thousands of others who have written a letter of encouragement to him using our Prisoner Alert page.
Lawyer optimism for Iranian death-row Christian cleric Iran Pastor Update: Remains on Death Row; Prayers Urged
LAHORE, Pakistan, September 28 (CDN) — An eighth-grade student in Pakistan has been expelled from school and her family forced to relocate after the Christian girl misspelled an Urdu word, leading to accusations of “blasphemy,” sources said.
In the garrison city of Abbottabad, 13-year-old Faryal Bhatti, a student at the Sir Syed Girls High School in Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) Colony Havelian, misspelled a word on an Urdu exam on Thursday (Sept. 22) while answering a question on a poem in praise of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, according to area Christians.
Faryal wrote laanat, the transliteration of the Urdu word for “curse,” instead of naat, which means a poem written in praise of Islam’s prophet, they said. The school administration and local Islamists declared that the error was serious enough to violate Pakistan’s widely condemned laws against blaspheming Muhammad and Islam.
Conviction under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy law for derogatory comments about Muhammad is punishable by death, though life imprisonment is also possible.
Faryal’s Urdu teacher was collecting the answer sheets from her students when she noticed the word on Faryal’s paper. The teacher, identified only as Fareeda, summoned the Christian girl, scolded her and beat her, area sources told Compass by telephone.
Fareeda then notified the principal, who in turn informed school officials as news of the error spread throughout the colony. The next day, male students at the school as well as some Muslim representatives staged a demonstration, demanding registration of a criminal case against the eighth-grader and her eviction from the area, sources said.
Prayer leaders within the Muslim community also condemned the incident in their Friday sermons, asking the colony’s administration to take action against Faryal as well as her family, sources said.
A young Christian in Myanmar was forced to choose between faith and family recently when her relatives demanded that she recant her faith. On Sept. 19, 2011, 21-year-old Ying was preparing to leave for classes at an underground seminary when her relatives locked her in the house. They threatened to disown her, beat her and withdraw support — including food — if she continued to attend seminary or church. In addition, they threatened to send her to a remote village with no known Christians if she did not recant her faith. Instead of giving in to their demands, Ying ran away from home and left her family behind.
Ying’s mother died when Ying was young, and her father left her with an aunt and two stepsisters. Although she grew up and lived in a Buddhist family, Ying became interested in Christianity. When she was 20 years old, she overheard an evangelist telling a neighboring family about Christ. Ying approached the evangelist and asked him questions about Christianity. At 20 years old, she became a Christian.
Ying began to attend seminary immediately after her conversion. Since leaving her family last month, she has had no means of support. VOM is now helping pay Ying’s seminary fees and living expenses. After she completes seminary, Ying hopes to serve as a missionary to people who have never heard about Christ.
Source: VOM contacts
Iran (MNN) ― Yesterday marked the third day of an Iranian local court demanding a pastor repent of Christianity and return to Islam on penalty of death.
32-year old Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is the pastor of a 400-member church. He was convicted of apostasy and has been sentenced to death for allegedly renouncing his Muslim faith.
Nadarkhani's case went to the Supreme Court, but the court sent the case back to a lower court with instructions for further investigation as to whether or not Nadarkhani had ever actually been a Muslim.
In the lower courts, Nadarkhani was given three days to turn from Christ and accept Islam, a move the courts claim is necessary since Pastor Youcef has Muslim ancestry. Nadarkhani refused to reject the faith.
Sources say when Pastor Yousef was asked to repent by the judges, he said "Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?" When judges told him to return to "the religion of his your ancestors, Islam," Pastor Yousef responded, "I cannot."
Nadarkhani has used up all his chances in the court. "We hear some rumors that he could be executed literally this week-that he's had now three days which is called for in Islamic law to reconsider his decision, and he could be executed at any time," reports Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs.
Pastor Youcef's friend Firouz Sadegh-Khandjani, a Member of the Council of Elders for the Church of Iran, says according to the judicial system after three days he can be executed. He told Jordan Sekulow with the The American Cetner for Law and Justice (ACLJ) that Nadarkhani should never have been arrested in the first place based on Iranian law, but he fears the lower court might act anyway.
The consequences of an execution would not only reach Pastor Youcef and his family, but potentially the entire Christian network in Iran.
"There has not been a judicial execution of a Christian for more than 20 years in Iran. So it is not something that has happened very recently. If in fact this case happens, and Pastor Youcef is executed, that would mark a significant change in direction by the government in how they're treating the church, in how they're treating Christians, and especially those who have left Islam to follow Christ," says Nettleton.
Nettleton says such a ruling may indeed have much to do with the seemingly unstoppable growth of the church in Iran. "Obviously [this case] is designed to produce fear. It's designed to produce intimidation. [Christians] will know about it and have to work through those emotions," says Nettleton.
Despite the extremely high stakes, however, Nettleton doubts even a ruling against Pastor Youcef will deter church growth. He says people know the risks they're taking when they decide to follow Christ in Iran, especially if they are turning their backs to Islam.
Nettleton says the exposure of the case may actually be an opportunity for church growth. "There is so much disillusionment and dissatisfaction with Islam and with the government in Iran - which is run by the mullahs - that this can really be a time when people are exploring other options. And obviously we'd love for them to hear the Gospel and to meet Jesus in a personal way."
Pray is in order whatever the outcome. Pray for Pastor Youcef to be freed, and for him and his family to be safe. Pray for courage, strength and leadership in the Iranian church. Pray for Muslims to even come to Christ throughout this experience.
You can also directly encourage Pastor Youcef and appeal to your government officials on Nadarkhani's behalf by visiting www.prisonalert.com. Do this quickly, as time could be running out.
Source: Mission Network News
Five days before the beginning of fall semester at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, while many college students were moving into their dorms, 18-year-old Christina Kuo stood in front of a video camera.
“Jesus Christ gave up his life for you. What would you give up for him?” she asked, looking into the camera. “[Asia Bibi’s] life is on the line, but we as her brothers and sisters in Christ have a voice. With God we can achieve the impossible. I’m not asking you to risk your life. I’m asking you to answer the call — the call for mercy.”
When Christina felt God calling her to enter The Voice of the Martyrs’ “A Call for Mercy” video contest, she immediately went to her brother for help. “I was motivated,” Christina said. “I really connected with the story because I thought we could do something for her. God was calling me to not leave it alone.”
Christina’s 21-year-old brother, David Kuo, who studies film at Asbury University, quickly agreed to help his sister with the video. “I knew I had wanted to do a video that would be towards a purpose that has a positive impact on people,” David said. “I saw this opportunity to not only help Bibi, but help in the way I like to do.”
Christina and David were unsure of their abilities to make the video, but they continued anyway. Christina wrote the script, and David filmed and edited the video.
Then they posted it on YouTube and entered the contest. With its excellent incorporation of images and powerful ending, David and Christina’s video was named as the contest winner. It has been viewed more than 20,000 times on YouTube.
Christina and David continue to encourage their friends to sign the petition to free Asia Bibi, who remains in a Pakistani prison under a death sentence after being convicted of blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad. Christina and David plan to set up a booth at their university to raise awareness of Asia Bibi’s story. “I am struck by her courage, strength and faith, that she was able to stand up in the hard times,” David said. “I just wanted to use video to spread the story about Bibi.” Relating to Asia Bibi as a sister in Christ, Christina echoes her brother’s sentiments. “I admire her strength and confidence in God, knowing full well the implications and consequences of what she was saying,” she said.
The Call for Mercy is not over, and Asia Bibi still needs our help. “Please, just take a couple minutes and sign the petition,” encourages Christina. “It is so easy to sign it.”
Visit the A Call for Mercy page to sign the petition.