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Christian pastor - once sentenced to death in Iran - is released, group says
September 8th, 2012
05:26 PM ET

Christian pastor - once sentenced to death in Iran - is released, group says

By Michael Martinez, CNN

(CNN) - A Christian pastor sentenced to death in Iran for apostasy was reunited with his family Saturday after a trial court acquitted him, said a nonprofit group monitoring the case.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, born to Muslim parents and a convert to Christianity by age 19, was released after being held in prison for almost three years under a death sentence, said Tiffany Barrans, international legal director of the American Center for Law and Justice.

Setting aside the death sentence, a trial court convicted Nadarkhani of a lesser charge - evangelizing Muslims - and declared that his prison sentence had already been served, Barrans said.

His case drew international attention after his October 2009 arrest, and the 34-year-old pastor refused to recant his Christian beliefs.

FULL POST

- shirleyhenrycnn

Filed under: Christianity • Iran

With Holocaust book in Farsi, Iranian-American author plugs a historical hole
Dr. Ari Babaknia has written four volumes on the Holocaust in his native language, Farsi.
May 25th, 2012
04:07 PM ET

With Holocaust book in Farsi, Iranian-American author plugs a historical hole

By Kim Segal, CNN

(CNN) - When he first became interested in learning about the Holocaust in the 1990s, Dr. Ari Babaknia had trouble finding any literature on the subject written in his native tongue, Farsi.

The California-based physician wanted answers to basic questions: Where was the rest of the world as millions were exterminated? And when did the world learn what was happening?

“There’s plenty of books in English on this, and the Farsi-speaking people, I thought - they’re not aware of this,” Babaknia says. “It’s something they should know about.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Books • Holocaust • Iran

My Take: Iranian leader’s statement that nukes are sinful deserves a close look
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons.
March 13th, 2012
02:25 PM ET

My Take: Iranian leader’s statement that nukes are sinful deserves a close look

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - As politicians in Israel and the United States beat the drums for war on Iran, it is worth remembering that Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is on record against nuclear weapons.

In fact, according to a statement read on August 9, 2005, at a meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, he issued a fatwa declaring that “the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Fatwa • Iran • Iran • Iraq • Islam • Israel • Middle East • Opinion

My Take: Iran must stop persecuting minority religions
December 21st, 2011
11:56 PM ET

My Take: Iran must stop persecuting minority religions

By Roxana Saberi, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist, is the author of "Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran."

(CNN) – In March 2009, when I was detained in Evin Prison in Iran, two evangelical Christians were arrested. I never met them but spotted them a few times through the barred window of my cell as they walked back and forth to the bathroom down the hall.

I would later learn that Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh had converted from Islam to Christianity and faced charges of spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic, insulting religious sanctities, and committing apostasy. They resisted severe pressure to renounce their faith, and in November 2009, after an international outcry, the two women went free.

News headlines are now highlighting the plight of another Iranian Christian accused of apostasy, or abandoning one's religion. When Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was 19, he converted from Islam to Christianity. In 2010, a provincial court sentenced him to death. This year, Iran's Supreme Court ruled that the case should be reviewed and the sentence overturned if he recants his faith - a step Nadarkhani, 34, has so far refused to take.

FULL STORY
- Dan Merica

Filed under: Christianity • Iran • Islam • Persecution

Lawyer: International pressure has not helped Iranian pastor’s case
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was charged with apostasy for converting from Islam to Christianity
October 14th, 2011
12:21 PM ET

Lawyer: International pressure has not helped Iranian pastor’s case

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - International pressure mounting in the apostasy trial of a Christian pastor in Iran has “not had any impact on the Iranian court,” the attorney for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani told CNN on Friday.

“They (the court) work on the evidence and Iranian law,” said lawyer Mohammad Dadkah. “I don’t think the statements from the United States has had any impact either on this case as this is all going through the Iranian justice system, which is based on the law and evidence.”

Nadarkhani's trial has become a cause célèbre for a number of Christian organizations in the United States and abroad. Many of these groups took to Facebook, Twitter and websites in an attempt to energize their followers to protest the pastor's treatment.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Courts • Crime • Iran

With pressure mounting, Iranian Supreme Court could rehear pastor’s case
October 13th, 2011
05:12 PM ET

With pressure mounting, Iranian Supreme Court could rehear pastor’s case

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN)–Should Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani's case be returned to the Supreme Court of Iran, that country's highest court has agreed to review it, according to the pastor's lawyer.

Mohammad Dadkah, Nadarkhani's lawyer, confirmed the Supreme Court's statement in a Thursday conversation with CNN. The reversal is a minor victory for the two-year-old legal battle; the Supreme Court passed on hearing the case in 2010.

Nadarkhani, the leader of a network of house churches in Iran, was first convicted of apostasy in November 2010 for changing from a Muslim to a Christian. He was sentenced to death.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Iran

Lawyer: Iranian Supreme Leader to weigh in on pastor’s execution
October 10th, 2011
11:35 AM ET

Lawyer: Iranian Supreme Leader to weigh in on pastor’s execution

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) –-  The possible hanging of an Iranian pastor, who may face execution for refusing to recant his Christian beliefs, reached the highest levels of the Iranian government over the weekend with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei being asked for his opinion on the possible death sentence.

Mohammad Dadkhah, attorney for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, told CNN that Nadarkhani was still alive and that the court has asked the highest religious leader in Iran for his input. Though Khamenei has the ultimate authority in Iranian affairs, the move is unusual for a case that was supposed to be decided Monday.

Nadarkhani, the leader of a network of house churches in Iran, was first convicted of apostasy in November 2010, a charge he subsequently appealed all the way to the Iranian Supreme Court. In an appeals trial last month at a lower court in Gilan province, Nadarkhani refused to recant his beliefs.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Interfaith issues • Iran

Pastor's possible execution reveals nuances of Islamic law
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani preaches in a file photo.
October 7th, 2011
06:55 PM ET

Pastor's possible execution reveals nuances of Islamic law

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) - The possible hanging of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for converting from Islam to Christianity has exposed a division among Islamic jurists on whether Iran would be violating Islamic law by carrying out the execution.

According to some of these scholars, the Quran not only outlaws the death penalty for the charge of apostasy, but under Sharia law, conversion from Islam is not a punishable offense at all.

"Instead, it says on a number of occasions that God prefers and even demands that people believe in Him, but that He will handle rejection of such belief by punishing them in the afterworld," wrote Intisar Rabb, an assistant professor of law at Boston College and a faculty affiliate in research at Harvard Law School, in an e-mail to CNN.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Iran • Islam • Islamic law

U.S. support for Iranian pastor continues to grow
Support for Yousef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian who is slated for execution, is becoming a political issue in the United States.
October 3rd, 2011
04:15 PM ET

U.S. support for Iranian pastor continues to grow

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Calls to stop the execution of Yousef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor, continue to grow after a week in which demands for leniency came from the highest levels of the U.S. government.

On Monday, GOP presidential hopeful and Texas Gov. Rick Perry released a statement that called the pastor’s impending execution “unacceptable.”

“There is no shade of gray or room for equivocation here,” stated the news release. “Freedom to worship is a basic human right, and the charges against Pastor Nadarkhani are an affront to the essential principles of the civilized world.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Iran • Religious liberty

Report: Iranian pastor to be put to death for rape, not apostasy
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani preaches in a file photo.
September 30th, 2011
02:15 PM ET

Report: Iranian pastor to be put to death for rape, not apostasy

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN)– Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani will be put to death for several charges of rape and extortion, charges that differ greatly from his original sentence of apostasy, the semi official Fars News agency reported Friday.

In a translated Iranian Supreme Court brief from 2010 the charge of apostasy, however, is the only charge leveled against Nadarkhani.

"Mr. Youcef Nadarkhani, son of Byrom, 32 years old, married, born in Rasht in the state of Gilan is convicted of turning his back on Islam, the greatest religion the prophesy of Mohammad at the age of 19," reads the brief.

The brief was obtained by CNN from the American Center for Law and Justice and was translated from its original Farsi by the Confederation of Iranian Students in Washington.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church and state • Iran

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.

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