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.”

Last week, a number of members of Congress also released statements calling on Iran to release Nadarkhani. A statement by Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the situation, “distressing for people of every country and creed.”

“While Iran’s government claims to promote tolerance, it continues to imprison many of its people because of their faith,” Boehner’s news release said. “This goes beyond the law to an issue of fundamental respect for human dignity.”

Additionally, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida; Rep. James Lankford, R- Oklahoma; Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Virginia; Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona; Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana; Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pennsylvania; Rep. James McGovern, D-Massachusetts; and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Virginia. have all released statements.

Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal organization founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, said his organization is working with members of Congress to ensure these statements continue.

“There will be more congressional support this week, absolutely there will be more and more group statements,” said Sekulow.

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. After four days of an appeals trial that started Sunday at a lower court in Gilan province, Nadarkhani refused to recant his beliefs.

Reports by the semi-official Fars News Agency indicated that the charges against Nadarkhani have since changed and the pastor is now charged with rape and extortion.

"He is a Zionist and has committed security-related crimes,” Gholomali Rezvanii said in the Fars News report. Renvanii is the deputy governor of Gilan province, where Nadarkhani was tried and convicted.

The White House and State Department released statements on Thursday and Friday, respectively. The White House stated that Nadarkhani "has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for people."

Pastor Ellie Davidian, leader of The Living Hope Persian Church in San Diego,  said the Iranian Christian population in America welcomes the outspokenness of the U.S. government.

“Anybody who can support to stop the execution will be appreciated,” Davidian told CNN. “The more and more we have pressure through the international media, then the Iranian government will be under more pressure as well.”

Davidian, who converted from Islam to Christianity after leaving Iran, went on to say while that her congregation will continue to pray for the pastor’s release, information on the issue is difficult to come by because of the tight control of information in Iran.

“What we see through media in Iran, it isn’t what it is in the heart of the people,” Davidian said.

Christian and conservative groups who hope to influence the Iranian government’s decision to put Nadarkhani to death have also been very vocal.

Voice of the Martyrs is a nonprofit, Christian organization that attempts to assist with persecuted and minority churches around the world. Todd Nettleton, spokesperson for Voice of the Martyrs, said their Facebook page has become a “link to the wider body of Christ” for their more than 100,000  followers.

Comments flood onto the Facebook page by the minute, as people exchange articles, post Bible verses and pray for Nadarkhani.

“In all honesty, I can’t think of a better use of my time than praying for this man,” said on Facebook user after posting Matthew 18:20.

“You can’t kill a Christian. You can only change his address,” reads a quote from Pastor Duke Downs that was posted my Voice of the Martyrs.

The quote has been shared almost 1,500 times in seven hours. More than 300 people have commented on the post and that number continues to grow.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Iran • Religious liberty

soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. Bosco

    Perhaps it ultimately is the fredeal government's fault that he had to bring up in state tuition in the first place, however he has gone and made his state a magnet for more of the same. Colorado has been grappling with this Dream Act type legislation for some time and we have rejected it. In addition, isn't it about time we find somebody who quits shifting the share of the blame (as Kristofferson wrote)? Everybody knows that there are problems. What are you going to do about it?Also, I don't think that people were looking to slam Perry for the decisions that he has made in the past I think that they want to know what he will do in the future. Will he be behind Dream Act type legislation for the whole country? He hasn't answered that direct question and if somebody had to surmise his opinion they would have to assume that he supports it.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  2. Sam Yaza

    i care less about this guy

    if John Boehner had the chance he would strip my right to worship,.. all these people are saying is you have i right to worship whatever christian god you want

    you want me to care about Christians stop doing the same thing you evil idea of Muslims do

    July 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  3. Taekwondam Dimperioh

    Thanks for giving your ideas. Something is that students have a choice between federal government student loan along with a private student loan where its easier to go with student loan debt consolidation than with the federal student loan.

    July 29, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  4. believinGod

    "Respect and tolerate other religions, do not misinterpret the holy Quran and DO NOT MURDER" (Ayatollah Muhammad Rosa Khani)

    This is what real believers think! Iran is using the holy religion for
    their own purposes! Why should someone be killed who believes in God?
    Even the holy Quran states that there is only one God. It does not
    matter of what religion you are, important is, that you believe in God.
    There are a million names for God, but only one God. It is sad that Iran
    and other wrongdoers (mis)introduce the holy Quran with these kind of
    actions to the world. It is sad that this holy religion is being
    associated with murder and sadness. May God judge over the wrongdoers.
    I, as a religious human being, as someone who believes in Allah, as
    someone who believes that there is only one God (but with different
    names) will pray for pastor Nadxerkhani!

    May 19, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  5. free religion

    "We shall not interpret the wholy quran wrongly. We shall tolerate and accept all religions. There is only one God." (Ayatholla Muhammad Rosa Khani) Free Naderkhani!!!!!!

    May 15, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  6. Will

    3-10-12 He was executed by hanging today.

    March 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  7. Mr Everyman

    Making a martyr out of Pastor Nadarkhani will hurt the value of its money, international trade and, image as an advocate of theocracy. Iran needs improvements in all these areas. An image of cruelty does not encourage good public relations. Internally a pardon sets Iran back on the path of being gracious and kind toward all its citizens.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  8. Vanessa Villery

    It is my understanding that in the last few days this Pastor has been sentenced. So I guess that is what happens when the heightened awareness is shifted away from an issue too soon. To get the nail hammered you can't hit it a lick and quit....you gotta keep hitting it until its flush.

    Why is it that a situation this serious is so overlooked? One would think that as many great minds and humanitarian's as we have in this country we would be able to effect change in this matter.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Bigwavealex

      Why is it being overlooked? Because most of the main stream media will not report on anything that's negative of Islam. Notice that CNN has posted nothing of the recent news about the final execution order.

      February 22, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  9. Lavina

    We will pray for u pastor nadarkhani. This world is not ours..its belong to satan. We will live for christ, he is the owner of our soul. People can kill body but noone can kill our soul. God plz let those people who are torturing us will realise what they are doing..

    January 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  10. Find The Truth

    May all Christians around the world PRAY FOR THIS PASTOR. May he be released according to GOD's will and protected after release. But if not, may GOD give him the strength to accept death over denial of our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST who loved us so much that HE DIED FOR US. Throughout history, Christianity has been persecuted by those of other religions including those who were opposed to all religions (which is a kind of religion unto itself). But the more Christian blood that was shed, the more Christianity grew. You can kill individuals but you can't kill the TRUTH and the TRUTH is the Gospel of JESUS CHRIST.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Agree

      Agree with you 100%,Pastor Yousef is in our Prayers!

      November 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • free religion

      We will all pray for pastor Naderkhani. May God help us all out of this. May God judge over the wrongdoers.

      "We shall not interpret the wholy quran wrongly. We shall tolerate and accept all religions. There is only one God." (Ayatholla Muhammad Rosa Khani)

      May 15, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  11. jimmerz

    I am atheist, and I think this is sad. I am glad I live in a country where I won't be hanged because i don't accept any religion.

    October 11, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  12. Muneef

    (The Cattle);
    Say, "Indeed, my Lord has guided me to a straight path – a correct religion – the way of Abraham, inclining toward truth. And he was not among those who associated others with Allah ." (06:161).

    Say, "Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah , Lord of the worlds. (06:162).

    No partner has He. And this I have been commanded, and I am the first [among you] of the Muslims." (06:163).

    Say, "Is it other than Allah I should desire as a lord while He is the Lord of all things? And every soul earns not [blame] except against itself, and no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. Then to your Lord is your return, and He will inform you concerning that over which you used to differ." (06:164).

    And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful. (06:165).

     (The Light);

    When you received it with your tongues and said with your mouths that of which you had no knowledge and thought it was insignificant while it was, in the sight of Allah , tremendous.  (24:15).
    Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows and you do not know.   (24:19).
    And if it had not been for the favor of Allah upon you and His mercy... and because Allah is Kind and Merciful.   (24:20).
    And We have certainly sent down to you distinct verses and examples from those who passed on before you and an admonition for those who fear Allah .  (24:34).
    [Such niches are] in mosques which Allah has ordered to be raised and that His name be mentioned therein; exalting Him within them in the morning and the evenings (24:36).
    Allah has promised those who have believed among you and done righteous deeds that He will surely grant them succession [to authority] upon the earth just as He granted it to those before them and that He will surely establish for them [therein] their religion which He has preferred for them and that He will surely subst-itute for them, after their fear, security, [for] they worship Me, not associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that – then those are the defiantly disobedient. (24:55).
    Unquestionably, to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and earth. Already He knows that upon which you [stand] and [knows] the Day when they will be returned to Him and He will inform them of what they have done. And Allah is Knowing of all things. (24:64).

    October 8, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  13. PRISM 123

    This begs the question.... WHY is Islam so fearful of Christianity that they feel the need to go and kill those who convert to it? It must be for the same reason the Catholic "church" of the dark ages murdered all those who did not agree with it's teachings and practices. They are achieving NOTHING. The more they suppress the truth, just like RCC did, the more people's hearts long for it. I receive monthly mail from Voice of the Martyrs, and it is amazing to see how those precious Muslim people respond to the Gospel of salvation in Lord Christ, and how they recognize the truth when they hear it. But it is because of condition of their hearts. There is such great harvest among those people, and the more they are suppressed by the cruel, lifeless religion that does not fill the void in their hearts, nor offers them personal relationship with God they long to know, theme more they will be driven right into the arms of Jesus Christ! .....!!!!Hallelujah!!!! That's what Christ meant, when He said that He will build HIS CHURCH, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it, because He is the One who goes after His lost sheep and brings them in...And He will move the heaven an earth to accomplish His purposes. My heart and soul rejoice when the people in those lands of dark shadows come to the Light of Christ! No shackles of darkness will hold them, because He sets their souls free!!!
    I challenge you to read their stories at http://www.persecution.com/

    October 6, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Muneef

      My deepest respect to you friend ;

      Resource Person: Frances Webber
       As Susan Musarrat Akram points out in ‘Orientalism Revisited in Asylum and Refugee Claims’ (IJRL 12 (1):7 (2000)), persecution of ‘apostates’ tends to be a political rather than a religious matter,

      October 6, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Muneef

      Very bad times we are in and GOD only knows when and how it will end...but my only wish is to go back to the time where all faiths were living together peacefully,having equal rights... Do not mind if would be under a secular or religious ruling but main thing is justice and equal rights...

      October 6, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • PRISM 123

      Hi, Muneef, Good Morning to you..
      i'm with you on that, for sure... It is my wish too that people would just live in peace together. It is the commandment to love, care and help our fellow men(kind) that is written on our human consciences by our Creator... Not to harm and put chains of oppression on them... Any laws, creeds, and political systems that impose such oppression as seen in this story are EVIL. Jesus said "by their fruits you shall know them".. And surely we see the fruit here. We seen it in Christianity also, in dark ages. By the way, Roman Catholic Church calls those times "The Golden Ages of the Mother Church". Can you imagine that?! But as it is written ".... be sure your sins will find you out" so it was with them, and will be for all those who polish themselves outwardly, but inwardly are no other then ravenous beasts. I'm glad the day is comming when there will be no evil or injustice on this earth. But as for now, even the ground is weeping and the earth convulsing itself, for the evil that's walking upon it! But that only produces more longing in our hearts and lifts our eyes to the heavens, from whence our help comes!
      You have a blessed and peaceful day, friend!

      October 7, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Muneef

      Amen...my friend Amen...GOD be with you...

      October 7, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Find The Truth

      Well said Prism 123. I completely agree!

      November 29, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  14. Lobo Labbit

    "This article is fake and is an attack on Islam, the tolerant religion of peace." Yousef Nadarkhani, good luck.

    October 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  15. Muneef

    Size: 29.6 MB
    Expires: November 4, 2011 4:41:00 AM PDT


    October 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  16. Ramez

    This is not surprising, thousands of cristians, jews, atheists get murdered every year for not believing in islam. Christians in IRAq, Egypt , Syra, Iran .... suffer .. why ? Quran is full of hate ... slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambus Quran 9:5 slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. Quran 9:34 (Jewish) rabbis and the (Christian) monks devour the wealth of mankind wantonly and debar (men) from the way of Allah. They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom,

    October 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Muneef


      That was during the first establishment of Islam in the Arabian Peninsular...just remember that Islam then was under attack by pagans and had to protect it self by taking out the attackers...

      October 6, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • samira

      Ramez – Brotherhood and Salfi killing Christians, burning churches, immigrating Christians by force from their villages and stealing their belongings. Christian girls kidnapped by Muslims and forced to marry Muslims. Thanks to Hillary and Obama who handed them Egypt in a silver plate. Soon, you'll see alkaida in Egypt, Syria, Iraq... etc

      February 29, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • Keven

      Thanks for sharing, it truly is a rlelay informative publish and very helpful for some kind of businesses like mine. I like when I’m looking the world wide web and i come across a site with valuable points like this. Thanks lots for the research, We’ve noted a number of them here so I can use them in a future. Kudos for you and keep up the good blogging perform.My website is .

      September 9, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  17. Muneef

    And We send down of the Qur'an that which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss.

    Sahih International
    And [for] every person We have imposed his fate upon his neck, and We will produce for him on the Day of Resurrection a record which he will encounter spread open.17:14

    [It will be said], "Read your record. Sufficient is yourself against you this Day as accountant."17:15

    Whoever is guided is only guided for [the benefit of] his soul. And whoever errs only errs against it. And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And never would We punish until We sent a messenger.17:16

    And when We intend to destroy a city, We command its affluent but they defiantly disobey therein; so the word comes into effect upon it, and We destroy it with [complete] destruction.17:17

    And how many have We destroyed from the generations after Noah. And sufficient is your Lord, concerning the sins of His servants, as Acquainted and Seeing.17:18

    Whoever should desire the immediate – We hasten for him from it what We will to whom We intend. Then We have made for him Hell, which he will [enter to] burn, censured and banished.17:19

    But whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the effort due to it while he is a believer – it is those whose effort is ever appreciated [by Allah ].17:20

    To each [category] We extend – to these and to those – from the gift of your Lord. And never has the gift of your Lord been restricted.17:21

    Look how We have favored [in provision] some of them over others. But the Hereafter is greater in degrees [of difference] and greater in distinction.17:22

    Do not make [as equal] with Allah another deity and [thereby] become censured and forsaken.17:23

    October 5, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Muneef

      Sahih International
      The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them exalt Him. And there is not a thing except that it exalts [ Allah ] by His praise, but you do not understand their [way of] exalting. Indeed, He is ever Forbearing and Forgiving.17:45

      And when you recite the Qur'an, We put between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter a concealed part-i-tion.17:46

      And We have placed over their hearts coverings, lest they understand it, and in their ears deafness. And when you mention your Lord alone in the Qur'an, they turn back in aversion.17:47


      Sahih International
      And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.17:71

      [Mention, O Muhammad], the Day We will call forth every people with their record [of deeds]. Then whoever is given his record in his right hand – those will read their records, and injustice will not be done to them, [even] as much as a thread [inside the date seed].17:72

      And whoever is blind in this [life] will be blind in the Hereafter and more astray in way.17:73

      October 5, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Reality

      The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

      ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

      Are you ready?

      Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

      The First Five of the 77 Branches:

      "1. Belief in Allah"

      aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

      "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

      Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

      "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

      A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

      "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

      Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

      Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

      Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

      "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
      Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

      Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

      Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

      Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

      October 5, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • PRISM 123

      Hi, Muneef, my friend...
      I hope things are good with you and your family.... I read about the troubles over there where you are. Please keep safe and low profile... I always pray for you and your people.
      God bless and keep you!

      October 6, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • Muneef

      PRISM 123

      I thank you dear brother...for all your thoughts of us here...GOD Bless...

      October 8, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  18. Jon

    Gotta luv that tolerant religion of islam. We hear muslims complain about intolerance of islam in the west, but it is about 0.5% of the intolerance christians experience in muslim countries.

    October 5, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      No one should be surprised when a country with an official state religion shows intolerance for all other religions!

      October 5, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
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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.