April 21, 2014
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Iranian pastor says God provided in prison
Youcef Nadarkhani

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Posted on Sep 21, 2012 | by Staff

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TEHRAN (BP) -- The Iranian pastor who spent more than 1,000 days in prison simply for being a Christian has written an open letter saying Christ provided for his needs while behind bars and thanking those around the world for praying for him.

"I have been put to the test, the test of faith which is, according to the Scriptures 'more precious than perishable gold,'" the pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, wrote Sept. 8 in a letter that was translated into English. It was posted on the website of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ.org).

"But I have never felt loneliness, I was all the time aware of the fact that it wasn't a solitary battle, for I have felt all the energy and support of those who obeyed their conscience and fought for the promotion of the justice and the rights of all human beings. ... The Lord has wonderfully provided through the trial, allowing me to face the challenges that were in front of me. As the Scriptures say, 'He will not allow us to be tested beyond our strength. ..."

Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 while registering his church in Rasht, Iran, although he initially was arrested for protesting his children being taught Islam in school, according to ACLJ. He was charged with apostasy for supposedly abandoning Islam and later was given a death sentence.

Nadarkhani was acquitted in early September of apostasy, but the court found him guilty of evangelizing Muslims and sentenced him to three years in prison -- then released him because he had already served that much time. Nadarkhani said he never had been a Muslim.

"I also want to express my gratitude towards those who, all around the world, have worked for my cause, or should I say the cause that I defend," he wrote in the open letter. "I want to express my gratitude to all of those who have supported me, openly or in complete secrecy. You are all very dear to my heart. May the Lord bless you and give you His perfect and sovereign Grace."

He said while in prison he "had the opportunity to experience in a marvelous way the Scripture that says: 'Indeed, as the sufferings of Christ abound for us, our encouragement abounds through Christ.'"

"[Christ] has comforted my family and has given them the means to face that difficult situation," Nadarkhani wrote. "In His Grace, He provided for their spiritual and material needs, taking away from me a heavy weight."

In September 2011, Nadarkhani was given four chances to recant his faith in court and refused each time. ACLJ reported one of his court exchanges.

"Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?" Nadarkhani asked.

"To the religion of your ancestors, Islam," the judge reportedly replied.

"I cannot," the pastor responded.

Below is the full text of his open letter:

"Salaam! (Peace be upon you!)

"I glorify and give grace to the Lord with all my heart. I am grateful for all the blessings that He gave me during my whole life. I am especially grateful for His goodness and divine protection that characterized the time of my detention.

"I also want to express my gratitude towards those who, all around the world, have worked for my cause, or should I say the cause that I defend. I want to express my gratitude to all of those who have supported me, openly or in complete secrecy. You are all very dear to my heart. May the Lord bless you and give you His perfect and sovereign Grace.

"Indeed I have been put to the test, the test of faith which is, according to the Scriptures 'more precious than perishable gold.' But I have never felt loneliness, I was all the time aware of the fact that it wasn't a solitary battle, for I have felt all the energy and support of those who obeyed their conscience and fought for the promotion of the justice and the rights of all human beings. Thanks to these efforts, I have now the enormous joy to be by my wonderful wife and my children. I am grateful for these people through whom God has been working. All of this is very encouraging.

"During that period, I had the opportunity to experience in a marvelous way the Scripture that says: 'Indeed, as the sufferings of Christ abound for us, our encouragement abound through Christ.' He has comforted my family and has given them the means to face that difficult situation. In His Grace, He provided for their spiritual and material needs, taking away from me a heavy weight.

"The Lord has wonderfully provided through the trial, allowing me to face the challenges that were in front of me. As the Scriptures says, 'He will not allow us to be tested beyond our strength....'

"Despite the fact that I have been found guilty of apostasy according to a certain reading of the Shar'ia, I am grateful that He gave the leaders of the country, the wisdom to break that judgment taking into account other facts of that same Shar'ia. It is obvious that the defenders of the Iranian right and the legal experts have made an important effort to enforce the law and the right. I want to thank those who have defended the right until the end.

"I am happy to live in a time where we can take a critical and constructive look to the past. This has allowed the writing of universal texts aiming at the promotion of the rights of man. Today, we are debtors of these efforts provided by dear people who have worked for the respect of human dignity and have passed on to us these universal significant texts.

"I am also debtor of those who have faithfully passed on the Word of God, that very Word who makes us heirs of God.

"Before ending, I want to express a prayer for the establishment of an unending and universal peace, so that the will of the Father be done on earth as it is in heaven. Indeed, everything passes, but the Word of God, source of all peace, will last eternally.

"May the grace and mercy of God be multiplied to you. Amen!"
--30--
Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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