WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Eric Cantor urged Americans on Friday to stand for persecuted Christians such as Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the country of Israel and religious liberty.
Cantor (R-Va.) used the Values Voter Summit stage to spotlight the plight of the jailed Iranian pastor.
"As we sit here today, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is literally fighting for his life in Iran simply for his Christianity," he said.
Nadarkhani, Cantor said, is the example of the growing tide of religious persecution overseas. Cantor said Americans are so protected that they are unaware that religious freedom is currently under attack.
"For us in America, it is unthinkable that someone would be put to death for their faith," he stated to thousands at the three-day summit that opened in Washington, D.C.
Nadarkhani was arrested two years ago this month for refusing to comply with the Iranian government's dictate that non-Muslim schoolchildren read the Quran. The Christian pastor protested that Iran's constitution allowed children to be reared according to their parents' faith.
In September 2010, a Gilan Province court sentenced Nadarkhani to death by hanging for "convert(ing) to Christianity" and "encourag(ing) other Muslims to convert to Christianity."
The court said Nadarkhani could save himself if he renounces Christianity. He refused to do so at a hearing last week. According to Present Truth Ministries, he is still waiting on a written verdict.
Cantor said America must stand up for religious freedom by standing for Israel.
Conservatives have denounced President Obama’s statement earlier this year, when he said, "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually-agreed swaps." The 1967 lines refer to the borders that existed before the Six-Day War led to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Conservatives believe Obama’s declaration is a suggestion that would give Palestine the upper hand against one of the United States’ closest allies.
Cantor said Friday that America's interests are allied with Israel in its desire for religious freedom, and Israelis are under "siege."
"The Jewish people are not the only religious minority under attack in the Middle East. Christians are under the same pressure," he highlighted.
American leaders, he stressed, must always stand by Israel and stand against the extremism that threatens religious freedoms.
"It is time for all of us to stand up against the spread of militant Islam and to stand up and lead for Pastor Youcef."