Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has remained for supporters a shining example of a faith-filled Christian standing firm in the face of persecution. According to Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Nadarkhani exemplifies a true Christian who is willing to sacrifice everything in this life on earth for his faith.
Nadarkhani, a married father of two, was arrested in Oct. 2009 for protesting the mandatory teaching of Islam at his children's schools. He was then charged with apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims, charges for which an execution order was issued in Feb. 2012. He currently remains in Iranian prison awaiting further news on his execution order. Sekulow and the nonprofit ACLJ have been closely monitoring the evangelical pastor's case.
The Iranian courts have asked Nadarkhani to recant his Christian faith in exchange for freedom numerous times. Each time, he has refused.
"The human response is any time we are in peril, is to save our human lives, rather than to think about our spiritual life," Sekulow told The Christian Post. "[Nadarkhani] was given these opportunities to walk free from jail and renounce his faith. He was given three opportunities and he didn't do so, that's the example we hope to follow."
"We hope that our faith remains strong and doesn't waver, but in reality we know that is very difficult. I think that's what highlights the story of Youcef Nadarkhani," Sekulow added.
While the Scriptures perpetually teach about the trials and tribulations of the persecuted, Nadarkhani is a real-life example, said the attorney, noting that persecution is the core of the Gospel.
"Remember... what happened to the Church after Christ left, and what the Church went through to be what it is today," Sekulow told CP.
Nadarkhani recently penned a letter to the human rights group Present Truth Ministries, talking about his experience with persecution. In the letter, he spoke of how he has struggled, but continues to maintain strong in his faith.
"And during these days which are hard in order to prove your loyalty and sincerity to God, I am trying to do the best in my power to stay right with what I have learned from God's commandments," he wrote.
"I need to remind my beloveds, though my trial due has been so long, and as in the flesh I wish these days to end, yet I have surrendered myself to God's will," he added.
While Nadarkhani is a very highlighted victim of persecution, Sekulow emphasized that much of the world still suffers from religious persecution.
"Much of the world's population still lives without religious freedom, especially religious minorities […] I think it's about a third of the world, so if you look at that statistic, I think we have to get out of our mindset as Americans," he said. "We haven't had to face those kinds of decisions in our own lives because we're blessed to be born in the United States of America."
"Persecuted Christians have a place in Scripture that is elevated above [all others]. These are the people who are really willing to risk everything, and give everything up on earth, because of their faith," Sekulow said of Nadarkhani and other persecuted people around the world.
As far as what other Christians can do to help the persecuted, Sekulow said supporters can take "advantage of modern society […] to never miss an opportunity to unite on these issues."
Use of the Internet proves crucial as "many governments don't have the capability to shut down all communication."
Sekulow noted, however, that faith is the most important thing to maintain.
"We have to stay positive to our faith, and work to not be discouraged […] we use our minds, our capabilities, [and] resources that other groups have around the world to try to do what we can," he said.
Recently, Nadarkhani's lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah was sentenced to nine years in prison for "acting against the national security." Dadkhah has yet to be arrested.