(Photo: Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
At a recent national conference in London, newly freed Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani expressed immense gratitude to his many supporters who prayed for his release during his three-year imprisonment, saying that he is alive today because of "what your prayers did for me."
"It is the opportunity for me to share about what the Lord did for me and to thank you because you supported me by your prayers, you supported my family in a very difficult time," Nadarkhani, 35, told those in attendance at the persecution watchdog group Christian Solidarity Worldwide's National Conference in London in early November.
"My prayer is I ask the Lord to bless you for what you did for me as a small member of the Body of Christ. Today my presence here is the will of God and the result of what your prayers did for me," Nadarkhani added, according to a press release issued by CSW, which has maintained an active role in Nadarkhani's release from prison.
Nadarkhani, a house pastor in Rasht, Iran, was released from prison on Sept. 8 after three years imprisonment for charges of apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims.
Although he initially faced the death penalty for his charges, Nadarkhani eventually had his apostasy charge removed, and was therefore freed.
Shortly after being released from jail, Nadarkhani issued a "Thank You Letter" to his supporters, saying:
"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."
Observers contend that Nadarkhani's release depended highly on the amount of international pressure Iran received regarding his case.
Countries around the world, including Germany, the United States, and Brazil, openly condemned Iran's imprisonment of the Christian minister due to his faith, arguing that the country was disregarding international human rights laws.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide said Nadarkhani's speech at the organization's national convention was an inspiring, faith-filled testimony of perseverance and love.
"It was a pleasure to welcome Pastor Nadarkhani to our conference and to hear his testimony of faith and perseverance, and of his love for God, for his family and for his nation," CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a press release.
"His quiet courage, integrity and lack of recrimination cannot fail to have inspired anyone who heard him to deepen their own commitment to their faith," Thomas added.
Nadarkhani reportedly spoke at four religious services at a local church in the small town of Brompton, near Medway, England, before returning to his wife and two sons in his hometown of Rasht.
Although Nadarkhani was successful in fighting the Iranian government's practice of religious persecution, his lawyer, human rights defender Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, has been detained.
Dadkhah, one of the few human rights lawyers in Iran, was arrested in Oct. 2012 and sentenced to nine years in prison for allegedly acting against national security and spreading propaganda.
The American Center for Law and Justice, another pro-human rights organization that has closely monitored Nadarkhani's case, urges all Christians to continue their fight for religious freedom in Iran.
"As the world awakened to the realities of religious persecution in Iran when the masses fought for Pastor Youcef's freedom, we must now shift our attention to defend those who defend the persecuted," Tiffany Barrans, International Legal Director for the ACLJ, previously told The Christian Post.