Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been imprisoned in Iran for his faith since 2009, and a New York City deacon has suggested that the persecuted pastor serves as the epitome of a faithful Christian.
In an email interview with The Christian Post, Deacon Greg Kandra of the Diocese of the borough of Brooklyn said he admires Nadarkhani's faith and courage. The Iranian evangelical pastor has repeatedly refused to recant his Christian faith in exchange for freedom from prison and a death sentence.
"[His faith is] both inspiring and humbling – and I wonder how many of us in the West, confronting something similar, could be so steadfast," Kandra said.
"He is a young man truly walking the walk, and staying true to the Gospel. Like the early Christians, he seems willing (like Christ himself) to take up his own cross and surrender his life. His uncompromising stand serves as a reminder to us all that following Christ also means having our own share of the cross," the minister added.
Kandra chose to center his Aug. 26 sermon, published on the religion information website Patheos, on Nadarkhani's enduring faith, comparing him to Peter in the Bible.
"[…] every day, God asks us: 'Do you also want to leave?'" Kandra wrote in his sermon.
"And every day, we answer Him. With our lives, with our choices. With the way we go into the world," he added, implying that Nadarkhani was the prime example of one who follows God regardless of what others tell him is "right."
"Every day is a choice between what is right…and what feels right. Between our will and God's. Between timeless truth and attractive illusion," Kandra added in his sermon.
Kandra told CP that Christians must unite internationally to pray for Nadarkhani, who was imprisoned in Oct. 2009 for apostasy and attemtping to evangelize Muslims, and all other Christians suffering persecution around the world.
"Christians need to be united in prayer for people like Nadarkhani, and be reminded of what our brothers and sisters of the faith are suffering in other parts of the world. The days of the martyrs are not over. Far from it," he said.
"Whatever attention we can give to the plight of persecuted Christians can serve to make all of us aware of the price that some must pay for following the Gospel. And it can help all of us in the west who enjoy religious freedom to not take it for granted."
Nadarkhani continues to await his Sept. 8 court date in prison, while his wife, Fatema Pasindedih, and his two sons await further news on his case.
Deacon Greg Kandra worked for 26 years as a writer and producer for CBS News, and currently serves as the executive director of ONE magazine, published by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).