Saturday, March 9, 2013
Update: Iranian Pastor Nadarkhani Now Believed to be 'Alive and Well'
Several Ministries Confirm Contact with Beleagured Pastor After Internet Buzz
By Michael Ireland
Special Reporter, ASSIST News Service
Yesterday, an Anglican vicar in Iraq said that Iranian Pastor Youssef Nadarkhani was dead. The vicar said reports and pictures existed of Nadarkhani's fate.
The news caused a buzz on the Internet and a flurry of postings to various Facebook accounts.
Today, Canon Andrew White, Vicar of St. George's Church in Baghdad, wrote on his Facebook page: "Dear Friends, As you will be aware there have been so many postings about pastor Yusif some say he has been killed others say that he is alive. The evidence that he is alive actually seem a lot stronger. I have therefore removed the many reports and pictures. Please just pray that he is alive and secure."
Earlier, reports of Nadarkhani's death were circulating on the Internet following a post Canon White made on his Facebook page yesterday (Thursday, March 7), at which time White said he was meeting with Muslim leaders today and came home to the news of Nadarkhani's death.
At the time this story first went to press, the news had not been independently confirmed or verified.
At that time, two independent ministries, both working in the region, said they had no working knowledge of the claim.
However, Jason DeMars of www.Presenttruthmn.com , told ANS late last evening, "Youcef is alive and he is doing fine."
DeMars, who is a spokesman for Present Truth Ministries, stated: "There are reports circulating that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been killed, but my sources report that he is alive and doing fine."
Two other ministries, the UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (www.csw.org.uk ) and the US-based American Center for Law and Justice, (www.aclj.org), both of which have championed Nadarkhani's cause, today refuted the death claim of Nadarkhani's death.
In a media release, CSW said: "Reports alleging that Pastor Nadarkhani had been hanged initially surfaced last week and have resurfaced today.
"Pictures purporting to show a man being hanged are being attributed as evidence of the pastor's death. However, the man in these pictures is not Pastor Nadarkhani, and CSW's sources have confirmed he is still alive."
CSW also confirmed the history of Nadarkani's case. It says that on September 8, 2012, a court in Rasht acquitted Pastor Nadarkhani of apostasy, but sentenced him to three years for evangelizing Muslims. Since he had already spent close to three years in Lakan Prison, the pastor was released after posting bail. He was returned to prison on December 25, 2012 on the orders of prison authorities, and released again on January 7, 2013.
CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, "While we are relieved to report that Pastor Nadarkhani is alive, we urge caution in circulating rumors which must be deeply distressing for his family, his congregation and for many around the world who continue to pray for him. Given their possible ramifications, it is vital that reports of such a serious nature are stringently verified before dissemination."
A spokesman for the ALCJ commented on Facebook: "Update on Nadarkhani: Our contacts inside Iran have now spoken with Youcef Nadarkhani. He is alive. Reports/rumors of his death that have been spreading online are false."
Representatives of the two ministries working in the region earlier said they had no news on Nadarkhani's situation. However, at least three sources have now refuted the claims of Nadarkhani's death.
Firouz Khandjani, member of the National Council of Church of Iran also stated: "I would confirm that Pastor Yousef is alive and well."
Several Iranian Christians remain in Iranian prisons and believers around the world are being urged to remain in prayer for their wellbeing and eventual release.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organization working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.csw.org.uk.