.- The White House and U.S. Department of State are condemning reports that the Iranian government has issued an execution order for Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani because he refuses to reject his Christian faith.
âThis action is yet another shocking breach of Iranâs international obligations, its own constitution, and stated religious values,â said a Feb. 23 statement from the White House press secretaryâs office.
The White House condemned âin the strongest possible termsâ reports that a death sentence was issued for the pastor, expressed âsolidarityâ with Nadarkhani, and observed that the ability to practice oneâs faith âwithout fear of persecutionâ is âa fundamental and universal human right.â
Through its actions towards the condemned pastor, the Iranian government is demonstrating a âtotal disregard for religious freedomâ and âcontinuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens,â it said.
The White House called for âpeople of conscience and governments around the worldâ to demand that Iran release Nadarkhani immediately and show a respect for basic human rights.
On the same day, the U.S. State Department voiced deep concern over the reports, noting a recent âincrease in repression of freedom of expressionâ in Iran, where government persecution of religion is âcommonâ and many religious groups âface harsh treatment.â
âWe stand with religious and political leaders from around the worldâ to condemn Nadarkhaniâs conviction and call for his release, the State Department said.
Nadarkhani has been in jail since he was arrested for apostasy in 2009. His arrest came after he complained to local authorities about his son being forced to read the Quran at school.
The pastor argued that he had never been a Muslim during his adult life.
Although an appeals court agreed with his assertion, it also ruled that he had left the faith of his ancestors and must therefore recant or face execution for apostasy.
Despite the death threats, Nadarkhani has stood firm and refused to renounce his faith.
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, said the statements from the White House and State Department confirm the reports he has received from contacts in Iran. Those sources told Sekulow that the government has issued an execution order for Nadarkhani that might be carried out at any time.
âWe greatly appreciate the White Houseâs and State Department's efforts,â Sekulow said.
He added that it âis absolutely critical that we continue to place international pressure on Iranâ for Nadarkhaniâs âimmediate and unconditional release.â
The American Center for Law and Justice has been closely monitoring Nadarkhaniâs situation for months, and has asked people to pray for the pastor and spread the word about his plight, especially through social media outlets.