TheÂ 11th branch of Iranâ€™s Gilan Provincial CourtÂ upheld the apostasy conviction and execution sentencing of Christian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani this week. Social media accounts likeÂ TwitterÂ have swarmed support for Pastor Nadarkhani. But where is the critically needed support from nation statesâ€”let alone, from where the Vatican?
TheÂ VaticanÂ is an internationally recognized sovereign state with full diplomatic status. The Holy See has a legal personality under international law, giving it recognition as a sovereign state, which allows it to enter into treaties and to send and receive diplomatic representation. Knowing the Vatican has these powers, why hasnâ€™t it spoken up on behalf of the Christian minister?
It is understood that the Vatican does not have its own military. However, history exemplifies the power of the Vatican to bring nations together to defeat its arch enemies through either diplomatic means or military might.Â This does not imply cause for a militantÂ exhibition. However, it does imply, in a historical sense, the power of the Vatican.Â Has that power been lost today?
At theÂ Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II addressed the world to aid the Greeks and recover Palestine from Muslim rule. It was here that Pope Urban II requested aid from the West to fight against the Seljuq Turks. Nation states listened to the Pope and launched armies to engage battle against the Muslims, which lasted approximately 175 years. Some believe the ninth crusade was initiated by Muslims ten years ago on that horrific and tragic September day often referred to as 9-11.
Assyrian-born Chaldean CatholicÂ Tariq AzizÂ served as deputy prime minister to Iraq until 2003. During his tenure and immediately prior to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Saddam Hussein repeatedly sent Aziz to theÂ VaticanÂ in an attempt to delay and or resolve military confrontation against the United States. Needless to say, when you commit crimes against humanity as Aziz had, itâ€™s extremely tough for the Vatican to assist you.
Iran constantly commitsÂ crimes against humanity. War crimes have been committed, relentless killings of innocent people, torture, and so much more comes directly out of this Shiite-dominated stateâ€”yet they sit on theÂ United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The Vatican failed in delivering any statement opposing this newly appointed Iranian UN position.
Lately, instead of fighting for the morale and values bestowed before a loving and peaceful Christian faith, Pope Benedict seems to have embraced Iran. In 2008,Â Pope BenedictÂ actually conferred that the two entities agreed with one another on faith-based principles. Â Pope Urban II must be rolling in his grave.
Since 2001 alone, there have been well over 2,000 innocentÂ Christians brutally murderedÂ by Muslims. None of these people were military members engaged in any of the wars fought in Iraq or Afghanistan. They were faith-based community members or missionaries, some of which were actual clergy. Not once in any of the aforementioned atrocities did the Vatican make a global outcry for the victims. Yes, some statements can be found in Vatican records, but they failed to saturate international media news as they should have.
If anyone believes that the Vatican will step up today in safeguarding one of their own practitioners who preaches the word of God to fellow Christians, they will likely be let down. As a practicing Roman Catholic, I am at times ashamed of my own religious denomination, yet for whatever reason, I maintain my faith.
There are currently numerousÂ prayer calls for Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani. Numerous petitions exist requesting theÂ United States Department of Stateintervene. While fully recognizing the power of prayer, maybe itâ€™s time to simply do more about Iran and follow the war cry of Pope Urban II not just for the sake of Pastor Nadarkhani but for all of those who have faced the horrors of Iranâ€™s evil.
Nina Shea wrote,
As my colleague Paul Marshall recently wrote, evangelical Pastor Nadarkhani was sentenced to death for apostasy because he converted to Christianity. He had been tried and found guilty a year ago, even though the court also found that he had never been a practicing Muslim as an adult. Nadarkhani, from Rasht, on the Caspian Sea, converted to Christianity as a teenager.
Iranâ€™s Supreme Court, which upheld the verdict in June, ordered that the pastor be given four chances to renounce Christianity and accept Islam. Two hearings for this purpose took place yesterday and today. Two more are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Pastor had been arrested in 2009 when he tried to register his church with authorities. His defense lawyer Mohammed Ali Dadkhah was himself sentenced in July to nine years imprisonment for â€œactions and propaganda against the Islamic regime.â€ He is now appealing.
According to the U.S. State Department, if carried out, Pastor Nadarkhaniâ€™s execution would be the first for apostasy since 1990 in Iran.
â€” Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Instituteâ€™s Center for Religious Freedom and co-author, with Paul Marshall, ofÂ Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedoms WorldwideÂ (Oxford University Press, November 2010).