Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Iranian Pastor Remains on Death Row, Some Reports Say
- TOMS Founder Distances Himself from Focus on the Family
- Christian Groups Urge Iran Isolation
- Nepal Agrees to Give Christians a Cemetery
Iranian Pastor Remains on Death Row, Some Reports Say
The Christian Post reports that an Iranian pastor sentenced to death remains in limbo. Just last week reports indicated that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani's sentence had been annulled, but a written verdict issued this week reportedly does not mitigate the sentence. The U.S.-based Present Truth Ministries said the pastor's lawyer has seen the written verdict, but it has not yet been translated. One source told the organization that the Supreme Court appears to have agreed with the death sentence as “it is based on fatwas of Ayatollahs Khomeini, Khamenei and Makarem Shirazi ... While agreeing with the death sentence, the Supreme Court pointed out procedural flaws and is asking the lower court to re-examine the case,” the source said. “This is the only binding point of the ruling.” Another Iranian source told the organization that there was no guarantee that the pastor would not be executed before the case was re-examined.
TOMS Founder Distances Himself from Focus on the Family
TOMS shoe company usually enjoys goodwill because of its commitment to donate shoes to children for every pair sold. However, as Christianity Today reports, the company recently came under fire from secular websites for its "budding relationship" with Focus on the Family. The two groups partnered for a "Style Your Sole" event with about 500 people on June 30, leading sites like Jezebel and Ms. Magazine to question whether TOMS is "anti-gay, anti-choice." TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie responded by distancing himself from the venerable ministry. "TOMS, and I as the founder, are passionate believers in equal human and civil rights for all," he wrote on his blog. "Had I known the full extent of Focus on the Family’s beliefs, I would not have accepted the invitation to speak at their event. It was an oversight on my part and the company’s part and one we regret."
Christian Groups Urge Iran Isolation
Southern Baptist leaders are part of a coalition that has called on the United States government and its allies to oppose the militant Islamic regime in Iran. Baptist Press reports that the appeal, announced July 8, is the latest in a series of letters from Christian Leaders for a Nuclear-free Iran to U.S. officials over the last two years regarding Iran's nuclear hopes and its threat to Israel. As in the past, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), was among the signers. The latest letter also went to 83 prime ministers and other heads of state, 83 United Nations ambassadors and 83 foreign ambassadors in Washington, according to a coalition spokesperson. In the letter, the coalition said Iran has Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad among its "terrorist proxies" and is seeking to extend its menacing reach into the Middle East.
Nepal Agrees to Give Christians a Cemetery
After spirited protests by Christians, Nepal authorities have finally conceded to their demand for a Christian cemetery amid a Hindu culture of cremation. "We are happy," said Chari Bahadur Gahatraj, a leading pastor and secretary of the Christian Advisory Committee for a New Constitution, which led the protests. "We are now waiting to know the four corners of the burial land." According to Christianity Today, Gahatraj said the government ministries of culture and interior affairs have created a committee to identify land for a Christian cemetery in the crowded capital of Kathmandu. Another committee will study the feasibility of allocating land for Christian cemeteries in all of the Himalayan nation's 75 districts. "It is a big victory for us," said pastor Gahatraj. "Our protests have borne fruit."