(CNN) -- A Christan pastor in Iran has been sentenced to death for allegedly renouncing his Muslim religion and another faces a possible indictment on the same charge of apostasy, according to a prominent activist group working for human rights in Iran.
Youcef Nadarkhani, a 32-year-old member of the Church of Iran ministry and pastor of an approximately 400-person congregation in the northern city of Rasht, faces death, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
In the southern city of Shiraz, another Christian pastor, Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani, 35, is facing a possible indictment for apostasy.
"This is part of a greater trend of persecution against Christians," said Firouz Sadegh-Khanjani, brother of Behrouz and member of the Church of Iran's Executive Council.
Christians are feeling the heat in other parts of the Muslim world as well.
In Iraq, Christians have been attacked and many have fled their homes for other lands. In Pakistan, a Christian woman faces a death sentence for blasphemy for allegedly defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed.
On September 22, Iran's 11th Circuit Criminal Court of Appeals for the Gilan Province upheld the death sentence and conviction of Nadarkhani for apostasy.
Apostasy is the "act of renouncing one's religion," the human rights group said Tuesday, but it "is not a crime under Iran's Islamic Penal Code. Instead, the presiding judge in Nadarkhani's case rested his opinion on texts by Iranian religious scholars."
"It is the low point of any judicial system to sentence a person to death outside of its own legal framework," said Aaron Rhodes, a spokesman for the campaign.
"To execute someone based on the religion they choose to practice or not practice is the ultimate form of religious discrimination and disregard for the freedom of conscience and belief."
The judgment said Nadarkhani was born to Muslim parents but converted to Christianity when he was age 19 and it said that "during interrogations Nadarkhani made a written confession admitting he left Islam for Christianity." (Read more.)
For more on the Islamic penalty for apostasy:
I wish for once and for all they would standardize the apostasy law for all muslims in the world and stop beating around the bush on the sentences for apostasy. Then we can see how peaceful they really are.
brother david wood read this article
I was a former missionary in Iran with Operation Mobilation for nearly a year in the early 70s and my heart is always grieved when I hear of teh persicution of my Iranian brothers and sisters for faith in the Lord Jesus. Let us continue to hold these two men and their families in prayer that the Lord would up hold them and rescue them from the lion's den as he did Daniel from anther Persian king.
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