Sunday was the 1,000th day since Iranian security forces incarcerated Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for practicing Christianity. He was subsequently sentenced to death.

The American Center for Law & Justice, Nadarkhani’s primary advocate, noted that the pastor is slated to appear in an Iranian court on September 8.

The purpose of the hearing is unclear. Optimists have expressed the hope that Nadarkhani will be resentenced with a punishment less severe than death.

But realists have pointed out that until Iran’s mullahs act, any rumors to the contrary, the death sentence remains in place. At most, the Islamic Republic will repackage the charges so they do not smack of religious persecution. Iranian judges might decide to find the pastor guilty of espionage or some other trumped-up offense to make the death sentence more palatable locally and in international forums.

Nadarkhani is hardly an isolated case of Muslim persecution of Christians in the Middle East. As Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and other countries in the region are in the throes of what might turn out to be Iran-like Islamist revolutions – albeit of the Sunni variety – the situation of Christians in these countries is increasingly precarious.

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