OTR Interviews

Iran's death sentence for Christian convert: Part of a growing war on Christianity worldwide

Iran's decision to put converted pastor to death could be part of worldwide anti-Christian sentiment

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 23, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: A 34-year-old Christian pastor and father of two is set to be executed. They're going to hang him. Why? Well, he dared to leave Islam and convert to Christianity. It's happening in Iran. And that's actually only the beginning. It's not an isolate case.

A war on Christians is spreading throughout the Muslim world. Christians are being murdered, some by machetes, raped, jailed burned, forced their homes, you name it. It is happening to them.

Reverend Franklin Graham has seen it firsthand. His aid group, Samaritan's Purse, is helping displaced Christians in the Sudan, and Sudan's military recently bombed a Bible school built by Samaritan's Purse. Reverend Graham joins us. Nice to see you, sir.

REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, SAMARITAN'S PURSE: Good to be with you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Before we talk about big picture, I want to talk about this pastor in Iran. He dared to become a Christian.

GRAHAM: Greta, according to the court records, what we can determine, he never was a Muslim. His parents were Muslim. And he was a Christian. I think it was at age 19. And what they have charged him on is apostasy under Islamic law. And this is -- it's called Sharia Law. This is -- this is what he's been charged with for converting to Christianity.

But since he hadn't been a Muslim, they are going hang him anyway because his parents were Muslim. And so therefore, he's been sentenced to death because his parents were Muslim, but he was never a Muslim.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, even if he had been a Muslim and he converted, I mean, that would be appalling! Forget the fact that it doesn't -- you know, that -- you know, they say that, if -- you know, that your conversion is what makes you eligible for execution. But I mean, it's just sort of the idea that a man or a woman just decides to convert to Christianity from another religion, from Muslim.

GRAHAM: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: And you get -- and you get -- and you get hanging.

GRAHAM: There's millions of Muslims out there that don't agree with this. They're wonderful people, Greta, but they're under the system of Sharia Law they can't bet out from under because the law -- the Koran demands if a person leaves Islam, they are to be killed. They're given a chance to recant and they can -- they can -- they can reverse this, but if they don't recant, if they don't denounce their faith, like this man was told to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ, but he refused to do it. And so therefore, they're going to hang him.

But this -- this is the law of Sharia. And it is a scary system. And Sharia law governs all of life for a Muslim. It's -- it's political, it's military, it's economic. Sharia law governs everything! And so they -- and no Western law is recognized. It's only sharia law.

VAN SUSTEREN: And there's, of course, nothing that the United States can do for this pastor in Iran. We've got enough problems with Iran. I mean, except for to plea that -- plea that...

GRAHAM: I think there is things -- the president could -- he could call for a prayer meeting at the -- at the White House. He could -- he could make a statement. We apologized to the Afghans because a Koran was mistakenly burned and this Koran had been used in smuggling out messages out of Bagram prison. And he apologizes to the Afghans after an Afghan soldier killed two Americans!

But why doesn't he speak out? He could. He could use the power of the White House to call pastors together at the White House and have a prayer meeting for this guy, but he hasn't done it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You know, we talk about this one case and we see the picture with his family and it's horrifying. But Newsweek covered this week -- and I'll hold it up. This is -- what's happening to this man is not particularly unusual. I mean, it talks about the war on Christians in Newsweek, and the writer goes through many situations, especially the Sudan.

GRAHAM: Correct. And Greta, we have people in the Sudan right now. They're being bombed. It's almost every day. And it's -- they're bombing civilians, not military targets, they're civilian targets. And it's because many of them, it's their faith in Jesus Christ, but the Nubian people are mixed between Muslim and Christian. And they're black African. And the north is for the most part Arab. It's a race war and the Arabs are trying to kill the blacks and run them off their land.

And the world is saying very little about this, Greta. And it -- it breaks my heart. We've got a lot of friends. A few years ago, the Muslims burned over a thousand churches in the south Sudan. There in the Nuba mountains, we have built back about 356 of these churches, and already they're beginning to burn them again.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you tipped me off to a video in The New York Times today, on The New York Times website...

GRAHAM: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... which -- which shows video from the area. And it's breathtaking, it's so horrible.

GRAHAM: It is. And I appreciate very much The New York Times sending a reporter in there, Nicholas Kristof, to document this.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of the Sudan -- I know you told me before, but you think that with the south Sudan, Sudan, that a president convening both leaders would go very far.

GRAHAM: It would, Greta. President Bashir has told me on several occasions he would...

VAN SUSTEREN: And he's one of the bad guys!

GRAHAM: Well, there's a lot of bad guys...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, he's under indictment by the International Criminal Court.

GRAHAM: He is. And -- but he has said America has to be engaged in this, and America's kind of ignored him. South -- in in the South, the president of the south has said the same thing. The United States has to be engaged.

You know, Jimmy Carter did -- he took a big risk when he invited Menachim Begin and Sadat to come to Camp David to hammer out a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. No one thought that would ever happen. And he did it because both sides were weary of war, both sides wanted peace. I think both sides want peace, and they're weary of it. But if someone like our president -- and I think he could do it -- brought them here to Washington and sat down at Camp David and hammered out a peace deal, this thing could be solved.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I urge people to read "The War on Christian" in Newsweek, go on line and read it because it talks in much broader picture about what's going on with these minority groups around the world. Reverend, nice to see you, sir.

GRAHAM: Thank you, Greta.