Most Americans have probably heard about Iran’s recent claim to have launched a monkey into space. But very few have ever heard of Saeed Abedini, and that’s just how the Iranian government wants it.
Abedini, an American citizen, was recently sentenced to eight years in prison for threatening Iran’s national security.
How did he threaten Iran’s national security? Well, according to the Iranian government, by “creating a network of Christian house churches” and, therefore, “attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam.”
Abedini’s problems with the regime date back to his conversion to Christianity 13 years ago. In Iran, such conversion is regarded as waging war on Islam.
After his conversion, Abedini became active in the house church movement, so active that he moved to the United States in 2005, becoming a citizen in 2010, to avoid persecution.
While he may have emigrated, Abedini maintained ties with his homeland. The most important of these ties is an orphanage he’s helping to build in the city of Rasht. It was during an attempted visit in last September that Abedini was arrested by Iranian authorities.
What followed was, in the words of Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, a “real travesty” and “mockery of justice.” The Iranian government seems intent on making an example of Abedini, even though he denies evangelizing in Iran.
The case raises obvious parallels to that of Youcef Nadarkhani, another Iranian pastor who served three years in prison, was released in September, and was then re-arrested in December, and re-released in January.
Nadarkhani was released both times in response to international pressure. This same kind of pressure must be brought to bear on behalf of Saeed Abedini.
Thankfully, the State Department has already weighed in on Abedini’s behalf. Secretary of State John Kerry said that “the U.S. government, condemn[s] Iran’s continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and calls on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini’s human rights and release him.”
That’s a good start, but more is needed. For starters, you can sign a petition initiated by ACLJ demanding the pastor’s release. Please come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll link you to ACLJ.
You can also write the White House and State Department thanking them for their statement — and then urge them to please make Abedini’s release a top priority.
As strange it may sound, you should also write the Iranian government and urge them to release Abedini. Believe it or not, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has a Facebook page that only people outside Iran can access. The regime has some regard for its image outside of the country.
And to get a better understanding of what Saaed faces every day in that Iranian prison, and what his wife and kids face every day thousands of miles away, not knowing the fate of their beloved, please listen to “BreakPoint this Week.”
My colleague John Stonestreet sat down with Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, and with Tiffany Barrans from the ACLJ for a moving 30-minute interview. Listen to this as a family; talk about the cost of following Christ; and ask what the Lord would have you do. As Naghmeh told John, the prayer for her and her husband is that they would seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Folks, please, go to BreakPoint.org, click on the “This Week” tab, and listen to this special edition of “BreakPoint This Week.”
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: February 8, 2013