The American Center for Law and Justice has launched an online campaign to help secure the release of American pastor Saeed Abedini, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence in Iran because of his Christian faith. The campaign at BeHeardProject.com is asking people to write letters to Iran's new leader, President Hassan Rouhani, appealing for justice and freedom for Pastor Saeed. To support Pastor Saeed, you can write a letter directly to the Iranian president and add your name to a petition containing the names of more than 620,000 people who have signed on already demanding the pastor's release.
The campaign comes as Pastor Saeed has written his own letter to President Rouhani calling on him to follow through on his pledge of moderation. In the letter, Pastor Saeed provides details about his work in Iran and the fact that he was completing work on an orphanage when he was taken into custody last September. "Mr. President, I, like you, believe in moderation and, as a spiritual man, have no interest in politics and did not seek actions against national security, propaganda or political groups," Pastor Saeed writes. "My purpose in all my attempts in my hometown was to reduce pain and suffering as well as compassion for the poor, orphans and unaccompanied children in accordance with religious rules and the sole intention of pleasing my Savior, Jesus Christ."
Pastor Saeed also describes the physical abuse and internal bleeding he has suffered as a result of his year-long imprisonment, and urges the Iranian leader to exhibit compassion and justice so he can return to his family in the United States. "My wife and children, as well as over a billion Christians in the world, seek God's justice and then your consideration of this matter," Pastor Saeed writes. "Please take immediate action in this regard and do not let me and a lot of people in my ward become the victims of the fire that extremists have made, those who have turned Iran into a vortex of crisis. Considering the fact that I came to Iran to serve the orphans, please do not let them make my children orphans and my wife without a guardian."
At BeHeardProject.com, you can draft your own letter to President Rouhani or add your name to a pre-written letter. The ACLJ's goal is to send the president 52,000 letters -- 1,000 for each week that Pastor Saeed has been imprisoned -- asking him to save the 33-year-old U.S. citizen.
"This is a critical time for this U.S. citizen who has been illegally imprisoned in one of Iran’s most dangerous prisons for nearly one year now," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. "With Pastor Saeed's direct appeal to the Iranian president and our global letter-writing campaign to urge him to release Pastor Saeed, the new Iranian president can send an important message to the world -- that his promise of moderation can be fulfilled by releasing Pastor Saeed from prison. This American pastor has done nothing wrong -- imprisoned only because of his Christian faith. We call on Iran to release him so he can return to his family."
Naghmeh Abedini, Pastor Saeed's wife, said: "Over the last weekend my family celebrated my daughter's seventh birthday, the second birthday in a row my precious Rebekkah celebrated without her father. When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she said she just wanted her daddy home. The reality of his absence is inescapable. ... In a week from now, the president of Iran will be on U.S. soil. And I have to wonder whether my government will use this opportunity to appeal directly to President Rouhani for the release of my husband. I hope President Obama will break his deafening silence and speak out for my husband. But I also ask that everyone join me in appealing directly to President Rouhani by writing letters urging him to release Saeed."
While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has issued two brief statements urging Iran to release Pastor Saeed, the ACLJ and Pastor Saeed's family continue to call on President Barack Obama to speak out directly on Pastor Saeed's behalf. On September 26, the one-year anniversary of Pastor Saeed being taken into captivity by Iranian authorities, prayer vigils will be held in the U.S. and around the world in an effort to call attention to Pastor Saeed's plight and advocate for his release. For more information about Pastor Saeed and for a list of locations of the September 26 prayer vigils, visit SaveSaeed.org.
Anna Kuta is the editor of ReligionToday.com.