An American pastor who was sentenced to eight years in an Iranian prison for planting house churches in the country says that officials in Iran have given him the ultimatum to either deny Christ or remain incarcerated.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been working for the pastor’s release, reports that they have obtained a new letter written by Saeed Abedini, which outlines the pressure that he is facing behind bars.
“‘Deny your faith in Jesus Christ and return to Islam or else you will not be released from prison. We will make sure you are kept here even after your 8 year sentence is finished.’ These are the threats that prison officials throw at me,” the pastor writes. “My response to them is Romans 8:35-39.”
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” the Scripture cited by Abedini reads. “As it is written, ‘For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“The reality of Christian living is that difficulties or problems do arise in our lives,” he continues. “Persecution and difficulties are not new occurrences, but are seen often in the Christian life. It is through the suffering and tribulations that we are to enter the Kingdom of God.”
The ACLJ outlines that while Abedini’s physical strength is growing weak because of the brutal conditions in prison, his faith remains strong and is “what is keeping him alive.”
As previously reported, 32-year-old Abedini, who resides in Idaho with his wife and children, has been incarcerated in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison since late September for allegedly threatening the national security of Iran by planting house churches in the country a decade ago, and for attempting to turn youth in the nation away from Islam and toward Christianity. He had traveled to Iran to build an orphanage last fall, and was about to return to the states when he was taken into custody.
“When I saw my family for the first time behind the glass walls, I could see my mom four meters away. As she approached me and saw my face, she broke down and could not get closer. She was crying,” he wrote in a letter released last month. “I understood what she felt because after weeks of being in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, I also got to see my face in the mirror of an elevator that was taking me to the prison hospital. I said hi to the person staring back at me because I did not recognize myself. My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown.”
The ACLJ is asking for Christians around the world to send a note of encouragement to Abedini while he is incarcerated.
“We must let him know that we will never forget him and will never stop working for his release,” it states, noting that 20,000 people have already submitted correspondence for the pastor. “This has already quickly become one of the largest letter writing campaigns ever.”
Information on the Save Saeed campaign may be found at savesaeed.org.