Thousands are expected to attend prayer gatherings this Thursday for an American pastor who has been imprisoned in Iran for one year.
As previously reported, Saeed Abedini, who fled Iran in 2005 and moved to Idaho with his wife and two children, was arrested last year for allegedly threatening the national security of Iran by planting house churches 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 and visit his parents last fall, and was about to return to the states when he was taken into custody. Abedini was then sentenced to eight years in Iran’s Evin Prison, where he will have officially served time for one year on Thursday.
Abedini’s wife Naghmeh said that the ordeal is particularly difficult for the couple’s children.
“Every minute, every day Saeed is apart from us is more excruciating than the next,” she stated on behalf of her daughter Rebekka (7) and son Jacob (5). “This was the second year that Saeed missed Rebekka’s birthday. We had hoped that this past year would be the last she would ever have to celebrate without Daddy. Now, I am faced with the painful realization that our kids are growing up without their father. We are praying for a miracle just to be able to see him again.”
However, Naghmeh also told students at Liberty University this past week that her husband has led over two dozen prisoners to Christ since being incarcerated.
“They’ve told him many times that they would free him and allow him to return to our family, the kids and I, if he would deny his Christian faith, and he’s stood strong in that prison. He’s led many, many–over 30 people–to Christ in that prison,” she explained.
On Thursday, supporters in over 70 cities across the U.S. and around the world will join together to pray for Abedini’s release as gatherings are scheduled to mark one year that the pastor has served in prison.
“With each passing day in prison, the situation facing this American pastor becomes more grave,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ. “For one year now he has been illegally imprisoned—365 days that has been extremely difficult and dangerous for Pastor Saeed and increasingly trying for his wife and children.”
“We realize that international attention—including a statement by President Obama which has yet to come—is a critical part of a global strategy to keep the spotlight on Iran, to keep this urgent human and religious rights case at the forefront,” he continued. “Our legal and diplomatic work continues to free Pastor Saeed. And we are hopeful that on this anniversary of his captivity, governments around the globe will redouble their diplomatic efforts on behalf of Pastor Saeed.”
As Abedini recently penned a letter to new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pleading for freedom, the ACLJ has likewise launched a global letter-writing campaign to put pressure on the regime. The Christian legal organization is asking supporters around the world to send letters to Iran’s president through its website, the Be Heard Project.
Over 600,000 people have signed a petition demanding the pastor’s release.