An American pastor imprisoned in Iran is reportedly being threatened that he will not be freed from prison until he denies his faith in Christ and returns to Islam.
As previously reported, Saeed Abedini, a former Iranian Muslim turned Christian, left Iran in 2005 and moved to the United States with his wife and two children to find religious freedom after facing conflict with authorities for planting house churches in the county. In 2012, he traveled back to Iran to build an orphanage and visit his parents—and was about to return to the states—when he was taken into custody.
Abedini was later charged with threatening the national security of Iran, and for attempting to turn youth in the nation away from Islam and toward Christianity. He was then sentenced to eight years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, where he has spent the past two years behind bars.
In November 2013, Abedini was transported to Rajai Shahr Prison, which was believed to pose an even greater threat to Abedini’s health and safety. Last May, while obtaining treatment at a local hospital for injuries sustained from beatings, he was likewise beaten and returned to prison.
Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, requested a face-to-face meeting with Barack Obama in January as he was scheduled to speak at an area university. She later told reporters that Obama advised her that “getting Saeed out is a top priority and he is working very hard to get Saeed home back to our family.”
But Abedini stated this week that her husband’s situation is still very serious as guards continue to pressure him to deny Christ and return to Islam.
“He has been under a lot of pressure and attack from the hardliners,” she stated in an update released by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). “The guards have also been threatening Saeed that he will never go free and additional charges (and years) will be added to his sentence (which they have done to other Christians and fellow inmates).”
“They continually threaten Saeed that the only key to his freedom is denying Christ and returning to Islam,” Abedini continued. “Saeed refuses to deny Christ and continues to be a light and witness in that dark prison.”
She asked that Christians continue to pray for her husband.
“These threats coupled with the fact that there have been mass executions during the last week in … prison, have really taken their toll on Saeed,” Abedini said. “He asks for prayer for continued strength.”
The ACLJ urges Christians to also continue to speak out on Abedini’s behalf.
“[A]s fellow U.S. citizens, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we must not be silent,” Executive Director Jordan Sekulow states. “Our government must do everything in its power to bring Pastor Saeed home. It is absolutely critical that the Obama administration and the State Department continue to demand that our innocent citizens—especially Pastor Saeed who is suffering only because of his religious beliefs—be returned home.”
The U.S. will be involved with nuclear negotiations with Iran on April 21.