STRASBOURG — The European Parliament passed a resolution this past week calling for the release of an American pastor that has been imprisoned in Iran for the past year.
As previously reported, Pastor Saeed Abedini of Idaho, a former Muslim, left Iran in 2005 and moved to the United States with his wife and children to find religious freedom. Last fall, 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.
According to reports, he was arrested 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. Abedini was then sentenced to eight years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, where he has spent the past year.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been fighting for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini, reports that it and its European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice, have been meeting with the European Parliament to discuss their concerns about the pastor’s imprisonment.
As a result, Members of the European Parliament (MEP’s) passed a resolution last week calling for Abedini’s release.
“[The Parliament] is deeply concerned about the fate of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been detained for over a year and was sentenced to eight years of prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs,” it wrote. “We call on Iran to take steps to ensure that full respect is shown for the right to freedom of religion or belief, including by ensuring that its legislation and practices fully conform to … the right of everyone to change his or her religion, if he or she so chooses.”
The MEP’s noted the resolution in a news release on Thursday that also spoke of the persecution of Christians in Syria and Pakistan.
The ACLJ says that it is pleased with the resolution, and is thankful that there seems to be “growing pressure internationally for Iran to free Pastor Saeed.”
The development comes just weeks after Barack Obama referenced the pastor while speaking on the phone with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani late last month. It was the first direct communication between Iran and an American president in 30 years.
“The source stated that President Obama raised Pastor Saeed’s case along with two other Americans directly with the Iranian president,” the ACLJ explained. “According to the report, President Obama raised concerns about the imprisonment of Saeed and expressed our country’s interest in seeing the American pastor returned to his family.”
Abedini himself has sent correspondence to Rouhani to plead for his release.
“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,” he wrote. “Please take immediate action in this regard… 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.”
In the meantime, a number of Christians worldwide are doing the same with a letter-writing and petition campaign launched by the ACLJ called Save Saeed. Over 170,000 letters have been written according to reports.