Congress now has some authority to act on the behalf of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American Christian who spent his 35th birthday praying for this country as he continues to suffer in a hostile Iranian prison. He was allowed to deliver a letter to a relative visiting him and the letter was made public as a part of National Day of Prayer celebrated in May.
Iranian authorities jailed Abedini, an American citizen and pastor, two and a half years ago when he went back to Iran to help build an orphanage. His charge was that he was helping underground Christian home churches. It was not the first time Abedini, who is Iranian born, but has resided in Idaho, had been detained and questioned. He had been detained on a previous trip, but was released after he promised not to participate in church building in the country. Abedini said after his arrest he kept his promise and the orphanage was a secular project.
Abedini is one of four Americans currently being held in Iranian prisons. Others include Amir Hekmati, who was born in Arizona and is a former Marine. Hekmati was arrested in Tehran in 2011 and charged with espionage. He was sentenced to death, but the sentence was overturned. FBI agent Robert Levinson went missing after a visit to Kish Island in 2007. Iran will not admit to holding Levinson, but U.S. officials believe he has been imprisoned for the last seven years. Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post correspondent and Tehran bureau chief, was arrested and detained in July 2014 with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and two freelance photographers. The two photographers and Salehi were released by October 2014, but Rezain faces charges of espionage and other crimes including “collaborating with a hostile government” and “propaganda against the establishment.”
Abedini’s case is one of the most publicized, in part because he was arrested for his Christian faith and because his wife, Naghmeh, has persisted in bring attention to his case. Abedini, born Muslim and converted to Christianity 13 years ago, wrote a letter in the form of the many letters the Apostle Paul wrote from prison and begins “Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Abedini said the fact that National Day of Prayer fell on May 7, his birthday, this year is prompting the letter urging Americans to pray for the United States.
“We all hope for the success of our nation and for America to be blessed, but without revival there can be no true success or blessing,” the pastor writes. He urged Americans to gather publicly to pray.
Naghmeh Abedini continues, with support from numerous Christian organizations, to pressure the U.S. government to intervene for her husband’s release. She finally met President Obama in January to discuss her husband’s situation and was hopeful his release, along with that of other Americans, would be a part of the Iranian nuclear negotiations. Yet, from all accounts, the Obama administration has not asked for release of the imprisoned Americans. Obama did call for Abedini’s release during a prayer breakfast in February.
Linking the release of Americans held in Iran to the nuclear deal has not happened. State department officials said the two issues are not related and the prisoners’ captivity should not be tied to talks on nuclear research. That has many, including the Abedini family, discouraged even though Obama had told Naghmeh Abedini that her husband’s case would be a “top priority.”
Abedini, and the others, have suffered beatings and horrible conditions that put them near death. He has sustained numerous documented injuries where family members believed, at various times, that death was imminent. The American government has done nothing for these U.S. citizens. Clearly, the government has forgotten the military motto of “leave no one behind.”
The U.S. Senate decided earlier in May, by vote, that Congress will review any Iranian nuclear deal. It now has the power to address Americans being held captive in Iran. It is time to step up to the challenge and demand the Americans released as part of the deal. It is time to bring the captive Americans home. Meanwhile, Abedini continues to pray in prison. He simply asks for fellow Americans to remember him.
“Remember my chains in your freedom and chain together in unity for our beloved America. Know that I am chained with you in prayer on that day in seeking God for America,” he wrote.
Abedini continues to suffer in the hostile Iranian prison praying for this country as his 35th birthday passed. While Americans should also pray, it is time to do something more. Americans need to demand the government to bring him and the others home.
Opinion by Melody Dareing
Christian Post: Pastor Saeed Abedini Marks 35th Birthday in Iranian Jail, Says He Is ‘Crying Out to God’ for America’s Revival
Fox News: Iran nuclear talks: Pastor Saeed Abedini and three other Americans are hostages. Why isn’t their release being discussed?
Christian Broadcasting Network: Naghmeh to CPAC: ‘Iran Must Know Where We Stand’
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