Pastor Saeed (Washington, D.C.) -- “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.” Hebrews 13:3 (NKJV)
On Tuesday evening, I had the opportunity to talk by phone with Mrs. Naghmeh Abedini. She is the wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been in prison in Iran for converting to Christianity, preaching the Gospel, and helping the underground house church network inside Iran.
This Saturday will mark the third year since Pastor Saeed was arrested in Iran and sentenced to death. A prayer vigil for his protection and release will be held in churches all over the world this weekend. I ask you and your family and church to commit this weekend to praying for this dear brother in Christ and his precious family. I have been invited to speak that day at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. and will address Pastor Saeed's remarkable story.
Saeed was born in Iran in 1980 and raised as a Shia Muslim. In his teens, he was recruited by a Radical Muslim group to become a suicide bomber and thus a martyr for the cause of jihad. But in 2000, God had mercy on Saeed and opened his eyes to the truth of the Gospel. At the age of 20, he renounced Islam and become follower and disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As he grew in his faith, Saeed became active in sharing the Gospel with other Iranians, leading them to Christ, discipling them, and setting up and supporting a network of underground churches throughout Iran. Fox News has reported that "his home church movement had about 100 churches in 30 Iranian cities with more than 2,000 members."
In time, Saeed had the opportunity to travel to the United States. There, he met and married Nagmeh, became a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, and the couple had two children, Rebekka and Jacob. As a family, they were committed to reaching the Iranian people with the love of Christ. Several times, Saeed traveled to Iran to encourage the underground church and care for the poor and needy. But in 2012, he was arrested by the Iranian government, beaten, and sentenced to death under Sharia law for converting to Islam -- thus becoming an apostate, in the eyes of Islam -- and leading others to faith in Christ.
"It [the underground church movement] was just growing so fast," Nagmeh told Fox News. "They [Iran's government] see the underground churches as a threat and they see Christianity as a tool from the West to undermine them. They think if the country becomes more Christian, they are no longer under Islamic authority. That's why it's a threat."
It has a been a long, painful, brutal journey for this family. They have suffered immensely because they have been so bold and so brave for the sake of the Gospel. Saeed has been attacked and severely beaten by fellow inmates. This week, he was tasered by prison officials. Yet through it all, God has shown great mercy, and even performed miracles.
"Saeed has shared the Gospel with many of the prisoners he is with," Nagmeh told me. "Some of them are political prisoners, former high ranking officials in the government. Others are hardened criminals. But many of them have given their lives to Christ -- dozens of them."
Prison officials became so infuriated with Saeed for leading prisoners to Christ that they moved him to a different cell. But then more prisoners came to Christ. So they moved him to a different prison. But still more prisoners accepted Christ. Then they put him in a cell with the worst murderers on death row and warned Saeed not to speak of Christ or the inmates would kill him. But Saeed prayed that God would protect him and that God would soften the hearts of these murderers.
That's when he saw more miracles. Several of the inmates in his cell had dreams and visions of the Lord Jesus Christ appearing to them personally. They became followers of Christ. Now they are protecting Saeed and he is able to encourage them in their faith.
A senior U.S. government official told Naghmeh that the Iranian government has told the U.S. that they are angry that Muslim prisoners are converting to Christ.
Saeed believes that one of the reasons the Lord has put him in prison is to reach Iranians with the Gospel. Otherwise, they would have had absolutely no way to hear the good news that God loves us and wants to forgive us and give us eternal life through faith in Christ.
Naghmeh -- who lives in Boise, Idaho, and attends a Calvary Chapel congregation there -- believes that as well. She knows God is using her husband in a powerful way, amidst the persecution and suffering. And she told me she trusts the Lord, and that He is giving grace beyond measure to sustain them all. Still, she and her children still desperately want Saeed home. They miss him terribly, and he needs medical care for the wounds he has suffered in prison that the Iranian government refuses to provide.
So she continues to mobilize people to pray for her husband and for all persecuted Christians in Iran. She is trying to educate the nation and the world as to the plight of her husband and to what the Iranian government is doing. She is also trying to persuade world leaders to take up the cause of her husband and press Tehran for his release. She has met with President Obama and other U.S. leaders. Today, she has been invited to attend the Pope's address to a Joint Session of Congress and is praying the Lord will give her an audience with the Pope. Next week, she will be in New York for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly. She is praying and fasting the Lord will open the door for her to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and to be able to personally request his release.
"If the Iranian government doesn't want him sharing the Gospel with the prisoners, there is a simple solution," she told me. "They can release him, send him back to America, and tell him to never come back again."
Please join me in praying daily for this family, and please share this story with others and get them to pray as well.
As the Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples, "I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)
Here's the latest news on Pastor Saeed.....
By Tiffany Barrans, ACLJ
After a short family visitation today at Rajaei Shahr prison in Iran, Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of American Pastor Saeed Abedini, heard disturbing news about possible new charges being brought against Pastor Saeed. Over the years, the Iranian government continually promised that Pastor Saeed’s eight-year-prison sentence could be arbitrarily extended, and yesterday they took their first steps to fulfill that promise.
Yesterday in Iran, Iranian intelligence officers summoned Pastor Saeed for an intense round of interrogation. Pastor Saeed reported to his family that the interrogators were abusive both verbally and physically. During the course of interrogation, the officers repeatedly used a taser gun on Pastor Saeed. This new assault is concerning as Pastor Saeed is still being denied needed medical care for injuries sustained as a result of beatings in the past.
The interrogators threatened that Pastor Saeed will face new criminal charges. They claimed Pastor Saeed has connections with anti-government groups and has made statements and taken actions against the government of Iran. Pastor Saeed denied all of these allegations, and once again asserted that he is apolitical and that he has never threatened the security of, made any statements against, or taken any action against the Government of Iran.
This troubling development comes as Iranian President Rouhani prepares to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York. It also coincides with new efforts by the ACLJ in the international arena as a growing number of global leaders urge Iran to release Pastor Saeed.
Pastor Saeed has repeatedly expressed to the Iranian Government, both during his interrogations and at trial, that he poses no threat to the Government and was only present in Iran to assist Iran’s most vulnerable children by building a government-approved orphanage. Still, the Iranian Government continues to look for ways to keep this innocent U.S. citizen imprisoned.
In reaction to this news Naghmeh Abedini had this to say:
When will this nightmare end? Saeed is not a criminal. Being a Christian and motivated by Christian values to help the poorest and most needy children in Iran should be seen as good for the Iranian society. Hearing that yet again the hardliners in Iran are trying to fabricate evidence against my husband and that he was abused and tasered is almost too much to bear.
It is time for governments all over the world shift their focus to the injustices of the Iranian Government and call on the Government of Iran to free my husband. It is time for businesses seeking to do business in Iran to look beyond their bottom dollar and see the instability of a government known to imprison innocent men and women who have exercised their fundamental freedoms. Whether we operate in the field of business, government, or simply are members of human society, we must expect and demand more of our leaders.
I pray that as President Rouhani plans his travel to the United States next week, he will hear relentless voices crying out for Saeed’s freedom.
Saturday marks the third year of Pastor Saeed’s imprisonment. And there will be hundreds of prayer vigils that day around the globe – prayers for Pastor Saeed and his family.
The ACLJ joins Naghmeh in calling for world leaders to do more to free Pastor Saeed. We have heard from more than 265,000 people urging U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intervene directly with the Iranian Government on Pastor Saeed’s behalf. We renew that call today.
Please pray for Saeed, and if you can, ask your church to pray for him this weekend.