Like my series of articles last year on Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, there is yet another Christian Pastor who’s been in the Iranian headlines over the last several months: Pastor Saeed Abedini.
An American citizen, married, with two children, Saeed converted from Islam to Christianity in 2000 and began planting house churches, acts the Iranian Government’s Islamic Revolutionary Court deems as “threatening the national security.” He was forcefully removed from a bus last September while working on his family’s orphanage following a trip into Pakistan. His arrest was followed by what Western authorities bemoan as a “sham trial,” and has now been served an eight-year sentence in one of Iran’s most deadly prisons. Missions group Asia Harvest is noted as reporting that some prisoners last “only a few days or weeks before they perish” in Evin Prison.
Together with his wife, Naghmeh, Pastor Saeed was active in starting around two-thousand underground house churches. Naghmeh’s last phone call with her husband on Monday came with confirmation of her husband’s violent physical and physiological torture. His phone calls are also being more heavily restricted since his January 27th verdict.
“When I heard this from my husband, I cried. It broke my heart. Behind those walls he feels helpless and relies on us to be his voice. It is so easy to feel forgotten in the walls of the prison. Please help me make sure he is never forgotten,” Naghmeh told the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
Like Yocef, Saeed is close in age to me—one year younger. Tracking these types of stories hits close to home. Not only am I reticent to endure torture (as I think anyone would), but I can’t even begin to imagine the impact imprisonment and torture on the grounds of religious bias would have on my wife, my children, and the rest of my family and friends.
But fear can not cripple us. We are called to serve, pray, organize and reach the unreached, bind up the broken and set captives free. It is our Great Commission.
Even while I prepare to leave for China next week, I realize that my own life is in jeopardy. But then again, it always has been.
I once asked Dr. Leslie James, president and founder of he William Carey School of World Missions in Durban, South Africa why he had never considered leaving South Africa (which is the most beautiful and violent country I’ve ever traveled to). His famous reply is one I carry with me to this day:
If I flee to a safe town in a safe country, I can just as easily die in a car accident as I can here of a gun shot. It makes no difference when you realize it’s only God’s hand than keeps you alive. So I would much rather live in a dangerous place with God’s favor than in a safe place without it.
So today I’m praying for God’s favor on Pastor Saeed and his family. I’m praying for souls to come to Jesus in Iran. And I’m signing the petition put forth by the ACLJ in the hopes that the current political and legal bodies of our day will help bring about Saeed’s release.
Please do the same. Then tell those you know.
ADDITIONALLY: Read William Jepma’s article and watch the Save Saeed video he links to. Well worth it.