Pastor jailed in Iran
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Amid intensifying religious persecution against Christians, Iranian-American pastor Rev. Saeed Abedini’s undeserved confinement in a notoriously violent Tehran prison recently captured the attention of religious rights groups and legal analysts worldwide.
According to a report by CBS News, the minister, who was heavily involved with the development of the underground church movement in Iran, is a convert from Islam.
He has been a U.S. citizen since 2010 when he married an American. While imprisoned, Abedini leaves behind a worried wife and two young children in Boise, Idaho.
Jordan Sekulow, a prominent Christian lawyer and religious rights activist in Washington, D.C., took interest in the case and is working closely with the family. His human rights firm, The American Center for Law and Justice, is representing the family.
The controversy began in 2009 when Abedini was making one of his frequent trips oversees to visit family and friends. He was detained for converting from his childhood faith upon his arrival in Iran.
Shortly thereafter, he signed an agreement with the government.
This contract granted him permission to travel in and out of the country freely with the stipulation that he cease from performing any underground church duties, or so he thought.
Until the time of his July 2012 detention, he visited Iran several times. When he was arrested, he was volunteering for a religiously unaffiliated humanitarian orphanage.
Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, told Fox New’s Sean Hannity that she is concerned for her husband’s safety. According to ACLJ he has been beaten, which is not an uncommon occurrence for a Christian in
an Iranian prison.
What is most disturbing about the case is that Abedini and his family have yet to receive a clear, official statement of the charges against him.
Sekulow, who has previous experience with this type of case, calls for the entire world to assist in bringing justice.
He wants to expose the Iranian legal system, which has perpetually overstepped its bounds while discriminating against Americans and others who don’t share Islamic ideas.
“This is a very troubling pattern we have seen in Iran, Christian husbands and fathers who are punished for their religious beliefs,” Sekulow told the Christian Post.
He is hopeful for a positive outcome.
In a press release, Sekulow said, “We know that the Iranian government is sensitive to international pressure.”
Ironically, the U.S. government remains silent on the matter. Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, said government officials were “aware of the case,” but further details were withheld
citing privacy concerns.
It seems only logical that the U.S. would make a more aggressive case with the Iranian government. Traditionally, America is not a country tolerant of religious persecution, especially that involving its own citizens.
The State Department needs to rise up to Iran, perhaps with the help of likeminded countries and demand that Abedini be released.
America’s silence could easily be interpreted as weakness or nonchalance, neither of which send the usual message of strength and influence that the U.S. once exerted in foreign affairs.
Not only is an American’s life at stake, but any sign of complacency could encourage Iran to continue persecuting people through unethical and unfounded allegations.