Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, recently spoke out against the imprisonment of Saeed Abedini, the American pastor who has been sentenced to eight years in an Iranian prison because of his Christian faith. Graham said that the Obama Administration has not done enough to help free this U.S. citizen, and asked that the United States government demand that Saeed be released.
Over 600,000 people have signed a petition asking the United Nations (UN) to help free Saeed Abedini. The pastor’s wife, Nagmeh, has also pleaded with the UN to take action, hoping that their political influence would free her husband from the infamous Evin Prison. Her two young children have not seen their father in over a year.
Saeed was arrested while on a trip to help build an orphanage in 2012. He was charged for sharing his faith in Christ with others, a criminal act in Iran. Saeed faces eight years in what Foxnews.com calls one of the most notorious prisons in the Islamic republic, and has been reportedly tortured and put into solitary confinement, with no medical treatment for his wounds.
The petition to free Saeed argues that his imprisonment “violates Iran’s own constitution and violates multiple international human rights treaties that Iran has voluntarily and willingly signed.” The American pastor had also been arrested in 2009 for planting house churches in Iran, but was released after promising that he would no longer do so.
Several celebrities have joined Graham in the fight to free Saeed, including Josh Turner, Natalie Grant, and Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman. Secretary of State John Kerry called for Saeed’s immediate release earlier this year, but his request was to no avail. President Obama has yet to address the issue, despite petition from the American public. Supporters are especially urging the Obama Administration to take action in light of Iran’s new president, who is supposedly more moderate than the one who was in power when Saeed was sentenced.
Naghmeh fears that her husband, who has received death threats, will die in prison. She is not naive; in a video on the ”Save Saeed” movement’s website, she affirms the reason for her husband’s suffering -“Saeed refuses to deny Christ. He is standing up for what he believes,” she said with confidence. “Ultimately, God is in control … He controls governments and situations for His glory. There is nothing Saeed and I desire more than to die to ourselves and to allow Christ to shine through to this dying world,” said Nagmeh.
The pastor’s wife says she is leaning on 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 during this difficult time – “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (English Standard Version). Her hope is that the Lord would “be glorified in all of this and many would come to know the saving grace of Jesus.”