Wife of Imprisoned Pastor Saeed Abedini: 'My Husband Will Never Go Free Unless He Denies Christ and Turns to Islam'

Apr 20, 2015 01:45 PM EDT

Naghmeh Abedini
(Photo : Samaritan's Purse)
Naghmeh Abedini spoke to the Samaritan's Purse staff in October about her husband's imprisonment in Iran in this photo from May 22, 2014.

The wife of American pastor Saeed Abedini has said that her husband, who has been imprisoned there for more than two and a half years for his Christian faith, is being threatened by guards that he will never be freed unless he renounces Jesus Christ.

"Last week had been quite difficult for Saeed. He has been under a lot of pressure and attack from the hardliners. The guards have also been threatening Saeed that he will never go free and additional charges (and years) will be added to his sentence (which they have done to other Christians and fellow inmates),"  Naghmeh Abedini said in a recent statement, according to American Center for Law and Justice.

"They continually threaten Saeed that the only key to his freedom is denying Christ and returning to Islam. Saeed refuses to deny Christ and continues to be a light and witness in that dark prison. These threats, coupled with the fact that there have been mass executions during the past few months in Rajayee Shahr prison, have really taken their toll on Saeed. He asks for prayer for continued strength," she added.

Pastor Saeed, who is serving an eight year prison sentence for "threatening the security of the state," was first arrested in 2009 while working as a Christian leader and community organizer in Iran's underground home church communities for Christian converts who are denied the right to worship freely in public churches.

Although he was initially released after pledging to stop formally organizing house churches in Iran, he was imprisoned again after returning  to Iran in 2012 to help build a state-run, secular orphanage.

The ACLJ notes that Pastor Saeed remains in an incredibly dangerous situation due to the frequent executions, inmate violence and beatings that take place in Iranian prisons. The pastor has suffered long stints in solitary confinement, and beatings and torture at the hands of his jailers and fellow inmates. He was also denied medical attention for his injuries

In the meantime, the ACLJ is appealing to U.S. officials to put increased pressure on the Iranian government to free the imprisoned pastor.

"Our government must do everything in its power to bring pastor Saeed home. It is absolutely critical that the Obama administration and the State Department continue to demand that our innocent citizens - especially pastor Saeed who is suffering only because of his religious beliefs - be returned home," said the organization. "He suffers from injuries. He is separated from his family. He is persecuted for his faith. He is surrounded by fellow inmates being dragged to the gallows. The thought is unbearable."

In February, U.S. President Obama met with Naghmeh and her children, emphasizing that Pastor Saeed's freedom is a "top priority" for him and his Administration.

After the meeting, Naghmeh said the President's words left her with a "renewed sense of hope."

"Pastor Saeed has become the face of the persecuted Christian church worldwide, one of many Christians around the world who face imprisonment, beatings and even death for their faith," said Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ executive director.

"As the world's eye turns to violence against Christians in the Middle East, we raise a united voice in urging Iran to free pastor Saeed and grant him clemency. It's time for Saeed to come home."

According to the pastor's wife, her husband thanks all the people who have prayed for him and supported him throughout his lengthy imprisonment.

"He wanted to thank you all for your continued prayers. Knowing that he is not forgotten and believers around the world continue to remember him in prayer and advocate for him has encouraged him to continue in this difficult journey and to hold on to hope," she said.