Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of American pastor Saeed Abedini, told Congress on Tuesday that while she fears for her imprisoned husband's "psychological and physical well-being," she is confident that Jesus has not abandoned her family.
Speaking at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Americans currently imprisoned in Iran, Naghmeh explained that her husband, who has suffered in an Iranian prison for three years because of his Christian faith and was recently put in solitary confinement, is doing "horribly, physically and psychologically" and continues to suffer from internal bleeding from early beatings.
"I'm not just worried about his physical pain, but his psychological [pain]," she said. Despite his struggles, however, Naghmeh revealed that her husband continues to find strength in his relationship with Jesus Christ.
"Saeed is so strong in his faith because even though we are not there and even though the church is not there, he's got Christ there with him, strengthening him," she said, Fox News reported . "Other prisoners have said that usually when prisoners come out of solitary, they are devastated or broken, but [Saeed] seemed so refreshed and glowing. That's what we have in that relationship with Christ."
Naghmeh revealed that since her husband was detained in 2012 for proselytizing and sentenced to eight years in prison in 2013, she has been forced to leave their two young children at home while she has traveled around the world to pressure political leaders for his release.
"Most mornings like today, I wake up in a new hotel in a new city or country and am reminded of my new reality - a reality that includes lonely airports and empty hotel rooms," she said. "This pain of this journey without my husband has only increased as I have had to frequently leave my children to advocate for my husband's release. The reality is, we are a family torn apart.
"Over the last three years, I have had to watch my two children, Rebekka (who is 8 years old) and Jacob (who is 7 years old), suffer daily as they have grown up without a father or a mother," Abedini continued. "I am here today as single mother who is trying to be strong for her children, and as a wife who humbly admits, I need your help. I cannot bear to look at my children's longing eyes one more time and explain to them why their daddy is still not home."
Naghmeh, who testified along with family members of three other Americans imprisoned in Iran, explained that her husband has been "continuously" told by Iranian officials that he will not be released unless he renounces Jesus Christ and turns to Islam
"The times they have moved him in and out of solitary [confinement] and the times they have threatened him, they said 'You will stay here longer than the eight years and your only key to freedom is if you deny your Christian faith and you return to Islam.' The guards have said that, officials have said that continuously," Abedini told The Christian Post after the hearing.
"When [our] family has followed up with the Supreme Leader's office or the judiciary, they have continuously said his only key to freedom is if he recants his Christian faith and returns to Islam."
As the Obama administration is in the midst of working out a nuclear agreement with Iran, Naghmeh argued that government has entered a brief but crucial window in which the country has its best chance of bringing its citizens home.
"We only have a few weeks left," she said. "While we still have leverage, the Iranian government would still be motivated at some degree to release them."
In concluding her testimony, Naghmeh emphasized that in the face of adversity, the only thing that will bring true comfort is an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
"When you are living a nightmare no religion in the world can help you. The do's and dont's of religion cannot bring much peace and comfort. Only an intimate relationship with our Maker can bring about the supernatural peace and strength that is covering our family today," Abedini testified. "And that relationship is only possible through the acceptance of the heavy price of sin that was paid on the cross by Jesus Christ. Today that salvation is available for all who believe."
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents the Abedini family, is also continuing to push for Pastor Saeed's freedom, emphasizing the urgency of the situation.
"It is difficult to imagine what the Abedini family has been through," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. "Naghmeh remains determined, as we do, to bring her husband home. That means keeping Pastor Saeed - and the other captive Americans - in the media spotlight. And that also means applying continuing pressure on the White House and members of Congress to do everything in their power to bring these Americans home."
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs also heard testimonies from three others whose relatives are imprisoned or missing in Iran on Tuesday: the sister of Amir Hekmati, who was arrested and accused of spying in 2011; the brother of Jason Rezaian, the former Tehran bureau chief for the Washington Post who has been imprisoned since July 2014; and the son of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent whose whereabouts have been unknown since March 2007 when he visited Kish Island in Iran.