The Rev. Franklin Graham has slammed the Obama administration for making a nuclear deal with Iran while ignoring the plight of four Americans detained within the country and urged Christians to participate in a prayer vigil for those imprisoned, including American pastor Saeed Abedini.
"It is unbelievable that this administration would be making a nuclear deal with a country that is holding American citizens prisoner without demanding their freedom," Rev. Graham, who is the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, wrote in a Facebook post.
"Iran has not one, but four, Americans still detained! One of them is our friend Pastor Saeed Abedini who was arrested because of his Christian faith. Why doesn't Washington get it?"
In July, Western governments including the United States reached a deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, with the Iranian government involving its nuclear weapons ambitions.
President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani both praised the deal, which lifts economic sanctions from Iran in return for the Islamic Republic agreeing to not pursue a nuclear bomb. However, that deal ignored the plight of four Americans in Iran: Robert Levinson, Pastor Saeed Abedini, Jason Rezaian, and Amir Hekmati.
As reported by the Gospel Herald, 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.
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.
On September 26, Pastor Saeed's wife, Naghmeh Abedini, is holding a prayer vigil at noon to mark three years since her husband was imprisoned. Naghmeh is also encouraging pastors and teachers lead their church congregations in prayer at their regular service on Sunday, September 27.
Leading up to the vigil, Naghmeh has decided to pray and fast for 21 days: "I will be fasting from pleasant food (Daniel 10:3 I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled)," she posted on her Facebook page.
In continuing his comments, Graham encouraged Christians to join Naghmeh in praying for those imprisoned in Iran and persecuted Christians around the world.
"People all around the world will be praying for his freedom and for the persecuted church. Please pray that Saeed and the other three Americans in Iran will be released soon," he writes.
Naghmeh will also be in New York from Sept. 28-Oct. 1 and has requested a meeting with the Iranian president, who will be there at the same time.
According to a report from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, she's praying for the meeting to happen, "not only to advocate for Saeed, but also give them a chance to hear the Gospel message. Please pray for open doors while I am there."