Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of American Pastor Saeed Abedini, has revealed that her husband's inability to watch his two young children grow up due to his three-year imprisonment is becoming increasingly painful for the entire family.
In an update provided by the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing Naghmeh, the imprisoned American's wife revealed that a family member was recently able to visit Abedini in prison, and showed him pictures of his two young children, Rebekka and Jacob. The visit was "bittersweet," as Pastor Saeed was denied the opportunity to attend his grandmother's funeral, who died in the last few weeks.
The pastor also missed out on a special landmark: his daughter Rebekka's ninth birthday.
"It was too painful for him to see pictures of how much his baby girl had grown up since he last saw her, from the 5-year-old little girl to the 9-year-old young lady she has become. A different kind of maturity covered his baby girl's face. A maturity that spoke of painful, tear-stained nights," Naghmeh wrote.
"The picture his family took to show Saeed told him of a girl who was trying to be strong and brave for her daddy. Many tears were shed and stories shared. So many stories that Saeed struggled to remember his babies and our family, memories that the prison walls were slowly stealing from him," she added.
"So many new memories were trying to form about what the kids liked to do now and how they had changed over the years. Saeed tried hard to hold on to something to take back to the prison once the visit was over; something Rebekka said; or something Jacob did."
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. At the time of his arrest, he 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, Pastor Saeed was imprisoned again after returning to Iran in 2012 to help build a state-run, secular orphanage.
While Abedini, a convert from Islam, was officially charged with undermining national security, supporters have said his arrest is due to his conversion to and practicing of Christianity.
Pastor Saeed remains in an incredibly dangerous situation due to the frequent executions, inmate violence and beatings that take place in Iranian prisons. He 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.
Naghmeh has revealed she is fasting until Sept. 26 to mark the date her husband was imprisoned in Iran. Additionally, churches across the country are holding prayer vigils for Pastor Saeed and other persecuted Christians on that day.
In her letter, Naghmeh said her husband was moved to hear of his brothers and sisters in Christ remembering him in prayer.
"His face lit up and he was encouraged to hear that so many are praying for him. He was encouraged to know that a date that brought so much pain had become a day when Christians united together to pray for him and the persecuted Church," she revealed.
"I made sure that he was told that I had not given up the fight. That we had not given up the fight for his release. That despite government shortcomings, none of us were giving up. That we were getting on our knees and praying and fasting for him each day leading up to the prayer vigil. I knew that during the short prison visits he needed to know that he was not forgotten."
She added, "Saeed realizes that he has had to give up those things that were so dear to him for the sake of the Gospel and that is the one thing that brings him comfort. Saeed is holding onto hope that one day he will reunite with us again."