American pastor Saeed Abedini has broken his silence regarding his troubled marriage with wife, Naghmeh, revealing that he will "always love" her and hopes to work on rebuilding their relationship.
"Naghmeh has been a hero to me and suffered enormously as a result of being 7,000 miles away from me and being a single parent to our two precious children while traveling and leading a crusade on my behalf. I will always love her for her sacrifice," Abedini said in a statement sent to the Idaho Statesman on Saturday.
As reported by The Gospel Herald, Pastor Abedini was released as a hostage in Iran earlier in this month following three-and-a-half years in prison under accusations that his faith undermined the Iran government.
After spending time at Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina, Abedini was finally reunited with his two children in Boise, Idaho, on Tuesday. However, local media reported that Naghmeh filed a "domestic relations case," which is similar to a legal separation.
In a Facebook post, Naghmeh said she hoped for reconciliation with her husband, but she was taking legal steps to keep her children in Idaho while the couple worked out their issues, including allegations Saeed was abusive and suffered from a pornography addiction.
"I sincerely had hoped that this horrible situation Saeed has had to go through would bring about the spiritual change needed in both of us to bring healing to our marriage," she said. "Tragically, the opposite has occurred."
In his statement to the Idaho Statesman, the pastor explained that he had so far chosen not to respond to Naghmeh's accusations because he wants personal issues to be dealt with personally.
"Of course, I had no intention of taking our children away from our home or our state," he wrote.
Pastor Abedini admitted that his marriage is "under great stress," but added that he is praying for "healing and restoration."
"I love my wife and want God's will for both of our lives," he said.
The pastor argued, however, that "much of what I have read in Naghmeh's posts and subsequent media reports is not true. But I believe we should work on our relationship in private and not on social media or other media."
Abedini concluded by asking for prayer, expressing a belief that God "is capable of restoring a marriage that has withstood unbelievable pressure."
Last week, the Rev. Franklin Graham, who was among numerous political and religious leaders who advocated for Abedini's release, weighed in on the issue, urging believers to refrain from judgement and continue to pray for the couple
"While we rejoice at his (Saeed Abedini's) new freedom, we now lift him and his wife, Naghmeh, to the Lord for healing in their marriage. Other than God, no one knows the details and the truth of what has happened between Saeed and Naghmeh except them. There's an old saying that there are at least two sides to every story," Graham wrote in a Facebook post.
"I can tell one thing for sure - not everything that has been reported in the media is true," he asserted. "Satan would like nothing more than to continue to destroy their lives. It is my prayer that this will not happen."