I have been watching the efforts the American Center For Law and Justice (ACLJ) to get Pastor Saeed Abedini released from prison in Iran. This process has been going on since Pastor Saeed’s arrest for being a Christian. He is a naturalized American citizen, yet the State Department and the Administration has done nothing to secure his release.
Pastor Saeed had gone to Iran with all the necessary papers and permits to open a non-sectarian orphanage. However, according to the ACLJ, “Abedini had his passport seized while entering Iran from Georgia in late June 2012. The authorities reportedly told Abedini that he would be summoned to court on Sept. 26. On that date, Abedini’s home was raided by security agents, who confiscated documents, computers and other personal items and brought Abedini to Evin Prison. Abedini spent four weeks in solitary confinement in Evin before being transferred to Section 3, Ward 209 of the prison. While in solitary confinement, Abedini’s interrogators allegedly disoriented him with tactics such as sleep deprivation. They reportedly beat him; he was initially denied access to medical treatment for his injuries but later was allegedly taken for treatment. His family was able to hire a lawyer in December 2012 and he has since been charged with ‘acting against national security’.” This probably occurred due to his house church activities from 2000 to 2005. He was “tried” and sentenced to eight years in prison.
The ACLJ accumulated 512,000 signatures in support of Saeed in time for the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the House. The Commission heard from Saeed’s wife among several others. At the same time in Geneva, the U.N. Human Rights Council heard a direct appeal for Saeed from the European Union. As a result of these combined actions, the ACLJ was notified on March 19 that the ambassador from Iran to the UN has asked for a complete review of Pastor Saeed’s case. In addition, he is being moved to a hospital and being given doctors to treat him for his internal bleeding that resulted from his interrogations. Praise the Lord!
The ACLJ’s accumulation of over a half a million signatures in support of Pastor Saeed is an outstanding achievement. I believe it as an indication of the growing number of folks in America, who claim to be evangelical Christians, becoming concerned about the needs of persecuted Christians around the world. Open Doors and a number of other Christian organizations that fight for imprisoned believers around the world are experiencing the same growth in support by American Christians.
Jesus said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of these you have done to me.” (See Matthew 25:31-46) I often wonder whether we are so comfortable in our wealth, compared to the world’s standard of wealth, that we forget about those who are being persecuted for Christ’s sake. And yet, I also see a growing number of folks who are willing to stick their necks out for the sake of righteousness. The list of signatures on the ACLJ petition for Pastor Saeed is just one example.
Question: Will we stand up for Jesus like Pastor Saeed has because we love Jesus, or will we fall back in fear? We are the only ones who can answer that question for ourselves. I hope and pray that Christians here, including myself, will be ready when it arrives in our town.
Frank F. Clark is the author of the column “Frankly Speaking.” His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.