Vigils for American Pastor Still Imprisoned in Iran

In Washington, DC, and scores of other cities around the country and the world, prayer vigils were held Thursday on behalf of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen imprisoned for his faith for over a year in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons. Pastor Abedini was arrested by Iranian authorities last September for allegedly being a threat to Iran’s national security and has been subjected to severe interrogations, periods of solitary confinement, and physical assault.

On Capitol Hill, a number of Members of Congress highlighted this horrific situation. Among them, Congressman Robert Pittenger (R-NC) highlighted Pastor Abedini’s plight on the House Floor and sent a letter to President Obama urging condemnation of Iran’s actions and insisting on Pastor Abedini’s release. “This brutal and inhumane treatment requires an American response which makes clear our dedication to protecting religious freedoms around the world, especially with regards to an American citizen,” Congressman Pittenger declared.

In a letter highlighted by a full-page New York Times ad, Reverend Billy Graham directly appealed to newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who was in New York City this week for the United Nations General Assembly. He urged, “On September 26, the one-year anniversary of Pastor Abedini’s imprisonment, thousands will attend prayer vigils in more than 70 U.S. cities, calling on your country to release this husband, father and servant of God. I join them by respectfully asking you to release Pastor Saeed Abedini from prison.”

Naghmeh Abedini, an Idaho resident and the wife of Pastor Abedini, also appealed directly with President Rouhani’s UN delegation, when they crossed paths unexpectedly in their New York City hotel lobby. Mrs. Abedini testified in June before the United Nations Human Rights Council, stating, “My husband has broken no Iranian law…. He simply exercised his fundamental rights that Iran has acknowledged before this body that it would uphold. Iran has kept Saeed imprisoned because he believes in forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ and that whoever accepts this forgiveness of sin can be reconciled to the God of peace and love. This is the God of peace we are all searching for.”

Dr. Frank Wright, NRB President & CEO, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this year on behalf of Pastor Abedini. He declared, “We find it unconscionable that the Iranian government would violate its own law and international covenants by treating any individual, never mind an American citizen, with such enmity and abuse because of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Dr. Wright urged State Department efforts toward Pastor Abedini’s release and safe passage back to theU.S.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: September 27, 2013