By David Roach, Baptist Press
TEHRAN, Iran (BP) – American pastor Saeed Abedini has been “viciously” beaten in the Iranian prison where he is being held for his Christian faith, the American Center for Law and Justice reported June 10, prompting renewed calls for Abedini’s release as a condition of any nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran.
“It is crucial to speak out for Saeed as we approach the June 30th deadline between the United States and Iran,” Abedini’s wife Naghmeh said in a June 10 Facebook post. She added June 30 “is also Saeed and I’s 11th year anniversary.”
Naghmeh Abedini is scheduled to address the Pastors’ Wives Conference in Columbus, Ohio, June 15 preceding the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 16-17. She will also briefly address the SBC Pastors’ Conference June 15, delivering an update on her husband. Pastors’ Conference attendees will then pray for her and Saeed.
Fellow prisoners attacked Saeed Abedini June 3 as he attempted to leave his cell, punching him in the face and demolishing a table he used while studying and reading, the ACLJ reported. Prison guards stopped the attack and a prison doctor determined Abedini did not have any broken bones.
Naghmeh Abedini explained in a second June 10 Facebook post, “Saeed’s father was not able to see Saeed last week because of a holiday in Iran, but today he was truly shaken to learn of the beating that Saeed had endured. Saeed’s father was also treated horribly and harassed by the prison guards and staff and could only visit Saeed for a short time.”
In testimony before Congress June 2, Naghmeh Abedini said U.S. negotiators should discuss her husband and other Americans held captive in Iran during nuclear talks rather than merely mentioning them on the sidelines. Click here to read Baptist Press’ report.
“As I shared in front of our Congress last week, the Iranian government might turn up the heat in the furnace (as in Daniel 3),” Naghmeh Abedini said on Facebook, “but Saeed refuses to deny his faith in Jesus Christ and continues to be a witness in that dark prison. Jesus is with Saeed in that fiery furnace. He wants you to know that he has felt your prayers in his darkest moments. Thank you.”
News of Abedini’s most recent beating also prompted calls for action and expressions of sympathy on Twitter. Among them:
— “Not good, not good at all,” conservative radio commentator Janet Parshall tweeted. “… Act quickly.”
— “Please continue to pray for Pastor Saeed,” the Calvary Chapel movement tweeted. “He was brutally beaten in prison this past week.”
— “Take 2 minutes and urge John Kerry to prioritize freedom of Saeed Abedini in talks with Iran,” a Christian blogger tweeted.
— “The more the so-called ‘religion of peace’ persecutes #christians like #PastorSaeed the more testimony will spread. Pray for him NOW!” one woman tweeted.
ACLJ executive director Jordan Sekulow wrote in a news release of Abedini’s Christian faith, calling him “beaten and bruised for the Gospel.”
“It is vitally important that as negotiations face an imposed June 30th deadline between the United States and Iran that our government make every effort — use every tool in its diplomatic arsenal — to bring Pastor Saeed — a U.S. citizen — home to his loving wife and two young children,” Sekulow wrote.
“With every beating, with every demand that he recant his faith in Christ and become Muslim or else be forced to serve even more than his 8-year-sentence, Pastor Saeed’s situation becomes more dangerous,” Sekulow wrote.
Abedini has been imprisoned in Iran since Sept. 26, 2012, because of his Christian faith. He was sentenced Jan. 27, 2013, on charges he threatened Iranian national security by planting house churches years earlier, and had been under house arrest since July 2012.
An online petition calling for Abedini’s freedom has garnered more than 938,000 signatures.