In Ward 350 of Iran’s infamous Evin Prison, Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini tries to sleep while the arms and legs of about 40 cellmates are draped around him – twice the legal limit for that section of the facility. Abedini went to Iran a year ago – with the permission of the government — to start an orphanage, but was then arrested by authorities on trumped up charges of endangering national security. They sentenced him to eight years in prison. However, the real reason Abedini was arrested is because he is an evangelical Christian whom Islamic leaders view as a threat to their religion.
Since his unjustified imprisonment, Abedini, an American citizen whose family lives in Idaho, has been beaten by guards, resulting in internal bleeding, because he refused to renounce Jesus as his savior. He has been subjected to psychological harassment and twice thrown into solitary confinement, once for a month and another for 10 days. Pleas by United States diplomatic leaders, including Secretary of State John Kerry, have fallen on deaf ears.
My husband is in jail simply because he loves Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, has worked tirelessly in calling attention to her husband’s plight. A website, SaveSaeed.org, was launched in December in conjunction with the American Center for Law & Justice. It has garnered more than 600,000 signatures from around the world calling for his release. Naghmeh’s pleas have been carried directly into Iran via BBC Farsi and Voice of America Persia. Earlier this year she spoke before the United Nations.
On Sept. 26, marking the one year anniversary of Abedini’s arrest and cruel treatment, Naghmeh is asking Christians to gather at all 50 U.S. state capitol buildings to pray for her husband. Christians in Missouri will assemble at the State Capitol in Jefferson City that day from noon until 2 p.m., to pray for Abedini and his family. More details can be obtained by visiting https://www.facebook.com/events/121347061369311/.
Naghmeh will be our guest at the Missouri Baptist Convention’s annual meeting Oct. 28-30 in Kansas City. I will interview her during The Pathway report during the Oct. 29 morning session. In keeping with The Pathway’s mission of bringing issues of importance before Missouri Southern Baptists, my interview with Naghmeh is intended to call attention to Abedini’s plight and to the untold number of Christians being persecuted around the world. Following The Pathway presentation, Naghmeh will be available at the Christian Life Commission exhibit so people may meet her in person and offer support. She will also be a featured speaker at the Ministers’ Wives Luncheon that day.
“My husband is in jail simply because he loves Jesus Christ,” Naghmeh told Focus on the Family earlier this year. “He was arrested as he worked on an orphanage we are building on property we own and for which we had received all the proper permits. He was also gathering peacefully with other fellow Christians in their private homes, expressing their faith.”
The Bible teaches us that a godly testimony will often result in ridicule, deprivation, physical harm and even death. Jesus was “despised and rejected of men” (Isa. 53:3, Matt. 27:39) and finally crucified (John 19:16-18). Jesus’ disciples were insulted (Matt. 5:11), jeered (Heb. 11:36), jailed (Acts 5:18; 16:23), flogged and “put to death by the sword” (Heb. 11:36-37).
Why does persecution against Christians exist? The Bible says because of an antipathy of evil toward the good (Rom. 8:6-8) and because of wicked people opposing God and rejecting His divine precepts (Rom. 3:10-18). Jesus told us that since the world hated Him, it will hate those who follow Him (John 15:18-19) and warned us that if they persecuted Him they would also persecute His disciples (John 15:20).
The key issue before Christians facing persecution is to remain faithful, fixing “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). As for the rest of us, let us pray for those being persecuted and appeal to authorities for justice. Should persecution come our way, may we also stand firm so that we can declare: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
2 Tim. 3:12