JEFFERSON CITY – A small crowd of about 50 on the Missouri Capitol front lawn joined Christians across the U.S. and 32 foreign countries Sept. 26 in praying for and remembering American citizen and pastor Saeed Abedini and the persecuted church.
It was the two-year anniversary of Abedini’s imprisonment in Iran on charges of threatening national security by planting house churches there years earlier. While in prison, he has received inadequate medical care and faced beatings and death threats.
At the Missouri prayer vigil, Jane Patton, a member of First Baptist, Wentzville, and personal friend of Naghmeh Abedini, Saeed’s wife, spoke as did First Baptist’s pastor Ralph Sawyer and University of Missouri Law School professor Joshua Hawley. Hawley is best known as one of the lawyers that argued and won the Hobby Lobby owners’ religious liberty case before the U.S. Supreme Court this summer.
“We gather today for a solemn occasion: to mark the anniversary of a great injustice and to protest the continuing imprisonment of an innocent man,” Hawley said. “Yet we gather in joy and in great hope, knowing that we serve a Lord who has conquered every power and even now, reigns over all.
“To our brother Saeed: We thank the Lord for your great courage,” he said. “Your stand has strengthened many across this nation and the world. We ask the Lord now for your release. And we commit you into His mighty keeping, He who is able to keep you until the day of His deliverance.”
Patton said that Saeed’s imprisonment is just one of the thousands of cases of Christians being persecuted for their faith.
“International reports are showing that Christians are becoming the most persecuted people in the world,” Patton said. “Last year alone more than 160,000 Christians were killed for their faith. We stand here today humble and grateful that we have the freedom to meet here and pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are in chains. Saeed has become the face of persecuted Christians everywhere. God has not forgotten him, and neither have we.”
Sawyer reminded the crowd of Jesus’s words from the Sermon on the Mount: “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
At a vigil outside the White House, Naghmeh read aloud from a letter Saeed wrote to their eight-year-old daughter on her birthday two weeks ago.
“Jesus allows me to be kept here for His glory,” he wrote. “I know that you question why you have prayed so many times for my return and yet I am not home yet. Now there is a big WHY in your mind you are asking: WHY Jesus isn’t answering your prayers and the prayers of all of the people around the world praying for my release and for me to be home with you and our family. The answer to the WHY is WHO. WHO is control? LORD JESUS CHRIST is in control.”