Pastor to spend Christmas in Iranian prison, imprisoned for his faith

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, a time of joy, hope, and peace on earth, we are reminded that in … Continued

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, a time of joy, hope, and peace on earth, we are reminded that in this world not everyone is free to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Last year, we told you about the death sentence against a Christian pastor in Iran, Youcef Nadarkhani. His only “crime” was his faith in Jesus Christ, convicted of apostasy (converting from Islam to Christianity). Hundreds of thousands of people around the world demanded his freedom. After an immense international campaign for his release, working closely with his brave Muslim attorney in Iran and world leaders, Iran relented, releasing him and dropping his apostasy charges in September.

Nadarkhani was not the only imprisoned pastor in the world, but he did become the face of Christian persecution.

Today, another Christian pastor languishes in one of Iran’s most notoriously abusive prisons – this time an American citizen. Saeed Abedini, a 32-year-old Iranian-born American citizen, was arrested because of his faith while visiting his family in Iran.

View Photo Gallery: From shopping trips to Santa Claus runs, people around the world get into the holiday spirit.

After converting from Islam to Christianity, Abedini helped lead underground churches in Iran and began humanitarian efforts to establish an orphanage for the children of Iran.

In September, when traveling back to Iran to visit his parents and continue his humanitarian work, Abedini was stopped by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. He has now been illegally imprisoned in Iran since September.

We at the ACLJ have been working on his case for a number of months, representing his wife, Naghmeh, and family here in America. Abedini’s wife explained, “When he became a Christian, he became a criminal in his own country. His passion was to reach the people of Iran. . . . He comes from a very close-knit family, and he loved evangelizing and passing out Bibles on the streets of Tehran. This was his passion.”

As she recently told our radio audience in an interview with Jordan, her husband’s imprisonment has been horrifically hard on their family, especially during this Christmas season. Their two young children miss their daddy, and their 6-year-old daughter has been crying because she is afraid she won’t be able to remember her daddy’s voice.

Abedini’s family in Iran is now under house arrest, and his wife and children are here in the United States.

Why was he arrested – his prior involvement in starting house churches in Iran. His wife explained: “It was just growing so fast. They see the underground churches as a threat and they see Christianity as a tool from the West to undermine them. . . . They think if the country becomes more Christian, they are no longer under Islamic authority. That’s why it’s a threat.”

As Abedini said in a recent letter from prison:

We have confirmed that Abedini after having been moved from solitary confinement, has sustained severe physical abuse in Evin prison.

The Iranian government is sensitive to international pressure, as evidenced by Nadarkhani’s case. But now, we have an Iranian-born Christian, an American citizen, being punished for his beliefs. His alleged “crime” is nothing more than converting to Christianity and proclaiming his Christian faith. His imprisonment and abuse in Iran violates international human rights and religious freedom laws.

No one, especially an American citizen, should be brutalized and imprisoned for his faith. Thousands of people have already joined on to the ACLJ’s petition for his release. Like in the case of Nadarkhani, we are working with Members of Congress, the State Department, and world leaders to call for his release.

The U.S. State Department has publicly stated that they are “aware of the case,”but they must take direct action, as they did for Nadarkhani, and even more so in light of the fact that Abedini is an American citizen.

Though Iran released Nadarkhani, it then imprisoned his Iranian attorney, and at about the same time arrested and imprisoned Abedini.

Pressure must be placed on the Iranian regime to release this innocent man, imprisoned solely for his faith.

This Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that people everywhere in the world are free to worship Him, without threat of persecution or imprisonment.

UPDATE on Dec. 26: Nadarkhani was reportedly re-arrested and imprisoned on Christmas Day. This incident involving a pastor on one of the holiest of Christian holidays sends a stark message that the Iranian regime is stepping up its persecution of Christians.

Jordan Sekulow is executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). Matthew Clark is an attorney at the ACLJ.

  • nkri401

    Mr. Sekulow,

    Why don’t you offer yourself to be imprisoned in place of this pastor? At least, you would be then walking the walk rather than just talking the talk.

  • DavidJ9

    When the ACLJ starts to care about religions other than their particular sect of Christianity, then they will be in the position to start lecturing about religious freedom. Right now they are no better than the Moslems they are condemning.

  • Catken1

    But, but, he went against the majority religion in his country. Isn’t it right for the Muslim majority to be afraid that he might, say, take Allah out of their public life, demand equal rights for infidels, secularize Muslim society, and thus bring God’s wrath down on their kindergarteners?
    After all, when non-Christians here want to live by their faiths instead of being pressured or coerced into abiding by Christian religious laws when, say, choosing a spouse, or having their vulnerable children pressured or coerced into Christian prayer in public schools, we’re told it’s our fault when madmen gun down American small children, because we wanted this country to have religious freedom for all rather than just the majority. Isn’t this guy just doing the same in a nice, pious, devout Muslim community that keeps God in their public life where he supposedly belongs?

  • Catken1

    This is tongue-in-cheek, please note. I do not favor religious persecution for anyone. I just think it’s a bit rich when the same people who are offended when non-Christians act on their religious freedom in this country turn around and demand the same rights for Christians in countries with other religious majorities.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Nothing like an article from Sekulow on Christmas eve to remind us that if the word ‘Christian’ once had any meaning outside of the political sphere, it certainly doesn’t anymore.

  • shanti2

    He wasn’t illegally imprisoned. He was arrested for breaking the laws of a sovereign country, by deliberately proselytizing. He admits his guilt.
    I”m not saying those laws are good laws, I abhor them, but they are the law of that country, and he was well aware of them. Handing out bibles on the streets of Tehran is a deliberate provocation, and no one would do it unless they were seeing martyrdom.
    If you really are for justice for religious minorities in Iran , you should be much more concerned for the Bahai’s, many of whom have been illegally arrested, and even executed.

  • Secular1

    Amen sister.

  • It wasn’t me

    ACLJ should drop both “Law” and “Justice” from its name ,you Mr Sekulow and rest of your stooges know nothing of either.

    US citizen goes to Sovereign Country breaks its laws (no matter how unjust they are ) and you harp about it like Iran did something wrong .

    Why don’t you Mr Sekulow go to Arizona and start calling for Sharia Law on its streets ,distribute some Korans ,Call people of Arizona backward and teall us how it all panned out for you ….once you get out of intensive care .

  • tony55398

    Christianity will grow stronger from Martyrs like Abedini. I have yet to see a Muslim in America in jail for his faith, whether changing to a Muslim or a Muslim changing to Christianity. It’s Islam’s fear that its religion will become extinct through the preaching of these Martyrs and it eventually will.

  • perplexed63

    I guess he should have kept his beliefs out of Iran!!! If you play with fire ,expect to get burnt!!!

  • Catken1

    That’s because America has freedom of religion – all religion – courtesy of secular Enlightenment thinkers. When Christianity actually controls governments, it hasn’t proved any better at respecting others’ rights – even the rights of Christians who don’t belong to the governing sect – than Islam.

  • American and proud

    Human rights outweigh national sovereignty, or at least that is the way it has been viewed for some time. Nazi Germany criminals faced international courts for their crimes, although Germany was a sovereign nation when they committed the crimes. Somehow most of those making posts to this article seem to have forgotten that. Iran’s sovereignty, or any other nations, is not an excuse for human rights violations.
    America fought a revolution and rejected their king based on the idea that human rights are God given and inalienable for all of mankind. It stands at the very core of what it is to be an American to defend those rights anywhere in the world. And I am glad to say that America’s leadership in that matter has been accepted and the attitude adopted by most of the world. But apparently not by those posting responses to this article here…

  • American and proud

    Secular enlightment thinkers had nothing to do with America’s freedom of religion, but they had everything to do with communism around the world that has committed more attrocities towards people of faith than almost any other idea that mankind has ever come up with.

    Freedom of religion in America sprang out of the religious persecution that people of faith were fleeing from in the rest of the world. Freedom of religion came from people of faith, not secularists. Secularists could care less about religious freedom because they aren’t religious. Duh!

  • American and proud

    ACLJ is not imprisoning, torturing, or killing anyone, so yes they are better than the Moslems they are condemning.

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