Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 27 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Vincent de Paul
home iconNews
line break icon

Prayer Vigils Recognize American Pastor Imprisoned in Iran

Jecelyn1322

Adelaide Mena - Catholic News Agency - published on 10/02/13 - updated on 06/08/17

Prayer vigils continue to be held in order to pray and raise awareness for Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen who is still being held in an Iranian prison on an eight-year sentence.

Human rights advocates gathered in front of the White House last week to pray and raise awareness for Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen who has been held in an Iranian prison for the past year.

Jordan Sekulow, director of policy and international operations for the American Center for Law and Justice, told CNA that the vigil’s first goal is to “keep Saeed alive.”

“The second,” he continued, “is to bring him home. The third goal and focus of this week is to make sure that no more Iranian officials can ever say 'I've never heard of Saeed Abedini' and make sure that the president of the United States knows that he has to speak out.”

Sekulow’s organization represents Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, in working for the pastor’s release.

The Sept. 26 protest marked the one-year anniversary of Abedini’s imprisonment in Iran’s Evin Prison on charges of threatening national security. Human rights groups, however, maintain that the pastor’s Christian faith is the real reason for his eight-year sentence.

Raised Muslim in Iran, Abedini converted to Christianity in 2000 and became a U.S. citizen in 2010 after marrying a U.S. citizen.

After his conversion, he worked with house churches throughout Iran until 2009, when the government raised objections, despite the fact that the churches are technically legal in the country. Since then, human rights groups say that the pastor has worked solely with non-religious orphanages in the country. He was arrested in the fall of 2012 during a visit to one of these orphanages.

According to his family, Abedini has suffered beatings and numerous injuries – which have gone untreated – during his time in prison. Although he sought an appeal of his conviction, his request was denied, leaving his eight-year sentence in place.

Since his imprisonment, numerous countries and officials have called for Abedini's release, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Roughly 100 people attended the Washington, D.C., vigil on Sept. 26, which coincided with other vigils throughout the country and around the world, in countries including Kenya, Russia and Pakistan.

Local pastors attended the vigil, along with Congressional Representatives Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Abedini has received bipartisan support from some 100 congressman and senators during his imprisonment, in the form of letters and statements asking for his release.

An official at the Sept. 26 event read a letter to Abedini’s wife, written by Princeton University law professor Robert P. George, who chairs the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“I am saddened and outraged that an Iranian appeals court last month upheld your husband's eight-year prison term,” George's letter said. “I am further outraged that your husband never was afforded any semblance of due process, and his trail was both a sham and a miscarriage of justice.”

Jane B. Zimmerman, deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, also attended the vigil, assuring that the freedom “to practice one's own religion is a fundamental right enshrined in international law.”

“The United States government defends the universal rights of pastor Abedini and others who face ill-treatment and discrimination simply for exercising those rights,” she affirmed.

The Washington, D.C., vigil took place amid meetings between U.S. and Iranian diplomats, considered the highest-level meeting between the two countries in decades.

According to Fox News, U.S. President Barack Obama voiced concern about Abedini in a historic Sept. 27 phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Abedini’s wife called this report “the most encouraging news” she had heard since her husband’s imprisonment a year ago.

Sekulow urged religious freedom supporters to continue calling for the pastor’s release through letters and an online petition. Such efforts are crucial for Abedini, he said, because “every day in that prison is like a potential death sentence.”

Originally published by Catholic News Agency on 30 September 2013.

Tags:
Christians in the Middle EastIranPrayer
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
VATICAN LEGOS
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
2
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
3
Tolkien
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
4
PADRE PIO
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
5
Giovanna Binci
He’s autistic, she has Down syndrome, and they’re wonderfully hap...
6
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
7
peace
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.