UPDATE: On January 16, 2016, marked as Religious Freedom Day annually in America, reports indicate that four U.S. citizens being held in Iran have been released – including Saeed Abedini and Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. Abedini’s wife and pro-life advocate Naghmeh Abedini confirmed the news on Facebook. The original story posted in March 2015 follows.
The last time he saw his dad, Jacob Abedini was four years old. Today, he turns seven.
An American citizen and father of two children, Saeed Abedini has been held prisoner in Iran since 2012. He was visiting Iran to assist in the launch of a government-approved orphanage.
Inexplicably, and without due process, Abedini received an eight-year prison sentence that (if carried out) is considered a “virtual death sentence” by his legal advocates at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ); more than a million people worldwide have signed petitions in support of his freedom.
His wife Naghmeh Abedini has been working tirelessly for his release, while essentially becoming a “single mom” to Jacob and his eight year-old sister Rebekka.
Naghmeh Abedini with her children and Rev. Franklin Graham (Photo: Aaron Wong)
Originally held in Evin Prison (called “hell on earth” by those with firsthand knowledge), Saeed Abedini has more recently been moved to Gohardasht Prison – crowded with many of Iran’s most dangerous criminals.
“He is in one of the worst prisons in the world,” says Naghmeh Abedini in a recent interview. “Nutrition is horrible, the conditions are horrible. He’s been in that prison long enough. We pray that time is coming to an end and we can bring him home.”
Abedini continues, “I want to see God be glorified in Saeed’s release, that it would be evident to the world that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is alive, He has the world in His hands – and when we pray, He listens.”
With this backdrop, Church on the Hill DC and Justice House of Prayer DC hosted Naghmeh Abedini on February 27 for a prayer gathering in downtown Washington. Christians came together from across the region, believing for Saeed’s release.
Photo: Matt Lockett / Twitter
In the midst of discussing Saeed’s condition and the immediate concerns at hand, Abedini made it clear where she stands on the issue of life.
“God cares about all humanity,” shared Naghmeh Abedini. “He cares about all life, from conception to natural death. We value each life because that is the heart of God.”
Two days after the Washington, DC prayer meeting, her son Jacob wrote a birthday invitation to his father. It was simply addressed to “Dad,” noting the party would be at “Home.”
His RSVP contact “Mom” ensured his hand-written card made it from Boise, Idaho to Saeed’s dark prison in Iran.
Image: Naghmeh Abedini / Facebook
Days ago, Naghmeh Abedini reported back via Facebook: “Saeed got to see Jacob’s birthday invitation and it broke his heart that he might not be able to make it for his birthday.”
“These milestones are always bittersweet and a reminder of the years going by. But Saeed is standing strong in his faith and counts it all joy to be suffering for Christ.”
Saeed Abedini wrote a letter to his son in reply, words so personal and moving they have spread around the globe as a rally cry for his release.
“My dear beloved son Jacob,” reads Abedini’s letter in part. ”I might not be there on your birthday and that breaks my heart as your father.”
“But I know the One who… cares for you more than anyone could imagine. HE IS THERE with you and His name is I AM WHO I AM.”
Meanwhile, U.S. government officials continue to advocate for his release – notably President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 5.
Last week during a Congressional hearing on International Religious Freedom, Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) called for the Obama Administration to act directly and quickly on Saeed Abedini’s behalf. Senator Blunt heard testimony from Jay Sekulow of ACLJ, legal counsel for Abedini, alongside John Saperstein, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
“On Pastor Abedini,” Senator Blunt began. “I just find it hard to believe that with all the things we’ve done with the Iranians – we’ve given them millions of dollars – we can’t get one person out of prison that nobody in this country believes should be there?”
For the imprisoned pastor’s wife, the primary way forward is through prayer.
In a new article, Naghmeh Abedini details how she came to meet with President Obama – ”It was through united prayer and fasting that that the Lord set up that meeting.”
She closes with a question: “How much time have we spent worrying about circumstances around us instead of spending time laying prostrate before the Lord and interceding for our persecuted brothers and sisters, for our leaders, for our country?”
Photo: Aaron Wong / Capital Life Church
“Let’s take this seriously, going before the throne of God,” Abedini urged at the Washington, DC prayer meeting. “Cry out to Him for our nation. Remember Saeed as he would pray, for revival in America and worldwide.”