The Iranian government has continued its persecution of born again Christians as it has sentenced Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen, to 8 years in prison for starting house churches in Iran several years ago. With very little options in the Iranian legal system, Pastor Abedini now faces a brutal future in one of the harshest and most notorious prisons in Iran for his faith in Jesus Christ.
According to reports:
On Sunday morning, Judge Pir-Abassi of Branch 26 of the Iranian Revolutionary Court – known as the “hanging judge” – verbally convicted and sentenced Pastor Saeed to eight years in prison, according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is representing the pastor’s family in the United States. The court defied Iranian law, which requires a written verdict. The sentencing was based on the evidence of Pastor Saeed’s Christian activities primarily during the early 2000s, when house churches were not perceived as a threat under President Khatami. (source).
Beginning and End previously covered the lengthy trial and imprisonment of Iranian Pastor Youcef Nardhakani, who was held in prison (bu has now been released) for working as a pastor in Iran. Now Abedini seems to be in an even worse position.
Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ’s Executive Director, called the conviction “a real travesty.” Iran, he said, “has not only abused its own laws, it has trampled on the fundamentals of human rights.” An American citizen, who has been beaten and tortured since his imprisonment last fall, faces a lengthy prison term simply because of his Christian faith, he added. “Pastor Saeed now faces eight years in a harsh prison – likely facing life-threatening torture and abuse at the hands of the Iranian regime.”
Evin Prison, where Abedini is being held, has a history of torturing its inmates. Mock executions, beatings and psychological torture are a regular part of the daily life at this prison, according to an expose on the prison, called “Hell On Earth”, produced by by Fox News. Prisoners upon arrival are blindfolded and taken to a basement corridor where they are ordered to sit in a chair in complete silence for days with any sound resulting in physical beating. This is just the beginning of the series of psychological torture methods inflicted on the prisoners, which also include being taken before a firing squad, repeated violent interrogations and little to no food.
“They are not looking for information,” said [Marina] Nemat, now a instructor at University of Toronto and author of “Prisoner of Tehran,” a 2007 book detailing her ordeal and a second memoir entitled, “After Tehran”. “What they want is for you to admit that you affected the national security of Iran.” (source).
Home to murderers, rapists and thieves, political dissidents and those consider a threat to the government’s doctrine are also imprisoned there, hence the Christian Pastor Abedini’s sentence. Again, this was all for starting house churches in Iran, at a time when it was not illegal to do so. Most recently, Abedini was in Iran working on a non-sectarian orphanage when he was arrested. During the trial, he and his attorney were removed from the court when witnesses were brought in to testify against him. Now convicted, Abedini has relayed to his wife, Nagmeh, repeated stories of torture he receives at the hands of prison officials:
“When I heard this from my husband, I cried. It broke my heart. Behind those walls he feels helpless and relies on us to be his voice. It is so easy to feel forgotten in the walls of the prison. Please help me make sure he is never forgotten,” Pastor Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, told the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) after visiting her husband on Monday. (source).
The US Government Gets Involved
Newly-confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry issued the following condemnation of Abedini’s trial:
“We remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of Mr. Abedini’s trial,” Kerry told Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) when asked for his response to Pastor Abedini’s case. “I, along with the U.S. government, condemn Iran’s continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini’s human rights and release him.” (source).
White House Spokesman Jay Carney also delivered a statement to the press condemning the conviction:
Well we are deeply disappointed that Saeed Abedini has been sentenced to 8 years in prison in Iran on a charge related to his religious beliefs. Mr. Abedini’s attorney had only one day to present his defense, so we remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of his trial. We condemn Iran’s continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion, and we call on the Iranian authorities to release Mr. Abedini. (source).
Pressuring Pastor Abedini To Deny Christ
Recently, reports have emerged that Iranian authorities are pressuring Abedini to deny Christ and proclaim faith in Islam:
“After all of these pressures, after all of the nails they have pressed against my hands and feet, they are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ,” Abedini wrote in a letter obtained by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), who is representing his wife and two children back in America.
The pastor, however, has said that “they will never get this from me,” and expressed his gratitude to the over 260,000 people who have signed a petition calling for his release. (source).
Jesus Christ prophesied that born again believers who take up their cross and follow Him, will suffer persecution:
These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. – John 15:17-22.
The ACLJ, which is representing Pastor Abedini, has mobilized a petition to call on the Obama administration to engage in high-level discussions to negotiate for Abedini’s release. Thus far the petition has garnered over 250,000 signatures (to sign the petition, click here). But most importantly, stay in prayer, for the Pastor and his family. Pray for their faith to remain strong during this time of trial and not to be shaken by the persecution of the world. As the world draws closer to the end times, the hostility towards the Christian faith will only increase. But God’s grace to His saints will not waver. Pray that Christians abroad and in your nation will have courage to continue to share their faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, even in the face of persecution.
If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? – 1 Peter 4:14-17.