Naghmeh Abedini, wife of imprisoned Iranian-American minister Saeed Abedini, at Capitol Hill hearing on religious minorities in Iran on March 15, 2013. Behind her is her lawyer, Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Naghmeh Abedini, wife of imprisoned Iranian-American minister Saeed Abedini, at Capitol Hill hearing on religious minorities in Iran on March 15, 2013. Behind her is her lawyer, Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks


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WASHINGTON (RNS) Congress is pressing for the release of Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen who has been imprisoned in Iran for his religious beliefs since September 2012.

On Wednesday (Nov. 20) the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a bipartisan resolution condemning Iran’s persecution of religious minorities and urging Abedini’s immediate release.  The resolution will now go to the full House.

The Senate unanimously passed a similar resolution Nov. 14.

The U.S. and Iran are conducting talks in Geneva aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear program, and those backing Abedini hope the time is right for his freedom.

“It is important especially with the nuclear negotiations in Geneva that Congress speak out with one voice on behalf of pastor Abedini in support of his immediate release,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican.

The House and Senate resolutions follow Abedini’s transfer from Evin Prison, a facility for political prisoners, to Rajai Shahr Prison. He is now held in a ward for rapists and murderers, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, a law firm that represents Abedini’s wife, Nagmeh. Abedini has been allowed visits from his Iranian family, who have confirmed he is alive.

The Iranian government sentenced Abedini to eight years in prison after convicting him of “undermining” the government by spreading his religious beliefs. Abedini had previously worked with house churches in Iran; in 2012 he helped at an orphanage and visited family.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, photo courtesy of the office of U.S. Rep. Chris Smith.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican. Photo courtesy of the office of U.S. Rep. Chris Smith


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Smith said that Abedini promised the Iranian government he would not proselytize — and that Abedini had upheld his side of the bargain.

Since his arrest, Abedini has endured beatings causing internal bleeding and has had medical care withheld, according to the ACLJ.

His wife and two children await his return.

Abedini’s persecution is part of a wider policy against religious minorities in Iran, Smith said.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have both spoken out for Abedini’s release.

YS/MG END BURGESS

The post Congress pushes for release of American pastor imprisoned in Iran appeared first on Religion News Service.

9 Comments

  1. The only thing worse than the persecution of Christians in Islamic countries is the failure of our government to take it seriously. “Pres. Obama and Sec. Kerry have both spoken out…” is a sadly inadequate response from a country committed to religious liberty.

  2. What do you mean by “military action”? Do I want to invade–no. A nice quiet jailbreak by Seal Team 6 would be fine. It worked out with Bin Laden and all Reagan had to do is get inaugurated to get our hostages out in ’81, ,Anyway, the Israelis already have the air campaign covered .
    Just remember that war never solved anything except American independence, keeping Toledo in the US (and not in Canada) the end of slavery, the liberation of Cuba, the salvation of Europe twice and Korea, Kuwait, Granada, Panama, Iraq and Afganistan once each, and a variety other things too numerous to mention.

  3. Denis Eble

    Nick- That’s an impressive list of U.S. involvement with war-making. As mentioned there were others like the numerous campaigns against the Native Americans, one of which happened in our neck of the woods under Anthony Wayne. ‘Yankee Go Home!’

    Your talk of military aggression brings to mind the Roman Empire and its hold on the lands trodden by Jesus and his followers. The stranglehold by the Romans on the lives of the Jews living in the Judean Province is well known and documented by several historians of the time such as Josephus. The Jews living there were hoping that Yahweh would send a messiah who would defeat the Romans and drive them out of their land.

    Author Reza Aslan has written a book which he titled, ‘Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.’ Aslan claims that Jesus took up the ‘sword’ in this cause and that his mission was defeating the Roman Empire in Judea.

    Of course this concept flies in the face of the meek and gentle Jesus portrait painted by the writers of the Gospel. Aslan paints the picture of a Jesus who preached the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God, which would be an earthly, political state ruled by God. He insists that Jesus never intended to found a church, much less a new religion.

    Sadly, Jesus’ mission was never accomplished and, like all insurrectionists of the time, the Romans killed him. A few years after his death, the Romans struck and destroyed the entire city of Jerusalem, proving their resolve not to be challenged.

    Interestingly, and to the point of this discussion thread, Aslan is an Iranian-American Muslim. Many Christians have marginalized his book based on this fact alone. Yet, one wonders, if a Jewish-American had written a similar piece, would that negate the author’s hypothesis?

    Nick- where are you on the spectrum of the mission of Jesus? Zealot or Lamb of God? Soldier or Saint?

  4. First of all, lets get our facts straight. None of the campaigns I cited were “war-making” or “military aggression”, they were each just wars in the terms of St. Augustine’s “Just War Doctrine”. It is a slander to the brave men and women who have sacrificed for our country to make that accusation. Moreover, the Indians you mention were not just peaceful victims. At Fallen Timbers Gen. Wayne fought warriors allied with the British in an illegal occupation of American territory 11 years after they agreed to leave at the end of the Revolution. These same Indians remained allied with the British to massacre a captured American unit under Col. Dudley in Maumee 18 years later. If you want the Yankees to “go home” would you like to sing a few lines of “God save the Queen”? No one one is forcing you to stay in this “Yankee” country.
    Since I’ve not read the book to which you refer, I can’t comment on its thesis. I do know that Islamic tradition views Christ differently than do Christians–so what. I further believe that your suggestion that a Jewish author with a similar thesis would not be marginalized is just old fashioned antisemitism; in the same vein as thinking the Jews run the banks.
    Your final questions assumes an “either -or” paradigm that I reject. Christians are called to be zealots for the “Lamb of God”. and many soldiers are Saints. Starting with their Angelic prototype Michael the Archangel they have blessed the Church throughout the Centuries. Your disparaging comments on the Roman Empire only brings to mind the Centurion about whom Jesus said ” …in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Matt 8:10 NAB. Do you also disparage the heroic fighting of St. Martin of Tours, St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits) and, for the ladies, St. Joan of Arc.
    In the terms I have prescribed in the paragraph above I seek only to be a servant of The Most High God, in spite of my sins.

  5. Michele Joseph

    Michele Joseph

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/06/04/silenced-in-iran-the-plight-of-baha-i-prisoners-of-conscience.html

    The Bahai’s, also have many of our friends imprisoned in Iran, most notably, the Yaran (Friends), the seven spiritual leaders. Bahai’s face crushing persecution,property confiscated, forbidden to buy or sell, forbidden to higher education, forbidden to go to school, in some cases, or face violence a mockery.There is desecration of Bahai graves.
    There are so many human rights abuses in Iran ,for Bahai’s,Christians, so many others.
    Now a deal of some kind has been struck.
    I will pray for all.

  6. Michele Joseph

    Michele Joseph

    It’s very sad that nothing seems to change. we go in here, we go in there, we fight & kill everybody ,mostly civilians, it seems, and there is never any real improvement of any kind. One generation follows another, each more radicalized & militant than the next, and nothing changes. The faces change, the places change but everything stays the same. The result of this most recent thing is the complete loss of hope for the Pastor, I’m sorry to say, and for the Bahai’s , our beloved Yaran. We have tried our methods for milennia, and nothing changes.
    There is no wise direction to move. This thing will anger Iran ( bad), this thing will anger Israel, (very bad) . If Iran is angered, so will a bunch of other nations be angered, if Israel is angered, so will others.
    I think we all know what is to come, don’t we ? And it will be awful, a third of the people, the plants, the land, the seas, it’s happening before our eyes. It is inevitable. There are those who will die, there are those who will live. It is soon to be over.
    For my part, I choose to fight no more. There is a new world on the other side of this, the Promised Land, where they have beat their swords into plough-shares.
    Before the destruction of Sodom and Gamorra, God instructed Lot & his family not to look back-not to look back or to be turned into a pillar of salt ( which I take to mean-paralyzed with their own tears. But, Lots’ wife did look back,and she was frozen.
    I choose to not look back. To recognize, remember, honor & grieve all that came before, and then, to kiss it good-bye & walk away. Not to be trapped in endless mourning , but to move on.
    Bahai’s believe we have been given a plan for a new civilization, with remedies for what ails us now. New ways of problem-solving, educating ,providing for & caring for one another in a new society.
    I am someone like Lot’s wife. For years, I was locked in the paralysis of grief, without the heart to continue, and without a vision of the future.
    I don’t believe in fighting. You pointed out the victories attained by military action, and they were, indeed, precious and honorable, and in their time, of value, pearls on the string of the creations of humanity.
    But, now, it is just endless repetition, with nothing to be gained, all is loss.
    I am happy to dedicate myself to a larger purpose, a grand purpose, the ultimate fulfillment of the original plan of God.
    God has said to bind the law to our heads, to our hearts, to the work of our hands, and we can. We do know His Will by heart, we know the Law, we have been given example after example of Its’ application.
    I see no benefit in continuing to fight & struggle.
    I would prefer to pour out the love & energy of my life into preparing for the world to come, the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

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