|(Photo: American Center for Law and Justice)|
His crime was supposedly "endangering national security," but it is quite obvious that Abedini is being held for his work as a Christian leader. While he is not the only Christian imprisoned for his faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran, he is probably the most noteworthy, if only because of his American citizenship.
Reports from sources in Iran indicate that Saeed has been tortured and beaten. Then he was denied medical care as the Muslim doctors who were called refused to treat him. Yet President Barack Obama remains strangely silent, leading to a call for action from Franklin Graham, head of Samaritan's Purse. “Many in the international community are expressing outrage over this blatant example of religious intolerance,” said Graham, who also heads the international relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse. “I ask that our government do the same and demand that Pastor Saeed Abedini be released and allowed to return home to his wife and family in the United States.”
We, in the West, have little to no idea of the horrifying experience many Christians go through in many parts of the world. Iran, China, Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria and many other nations have been the site of incredible injustices as followers of Christ have been falsely accused, beaten, tortured, imprisoned and often murdered. According to Philip Yancey, "Human rights organizations claim that more Christians were martyred in the twentieth century than in all the rest of history combined."
Christian Freedom International has provided a map and information on their website detailing the worst offenders (the five I listed above made the Top 10 offenders list). While I highlight the plight of Abedini, most Christians in these countries suffer silently, unknown and out of the minds of all but their family and friends. High profile cases like Saeed's often result in release because of political pressure - I hope that happens in this case. Last year we were talking about Youcef Nadarkhani, who was freed, then re-arrested, then freed again; then arrested again. He is currently free, for who knows how long.
Regardless, as a follower of Christ, I must constantly remind myself to pray for those who are being persecuted for their faith. The Apostle Paul, no stranger to persecution, wrote to the church in Colosse from prison and concluded his letter this way: "I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you." (Colossians 4:18)
Around the world today, hundreds of thousands of Christ-followers would say the same - "Remember my chains." As those privileged to live in one of the freest countries on the planet, we ought to do all that we can to promote the cause of justice for those unable to speak for themselves. Become informed, and use whatever influence that you may have to bring pressure to bear on those who can make a difference. And pray. As John Wesley said, "You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed."
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