In a totally unexpected development, American pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been unjustly incarcerated, beaten, and tortured in Iran for over a year, has now been moved to an even more brutal prison, where his life will be in more jeopardy than ever before. (Pastor Saeed's story can be found here and here; the latter link features a video of various celebrities calling for his release.) Of Iranian heritage himself, Abedini is a citizen of the United States, and was imprisoned, by an Iranian "revolutionary council," for the "crimes" of operating children's homes, and sharing the Christian Gospel. Worldwide protests have had no affect on his captors, and President Obama and John Kerry have actually removed his name from the State Department's list of political prisoners who must be freed. Apparently, this administration places little value on the life of an American citizen abroad, if that citizen is an outspoken Christian.
This past week, Pastor Saeed, in bad health and having been separated from his wife and two young children since his arrest, was moved from Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, where he was surrounded by "political prisoners" such as himself, to the far worse Rajai Shahr Prison, most of whose inmates are hard-core rapists and murderers. He is reportedly being held in a 10' by 10' cell, in a prison where, in the words of one authority, "prisoners simply disappear forever." The fact that an American citizen is being so unjustly used should make any American's blood boil, even if that American is an atheist; the fact that Saeed is our faithful brother in Christ should drive every Christian to his or her knees.
A petition to President Obama, and a petition to the new President of Iran, respectfully asking for Saeed's release, can be found at this site. Please take a moment to sign it; the site asks for your e-mail address, but will not "spam" you unless you ask for regular bulletins. An appeal is also made for funds, with which to continue the fight for Saeed's freedom, but making a contribution is not necessary.
By the grace of God, however, another imprisoned Christian, Mostafa Bordbar, who had been arrested during a Christmas celebration and sentenced to ten years in Evin Prison, has been released, following an opportunity to plead his case before an appellate court, after serving eleven months. This is a cause of rejoicing and thanksgiving, and we glorify God on Brother Mostafa's behalf. It may be that Iran's new President, Hassan Rouhani, is taking a less aggressive policy toward Christians than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; it's too early to tell. But we thank God for this act of mercy, even as we continue to pray and petition on behalf of Pastor Saeed.
SOURCES: Mohaba News, New York Daily News, American Center for Law and Justice
UPDATE: According to The Washington Post, President Obama "mentioned" Pastor Saeed in his first telephone conversation with Iran's new President, although the conversation dealt with other matters. The State Department has also called for his release, but his name has not been restored to the "most critical" list yet. A bipartisan bill on Saeed's behalf has been introduced by Senators Jim Risch (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT),and 23 Senators have referred to his plight as a "death sentence" if swift action is not taken. (11.08.13)