As Iranian-born American pastor Saeed Abedini prepares to mark one year in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison for his Christian beliefs and activities, his wife, Naghmeh, is praying that she and the couple’s children will be able to see him again.
She won’t be alone.
In Uganda, a prayer service is scheduled in Kampala City. In Russia, Christians will pray at Udomlya Baptist Church in Tver. Nigerians will be praying at Saviours’ Chapel in Emure Ekiti. There’s a prayer event in London and another in Jerusalem. Brazil has more than a dozen locations, and in Czech Republic, it will be at Evangelicky Kostel in Olomouc.
In the United States, the prayer events stretch from Juneau, Alaska, to Sugar Land, Texas, and from Redwood City, Calif., to Augusta, Maine.
The American Center for Law and Justice said the prayer services will be held on or around Sept. 26, which will mark one year in prison for Abedini.
Vigils are scheduled in more than 70 U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., Abedini’s hometown of Boise, Idaho, and 13 more countries.
The hope is that governments of the world will begin to feel the pressure and will take diplomatic action on behalf of the pastor.
ACLJ said the vigil participants join more than 620,000 people from around the world demanding the pastor’s release.
Thousands more, the group said, are urging newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to release Pastor Saeed through an online letter-writing campaign at BeHeardProject.com/Saeed.”
ACLJ, a constitutional and human rights law advocacy group representing Saeed’s wife and two children, Rebekka, 7, and Jacob, 5, is working to free Abedini from an eight-year prison sentence.
He was arrested in 2012 after he returned to Iran to continue work on an orphanage he was building with government approval.
“Every minute, every day Saeed is apart from us is more excruciating than the next,” Naghmeh Abedini told ACLJ. “This was the second year that Saeed missed Rebekka’s birthday [on September 12]. We had hoped that this past year would be the last she would ever have to celebrate without daddy. Now, I am faced with the painful realization that our kids are growing up without their father. We are praying for a miracle just to be able to see him again.”
Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ’s executive director, said that with each passing day, “the situation facing this American pastor becomes more grave,”
“For one year now he has been illegally imprisoned – 365 days that has been extremely difficult and dangerous for Pastor Saeed and increasingly trying for his wife and children,” he said.
“We realize that international attention – including a statement by President Obama which has yet to come – is a critical part of a global strategy to keep the spotlight on Iran, to keep this urgent human and religious rights case at the forefront. Our legal and diplomatic work continues to free Pastor Saeed. And we are hopeful that on this anniversary of his captivity, governments around the globe will redouble their diplomatic efforts on behalf of Pastor Saeed,” Sekulow said.
“Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide already have taken a stand to demand Pastor Saeed’s immediate release.”
ACLJ said Obama has yet to personally mention or speak publicly about the American citizen held captive in an Iranian prison.
Secretary of State John Kerry issued two statements, the most recent coming last month “respectfully” asking the Iranian government to “work cooperatively” to return Pastor Saeed to his family in the U.S.
In August, Iran’s Revolutionary Court rejected the pastor’s appeal of a conviction over his Christian beliefs, which the regime calls “crimes against the national security of Iran.”
Abedini, a convert from Islam to Christianity, is a dual Iranian-American citizen who was on a ministry trip when he was detained.
He’s reportedly suffered a number of health problems while in prison already.