KARAJ, Iran (Christian Examiner) -- Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been locked up and beaten in an Iranian prison since 2012 for his belief in Jesus Christ, wrote a letter encouraging Christians to have faith. The letter was sent from Rajai Shahr Prison to one of his family members, who then gave it to the American Center for Law and Justice who posted his message online.
"These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass making most nights unbearable to sleep," the pastor begins. "The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and sometimes hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don't like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame as someone who has betrayed his former religion."
Abedini said that even a paper cross he made in his cell was not allowed. The guards, who believe in Islam, made him take it down.
"This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me," he continued.
Despite his numerous beatings and injuries without receiving any medical attention, Abedini clings to hope in Christ.
"Today, we like Him should come out of our safe zone in order to proclaim the Word of life and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and the penalty of sin that He paid on the cross and to proclaim his resurrection. We should be able to tolerate the cold, the difficulties and the shame in order to serve God," he wrote.
"We should be able to enter into the pain of the cold, dark world. Then we are able to give the fiery love of Christ to the cold wintery manger of those who are spiritually dead. It might be necessary to come out of the comfort of our lives and leave the loving embrace of our family to enter the manger of the lives of others, such as it has been for me for the third consecutive Christmas."
"Christmas means that God came so that He would enter your hearts today and transform your lives and to replace your pain with indescribable joy," the pastor concluded.
Abedini, an Iranian-American was sentenced to eight years in prison for hosting Christian gatherings in the country.
In recent months, a number of Americans held captive overseas have been released, including two who were freed after intervention by the U.S. government:
-- A Mexican judge freed Marine Sargeant Andrew Tahmooressi Oct. 31 after he was jailed for 214 days for possessing weapons when he crossed the border
-- North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un personally intervened after a 40-day absence from public view, to release Jeffrey Fowle, who tried to secretly pass along a Bible while a tourist in the country
-- Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper engaged in discussions with authorities in north Korea to secure the release of Kennth Bae, jailed for evangelism efforts described by North Korea as a "clandestine attack," and Matthew Miller, who tore his passport into pieces once in the country and demanded asylum (interpreted by communist officials as trying to infiltrate the country in order to negatively portray it to the world)
Earlier this month President Obama ordered special forces to free Luke Somers, whose life was believed to be in imminent danger from his Al-Qa'ida captors.
"The rescue attempt took place in central Yemen and was conducted in partnership with the Government of Yemen," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement released on Dec. 6. "I thank President Hadi, the Yemeni government, and Yemen security forces for their assistance and cooperation.
"Yesterday's mission is a reminder of America's unrelenting commitment to the safety of our fellow citizens," he added, "wherever they might be around the world."
If you wish to express your desire for the government to intercede for Pastor Abedini, use the following links to contact your congressman, senator, the secretary of state and the president: