TEHRAN, Iran (Christian Examiner) – September 26 will mark the third anniversary of the imprisonment of American pastor Saeed Abedini for sharing his faith in Iran. His wife Naghmeh, who has been petitioning ceaselessly for his release, has organized a prayer vigil, in cooperation with BeHeardProject.com, to be held to remember Saeed and the persecuted church.
Periodically Saeed has been allowed visits from family members in Iran, though he has not been reunited with his wife or his daughter Rebekka, age nine, or son Jacob, age six.
In a Facebook update on the Pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini page dated September 16, 2015, Naghmeh shared about Saeed and the difficulties of facing their third year of separation.
"The loss of his dear Grandma in the last few weeks and not being able to say his last goodbyes at her funeral, the sense of loss of missing out on seeing his kids go to their first days of school, and especially missing out on Rebekka's 9th birthday, has taken its toll on Saeed," Naghmeh's update said.
Even though Saeed and other inmates of the political wing of a prison outside of Tehran are denied necessary medical care, the hardest part of his incarceration has been the loss of time with his family, his wife indicated. Saeed has only seen pictures of his children and was particularly moved by a recent photo of his daughter, she wrote.
"It was too painful for him to see pictures of how much his baby girl had grown up since he last saw her, from the 5-year-old little girl to the 9-year-old young lady she has become. A different kind of maturity covered his baby girl's face. A maturity that spoke of painful, tear-stained nights," Naghmeh said. "The picture his family took to show Saeed told him of a girl who was trying to be strong and brave for her daddy."
According to the Be Heard Project website, Saeed was arrested by the Revolutionary Guard for sharing his Christian faith. After being placed under house arrest in his parents' home while he was visiting Iran to organize funds for an orphanage in 2012, he was forcibly removed from the house and taken to prison, where he has been subject to solitary confinement, interrogation, and beating.
Prison staff refused to treat his injuries because he was an "infidel." For a while, Saeed was removed to a hospital but did not get the extent of medical care he needed before he was returned to prison.
"Saeed was told of the prayer vigils that are happening on September 26th, which marks his third anniversary in prison," Naghmeh said. "Told that he was not forgotten. His face lit up and he was encouraged to hear that so many are praying for him."
On her Facebook page, the pastor's wife has been posting verses and quotes about prayer, fasting, and persecution for the 21 days leading up to the prayer vigil.
Her update said, "He was encouraged to know that a date that brought so much pain had become a day when Christians united together to pray for him and the persecuted church."
Naghmeh will be addressing international members of parliaments at a meeting of the United Nations in New York, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reported.
"She will tell her story and that of her husband and children over the difficult stretch of the last three years," the ACLJ article announced. "She will seek the engagement of these Parliamentarians, urging them to take action collectively and in their home countries on Pastor Saeed's behalf."
Her address will no doubt plead for the international community not to abandon Saeed for being unjustly persecuted for his profession of faith.
Her audience will be aware of the recent deal the United States made with Iran regarding nuclear weapons—a deal that did not include provisions for Saeed or the three other Americans being held in Iran prisons.
On social media, Franklin Graham wrote about his disbelief that no demand for the Americans' release has been made: "Iran has not one, but four, Americans still detained! One of them is our friend Pastor Saeed Abedini who was arrested because of his Christian faith. Why doesn't Washington get it?"
Graham also shared the information about the prayer vigil and urged others to pray.
Naghmeh will not abandon Saeed or stop interceding for him. "I knew that during the short prison visits he needed to know that he was not forgotten," she wrote, referring to Heb. 13:3.
"I made sure that he was told that I had not given up the fight," she told her followers. "That we had not given up the fight for his release. That despite government shortcomings, none of us were giving up. That we were getting on our knees and praying and fasting for him each day leading up to the prayer vigil.
Participate in or host a prayer vigil on Sept. 26.
Sign the petition to ask the UN Secretary General to directly ask Iran to release Saeed.