The initial few weeks of John F. Kerry’s tenure as Secretary of State have been rough, with amateurish mistakes and diplomatic misstatements. I am sure that there will be many more to follow. Today, I want to address one more of Secretary Kerry’s rookie mistakes. On these pages, I have written about the plight of Pastor Saeed Abedini, the naturalized American of Iranian descent, who is imprisoned in Iran. After months of being held without formal charges, Pastor Abedini was sentenced to eight years in the notorious Evin Prison on January 27, 2013, on charges of Christian evangelization and threatening Iranian national security.
Late Friday, Pastor Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, appeared before Congressional lawmakers where she pressed them to fight for her husband’s freedom. The congressional commission on human rights is a bipartisan group co-chaired by Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va. Mrs. Abedini’s goal was to convince Congress to increase pressure on Iran, either directly or through the Obama “Administration,” which has abandoned Pastor Abedini. In an interview with Fox News (which was the only mainstream media reporting on the congressional hearing so far), Mrs. Abedini said, “[Pastor Abedini] has been in that brutal prison long enough. He hasn’t broken any laws. It’s not just Saeed, there are many others. They are being persecuted because of their beliefs, and I hope this hearing sheds light on other cases as well.”
Last month, 84 members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary Kerry urging him to “exhaust every possible option to secure Mr. Abedini’s immediate release.” The letter stated that “[a]s a U.S. citizen, Mr. Abedini deserves nothing less than the exercising of every diplomatic tool of the U.S. government to defend his basic human rights.” A copy of the letter by the 84 Congressional members is available here (pdf download).
Shamefully, although invited to appear before the congressional committee, no one from Secretary Kerry’s State Department appeared to testify. In response to the no-show, Commission Co-Chairman Representative Wolf stated, “It is amazing. I can’t, almost, believe it.” I agree; it is hard to imagine that Secretary Kerry’s State Department would fail to exercise diplomatic protection for any American citizen, including Pastor Abedini. But with the Obama “Administration,” it can be reasonably anticipated that little will be done to help American Christian believers. So Christians beware if you intend to go on a mission trip. You are deemed quite expendable by this “Administration.” And if you pray for Christian missionaries serving in other nations, please remember to pray for God’s protection over them.
Pastor Abedini is in chains for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are reminded in Hebrews 13:3, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” If you wish to contact your congressional representative about this important matter, I would urge you to do so. And if you (or other members of your church, Sunday School class, or small group) want to send a card or letter of encouragement to Pastor Abedini, please write to him at the following address:
Pastor Saeed Abedini
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran