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Jakarta’s Christian ex-governor drops blasphemy appeal ‘for sake of the people’

Ahok’s tearful wife, Veronica Tan, reads out his letter in which he announces he will not appeal his two-year prison sentence for blasphemy.

(World Watch Monitor) Jakarta’s Christian ex-governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (also known as “Ahok”), has withdrawn his appeal against his two-year prison sentence for blasphemy in a controversial case that has challenged religious pluralism in Indonesia, with repeated clashes between Ahok’s supporters and radical Islamic groups.

It was for this reason, said Ahok, that he wished to drop his appeal “for the sake of our people and nation”.

“I know this is not easy for you to accept this reality, let alone me, but I have learned to forgive and accept all this,” he wrote in a letter that his tearful wife Veronica Tan read out at a news conference today (23 May). He also thanked his supporters and those who were praying for him, or sending him flowers, letters and books.

He also encouraged his supporters to forgive and accept the sentence. He showed concern for what could be the longer term results of a drawn out appeal process – for the people in Jakarta and beyond – as the likely protest rallies would cause Jakartans to “suffer great losses, in the form of traffic congestion and economic losses resulting from the rallies”.

He also warned of more division in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, saying: “It’s not right to hold rallies against each other over what I’m experiencing now. I’m concerned that many sides will exploit the rallies. There may be clashes with those who take issue with our struggle.”

Reasons

According to the Bangkok Post, a source close to the family said that the decision to drop the appeal was made because Ahok’s efforts may be “blocked” further, saying his family had calculated all “political factors” before making the decision. The source refused to elaborate further.

Paul Marshall, Professor of Religious Freedom at Baylor University and senior fellow at the Leimena Institute in Jakarta, told World Watch Monitor that the possibility of an increased sentence on appeal could be one of the reasons why Ahok and his family might have decided not to challenge the sentence in the High Court.

Ahok’s tearful wife Veronica Tan reads out his letter in which he announces he will not appeal his prison sentence.

“Another reason could be that the ex-governor is safe where he is now, inside the national police special force’s headquarters. He might not be safe outside. Also, there are major demonstrations in support of Ahok. His release at the moment may shift the momentum to the radicals”, said Marshall.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have still filed an appeal for a lower sentence, since the judges gave a more severe sentence than they’d recommended, and Ahok’s lawyers and family said the withdrawal could therefore give the prosecutors space to appeal.

It would not be the first time prosecutors had appealed against a tougher sentence than sought in the indictment, said one of his lawyers, Teguh Samudera.

“We don’t want to intervene with the prosecution. They can go ahead,” said another of the lawyers, I Wayan Sudirta. He added that Ahok’s legal team had requested his relocation from prison to city or house confinement.

Widespread condemnation

Ahok, Jakarta’s first Christian and ethnic Chinese governor since the 1960s, was charged with blasphemy in September 2016 after accusing his political opponents of using Qur’anic verses to stop Muslims from voting for him in his bid for re-election as Jakarta’s governor.

A day after he lost the election to his Muslim rival, Anies Rasiyd Baswedan, prosecutors downgraded the blasphemy charges against him to a one-year suspended jail sentence, but on 9 May the court ruled against this and sent him to prison for two years. The verdict caused widespread condemnation, from protests in the streets of Jakarta to responses from the international community.

The court case developed in the background of Ahok’s re-election bid as governor of Jakarta and although religion was also the dominant feature of the election campaign, there was much more going on, writes Marshall:

“Ahok was opposed by the many politicians who benefit from endemic corruption. He was also contrarily portrayed as a tool of the rich, especially the Chinese-Indonesian businessmen who control much of Indonesia’s economy. Other major political players were funding the radicals. The FPI [Islamic Defenders’ Front] can make a lot of noise, but does not have the capability to organize massive demonstrations. Someone else was paying for those thousands of busses to bring in demonstrators from afar, as well as the neatly printed signs and shirts.”

At the start of his trial in December 2016, Ahok said: “Our founding fathers created the nation as a secular republic, based on the concept of ‘unity in diversity’, but they want to force the implementation of Islamic law. How come? So, I’m happy that history chose me for this position. I am not afraid of losing my position for doing what is right.” He added: “We must really have faith in God according to our religion. I have faith in Isa [“Jesus” in Arabic]. And I have faith about where I belong and where I will go when I die – and that’s why I’m not afraid to lose my life. In all I’ve been through, Jesus has always protected me and provided for all my needs.”

‘Disappointing’

The news of Ahok’s appeal withdrawal came a day after the United Nations called on the Indonesian government to free him and to repeal blasphemy laws which they say undermine religious freedom in the Muslim-majority nation.

“We urge the government to overturn Mr Purnama’s sentence on appeal or to extend to him whatever form of clemency may be available under Indonesian law so that he may be released from prison immediately,” UN experts said in a statement.

They added that Ahok’s sentence was “disappointing” as “instead of speaking out against hate speech by the leaders of the protests, the Indonesian authorities appear to have appeased incitement to religious intolerance and discrimination.”

Please pray for our Christian brothers ans sisters in Indonesia.

Billy Graham’s Letter to Iran’s President

 

BillyGrahamPhotoPresident Hassan Rouhani

Islamic Republic of Iran

Sept. 23, 2013

Dear President Rouhani,

I have been watching with great concern about the case of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen who is currently a prisoner in your country. He was in Iran working to build an orphanage when he was arrested and later sentenced to eight years in prison. His situation has been receiving an increasingly high level of attention in the United States. Unfortunately this publicity has been entirely negative for Iran, with the belief that the primary reason for Pastor Abedini’s imprisonment was because of his Christian faith.

As you may know, as a religious leader I have often spoken (both publically and also privately with our national leadership) about the need for greater understanding and peace among the nations of the world. As you come to the United States this week for the U.N. General Assembly in New York, it is my sincere hope that ways may be found to reduce the current tensions between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The announcement on Monday that your country has freed 80 political prisoners is very encouraging. I fear, however, that the current publicity surrounding the continued imprisonment of Pastor Abedini, an American citizen, may further harm the already fragile relationship that presently exists between our two nations.

On September 26, the one-year anniversary of Pastor Abedini’s imprisonment, thousands will attend prayer vigils in more than 70 U.S. cities, calling on your country to release this husband, father and servant of God. I join them by respectfully asking you to release Pastor Saeed Abedini from prison. Such an action would, I believe, have a positive impact in our nation, and might well be perceived by our leadership as a significant step in reducing tensions.

Respectfully yours,

Billy Graham

Click here to see the original letter.

American Pastor Saeed Writes His Daughter a Letter for her Second Birthday without Him

Saeed-Naghmeh-Rebekka

Lost in the tragedy of Pastor Saeed Abedini’s wrongful imprisonment for his faith are his two young children – two precious little ones who miss their father.

Saeed-daughterRecently, September 12th, was his daughter Rebekka’s seventh birthday. It was the second birthday she has endured without her father.

For this special but painfully lonely day, he was able to send his daughter a letter from his prison cell, expressing his undying love for his children and how difficult it has been to be apart from them.

Below is the complete text of the letter of hope Pastor Saeed wrote his daughter for her birthday.

September 12, 2013
Hello to my beautiful flower Rebekka Grace,
Although this is the second year that I am absent from your birthday, I want you to know that I am with you with all of my heart, mind and soul. I cannot come to you in flesh, but my spirit is there with you on your special day.
My Beautiful Rebekka, you don’t realize how much I rejoice and weep when I see your pictures behind the glass window when my parents visit me every week in prison. I cannot believe how much you have grown and turned into a beautiful and attractive young lady in just a year.
Your hair has grown so long and is such a beautiful black color. I recently saw the picture with you holding a guitar. It is so hard and so heart breaking for me to see these pictures and to know that I am not there beside you as you grow.
I want you to know how painful it is for me that there are great forces that are preventing me, your father, to be near you and Jacob, my beautiful and fragile flowers.
Although the wounds that they inflict on me are so painful, but I can still say that I continue to bless them and ask for forgiveness for them. I would also like to know that you are doing this as well and that you are not allowing anything but Jesus and His love to consume your little hearts.
Rebekka, do you remember that every time that I would leave America and go to the Iran I would tell you that I wanted to help the little kids that did not have a mommy and daddy, or food or shelter and you would give me your old toys and clothes that you no longer wanted? Do you remember that mommy and I would tell you that God wants you to give Him your best and that you should give the toys and clothes that you loved so much? I still remember you running and grabbing your new toys and clothes that you loved so much and would give them to me to take.
Well, I want to tell you that you two are my little heroes. You have grown so much in giving that now you have given up the one person that you love and need so much in your little lives to the little kids that do not have mommies or daddies. You have given them me. And not only one or two days, but hundred and hundreds of days. You don’t even get to see a picture of me or even see me for a few short minutes. I kiss your small and delicate hands for the sacrifice you are giving.
Good job to my little heros! I came here to help the kids that did not have mommies and daddies, but my own kids lost their daddy. This breaks my heart so much. I want you to know that I did not want to put so much pressure on your little shoulders, my precious children. I was trying so hard to protect myself for you little ones. But the Iranian police lied to me that they would not arrest me.  Please don’t let your little shoulders bear so much burden.
Although governments fail, I know that Jesus sees the price we are paying for Him and He will gather us together as family one day that I may see you grow up tall to be like your beautiful mommy.
I know that you are also facing hardships and persecution for Jesus in such young and tender age. That your daddy is not next to you. You like to feel his warmth embrace and see his immense love for you in his eyes.  The Word of God says that persecution bring three results: 1- because of persecution and chains, there is great opportunity for the Word of God to be preached to the world. 2- Jesus says that because of persecution, we will receive the crown of Glory and it will be recorded for us in heaven. 3- Persecution helps us to grow in our character.
In order to endure these hardships and persecutions, we need to learn to be patient and to stand up for our faith and for what we believe. The Word of God says that patience makes us complete.
In this new year of your life I want you to stand strong as you have stood the previous year and be patient and endure.
With much love to my true little hero…
With kisses and wide expecting eyes…
I am proud of your little, but strong shoulders!
Love you, Daddy

Saeed-bday2010

Above are some family pictures taken at the last birthdays Pastor Saeed was able to spend with his daughter.

ACLJ

Thanks for “Praying and Fighting for my Freedom” – Pastor Saeed From Iran Prison:

SaeedAbedini

(ACLJ)American Pastor Saeed Abedini’s family in Terhan was able to visit him again earlier this week.

Pastor Saeed was able to get a new letter out this week to his wife Naghmeh.  He sent her this letter to be shared with supporters who gathered recently, on the Christian day of Pentecost, to pray for him.

He shared that despite what he has to endure on a daily basis – the beatings and internal bleeding – he has hope.  The 33-year-old U.S. citizen  wrote, “I will also be freed from my chains though prayer and strength of the Grace of God.”

His full letter to supporters is below.

Spending Pentecost in Prison and in Chains

When the Day of the Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:1-2)

One special day, one heart, one place — All of these come together, to emphasize one thing, the importance of unity.

I heard that the persecution, my arrest and imprisonment has united churches from different denominations, from different cities and countries, that would never come together because of their differences. That the churches have united together in prayer to put one request (my freedom) on one day (Pentecost) before God.

You don’t know how happy I was in the Lord and rejoiced knowing that in my chains the body of Christ has chained together and is brought to action and prayer.

When someone’s life like mine is in danger, we realize how different we are in our opinions (although some of those differences might be correct), but that we are still united in one goal of praying for my freedom.

I am thankful for that. It is though your prayers and the Grace of God that the Lord is using me here in my chains. Many have been freed from the chains of Satan here and have been saved and added to the Church.

Now, how beautiful it will be if the Church would be united and fight for the salvation of the world whose life is in danger and who are bound in chains of Satan and to fight for the salvation of the world, a world that is heading to the way of destruction. With the same passion and the same way that you are praying and fighting for my freedom, we need to be praying and fighting for the salvation of the world.

When the Church is united (with one heart, in one place, on one day) that is when the joy and strength of God (Holy Spirit) wants to come in that unity and pour out and the Lord be exalted. Although this unity is the result of direct involvement of the Holy Spirit that is able to bring many different characteristics to make one.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me (Acts 1:8).

And only when the Holy Spirit comes can you get strength. Without the strength of God it is impossible to do the will of God. And when we receive strength, then we can be transformed. And when we receive strength, then we can be transformed. And when we are transformed, that is when the Church is transformed as well. And when the Church is transformed, then the world will be freed from the chains of sin and will be saved and transformed. When we are all united and chained together, united in our hearts, in one place in one day, and we pray, then we will receive the power from on High and will receive strength and the world will be changed and will be freed from the chains of bondage and will be saved. The same way that I will also be freed from my chains though prayer and strength of the Grace of God.

So dear sisters and brothers let us be united in prayer for freedom and salvation of the world. Let us be united so that the Holy Spirit might fall on us and the Glory of God would be revealed through us and through the church.

Welcome to the chains that have bound me and have bound us together. Happy Pentecost.

God Said and it was. Chains were broken. Our sins were forgiven I am free You are free We all have freedom

With many thanks for your continued and faithful prayers.

Servant of our Lord in chains for Jesus Christ, Saeed

Please continue to pray and share Pastor Saeed’s latest letter.  Please also continue to sign and share the petition to #SaveSaeed at SaveSaeed.org.

On May 30th, the ACLJ will once again be presenting Pastor Saeed’s case to the UN.  Help us take 600,000 voices to the UN.  Show the world that you stand for religious freedom.

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Please continue to pray and share Pastor Saeed’s latest letter.  Please also continue to sign and share the petition to #SaveSaeed at SaveSaeed.org. And help us Save Saeed.

Pastor Saeed’s Birthday in Chains for Christ

BDay SaeedACLJ reports

It’s the worst birthday imaginable.  Not only is American Pastor Saeed Abedini imprisoned in one of Iran’s harshest prisons for his religious beliefs, he is spending his 33rd birthday in solitary confinement.

Today, May 7th is Pastor Saeed’s birthday, and he is “celebrating” what should be a festive occasion, not with his wife and kids, but in the dark confines of what his wife Naghmeh describes as “a small dark whole.”

For 223 days, Pastor Saeed – a U.S. citizen – has had to face the harsh reality of one of the most oppressive and deadly places on earth, Evin Prison.  He has undergone beatings, physical and mental torture, and unending persecution all because of his Christian faith.

Yesterday, the day before his birthday, Pastor Saeed’s father was again turned away by prison officials, denied the ability to see his son.  There are new fears that Pastor Saeed’s health – he has for months suffered untreated internal bleeding from beatings he sustained in prison – is worsening.

Yet, through all of the abuse and torment he has endured at the hands of his Iranian captors, he remains resilient in his faith.  He concluded, his last letter – his last communication with the outside world: “Pastor Saeed Abedini, the servant and slave of Jesus Christ in chains, with a lot of joy to see you soon.”  His faith is keeping him alive.

Naghmeh, Pastor Saeed’s wife – though she cannot see or speak to her husband – wrote him an emotional and compelling birthday message this week:

My dearest friend and soul mate Saeed,

As you turn 33 today, I am reminded of the previous years that we have celebrated this very special day together. Our house was always so full of joy and laughter as we rejoiced the day that you were born.

Yet today, there is a deep piercing pain in my heart knowing that you will spend your birthday in solitary confinement, constrained to a small room, not knowing when it is day or night. Under constant torture and abuse by radicals who are trying to break you and have you deny your faith in Jesus.

With tightness in my throat, pain in my heart, and tears streaming down my face…so very weak, I promise to stand strong in the strength of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fighting with every strength of my being until you are united to our family again.

I will be a voice, where you are being silenced. I will be hands and feet where you are being bound and in chains. That the whole world would know, that the whole world would hear that Jesus is Lord.

We are so proud of you. Hang in there. Hold on tight to Jesus. You have many brothers and sisters praying for you and standing with you.

Love, Naghmeh

Thousands of others have also engaged in a letter writing campaign for Pastor Saeed’s birthday.  To date, 52,501 letters have been written to Pastor Saeed at SaveSaeed.org.  These letters show the impact that Pastor Saeed’s case is having in people’s lives.  One letter reads,

“Your Message of forgiveness is an amazing Testimony and actually helped us realize there was some one in our life we needed to forgive, thank you.”

We are in the process of literally printing out and delivering each one of these more than 50,000 letters to Evin Prison.  If you have not already done so, write Pastor Saeed a letter of hope and encouragement today.  Let him know he is not forgotten.  Let the Iranian officials know that no one should be imprisoned because of their religious beliefs.

Though his spends his birthday in the confines of a lonely, dark prison cell, he should know that hundreds of thousands of people all over the world are standing by his side, praying for him, and demanding Iran cease its human rights abuse and release him so he can be reunited with his  his family.

PLEASE continue to pray for this man and his family! Go to the link above and write a letter! Remember to pray for the staff at the ACLJ as they have worked tirelessly on this case!

Naghmeh Abedini’s shares letter from Saeed and her prayer for him on his birthday.

Saeed and Naghmeh

Naghmeh has decided share with us a beautiful letter that Saeed wrote from prison for her birthday. She is also sharing her heart and prayer for him on his upcoming birthday.

From Naghmeh
As Saeed’s birthday nears in 4 days, I think of what my gift to him would be. At first, I had planned a poem as he had written me one for my birthday when he was in prison. It is very personal and I can’t help but weep and desperately miss him every time I read it, I had never released it to public before, but I wanted to share it now with all of you (it rhymes in Farsi, but not in English… I have translated it to English.

Birthday Poem to my lovely wife: (written Feb. 4, 2013)

I am madly in love with your warm eyes … I would refer to them as doves, do you remember that? I am thirsty for a glance from you.  I only want you, do you remember that? How good you have been to me. After all this time… The more I lack you next to me, the more I remember how much I want you. The more I have of you, the more I long for you. I only hope those days of having you would come soon. You gave me two beautiful flowers, Rebekka and Jacob and with yourself, you made my life a field of flowers. I wish I could come quickly and see you,  to get a glimpse, even if as a guest. Oh how I wish we could be together again. Like Majnoon (Romeo) and his beautiful Leyli (Juliet).

Saeed Abedini, I can’t write you a poem, visit you in prison, or hear your voice. And I don’t know when I will see you again, but my birthday present to you is that I will fight for you and your freedom. And pray for you with all of my being, every second of my life until you are united with our family again. I pray that what the enemy has intended for destruction by putting you in solitary (to break you and have you deny your faith) that the Lord Jesus would use for Good! That you would meet Jesus face to face and that when you come out of Solitary Confinement you would be shining like a star and glowing and refreshed by our Savior’s Love and Tenderness. I Ask Jesus to hold you now and that you would feel His embrace and Healing touch. I love you and I long for the day I can hold you again.

Love
Naghmeh

Please keep this dear family in your prayers. The pain of separation is great. Saeed still has internal bleeding that continues to go untreated. He needs medical attention immediately. Let’s lift them up to the Lord, daily. They are NOT forgotten!
Pray also that the hearts of the Government and prison officials soften. Pray they will do the right thing and release him. Pray they may come to know our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

American Pastor Saeed Denied Medical Care in Iran/ Psychological torture to deny Christ

Still bleeding internally from beatings, Pastor Saeed is still being denied medical treatment. He goes through constant psychological torture and pressure to recant his faith in Christ. Keep Pastor Abedini in your prayers!

 

Demands for Saeed to Recant Faith in Christ

Iranian officials are now threatening American Pastor Saeed Abedini that he will be held longer than his eight-year sentence unless he recants his faith.

We have just obtained a new letter from Pastor Saeed, dated March 9th, where he talks about the humiliation and psychological torture he undergoes on a daily basis.

In this new letter, he writes:

“Deny your faith in Jesus Christ and return to Islam or else you will not be released from prison. We will make sure you are kept here even after your 8 year sentence is finished.” These are the threats that prison officials throw at me.

My response to them is Romans 8:35-39. The reality of Christian living is that difficulties or problems do arise in our lives. Persecution and difficulties are not new occurrences, but are seen often in the Christian life.  It is through the suffering and tribulations that we are to enter the Kingdom of God.

387040885_7ec2c80507It is clear that Pastor Saeed’s faith is what is keeping him alive – sustaining him – as the mental and physical abuse he suffers at the hands of the brutal Islamic regime weakens his body.

He is being ordered to deny Christ, yet his faith holds strong.  This is why tens of thousands of people from all over the world are writing letters to Pastor Saeed for his upcoming birthday on May 7th. Letters of prayer and support.

Pastor Saeed is refusing to deny Christ.  We must let him know that we will never forget him and will never stop working for his release.

Join the over 20,000 others who have already done so, and write a letter to Pastor Saeed at SaveSaeed.org.  This has already quickly become one of the largest letter writing campaigns ever.

Pastor Saeed After Beatings and Torture: “I did not recognize myself”

Saeed

The ACLJ reports: We have just obtained a new letter from imprisoned American Pastor Saeed Abedini written to his wife, Naghmeh, and his family in Iran.  In it, as in his previous two letters written inside the brutal Evin Prison, he documents the results of the continued abuse and torture he endures.

This letter, likely written weeks ago, was received by his family just yesterday.  Written on the margins of scraps of newspaper, it is only the third letter Pastor Saeed has been able to get to his family in the past nearly 180 days of imprisonment and underscores the difficulty of getting any information from Iran about his condition.

Pastor Saeed writes that he cannot even recognize himself after all the beatings and torture he has endured: “My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown.”

After multiple beatings in interrogations at the hands of the radical Islamic regime, Pastor Saeed wrote that the nurse who was supposed to treat injured inmates told him “‘in our religion we are not suppose to touch you, you are unclean. . . . Christians are unclean!’”  He explained, “they would not give me the pain medication that they would give other prisoners because I was unclean.”

This further confirms the fact that until this week, Pastor Saeed had not received any medical treatment.  Because of the immense pressure from the international outcry of hundreds of thousands who have demanded his release, Iranian officials have promised him medical treatment, but this new letter sheds light on how difficult it will be to ensure that Iran keeps its word.

In his letter, Pastor Saeed also shares how he has personally witnessed the toll his imprisonment has taken on his parents and how he longs to once again be with his wife and children.  He wrote, “You, my wife, on the other side of the world, alone with the kids. Alone and worried. My family here in Iran, being interrogated, tired and under so much pressure.”

Even through all the persecution, Pastor Saeed remains resilient in his faith.  He writes of the importance of forgiveness, even to the point of forgiving the interrogators who beat him and the doctors who refused to treat him.  He says that we must all forgive, “So that we don’t become like the person we despised and who persecuted and tortured us.”

He told of the power he has witnessed through forgiveness when after telling one of his persecutors to his face that he forgave him, the interrogator came to “respect” him.  “Love is as strong as death,” Pastor Saeed explained.  He concluded, “The Joy of the Lord is my strength.”

This is another powerful testament of his Christian faith and his eternal hope that one day he will again be free to return to his wife and kids in America.

It is critical that we redouble our efforts and do all we can as a nation for this imprisoned pastor, one of our own, a U.S. citizen.

Please continue to sign and share the petition to #SaveSaeed today.

You can read Pastor Saeed’s letter below:

Hello to my dear love and wife,
When I saw my family for the first time behind the glass walls, I could see my mom four meters away. As she approached me and saw my face, she broke down and could not get closer.  She was crying. I understood what she felt because after weeks of being in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, I also got to see my face in the mirror of an elevator that was taking me to the prison hospital. I said hi to the person staring back at me because I did not recognize myself. My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown.
It was a few days ago when one of my family members, with weary eyes and after running around for 15 weeks in trying to get me out of prison, said that my dad says every single day that “this week I will get my son out of prison.” But this does not happen and he is not able to get me out of prison. In that instant I looked into the wrinkled and tired eyes of my dad. I could clearly see that he had ran around for months and he had no more strength left in him. It was very hard seeing my family in such a situation.
You, my wife, on the other side of the world, alone with the kids. Alone and worried. My family here in Iran, being interrogated, tired and under so much pressure.
With the loud voice of the prison guard, our visitation had ended and they put covers over our eyes and we returned to the dark room void of any natural sunlight.
I started praying for my family. My dear Naghmeh. You are the love of my life. I am always in love with you.
Dear Naghmeh, I have been stung so many times that I have become full of poison. This is an Iranian saying. A lot of people say that they have been stung by so many people that their whole being is full of poison like a poisonous snake. It means that we have been bitten by the snakes of this world so many times that, all of the poison has collected in us and that we are like the poisonous snake. But if we sting anyone, we will die. This Iranian saying is full of spirit of revenge and unforgiveness and every time I would hear this in Iran, I would get very sick hearing it.
A few days ago they brought a young war veteran who was disabled in 80% of his body in my cell. He had been put in solitary confinement with his horrific condition. And this had made him very mad and he kept saying “why did they do this to me? I gave my whole life for their sake. See what they have done to me!!!” And when he would get very mad he would say “I will take my revenge!”
I spoke to this young man until 4 in the morning. I spent time with him and spoke to him to forgive. When we don’t forgive, we drink the poison ourselves and then wait for the other person to die. And we take the knife that has hurt us and we stab ourselves with it again! And this is the will of the evil one who wants to destroy us.
But when we forgive, we pour out the poison of the enemy and of the devil and we don’t let the poison stay in us and we don’t let the poison make us into poisonous snakes! So that we don’t become like the person we despised and who persecuted and tortured us.
Maybe you ask, what is the secret of being so happy in such a hard situation?
Forgiveness and a change of attitude. When we forgive, we become free and we become messengers of peace and reconciliation and goodness. And whoever stings us, we can take into our embrace and love them. And in this dark and evil time, we can live full of love and full of peace and full of joy and shine like the stars! Glory be to His Name.
I forgave the prison doctor who did not listen to me and did not give me the medication that I needed. I forgave the interrogator who beat me. Every day when I would see the interrogator and for the last time when I saw him, I forgave him. I smiled at him and with respect shook his hand and I said my goodbye. The minute I forgave them and loved them, that second I was filled with unspeakable joy. I saw in the eyes of the interrogator that he had come to respect me and as he was leaving, he could not look behind him. Love is as strong as death.
 We have to get rid of the poison in our body because if we don’t, we will die. We have to get rid of both poisons; first the poison of the snake that bit us and also the poison in us that was created by that bite. We can get rid of the first poison by forgiveness and we can get rid of the second poison by humility, by dying to ourselves, and allowing the band-aid of love and goodness to replace the empty place of the wound. So that we are not a tool of darkness and revenge, but that we can be light and love and a vessel of forgiveness and we can be transformed in the process.
Surely you have someone in your family, city, work or environment that have become like poisonous snake who have bitten you and tried to make you poisonous. So, forgive them and use the antidote of love and be Victorious!
One of the chances of forgiveness came when I was blindfolded and a guard was holding my hand guiding me. He asked “what are you here for? What is your crime?” I said “I am Christian Pastor.” All of the sudden he let go of my hand and said “so you are unclean! I will tell others not to defile themselves by touching you!” He would tell others not to get close to me. It really broke my heart. The nurse would also come to take care of us and provide us with treatment, but she said in front of others “in our religion we are not suppose to touch you, you are unclean. Baha’i (religion) and Christians are unclean!” She did not treat me and that night I could not sleep from the intense pain I had. According to the doctor’s instructions, they would not give me the pain medication that they would give other prisoners because I was unclean.
I could not fall sleep one night due to the pain when all of a sudden I could hear the sound of dirty sewer rats with their loud noises and screeches. It was around 4 in the morning. It sounded like laughter in a way.
Even though many would call me unclean and filthy and would not even want to pass by me and they had abandoned me and they were disgusted to touch me because they were afraid that they would also become unclean, but I knew that in the eyes of Jesus Christ, and in the eyes of my brothers and sisters, I am like the  sewer rat, beautiful and loveable – not disgusting and unclean – and like the rats I can scream with joy within those prison walls and worship my Lord in joy and strength.
The Joy of the Lord is my strength. Amen.
Voice of the Persecuted is grateful for people like Jay and Jordan Sekulow and all at the ACLJ working so diligently for the release of Pastor Saeed. Please keep them also in your prayers!

About ACLJ – The American Center for Law and Justice

Led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the ACLJ focuses on constitutional and human rights law worldwide. Based in Washington, D.C., with affiliated offices in Israel, Russia, Kenya, France, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe, the ACLJ is pro-life and dedicated to the ideal that religious freedom and freedom of speech are inalienable, God-given rights for all people. The ACLJ engages legal, legislative, and cultural issues by implementing an effective strategy of advocacy, education, and litigation that includes representing clients before the Supreme Court of the United States and international tribunals around the globe.

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