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(ACLJ) Moments ago President Obama met with American Pastor Saeed Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, and two young children, Jacob and Rebekka, in a private meeting in Pastor Saeed’s hometown of Boise, Idaho.
The meeting lasted about 10 minutes, and President Obama assured Naghmeh that Pastor Saeed’s freedom is a “top priority” for him and his Administration.
This was the first time that President Obama met or spoke with Pastor Saeed’s family, and Naghmeh left the meeting with a “renewed sense of hope.”
As Naghmeh described their meeting:
President Obama came in and shook our hands and talked to the kids for a moment. Then he sat right in front of me and started speaking of how much of a priority Saeed’s case was and that he was working on getting Saeed home to our family. He mentioned his first call several months ago to Iran’s president Rouhani and how Saeed was mentioned in that call.
He again reiterated that Saeed’s case was a “top priority” and getting him back to the U.S., to our family, was a top priority. He also said that he meets with Secretary of State Kerry regularly and follows up on Saeed’s case. He also said that Secretary Kerry brings up Saeed every time he meets with the Iranians.
I told him how appreciative I was that he was willing to meet with my family and for everything he was doing to bring my husband home. I told him that I was praying for him and had been praying for months I would have the opportunity to meet with him. He took my hand, squeezed it, and smiled. I could tell by the look in his eyes he cared.
As the meeting ended, I said my son Jacob has something to say. Jacob said, “Mr. President, can you please bring daddy home for my birthday?” President Obama asked, “When is your birthday?” Jacob said March 17th, and the President said he would try very hard. He smiled, got up, hugged me again, and said goodbye. He shook the kids hands and left.
Meeting with the President of the United States of America and seeing how much he cares about Saeed’s case has given me a renewed sense of hope. I want to thank everyone who has been praying for this meeting to take place and for my husband’s freedom.
We’re grateful that President Obama took the time to meet with Naghmeh and speak with her and the children.
Pastor Saeed has been wrongly imprisoned for nearly two and a half years. He has been separated from his wife and children. The pain experienced by the Abedini family is impossible to imagine.
The meeting between President Obama and the Abedini family is a very welcomed development. It demonstrates the President’s concern and compassion for this family. It also underscores the importance of Pastor Saeed’s case, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran merely because of his Christian faith.
The face-to-face meeting elevates Pastor Saeed’s plight on the world stage – and should send a powerful message to the Iranians – it is time to release Pastor Saeed so he can return home to his family.
Also today, Pastor Saeed’s family in Iran was able to visit with Pastor Saeed and give him updates about how Naghmeh and his children are doing.
Like Naghmeh, we are hopeful that President Obama’s direct involvement in this case will lead to Pastor Saeed’s freedom. Please continue to pray for Pastor Saeed, his family, and his swift release.
You can continue to add your name to our petition for Pastor Saeed’s freedom at BeHeardProject.com.
Mar 27, 2014
In a pointed letter to the president, Wolf wrote that if the Obama Administration can signal its intention to appoint a special envoy to the Arctic region it should be able to appoint a special envoy for religious minorities. The House has twice passed Wolf’s legislation to create an envoy for religious minorities but the measure has stalled in the Senate, partly because of opposition from the Obama Administration.
“Your administration could act today, consistent with the sentiments you expressed following your meeting with the Pope, in announcing the creation of a special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia and then you could immediately begin consulting with the affected communities, including the growing diaspora communities here in the U.S., about a high profile person best suited to take on this monumental task,” Wolf wrote. “I urge you to put your words into action, lest inaction be perceived as indifference.”
Below is the complete text of Wolf’s letter:
The Honorable Barack H. Obama
The White House
Washington DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I read with great interest your public remarks today regarding your meeting with His Holiness, Pope Francis, specifically your comment that you spent a “lot of time talking about what’s happening in Syria, what’s happening in Lebanon, and the potential persecution of Christians,” and “reaffirmed that it is central to U.S. foreign policy that we protect the interests of religious minorities around the world.”
While I agree protecting religious minorities around the world SHOULD be central to U.S. foreign policy, this has sadly not rung true in recent years. And I think most would agree that there is not simply potential persecution of Christians, and I would add other vulnerable religious minorities, rather there is a very real threat posed to these ancient faith communities throughout the region as evidenced by the discrimination, violence and even death that is a daily reality.
More than three years ago I introduced relatively modest bipartisan legislation that has twice overwhelmingly passed in the House only to languish in the Senate. The bill would create a special envoy within the U.S. State Department, charged with advocating for vulnerable religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia, precisely the very issue you spoke to today. It has been widely embraced by an array of faith-based organizations, including but not limited to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.
Consider the following: Coptic Christians, once numbering roughly 8 -10 million, are leaving in droves in the face of increased repression, persecution and violence in Egypt. Similarly, Iraq’s Christian population has plummeted. Churches have been targeted, believers kidnapped for ransom and families threatened with violence if they stay. Canon Andrew White, famously dubbed the “Vicar of Baghdad” as he oversees the only Anglican Church in Iraq, was quoted as saying that Christians, “are frightened even to walk to church because they might come under attack. All the churches are targets… We used to have 1.5 million Christians, now we have probably only 200,000 left… There are more Iraqi Christians in Chicago than there are here.”
And of course this month marks the anniversary of the uprising which eventually spiraled into the war and violence which has terrorized Syria for three years now. Muslims and Christians alike have experienced horrific violence. But time and again in my meetings with Syrian Christians they remark that they fear the fate that befell their brethren in Iraq, where, as already noted, hundreds of thousands have fled after being targeted by rival Islamist groups. Notably, the Christians of the Syrian village of Raqqa now must endure the additional injustice of dhimmitude whereby those who remain face death, forced conversion or an exacting set of demands which includes bans on renovating and rebuilding churches, a prohibition on the public exercise of their faith and much more.
Christians are not alone. In Iran, the so-called “Baha’i Seven” languish unjustly in prison. In Pakistan, violence against the Ahmadiyya Muslim community is often met with impunity and basic rights, including the ability to vote, are denied. And, Anti-Semitism throughout the region is rampant.
The scope of religious persecution around the world, but especially in the Middle East is gravely concerning, and ought to alarm any person of conscience. I do not pretend to think that a special envoy, as envisioned by the legislation I authored, would single-handedly solve the problem, for it is vast. But I can say with certainty that it would provide much-needed hope and comfort to communities desperate to know that the United States stands with them.
At various points, your State Department has opposed Senate passage of this bill. While I would welcome legislative action on the measure, it is by no means necessary for the creation of a special envoy. In fact, just last month, Secretary of State Kerry announced his intention to name a special representative or envoy to the Arctic region. Your administration could act today, consistent with the sentiments you expressed following your meeting with the Pope, in announcing the creation of a special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia and then you could immediately begin consulting with the affected communities, including the growing diaspora communities here in the U.S., about a high profile person best suited to take on this monumental task.
I urge you to put your words into action, lest inaction be perceived as indifference.
Frank R. Wolf
Member of Congress
Saeed is number 9 on things that are trending on Yahoo! Let’s keep tweeting and sharing about Saeed!
American Pastor Saeed Abedini was moved from Evin Prison in Tehran to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj – an even more dangerous prison where he faces life-threatening conditions and treatment. Many are sent there to disappear, or even be killed!
Join the cause let’s keep pressing on until Saeed is back home with his wife and kids where he belongs. Constant prayer but also constant actions. He is our brother in Christ and when your family is in danger you keep pressing on for their safety. #SaveSaeed
Sign the NEW petition to urge President Obama to take immediate and decisive diplomatic action for his freedom. Time is of the essence!
There’s been a very troubling development in the case of American Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran because of his Christian faith.
The ACLJ has confirmed through Pastor Saeed’s family members in Iran that he has been moved from Evin Prison in Tehran to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj – an even more dangerous prison where he faces life-threatening conditions and treatment.
A member of Pastor Saeed’s family in Iran arrived at Evin Prison today for the regular weekly visit and was told that Pastor Saeed had been moved to this this prison outside of Tehran yesterday – about an hour and a half drive away. The family member travelled to Rajai Shahr Prison and was told that Pastor Saeed is imprisoned there and is not permitted to have any visitors.
The unexplained and abrupt transfer comes as turmoil intensifies inside Iran where anti-American sentiment was on full display today as hardline opponents of Iran’s President Rouhani’s historic outreach to the United States took to the streets to mark the anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1979.
In today’s protests, crowds chanted “death to America” – direct opposition to President Rouhani’s promise of moderation.
The ACLJ has confirmed that Pastor Saeed is now in one of the most dangerous wards of Rajai Shahr Prison – where violent prisoners are held – those who are imprisoned for murder and rape.
In 2005, Loes Bijnen, a Dutch Diplomat from the embassy in Tehran, described Rajai Shahr prison:
“Rajai Shahr is the place where political prisoners who are seen as a nuisance, are stowed away. Going to Karaj is a severe punishment. Once in there one stops to be a human being. One is put out of sight, even of human rights activists and the press. In Rajaï Shahr, political prisoners have to share cells with dangerous criminals like murderers, rapists and drug addicts who don’t hesitate to attack their cell mates. They have nothing to lose: many of them are condemned to death anyway. Murders or unexplained deaths are a regular occurrence.”
The transfer to this prison is a deeply disturbing development and can only be viewed as a move that puts Pastor Saeed’s life directly at risk.
President Obama called Iranian President Rhouani in September – urging him to release Pastor Saeed.
This new and extremely dangerous development requires the full attention and focus of President Obama. He must speak out now – directly and forcefully – to save Pastor Saeed’s life. Pastor Saeed’s life is in grave danger.
There’s wide bi-partisan support for a critical resolution in the Senate calling for Pastor Saeed’s release. And we continue to work to ensure passage of that measure.
But it is critical that President Obama take immediate diplomatic action to save the life of this U.S. citizen.
Send a message to President Obama today. Sign on to our Petition to Immediately Intervene to Save Saeed.
Time is of the essence!
Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh’s new message:
Today Marks day 1 of prayer and fasting. When I asked for prayer and fasting On November 4,5, and 6, I did not anticipate the trials that were coming our way. The Lord had put on my heart that there …is a battle in the spiritual realms and for the body of Christ to come together with prayer and fasting.
This is a spiritual battle.
Saeed’s life is in danger. He was taken from Evin prison to another prison yesterday. This prison is worse than Even. This is where people on death row go (murderers and rapist). Two people have been killed in the last 24 hours in front of Saeed because of the violence in that prison. Saeed’s father is not allowed to see him as of now.
People are in the streets chanting death to America in the last few days.
Saeed is in the hands of the radicals and he needs your prayers more than ever.
Today, let’s focus on prayer for Saeed’s safety and that the Lord would use Saeed to reach those murderers and rapist. After much weeping and prayer, I knew the Lord had new people for Saeed to share Jesus with.
Please join me in prayer and fasting.
Voice of the Persecuted is in agreement about the spiritual battle taking place against us, the Body of Christ! We are made stronger through HIM that overcomes!
As we began this 1st day of interceding and fasting on behalf of Saeed, there’s is news of great encouragement. Yesterday, one of the pastors that was imprisoned in Evin with him, Mostafa Bordbar sentenced for 10 years was released! Falling on the same day as the IDOP for the persecuted!
Our prayers are POWERFUL! We will not let the Darkness of this world put fear into us! We will rise above it and trust our Lord for the great miracle of Saeed’s release! It is on my heart that this transfer is not an interruption, but a Divine Intervention that will bring glory to our Lord!
The Armor of God
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Please join us in this important fight to SAVE SAEED!
SIGN THE PETITON NOW. Stand up and be Saeed’s VOICE!
BOONE, N.C. — Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse issued the following statement:
“Religious intolerance continues to threaten the lives of Christians in Iran—even when those Christians are Americans. For more than 300 days now, Pastor Saeed Abedini has been in prison. But not just any prison; Pastor Saeed was sentenced to eight years in Iran’s notoriously brutal Evin Prison. The Iranian government claims he was convicted of endangering national security. But Pastor Saeed’s family and attorneys say that in reality, he was sent to prison for one simple reason—because he is a Christian.
I recently spoke with Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh. She shared how frightening it is to hear reports from family in Iran that her husband is being beaten and tortured. Naghmeh worries that she and her two young children may never see Saeed again. She’s also discouraged by the fact that our own government seems to have abandoned them. President Obama has been silent on the issue as an American Christian endures the horrors of Evin Prison.
I’m thankful that Secretary of State John Kerry finally called for Pastor Saeed’s release six months after his arrest. Sadly, since then our government appears to have done little to pressure Iran to release a fellow American citizen.
Pastor Saeed was in Iran trying to help children. With the permission of Iran’s government, he was working to build an orphanage. But his humanitarian mission led to an arrest on bogus charges and nearly a year of inhumane treatment simply because he loves Jesus Christ.
Many in the international community are expressing outrage over this blatant example of religious intolerance. I ask that our government do the same and demand that Pastor Saeed Abedini be released and allowed to return home to his wife and family in the United States.
Sept. 26 marks the one-year anniversary of Pastor Saeed’s imprisonment. Please join me in praying for Pastor Saeed and his family. I also encourage churches and people everywhere to join the hundreds of thousands of others who are showing solidarity with this courageous man of faith at SaveSaeed.org.”