What if I told you there is an American being held in an Iranian prison, right now? What if I told you he’s finishing out his 217th day in captivity, taken into custody for turning away from Islam and becoming a Christian – and even worse – telling others how to do the same?
I’m expecting your response to be that you’ve never heard of him.
An American citizen of Iranian descent, Saeed Abedini is reportedly suffering from internal bleeding from physical beatings, been denied medical care, and at last report was put into solitary confinement for not recanting his Christian faith. He was arrested and sentenced to eight years in prison for forming a series of house churches and “attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam.” Waiting on Saeed in America is his wife and two young children.
Pressure from America has grown, but needs to grow more. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for Saeed’s release March 22, saying, he was disturbed by reports of physical and psychological abuse and that “such treatment violates ‘international norms’ and Iran’s laws. A website, savesaeed.org, has been established to gain more support.
“One of the greatest threats to the Islamic Republic is Christianity because of the great number of conversions occurring,” Pastor Nasser Jallali of Iranian Church of Resurrection in Roswell told me. “What those of us in the West don’t understand is the brutality in Iran. There are a lot of rules to control minority religions. They can only promote their faith in designated areas. They can’t sell books to anyone except to those of their own faith. Overall, the treatment of other minorities isn’t as harsh as to a former Muslim that has left his or her faith and converted.”
Jallali was born in Iran and lived there until he was 18. At that point he left for England to continue his education before coming to the United States in 1978. He wasn’t a Christian, but not a practicing Muslim, either. A Christian for 22 years, Jallali has lived most of his life in the United States in the Atlanta area. He returned to his homeland at the beginning of the Iranian Revolution but didn’t stay for long.
His story, including his journey to faith in Christ and the opposition he faces to this day from that decision, will be in an upcoming issue of The Christian Index.