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Knights partner with actor Gary Sinise to help veterans

Orlando, Fla., Aug 22, 2014 / 02:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Actor Gary Sinise’s respect and admiration for military men and women goes far beyond his role as Lieutenant Dan in the popular 1994 film, “Forrest Gump.”

For generations, members of his family and his wife’s family have served their country, which inspired Sinise to support veterans for years and ultimately start the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011.

This past year, the Knights of Columbus donated $200,000 to help build a “smart home” for U.S. Army Corporal Kyle Hockenberry, who lost three of his limbs in combat.

“They are a great, tremendous charitable organization and have demonstrated that for over one hundred years,” Sinise told CNA Aug. 7, “so to get their support is very meaningful and appreciated by me and the members of my foundation team.”

The words – “For those I love, I will sacrifice” – were tattooed on Hockenberry’s side when he lost both legs and his left arm to an IED attack in Afghanistan. His new home, where he will live with his wife Ashley in Ohio, is custom-built to accommodate a wheelchair and other needs he faces.

“You have shown that you will be a shining light of hope for those who have served and sacrificed like Kyle Hockenberry when they are in their darkest moment,” Sinise told the Knights in an address at their Supreme Convention in Florida.

In his touching and personal talk, Sinise told of his memories of veterans in his own life. A high school student during the Vietnam War, Sinise said he didn’t fully realize the gravity of the sacrifices being made by his friends and family in the military at the time.

“I had been more interested in girls, a band I was involved in, just enjoying my freedom in life as a kid without thinking much about the cost of that freedom,” he said.

But after spending time with the veterans in both his family and his wife’s and listening to their stories, he felt compelled to take action.

“I let those early failures drive me for a new mission,” Sinise said. “That mission is to have the courage to take determinate action for those who have sacrificed so much in defense of our freedom and liberty, and to stay that course no matter how the political winds may blow, or even though it might not be the most popular thing to do in the place you work or the circles you run in.”

He started working with a local veterans group in the Chicago area in the 1980′s, and saw the chance to play Lieutenant Dan as a way to serve veterans by telling an amusing story of a veteran who eventually succeeds in life after war. He continued serving veterans after the film by forming the Lieutenant Dan band and traveling to entertain troops.

“It is simply the right thing to do for those who volunteer to fight our nation’s wars and we must learn the hard lessons from Vietnam and the shameful way our county treated our veterans returning from that war and ensure that that never happens again.”

Sinise also told the story of the faith journey of his family, starting with his wife rediscovering her Irish Catholic roots and attending Mass regularly as a family. The Church became the family’s sanctuary as the Sept. 11 attacks brought on a new war, and Sinise grew closer to the faith. In December 2010, he was officially confirmed in the Catholic Church.

“I see now that my work with veterans over the past 30 years and my journey being confirmed in the Catholic Church are very much a part of the same story.”

Shortly after being confirmed, Sinise felt there was still more he could be doing to serve veterans.

“I felt called by God and compelled to use all the tools and notoriety that I had been blessed with and all the work I had done with the military over the years to serve in a more substantial way to create something that could be here for the long haul,” Sinise said, and in 2011 the Gary Sinise Foundation began.

Besides building custom Smart Homes for numerous veterans, the foundation provides multiple programs and resources honoring and helping veterans and their families successfully adjust to life after combat. The partnership of the Knights of Columbus will continue as well.

“They made a commitment to helping us in the future and I’m very grateful for that, looking forward to a great teaming up of the two organizations in support of our veterans,” Sinise said. “It’s very important that we take care of these heroes.”

Those interested in learning more about the Gary Sinise foundation can find more information on the website www.garysinisefoundation.org.

Okla. archbishop relieved at return of consecrated Host

Oklahoma City, Okla., Aug 21, 2014 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Oklahoma City’s archbishop voiced relief that satanists organizing a black mass in the city returned a stolen Host which was to be desecrated, restating his concern that the event should happen at all.

The Host was given to a priest Aug. 21 by an attorney representing Adam Daniels, who organized the black mass.

“I am relieved that we have been able to secure the return of the sacred Host, and that we have prevented its desecration as part of a planned satanic ritual,” Archbishop Paul Coakley said Aug. 21.

“I remain concerned about the dark powers that this satanic worship invites into our community and the spiritual danger that this poses to all who are involved in it, directly or indirectly.”

The occult group Dakhma of Angra Mainyu has scheduled a black mass at the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall Sept. 21. A black mass is a sacrilegious ceremony that invokes Satan and mocks the Mass, involving the desecration of the Eucharist, generally by stealing a consecrated Host from a Catholic church and using it in a profane, sexual ritual.

Daniels had said that as far as he knew, the Host was consecrated and that it had been “mailed to us by (a) friend.”

His decision to return the Host quickly followed upon the Aug. 20 filing of a lawsuit filed on behalf of the archdiocese, charging that the Host had been stolen from the Church.

The archbishop has repeatedly asked that civic leaders cancel the satanic event.

In July, an official with the Oklahoma City music hall defended the decision to permit the black mass there, citing the hall’s neutrality policy.

She told CNA that as long as no laws were broken during the event itself, the city hall was not concerned with whether laws may be broken in obtaining a consecrated host ahead of time. She said that similar events scheduled in previous years had poor or no attendance.

“I have raised my concerns,” Archbishop Coakley said, “and pointed out how deeply offensive this proposed sacrilegious act is to Christians and especially to the more than 250,000 Catholics who live in Oklahoma.”

The archbishop has asked that every parish add the well-known prayer to St. Michael the Archangel at the end of every Mass from Aug. 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration, through Sept. 29, the Feast of the Archangels. He has also asked each parish to hold a Holy Hour with Benediction from Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, through Sept. 21.

The archbishop will hold a Holy Hour, a Eucharistic Procession, and Benediction at Oklahoma City’s St. Francis of Assisi parish at 3 p.m. Sept. 21, the same day the satanic event is scheduled to take place.

Tulsa’s Bishop Edward Slattery and Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita have also called on the faithful to respond to the threatened desecration with their prayers.

A similar black mass scheduled by Harvard Extension School’s Cultural Studies Club in May was “postponed indefinitely” amid protest among students and the local community.

Asked about the lawsuit and the stolen Host, the civic center’s public information manager Jennifer Lindsey-McClintock said the facility is “glad to see that the Archbishop and Mr. Adams have come to an agreement on the matter of the host.”

However, she contended, “Any decision to cancel the event itself would have to come from Mr. Adams directly. As we have previously stated, as a government-operated facility, we cannot deny rental space to any group based upon the content of their message. This includes the cancellation of any event already booked in our facility.”

Lindsey-McClintock did not respond to CNA’s questions regarding the stealing of a consecrated Host being necessary for a black mass to occur.

 

Black mass organizers face lawsuit over stolen Host

Oklahoma City, Okla., Aug 20, 2014 / 11:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Organizers of a satanic black mass slated to take place in Oklahoma City next month face a lawsuit on grounds that the consecrated Host used for the sacrilegious event is stolen.

“We are honored to represent Archbishop Coakley in this fight against the desecration of the Blessed Sacrament,” attorney Michael W. Caspino told The National Catholic Register. “The archbishop should be lauded for his courageous stance against the enemies of the Church.”

“Our legal theory is very simple,” he continued, “a Consecrated Eucharist belongs to the Church.”

“The Church has exercised dominion and control over the Eucharist for 2000 years. The Satanists procured the Consecrated Host by illicit means, by theft or fraud. We are simply asking the Court to return the stolen property to its rightful owner, the Roman Catholic Church.”   

The lawsuit was filed in Oklahoma City District Court July 20 on behalf of the local archdiocese by Busch & Caspino.

On Sept. 21, a black mass is scheduled to take place at the Oklahoma City Civic Center music hall.

Connected to witchcraft and demonic worship, a black mass is a sacrilegious ceremony structured as a parody of the Catholic Mass. Invoking Satan, the ritual is centered around the desecration of the Eucharist, which is generally done by stealing a consecrated host from a Catholic church and using it in a profane sexual ritual, or defecating and urinating on it.

The event organizer Adam Daniels said the purported Eucharistic Host was “mailed to us by (a) friend.”

“As far as I know, the host mailed to me is consecrated,” he told the Catholic news site Aleteia Aug. 6.

In July, an official with the city music hall defended the decision, citing the hall’s neutrality policy. She told CNA that as long as no laws were broken during the event itself, the city hall was not concerned with whether laws may be broken in obtaining a consecrated host ahead of time. She said that similar events scheduled in previous years had poor or no attendance.

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City has called on the civic center to reconsider hosting the event, which he described as “grievous sacrilege and blasphemy of the first order.”

Black masses, he told CNA in July, revolve around “taking what is most sacred to us as Catholics, and mocking it, desecrating it, in vile, often violent and sexually explicit ways.”

“It’s obviously horrendous…what they intend to do with that consecrated Host is offensive beyond description.”

Archbishop Coakley and other bishops in nearby dioceses have called for novenas of prayer and fasting to stop the black mass.

A similar event scheduled by Harvard Extension School’s Cultural Studies Club in May was “postponed indefinitely” amid protest among students and the local community.
 

‘Demography is destiny,’ Archbishop Chaput tells Latino Catholics

Houston, Texas, Aug 19, 2014 / 05:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church in the U.S. should not and cannot ignore the ever-increasing Latino population, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said Saturday, because they are the future of the Church in America.

Before launching into his full Aug. 16 address to the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders national conference in Houston, the archbishop paused to remember and to pray for the young undocumented immigrants on the southern border who “are stuck in an ugly kind of limbo.”

“There’s simply no excuse for the suffering of children and families,” he said. “I hope each of us will find time today to pray for the young people caught in our immigration mess, and also for the officials who need to deal with this reality quickly and humanely.”

CALL is a national organization dedicated to the growth and spiritual formation of the Latino leaders of the U.S. in their knowledge and understanding of the faith.

Continuing his talk, Archbishop Chaput noted that one of the biggest challenges facing the Church in America is creating a just and wholesome society in the face of an increasingly secular culture. But changes in culture, he said, must begin with patterning one’s heart and personal life after Christ.

“If we really want God to renew the Church, then we need to act like it. We need to take the Gospel seriously.  And that means we need to live it as a guide to our daily behavior and choices – without excuses.”

But this challenge is not new to the Church, and history often repeats itself, the Archbishop noted.

“Sometimes the best way to move forward as a culture is to look back first,” he said, illustrating his point with a story about the Cathars, followers of a dualistic heresy that flourished in the 12th century.

“That can sound harmless to modern ears,” he said. “But their beliefs had deeply destructive implications for the fabric of medieval society.”

Cathars believed that all matter or anything with a human influence was evil and corrupt. They rejected marriage, family life, government, and the Church, and ultimately believed the human race should stop reproducing in order to be free of the corruption of created matter.

Although their beliefs may sound outlandish, Cathars drew in many followers because of their zeal and simplicity, which threatened the Church and the political order of the day.

Even though the Albigensian Crusade was led to wipe out the Cathars, they were difficult to eliminate completely until one man, Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, had a conversion and became known as Francis of Assisi.

The purity, simplicity and zeal of St. Francis and his religious brothers soon surpassed the influence of the Cathars, and the entire Church experienced a revival.

“Francis and his brothers in faith were then — and they remain today — a confirmation of how God renews the Church through a kind of gentle rebellion against the world; an uprising of personal holiness; a radical commitment to Christian poverty, chastity and obedience in service to the Church and the poor,” Archbishop Chaput said.

But what has St. Francis to do with Latinos and the Church in America?

“The Franciscan revolution of love teaches a lesson that Catholics too often forget,” Archbishop Chaput reflected. “Rules, discipline, and fidelity to doctrine and tradition are vital to the mission of the Church.  But none of them can animate or sustain Catholic life if we lack the core of what it means to be a Christian.”

He said that “most of our practicing Catholics are catechized but not well evangelized. Catholics in Canada and the United States may know the ‘lyrics of the song,’ but they don’t always know the tune.”

“In contrast, most Latinos Catholics have a deep sense of God’s grandeur,” he said, noting how Latinos have a deep sense of Catholicism and devotional practice rooted in their culture. It is not uncommon to see Catholic art or hear God referenced in public in their native countries.

Latino Catholics are also more likely to refrain from receiving Communion when not in a state of grace because they truly understand the meaning of how the prayer, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…” he said.

Therefore, Latino Catholics may know the “tune” of Catholicism, but not always the lyrics. While many remain Catholic when they come to the U.S., some fall away to protestant or evangelical communities, or, especially among young people, simply become “unaffiliated.”

And because the population in the U.S. is comprised more and more of Latinos – they make up half of the millennial generation ages 14-34 years old – the Church should recognize Latino issues as issues that will affect the future of the Church in America.

“I believe we are at a very powerful ‘Latino moment’ in our Church — a moment that takes nothing away from the dignity or importance of any other ethnic community, but that simply acknowledges, again, that demography is destiny,” Archbishop Chaput said.

The election of the Latino Pope Francis is another example of this “Latino moment”, he said, “because the election of a Latin American Pope dramatically highlights the importance of the Latino community in our country, and it practically shouts out an invitation for Catholic Latino leadership.”

Recognizing that he doesn’t have all the answers when it comes to helping Latino in the U.S. grow in their faith, Archbishop Chaput made a few suggestions.

Bishops can attract more Catholics who are Latino in their diocese by providing more Masses in Spanish, as nearly half of the Latino population prefers Spanish Masses.

“As Pope Francis says: ‘The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the Liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving,’” he said.

Also important is the teaching of the faith, he said, “so that our Latino brothers and sisters get to own more profoundly the substance of what we believe.”

Finally, Archbishop Chaput specifically challenged those present at the CALL conference.

“Ask yourselves if you’re really putting all your talents, all your efforts, and also  your material resources into making sure that Latino Catholics receive appropriate formation,” he said, “from the most basic catechesis, to the preparation of our senior lay leaders, to the education of our future Hispanic priests.”

And so, inspired by Pope Francis and the Holy Spirit, the joy and energy of the American Latino Catholics “will mark the dawn of a new Catholic witness in this, the nation we share and love.”

St. Louis archbishop urges prayer in face of Ferguson violence

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 19, 2014 / 05:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following more than a week of protests after the death of an African-American teen, the Archdiocese of St. Louis is asking Catholics to offer special prayers for peace in the coming days.

“We are all aware of the turmoil and tragedy our St. Louis community is experiencing. The residents of Ferguson, Missouri, are struggling to find peace in the chaos. As people of Christ, we are struggling to find direction in the unrest,” said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis in an Aug. 18 letter.

“In all circumstances, but especially in these difficult times, we are all called to be instruments of peace through our words and actions.”

Appealing for peace, the archbishop announced he will be celebrating a Mass for Peace and Justice at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, on Wednesday, Aug. 20, and will host a special collection “to assist food pantries and parishes in the Ferguson area that offer assistance to those who have been affected by the looting and destruction of property.”

Archbishop Carlson invited all the parishes “to offer Masses for peace in our community,” as well as to arrange Holy Hours, rosaries and additional special collections.

He also stated that Catholic schools within the archdiocese will “begin a daily rosary for peace and to offer special intentions during all school Masses,” as Catholic schools begin classes.

The archbishop – referencing Pope Francis’s encouragement “to ask Our Lady, the Undoer of Knots, to intercede for us in difficult circumstances” – asked Catholics to ask Mary for her prayers “for peace and justice in our community.”

The town of Ferguson, Mo., along with other communities surrounding St. Louis, have erupted in demonstrations and protests following the Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. Eyewitness reports conflict, with some saying that the 18-year-old was holding his hands in the air in a gesture of surrender as he was shot.

According to an Aug. 15 announcement by Ferguson police, Brown is an alleged suspect in a convenience store robbery that occurred earlier on the day of the shooting, though the officer who shot Brown did not know of these allegations at the time of the confrontation.

In the days since the shooting, vigils and protests have taken place around the St. Louis area. Some demonstrations have escalated into violence or been taken advantage of by looters. Local police have also come under criticism for the targeting of minority communities, as well as for the use of SWAT teams, tear gas and rubber bullets to disrupt peaceful demonstrations and unarmed protesters.

Reporters covering the protests, as well as numerous community members, have been arrested during the protests.

In some cases, protesters have reacted by volleying back tear gas canisters and objects towards the police.

In the days since the beginning of the protests, law enforcement duties have been transferred from local police to state highway patrol officials.

Archbishop Carlson said that he has “personally visited Ferguson and Michael Brown’s memorial to offer my prayers for everyone affected by this tragedy,” and expressed that he found strength in the face of the situation “in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.’”

 

Pilgrimage to Czestochowa shrine in Indiana proclaims faith

Gary, Ind., Aug 17, 2014 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Last weekend, thousands of pilgrims walked more than 30 miles from a Chicago parish to an Indiana shrine dedicated to the famed Marian icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, revered by Poles and Polish-Am…

Calls for peace abound after shooting of Missouri teenager

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 16, 2014 / 06:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid protests and heavy police action following the shooting of the teenaged Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., political and faith leaders have called for peace and just action from both civilians…

Interreligious leaders call for two-state solution in Holy Land

Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2014 / 04:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 30 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders in the United States called for a two-state solution to the Israel-Gaza conflict in a strongly-worded statement issued on Thursday.

“This tragic escalation of violence demonstrates once again that there is no such thing as a stable status-quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the leaders insisted in the Aug. 14 message. “It is more urgent than ever that the United States and the international community press for a two-state peace agreement.”

The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas has halted for a ceasefire which ends Monday at midnight.

Both a return to the “previous status quo” and the sustainment of the conflict are dangerous, the religious leaders warned. The two-state agreement, they insisted, is “the only realistic resolution of the conflict in which both people can live in peace, security, and mutual recognition.”

“We strongly supported Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts to achieve a negotiated peace agreement, and urge the United States to renew efforts to reach a two-state agreement as soon as possible,” the statement read.

Such a solution might not currently be set in stone but would be based upon previous agreements, the group stated.

“While none of the previous plans present a complete outline, the Taba Agreement (2000), the Arab Peace Initiative (2002), People’s Voice Initiative (2003), Geneva Accord (2003), and the (unofficial) Israeli Peace Initiative (2011) are sources for principled and practical ideas to help resolve all the issues, including borders and security, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem,” the group stated.

“We were appalled by the kidnappings and murders of Israeli and Palestinian teenagers. We believe the loss of even one human life is a tragedy that grieves God. In the recent weeks of war between Hamas and Israel, we mourn the innocent civilians killed. We offer our prayers as well for the wounded and for the families of all the victims of violence,” the leaders stated.

The latest round of violence began July 7, following the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, and the July 2 killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.

Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Among Israelis, on the other side, 64 soldiers have been killed, and three civilians.

The statement was signed by 34 Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders representing the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East.

The Catholic signatories were Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines.

Among the other Christian signatories were Archimandrite Nathanael Symeonides, ecumenical officer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and Katharine Schori, an Episcopal bishop.

Other signatories were David Saperstein, a rabbi and president Obama’s choice for ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, and Mohammed Magid, an imam and president of the Islamic Society of North America.

Religious, academic leaders call for more US action in Iraq

Washington D.C., Aug 14, 2014 / 05:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Both academic and religious leaders, in the U.S. and abroad, have urged greater U.S. military action in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State, which had displaced hundreds of thousands of religious minorities from their homes under threat of death.

“Before the harsh and heartbreaking realities further afflict these families, the United States of America, also due to their prior involvement in Iraq, the European Union, and the league of Arab countries have the responsibility to act rapidly for a solution,” the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Louis Raphael Sako, wrote in an Aug. 13 open letter.

“They must clear the Nineveh Plain from all the elements of Jihadist Warriors and help these displaced families return to their ancestral villages and reconstitute their lives.”

More than 100,000 Christians have fled their homes in northern Iraq due to the advance of the newly established caliphate in Iraq and Syria, the patriarch said. According to the UN, there are more than 1.2 million internally displaced persons in Iraq, as well as at least 10,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria.

He called the current international response to the situation “insufficient” and warned that the Islamic State will not stop eradicating Christianity from Iraq, with the world being responsible for a “slow genocide” if it doesn’t act.

“If the situation does not change,” he wrote, “the whole world should take the responsibility of a slow genocide of a genuine and entire component of the Iraqi society and of losing its heritage and age-old culture. ISIS tries to erase all traces!”

A group of more than 50 American academics and professionals joined the patriarch in calling for military action, stating in a Aug. 13 letter that non-military actions “will not be capable of protecting the victims of the genocide already unfolding” at the hands of the Islamic State.

Among the signatories were Princeton law professor Robert George; Providence College English professor Anthony Esolen; Notre Dame law professor Gerard Bradley; Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention; and the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Ed Whelan.

“It is imperative that the United States and the international community act immediately and decisively to stop the ISIS/ISIL genocide and prevent the further victimization of religious minorities,” the letter stated.

“This goal cannot be achieved apart from the use of military force to degrade and disable ISIS/ISIL forces.”

“We call upon the United States and the international community to do everything necessary to empower local forces fighting ISIS/ISIL in Iraq to protect their people,” the letter continued. “No options that are consistent with the principles of just war doctrine should be off the table.”

And on Aug. 14, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, head of the U.S. bishops’ conference, thanked President Obama for humanitarian aid given to Iraqi Christians and other minorities, while also insisting that “more must be done” to help them.

“Pope Francis called upon ‘the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities,’” he noted.

“I urge the United States to answer this call in concert with the international community,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

“We know too well that attacks on religious and ethnic minorities are attacks on the health of an entire society. Violence may begin against minorities, but it does not end there. The rights of all Iraqis are at risk from the current situation.”

Christian pastor faces new threat from Sunnis in Iranian prison

Washington D.C., Aug 14, 2014 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Saeed Abedini, a pastor who holds American citizenship and has been captive in Iran for nearly two years, faces new dangers and death threats from fellow prisoners, say his family’s representatives.

“Not only is Pastor Saeed facing threats from Iranian militants who have imprisoned him because of his Christian faith,” Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, said Aug. 13; “he now faces new and perhaps even more dangerous threats from Iraqi ISIS prisoners who want to murder Pastor Saeed because of his faith.”

Sept. 26 will mark the second year of Abedini’s imprisonment. A Protestant pastor who had formerly worked with house churches in Iran, he was ostensibly arrested for threatening Iranian national security.

Now held in Rajai Shahr Prison, Abedini has received death threats from incoming prisoners associated with the Islamic State because of his Christian faith.

The Islamic State is a Sunni Muslim caliphate established June 29 in portions of Syria and Iraq; earlier this week it gained control over the Iraqi city of Jalawla, located fewer than 25 miles from Iran.

The Islamic State has persecuted all non-Sunnis in its territory, including Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims.

Iran, which is holding Abedini, is Shia Muslim theocracy which in turn persecutes all non-Shias, including Sunnis.

According to the U.S. state department, in 2013 Iranian Sunnis can be imprisoned and face religious discrimination; they were barred from building new schools or mosques, and faced due process violations.

Last year, 20 Sunni inmates in Rajai Shahr – where Abedini is being detained – were convicted of a capital offense.

According to reports from his family members relayed through the ACLJ, Abedini is currently in a separate section of the ward, but is “concerned that he will be subjected to the general prison population – including the ISIS terrorists – during a brief, daily exercise period in the prison yard.”

Fellow inmates are helping to protect Abedini and help him hide in his prison cell, separated from the prisoners giving the death threats, although some prisoners associated with the Islamic State have been able to enter into Abedini’s ward section.

“This is an extremely dangerous development that puts Pastor Saeed’s life at grave risk,” said Sekulow.

“We call on President Obama and Secretary Kerry to intervene immediately to secure Pastor Saeed’s release and to ensure that he is protected during this transfer to freedom. Pastor Saeed, who is approaching his second year of imprisonment in Iran, must be returned to his family without delay.”

Abedini, who was born and raised Muslim in Iran, converted to Christianity in 2000. He became a U.S. citizen in 2010 after marrying his wife, Naghmeh, who settled in Idaho and had two children. She is represented by Sekulow.

Traveling frequently to Iran to work with house churches in  the country, Abedini received the attention of the Iranian government. Although the churches were legal, the government’s objection led him to strike a deal with the Iranian government in which he was still able to travel freely in the country, so long as he stopped working with house churches. Following this agreement, Abedini switched his focus to working with non-religious orphanages.

Abedini was arrested in 2012 while visiting one of these orphanages and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment in Iran for unspecified charges of threatening national security.

According to his family’s reports, his treatment in prison has been harsh, sustaining a number of beatings and injuries, receiving poor medical care and neglect following his injuries, and physical and psychological abuse over the past two years.

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