Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2014 / 06:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Nearly two years after a U.S. citizen was imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith, calls for his release continue.
“In Iran, U.S. Iranian citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini remains imprisoned. The Iranian authorities sentenced him to eight years behind bars simply because of his religious beliefs,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a July 28 report on international religious freedom.
Kerry said that the U.S. “will continue to call for his release and we will continue to work for it,” uniting with efforts from other government officials, including President Barack Obama.
Born and raised Muslim in Iran, Abedini converted to Christianity in 2000, becoming a U.S. citizen in 2010. He and his family lived in Idaho, although he worked with house churches in Iran.
Although the house churches were technically legal, the Iranian government objected to Abedini’s work. He reached an agreement with the government under which he was permitted to travel freely with the country if he stopped working with the churches. Subsequently, he switched his efforts to non-religious orphanages.
While visiting one of these orphanages in 2012, the pastor was arrested. According to reports, he has sustained numerous injuries from beatings and mistreatment in the past two years, including physical and psychological abuse as well as denial of medical treatment.
“Make no mistake: we will continue to stand up for religious minority communities under assault and danger around the world,” Secretary Kerry stated, adding that “we have a long way to go to safeguard these rights.”
“We are thankful for Secretary Kerry’s stated commitment to not just talk about Pastor Saeed’s freedom but in fact ‘work for it,’” said Matthew Clark of the American Center for Law and Justice, with is working with Abedini’s wife in the United States.
“September 26, 2014 will mark the two-year anniversary of Pastor Saeed’s wrongful imprisonment for his faith,” Clark added. “Continuing to highlight Iran’s grave violation of his human rights is a critical part of the effort to obtain his release.”
A petition for the pastor’s release has also been signed by over 285,000 people worldwide. Solidarity vigils are also being planned to recognize the two-year anniversary of his imprisonment.