As Christians in the United States and 32 foreign countries hold vigils to pray for pastor Saeed Abedini and other persecuted believers, Abedini's wife Naghmeh has released a letter he wrote just two weeks ago from prison in Iran.
"Jesus allows me to be kept here for His glory," he wrote to 8-year-old daughter Rebekka Grace on her birthday two weeks ago. "I know that you question why you have prayed so many times for my return and yet I am not home yet. Now there is a big WHY in your mind you are asking: WHY Jesus isn't answering your prayers and the prayers of all of the people around the world praying for my release and for me to be home with you and our family.
"The answer to the 'why' is 'who.' 'Who' is control? Lord Jesus Christ is in control."
This screen capture from a Sept. 25 YouTube video shows Naghmeh Abedini, wife of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini, reading a letter he wrote two weeks ago to their daughter Rebekka Grace on her eighth birthday. Naghmeh unveiled the letter at a Washington prayer vigil marking the second anniversary of his imprisonment.
Naghmeh Abedini read the letter at the official launch of the prayer vigils Sept. 25 at 6 p.m. outside the White House, attended by hundreds including evangelist Franklin Graham. More than 500 prayer vigils are scheduled through today (Sept. 26) at various times in conjunction with the vigil Naghmeh Abedini organized through the Be Heard Project, an initiative of the American Center for Law and Justice.
Vigils are scheduled at government buildings, schools, public squares and churches of various Christian denominations, among them First Baptist Church of Clover, S.C. There, pastor Dave Stanford encouraged members and guests to stand firm in intercessions for suffering believers around the world.
Stanford's prayer for Abedini "was first for healing," he said. "We have read that he's been beaten and had internal injuries and minimal care. And then for his protection as he continues to be incarcerated, but for his deliverance [that] the Lord would move on those who have the authority to bring about his release."
Members of his congregation gave brief perspectives on Christian persecution in Nigeria, North Korea, Iraq and Somalia. Stanford plans to remember the plight of the persecuted in regular pastoral prayer to keep it on the hearts of congregants, he told Baptist Press. The Clover service drew about 30 members and visitors, including the pastor of a nearby Associate Reformed Presbyterian church.
Abedini is serving an eight-year sentence imposed Jan. 27, 2013, on charges he threatened national security by planting house churches in Iran years earlier. He had been under house arrest since July, 2012, and imprisoned since Sept. 26, 2012. He has faced death threats and beatings in prison and has received inadequate medical care, according to news reports. He has been unable to see his wife and two children.
In Abedini's letter, he encouraged his daughter to learn from his experience.
"I desire for you to learn important lessons during these trying times. Lessons that you carry now and for the rest of your life," Abedini wrote. "God is in control of the whole world and everything that is happening in it is for His good purpose, for His glory, and will be worked out for our good."
The full letter is available at http://media.aclj.org/pdf/pastor-saeed-letter-rebekka-her-8th-birthday.pdf.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour posted on the network's website Sept. 25, Iran President Hassan Rouhani claimed Abedini has been treated fairly by Iran's justice system.
"But the bottom line is that our aim is for the laws to be respected at every step of the way. If they do go through trial, their trial be fairly executed for them to have access to every legal defense allowed under the law, proper defensive representation through qualified attorneys," he told Amanpour, "and we do hope that their families can gain the certainty that fairness and justice will be employed towards the cases and case files of their loved ones."
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press.)