Naghmeh Abedini said recently in emails to her supporters that she would be suspending public advocacy for her husband, American pastor Saeed Abedini who has been wrongfully held in an Iranian prison since Sept. 2012.
In the announcement she identified marital difficulties as part of her decision, citing “physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse (through Saeed’s addiction to pornography),” according to a report by Christianity Today.
The pressure of traveling the U.S., generating support for her husband, coupled with the trouble that existed within their marriage, has created a need for her to step back from the public spotlight, said the report.
She has met with President Barack Obama and appeared before the United Nations as part of her campaign for the release of her husband.
“It is very serious stuff and I cannot live a lie anymore,” said Abedini. “So, I have decided to take a break from everything and seek the Lord on how to move forward.”
She has recently cancelled some speaking engagements and plans to stay off social media for the coming months.
Abedini later expressed regret for sending the emails, asking for privacy and prayer.
“I would appreciate for those who care about Saeed and our family to give us time for rest and healing and to respect our privacy,” she told Christianity Today. “I will continue to pray for my husband’s release and advocate for him as he suffers in an Iranian prison for his Christian faith. I would also ask others to join me in continuing to pray for his release.”
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina released a statement, expressing sympathy and continued support for the Abedinis:
“Naghmeh Abedini was a keynote speaker at the N.C. Baptist women’s retreat on Oct. 24. During her talk, she shared comments that included, but was not limited to, the impact of her husband’s imprisonment on her and her family. Just as we prayed for Naghmeh before and during the event, we continue to pray for her and ask others to do the same. She is a person of deep faith, and we support her in what she believes the Lord has called her to do."
Ed Stetzer, executive director for LifeWay Research, said there are five ways Christians should respond to the announcement:
Take Abedini’s accusations seriously while not forsaking her husband.
Continue to care deeply about religious liberty and the plight of Saeed, despite his alleged flaws.
Pray for the Abedini family.
Take domestic abuse seriously and address it with urgency.
Remember that religious marriages aren’t always what they seem.