On our refrigerator door is a magnet bearing this image of Saeed Abedini with his family with a brief reminder to pray for them. Many of you know of Abedini’s ongoing incarceration and resulting deterioration of health in Iran; I, too, am aware and somewhat informed as well as any casual reader of the news. I open my refrigerator door pretty much every day, unless I’m working over the road. Everytime I reach in and grab the plastic milk jug or lunch meat, there’s Abedini’s face stuck to the door. He’s in prison for his unabashed association with Jesus and I’m throwing a ham sandwich together.
For those who are interested, here is a short run down–information one can easily find on countless web pages. In the early 2000s, Saeed Abedini, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, participated in ministry in Iran, prompting the government authorities to arrest and threaten him with death unless he cease his involvement in Christian endeavors. He signed an agreement to cease his involvement and was released. Signing the agreement not only spared his life but allowed Abedini to operate in “non-sectarian” activities. Having married his wife, Naghmeh, an American citizen, the Abedinis moved back to the U.S.
In July 2012, on his ninth trip to Iran to build an orphanage in the city of Rasht, Abedini was arrested by Islamic Revolutionary Guards. That September he was imprisoned in Evin Prison, located in Northwestern Tehran. Then, in November 2013, officials transferred him to Rajai Shahr Prison, located in Karaj, where he remains today. He has a wife and two children back home in Boise, Idaho.
He has suffered interrogation and beatings at various times throughout his time in prison, which has caused his health to suffer. At the urging of prison doctors, Abedini was moved to a non-prison hospital for treatment but was ultimately not permitted to receive complete treatment as recommended by medical staff.
What Abedini’s situation stirs up within me
Off and on since 2012, I have glanced and read stray blog posts and Facebook links regarding Saeed Abedini. Coupled with other Christians who have been suppressed around the world and the recent murder of Twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIS, I have been compelled to weigh my own faith in Christ. In general, we in the United States are both empowered and encumbered by our liberties afforded us in our Constitution which recognizes that these liberties are not bestowed by men but by God. As such, I am also in that “general” category.
I have unhindered access to a Bible, limitless Christian resources on the web, and I can attend my local church without an objective fear of Elko County officials storming the building an dragging women and children out by their hair and executing the men firing-squad style in the street. The presence of practical liberty is a good thing; however, it comes with a hidden cost. Abedini wrote an Easter message during his permitted treatment at a non-prison hospital a while back. In it he said he was praying for Christians around the world. He went on:
What the Holy Spirit revealed to me in prayer was that there are many dead faiths in the midst of Christians today. That Christians all over the world are not able to fully reach their spiritual potential that has been given to them as a gift by God so that in reaching that potential, the curtain can be removed and the Glory of God would be revealed. Some times we want to experience the Glory and resurrection with Jesus without experiencing death with Him.
Christian mediocrity is what is I am personally mulling over and desiring to cast off. I gratefully enjoy the freedom of religion here where I was born and raised, where only the whispers of hardship and oppression abroad are heard. We know of the oppressive circumstances around the globe in places like Iran, North Korea, certain African countries, and elsewhere, but we go on eating our dinner without having to worry more about them. To the non-Christian in the audience, Christianity may be misrepresented by partisan talking points on conservative talk radio or the ever sensational Fox News. What you may not have seen is the Christianity of the Bible. In abject contradiction to the materialism and cynicism of its time, Christians, facing no little threat of harm, are willing to follow in the footsteps of Christ, giving up their comforts and guarantee of security in order to live out the reality of their faith.
I am challenged by Hebrews chapter eleven over and over again. In part of verse thirty-five and into thirty-six, in the context of those faithful to God, preceding Christ’s incarnation, the writer tells us, “…Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment” (ESV). They did this in faith, not seeing the glorious work of Christ in redemptive history. I have God’s Word on ink and paper, but what am I doing with it? I pray that I can live out my faith in Christ not out of a sense of fear or obligation but out of grateful knowledge He has taken my penalty and replaced it with His righteousness.That’s something to not cower in comfort and false security; it’s good news to declare and be unashamed of in the face of a world bent on suppressing it’s truth.
I can easily imagine Saeed Abedini and the countless other faithful Christians out of the spotlight, who echo the Apostle Paul’s words from Colossians 4:18:
“…Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”
For further reading and action, check out Be Heard Project-Saeed
Veldez, a blog, is layman literature which includes observations about family life, vocation, books, music, the outdoors, and life as it is. Written from the perspective of a twenty-something husband and father of five, a Christian worldview is the common thread throughout.