This past Saturday marked the 3rd anniversary of Pastor Saeed Abedini’s imprisonment in Iran. Prayer vigils were held on Facebook in an effort to unite believers worldwide in prayer for his release. Pastor Saeed Abedini is a husband, a father of two beautiful children, and faithful Christian who has been held captive in Iran for 3 years due to his renouncing of the Islamic faith. He is very literally being persecuted and tortured in the name of Jesus Christ.

Prior to being arrested, Pastor Saeed’s only purpose for being in Iran was to establish a government-approved orphanage for children who have no safe place to live. During that government-sanctioned visit, Pastor Abedini was ambushed and thrown into prison for alleged “crimes” against the Iranian government. 

At the core of this dumbfounding injustice lies Iran’s intolerance for any religion that is does not practice Sharia Law. Pastor Abedini has been told repeatedly that if he renounces Christianity and returns back to Islam, he will be set free. The immense persecution of Christians in the middle east has proven this intolerance to be true, and Pastor Saeed’s imprisonment is no exception.

With no access to medical care, no trial date, and little to no legal representation for the accused, the Iranian government appears to be violating its own laws by imprisoning a man who was simply carrying out a task approved by the government years prior.

During a recent visit to see her husband, Naghmeh Abedini discovered that although he is still essentially being held under “pretend” charges, he has been tasered, threatened, and assaulted while in prison. Interrogators continue to press criminal charges against Pastor Saeed, all of which he has relentlessly denied involvement in. 

In January of 2015, Naghmed was told by President Obama that her husband’s case was a “top priority.” He is an American citizen who is entitled to protection under the United States Constitution, so his case should be a top priority for Secretary of State Kerry. 9 months have passed, and nothing has changed. There was a glimpse of hope during the Iran Deal talks, when President Obama had every opportunity to advocate for the release of Saeed Abedini and three other American captives. We had the perfect opportunity to use this leverage against Iran, and live up to the American standard of a nation who defends and protects its own. Unfortunately, the talks only brought more silence on this pressing issue.

As a result of this administration’s cowardice, the United Nations is now stepping in to advocate for the release of Pastor Saeed. As of Sunday’s annoucement by Iranian President Rouhani, Saeed and the other American captives are being treated as hostages held for ransom. If our government won’t protect its own, we have no other choice but to seek justice elsewhere.

At the UN conference last week, 67 out of 100 countries agreed to sign a letter addressed to the Speaker of the Iranian Government advocating for the release of Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, Robert Levinson, and Jason Rezaian. While we wait for answers from the Iranian government, our hope is that pressure from the United Nations will secure the release of these innocent men. For now we pray that justice will be served, and that Pastor Saeed, along with the other 3 men, will once again be reunited with their families.