U.S. Representatives demand intervention for persecuted pastor

By January 30, 2013

USA (MNN) — U.S. Congressmen are demanding more action from national leadership on behalf of Pastor Abedini, an Iranian American pastor from Boise, Idaho.

While "protecting human rights around the world is central to U.S. foreign policy," as stated on the U.S. State Department's Web site, it remained silent following Abedini's arrest in September 2012. The governmental body didn't issue a peep during the pastor's subsequent months of imprisonment in Iran's notorious Evin Prison.

Last Friday, the State Department commented on Abedini's situation in a daily press briefing.

"We remain very concerned about U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini, who is detained in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs," said spokesperson Victoria Nuland. "We call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini's human rights and to release him."

Two days later, the persecuted pastor received an 8-year sentence from the Iranian courts. His crime? "Planting house churches that are intended to undermine national security," Abedini's lawyer told Mohabat News.

"In the Middle East, they react by strength. You show weakness, they react against weakness. When you show strength, they, in many cases, back off," says Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger.

He adds, "If you have the President of the United States come out and [make] it obvious and evident that he's paying attention to what's going on…, it makes it hard for a nation to put them in a facility…that is known for torture and terrible conditions."

In December 2012, Fox News brought Abedini's story to light when his wife expressed hope that a media campaign would help set him free. Nearly a month later, the State Department made its first comments on the situation.

In mid-January, Kinzinger and his fellow Congressmen wrote a letter of appeal to Secretary of State Clinton, calling the U.S. to intervene on Abedini's behalf.

"The administration has seemed to be hesitant to engage, concerned they might offend Iran or something like that," says Kinzinger. "But it's important to engage at this level. So we sent this message, and hopefully it hit home loud and clear."

Overall, says Kinzinger, the government's response to this cut-and-dry example of persecution is lackluster at best.

"It's been pretty disappointing to me, frankly, how the State Department has not engaged on this issue. This is something very serious," he states.

But despite America's rocky relationship with Iran, Kinzinger believes a happy ending is possible.

He says, "It's important for the administration to come out and stand tall, and say it's time for the pastor to be released. I think we can see a positive end to this."

Encourage your friends to sign the petition for Pastor Abedini, and keep him in your prayers. Pray that President Obama would take a stronger stand on this issue.

"Pray for a successful ending, but ultimately know that the Lord's in control," states Kinzinger.

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