(Photo: exodus8one Facebook)
A U.S. pastor from California who was arrested earlier this week while protesting in front of Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran, where Pastor Saeed Abedini is set to return home on Wednesday, described the experience as an "honor."
Eddie Romero of Exodus8one, a faith group with a mission to "engage belligerent governments/societies (with respect to faith) directly in order to address the injustice towards Christians and other religious minorities," was arrested on Monday in Tehran in front of the prison. He had been shouting "let my people go" in the Farsi language, and demanded the freedom of four Christian converts and a human rights advocate being kept there, including Pastor Saeed Abedini.
Abedini, the Iranian-American pastor sentenced to eight years in prison, passed the 1-year mark of his imprisonment last month. His story has attracted major international attention, with President Barack Obama and hundreds of thousands of people around the world petitioning Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for his release.
"I approached Evin Prison, because there I was going to make my protest. And there is where I raised my voice. And I said out loud: 'Let my people go, so they might worship me,'" Romero said in a video message on the day of his arrest, noting that the quote is from Exodus 8:1.
"I call on the Islamic Republic of Iran to release these five noble persons, noble men, deserving to be released and put out in the public again to do their good," he added, identifying the men as Farshid Fathi, an Iranian Christian pastor; Saeed Abedini; Mostafa Bordbar, a Christian activist; Alireza Seyyedian, a member of the Christian house church; and Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, a prominent human rights lawyer in Tehran and co-founder of Defenders of Human Rights in Iran.
Romero, a retired pastor from Hacienda Christian Fellowship in La Puente, Calif., has been arrested before for protesting, including a 2008 incident in China during the Summer Olympics, after he demanded the release of five Chinese activists – though he was again released and sent home 24 hours later.
"We weren't sure if there was going to be violence or if he was just going to get grabbed. Or be ignored," said Romero's daughter, Sarah Yetter, according to The Associated Press.
"You want your loved one to be well and safe and never do anything risky. But knowing my dad, we realize that he is cut out for this kind of a thing. And we support him 100 percent."
Romero concluded his video message by saying it is an "honor" to be arrested for the cause.
"We are aware of the reports that a U.S. citizen has been detained in Iran and, due to privacy consideration, have no further comments or details this time," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf added.
The American Center for Law and Justice, a legal group that represents Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, and their two children in the U.S., and has led the global campaign for the pastor's release, told The Christian Post in an email on Wednesday that it is not in a position to comment on the situation.