Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of pastor Saeed Abedini who is serving eight years in prison in Iran for his Christian faith, has said that God has chosen her family and her husband for the ordeal they are going through in order to reach people in despair.
"The Lord has counted our family worthy enough to send Saeed to a dark place that he would be able to share with people who are in complete despair," Abedini said in a testimony to persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern in its April 2014 magazine.
She told the watchdog that while in prison, her husband has seen "so many give their hearts to Christ."
The pastor, who was arrested in Iran in July 2012 while working on an orphanage project, was tried and sentenced to eight years in prison for "threatening the national security."
The American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Naghmeh Abedini and the couple's two children in the U.S., and several other Christian organizations have led a campaign calling for his release, and have accused Iranian authorities of violating Abedini's human rights by refusing to give him the surgery that he needs. The pastor has suffered several beatings while in prison and last month was moved to a hospital to receive better care.
Naghmeh has spoken before Congress and the U.N., testifying about her husband's plight and calling on the international community to press the Islamic republic for his release, while trying to stay strong for her children at the same time.
"This has been very hard, but spiritually it is the best time in my life. I wouldn't trade it for anything," she said.
"My new reality forced me out of my self-consumed life," she continued. "I realized I had a right to speak out for those who are being silenced, to speak for the Christians, for the Jews, for the Baha'i, and other fellow human beings who are being imprisoned simply because of their beliefs."
According to the interview with ICC, Pastor Abedini was formerly a fervent Muslim and hostile toward Christians. In 2000, however, he had a "radical conversion" and became an evangelist, establishing house churches throughout Iran. His house church activities were what led to his first detainment in 2009 during his visit back to Iran (after having lived in the United States for several years). The Iranian government pressured him to stop his church work. He was directed to do humanitarian work instead, according to Naghmeh Abedini.
So he began to build an orphanage. He was arrested in 2012 while working on the orphanage. The charges of "threatening national security" were related to his house church work as he was seen as "committing soft war," Naghmeh told ICC.
Recently, U.S. and German representatives drew attention to the pastor's case at the U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.
"We take this opportunity to call once again for the release of dual U.S.-Iranian citizen Saeed Abedini, who is currently being held in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Paula Schriefer, who led the U.S. delegation.
"While Iran has begun to shift its rhetoric on human rights, the United States remains deeply concerned that Iran continues to suppress free expression and civil society, harass members of its ethnic and religious minority populations, and imprison human rights defenders and journalists for political purposes."
In a September 2013 interview with The Christian Post, Naghmeh spoke about her hopes for her husband's release.
"You know, my ultimate hope is in God. I can't think of the eight years – it just paralyzes me. God has given me continued hope to take it a day at a time. I know that with so many praying. I am grateful for all the people signing the petitions, ultimately the time Saeed is in that prison is not decided by the Iranian government. But it's appointed by God," Abedini shared with CP.
"I am very optimistic and hopeful that he will be freed soon. My prayer is that Jesus will be glorified from all of it, and people will know that it is God who has delivered Saeed. At this point there are no more options with the legal system in Iran – at this time, it has to be a miracle."