Iranian authorities have posed U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini with an ultimatum to deny Christ, or spend more time in prison.
"Deny your faith in Jesus Christ and return to Islam or else you will not be released from prison. We will make sure you are kept here even after your 8 year sentence is finished," the authorities said, according to a letter by Abedini that was recently obtained by the American Center for Law and Justice.
The pastor, who was sentenced to eight years in January in what the law group says was a "sham trial" that targeted him for his Christian faith, had earlier shared of some of the abuse he faced in prison in a letter to his wife, Naghmeh Abedini, and their two children. He has stated that he will not abandon Christ in the face of such persecution. But the newly released letter reveals the specific threats the authorities have made against him in Evin Prison in Tehran.
"My response to them is Romans 8:35-39. The reality of Christian living is that difficulties or problems do arise in our lives. Persecution and difficulties are not new occurrences, but are seen often in the Christian life. It is through the suffering and tribulations that we are to enter the Kingdom of God," the U.S. citizen said in his letter.
The ACLJ, which is representing the pastor's family back in the U.S. and has been at the forefront of campaigning for Abedini's release, commended the pastor for his strong faith in the face of mental and physical abuse.
"My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown," Abedini wrote in a letter in March. "The nurse would also come to take care of us and provide us with treatment, but she said in front of others 'in our religion we are not suppose to touch you, you are unclean. Baha'i (religion) and Christians are unclean!' She did not treat me and that night I could not sleep from the intense pain I had."
The U.S. State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry and the European Union have all called for the pastor's release, and over 550,000 people worldwide from over 180 countries have signed a petition lending him support.
"Pastor Saeed is refusing to deny Christ. We must let him know that we will never forget him and will never stop working for his release," the ACLJ has said.
The law group also started a letter-writing campaign for Abedini's birthday on May 7, hoping that all the notes will "flood" Evin Prison. Those who wish to add their letter to the 20,000 already written can do so by going to SaveSaeed.org.