- (Photo: ACLJ)
Saeed Abedini, the U.S. pastor imprisoned in Tehran, turned 33 years old on Tuesday, but there was little to celebrate as he found himself still in solitary confinement in one of Iran's most brutal prisons.
"With tightness in my throat, pain in my heart, and tears streaming down my face ... so very weak, I promise to stand strong in the strength of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fighting with every strength of my being until you are united to our family again," the pastor's wife, Naghmeh, wrote in a statement posted by The American Center for Law and Justice.
"I will be a voice, where you are being silenced. I will be hands and feet where you are being bound and in chains. That the whole world would know, that the whole world would hear that Jesus is Lord. We are so proud of you. Hang in there. Hold on tight to Jesus. You have many brothers and sisters praying for you and standing with you."
Abedini, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in January supposedly for "engendering national security," has been suffering from internal bleeding and kidney problems while in jail. The ACLJ, which is representing his wife and two children in the U.S., says that he is being denied the medical care that he needs.
The pastor, who was building an orphanage for children in Iran when he was arrested in September 2012, was sent to solitary confinement along with other prisoners at the end of April for expressing dissatisfaction with the lack of medical care they received.
In a statement, the ACLJ noted that Abedini was spending "the worst birthday imaginable" in solitary confinement, and reminded readers of the many beatings, as well as physical and mental torture the pastor has been put through because of his Christian faith and refusal to deny Christ.
The U.S. State Department and hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have called for his release in a petition, but so far their pleas have gone unanswered by Iranian authorities.
"This is a critical time for Pastor Saeed, whose health continues to worsen at the hands of his captors," said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ.
"Pastor Saeed's strength and resolve is remarkable. Through all of the abuse and torment he has endured at the hands of his Iranian captors, he remains resilient in his faith. He concluded, his last letter – his last communication with the outside world: 'Pastor Saeed Abedini, the servant and slave of Jesus Christ in chains, with a lot of joy to see you soon.' His faith is keeping him alive."
Abedini has been receiving support from the ACLJ's letter writing campaign which has gathered over 52,000 letters from people all around the world giving him courage.
One such letter reads: "Your Message of forgiveness is an amazing Testimony and actually helped us realize there was someone in our life we needed to forgive, thank you."
The letters can be found at SaveSaeed.org.