A fundraising event that featured the screening of a yet-to-be released political thriller hosted by the film's producer and a Southern California church to help purchase a home for the family of Pastor Saeed Abedini was called a success by organizers.
Daniel Lusko, writer and director of the film "Persecuted," partnered with Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel to host the movie event at a theater in the Palm Springs area. Saeed Abedini's wife, Naghmah, attended the screening. Organizers said the theater was sold out ($10 donations for tickets) in an hour and they could have sold out two more theater screenings.
"Events like we experienced last night with Naghmah Abadini are the reason this film exists, allowing the movie to benefit people around the world with real struggles," Lusko told The Christian Post. "I hope this film will not only aide in creating a movement of awareness that will lead to Pastor Saeed's freedom, but also a greater awakening that will bridge the gap between Americans and those suffering from persecution overseas."
Abedini, a U.S. citizen currently serving eight years in prison in Iran, was arrested in July 2012 while working on an orphanage project and was accused by Islamic authorities of "threatening national security."
Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel has been raising money to support the Abedini family, and had raised over $190,000 prior to the movie event. "Persecuted" debuts on July 18th on 600 screens.
During a 30-minute period of questions for Lusko, Naghmah Abadini, and Jerel Hagerman, who is the pastor of Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel, the imprisoned pastor's wife said her husband is currently in a hospital being treated for internal bleeding from beatings.
"Naghmeh also is holding out hope that Saeed can be with her to buy the house. He's in a hospital pretty beat up, which could be the precursor to the Iranians setting him free," said Hagerman, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
"Persecuted" is distributed by Millennium Entertainment and stars former "Law & Order" cast member Fred Thompson, Bruce Davison, Dean Stockwell, Raoul Trujillo and Fox News host Gretchen Carlson. Directed by Daniel Lusko, the movie features James Remar as a prominent Christian pastor who is framed for a crime he didn't commit after he refuses to publicly support a powerful U.S. senator.
"Movies come and go and filmmakers like me don't face much persecution. But men and women like the Abedinis face persecution and death every single day," Lusko said.