Naghmeh Abedini, wife of imprisoned Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini, delivered a heartfelt plea to lawmakers during a Congressional hearing Thursday, begging them to end her family's "nightmare" and help release her husband from the deadly Rajaï Shahr prison in Iran.
Naghmeh spoke alongside Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, during Thursday's Joint Subcommittee Hearing, during which lawmakers sought to address the current status of Pastor Abedini and other American citizens being held in Iran. Saeed Abedini was arrested in July 2012 and charged with undermining Iran's security, although it is believed he is really being detained due to his Christian faith.
At Thursday's Congressional hearing, Naghmeh criticized the failure of the United States to bring up Abedini's imprisonment during recent nuclear talks with Iran, saying those talks were the "perfect" opportunity to negotiate her husband's release. "I feel my husband has been abandoned," she said. more >>
The lament that human rights was not on the agenda when the United States and Iran recently met in Geneva for historic talks was right and proper. It must be understood, however, that for Iran, the issue of religious liberty (as defined by the West) is simply not negotiable.
The regime in Tehran imprisons witnessing Christians, particularly Farsi-speaking former-Muslims, because it is desperately determined to eliminate fitna – literally "chaos" caused by temptation/anything that could shake the faith of a Muslim. Because nothing shakes the faith of an oppressed, miserable Muslim as much as a thriving, joyous apostate, converts from Islam must be made miserable/unattractive. The apostaphobic mullahs fear that if Iranians think they can leave Islam with impunity, then they will – in droves, resulting in chaos, at least for the mullahs.
Iran's mullahs, like all Islamic dictators everywhere and throughout history, regard the threat posed by apostasy as so great that religious liberty is summarily dismissed. If the regime chooses to use a prisoner as a bargaining chip, it will do so because Tehran wants to extract something from the United States. But it won't change the reality on the ground. more >>
During a Mass with Egypt's Catholic leader, Pope Francis prayed for the safety and religious liberty of Middle East Christians.
"Let real guarantees of religious liberty be given to all, together with the rights of Christians to live peacefully in the places where they were born, in the native country they love as citizens of more than 2,000 years, in order that they might contribute as always to the good of all," Pope Francis said during Mass on Monday with Egypt's Coptic Catholic leader Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, theCatholic News Service reported.
Since the 2011 revolution that removed former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's Christian population has faced numerous attacks, including on its holiest church, St Mark's Cathedral in Cairo in April 2013. Anti-Christian violence then intensified following the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, after Islamists blamed Christians for their involvement. In mid-August, several dozen Christian homes, businesses, and churches were burned. Egyptian Christians have also faced a recent rise in kidnappings. more >>
Pope Francis called for the spread of peace and the end of enmity and division in the Middle East. His Holiness also called on ensuring religious freedom for all and the preservation of Christians' rights to live in peace where they were born.
"The Lord Jesus, who escaped with the Holy Family, and was received in your generous land [Egypt], is the one who watches over the people of Egypt who look for dignity and security," His Holiness said.
The Pope pointed out this is the first time he has met with the Coptic Catholic Patriarch and that Christians living in Egypt suffer from insecurity and fear. more >>
Cardinal Mar Bechara el-Rahi, the Maronite Patriarch of Lebanon, expressed concern about involving Christians in Syrian events, especially in the wake of the kidnapping of nuns from the St. Takla nunnery in Maaloula and the abduction of bishops Boulos Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim in a separate incident.
During a meeting with the president of the Maronite General Council and former minister Wadih el-Khazen, Patriarch Rahi said the failure of the parliament to secure a new electoral law in Lebanon is a stab in the heart to the democratic system they aspire to restore after more than thirty years of fighting.
For his part, el-Khazen said: "Due to the internal situation in Lebanon, we have emphasized to the patriarch the importance of holding the presidential election on time, as President Suleiman has no intention to delay." more >>
Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and Jordan condemned the kidnapping 12 nuns from the monastery of St. Takla in Maaloula, Syria, adding that the goal of this crime is to harass Christians and push them to emigrate.
According to Palestine's Maan news agency, Patriarch Theophilus said the kidnappers cannot claim they are fighters or revolutionaries who want to achieve national goals, and are "just criminals who have lost religious and human values."
The patriarch pointed out that the abducted nuns are from Syria and Lebanon and have dedicated their lives to care for the Muslim and Christian orphans in the monastery of Mar Takla, which is an important Orthodox monasteries in Syria. more >>