This Christmas marks the third year Idaho pastor Saeed Abedini has been separated from his family.
Abedini, an American citizen, is currently serving an eight-year sentence after an Iranian court found him guilty of trying to establish a network of churches in private homes. His family claims he’s being persecuted for converting to Christianity.
According to the American Center for Law & Justice, an advocacy group campaigning for Abedini’s release, Abedini has been severely beaten inside his prison and is in need of urgent medical care.
From his cell, Abedini penned a letter describing his condition, while revealing a deep attachment to his Christian faith.
Nagmeh Abedini, his wife, told HuffPost that she’s praying daily for her husband’s return.
“Saeed’s letter shows the extent of his pain and suffering in prison, but also his deep faith in Jesus Christ, who we believe will bring him home to our children and me. We are so proud of Saeed, and his steadfast faith,” Nagmeh told HuffPost in an emailed statement.
Close to 200,000 people have signed the ACLJ’s petition demanding Abedini’s release.
“During the Christmas season, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we should also remember Pastor Saeed and other Christians imprisoned for their faith around the world,” ACLJ’s executive director Jordan Sekulow told HuffPost.
Read Saeed Abedini’s letter below.
These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass making most nights unbearable to sleep. The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and at times hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don’t like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame as someone who has betrayed his former religion. The guards can’t even stand the paper cross that I have made and hung next to me as a sign of my faith and in anticipation of celebrating my Savior’s birth. They have threatened me and forced me to remove it. This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me.
These cold and brittle conditions have made me wonder why God chose the hardest time of the year to become flesh and why He came to the earth in the weakest human condition (as a baby). Why did God choose the hardest place to be born in the cold weather? Why did God choose to be born in a manger in a stable, which is very cold, filthy and unsanitary with an unpleasant smell? Why did the birth have to be in such a way that it was not only hard physically, but also socially? It must have brought such shame for Mary and her fiancé that she was pregnant before marriage in the religious society of that time.
Dear sisters and brothers, the fact of the Gospel is that it is not only the story of Jesus, but it is the key of how we are to live and serve like Jesus. Today we like Him should come out of our safe comfort zone in order to proclaim the Word of Life and Salvation though faith in Jesus Christ and the penalty of sin that He paid on the cross and to proclaim His resurrection. We should be able to tolerate the cold, the difficulties and the shame in order to serve God. We should be able to enter into the pain of the cold dark world. Then we are able to give the fiery love of Christ to the cold wintery manger of those who are spiritually dead. It might be necessary to come out of the comfort of our lives and leave the loving embrace of our family to enter the manger of the lives of others, such as it has been for me for the third consecutive Christmas. It may be that we will be called fools and traitors and face many difficulties, but we should crucify our will and wishes even more until the world hears and tastes the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas means that God came so that He would enter your hearts today and transform your lives and to replace your pain with indescribable joy.
Christmas is the manifestation of the radiant brightness of the Glory of God in the birth of a child named Emmanuel, which means God is with us.
Christmas is the day that the heat of the life-giving fire of God’s love shone in the dark cold wintry frozen hearts and burst forth in this deadly wicked world.
The same way that the heat from the earth’s core melts the hard stones in itself and produces lava, the fiery love of God, Jesus Christ, through the virgin Mary’s womb came to earth on Christmas to melt the hard heart of sin and wickedness of the world and removes them from our life. In the same process, the work of the Holy Spirit is a fiery rain of God’s Holiness and Mercy that flows into our body, soul and spirit and brings the light of Christ into us and through us making this dark, cold, wintry world into radiant burning brightness. He is turning our world into a world full of peace, joy, and love that is so different than the dark, cold, and wintry world that we used to live in. Hallelujah!
So this Christmas let the lava-like love of Christ enter into the depth of your heart and make you fiery, ready to pay any cost in order to bring the same lava love to the cold world around you, transforming them with the true message of Christmas.
Pastor Saeed Abedini
Soaking in the lava love of Christ. (Follow similar stories here.)