One of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders wants to know why President Obama has remained silent as Iran tortures an American pastor held captive in one of the Islamic republic’s most notorious prisons.
Franklin Graham, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, told Fox News the imprisonment and torture of Pastor Saeed Abedini is a blatant example of “religious intolerance.”
“Many in the international community are expressing outrage over this blatant example of religious intolerance,” Graham said. “I ask that our government do the same and demand that Pastor Saeed Abedini be released and allowed to return home to his wife and family in the United States.”
Graham said Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, is terrified to hear reports of her husband’s physical condition.
“Naghmeh worries that she and her two young children may never see Saeed again,” he told Fox News.
Graham said Abedini’s wife is especially troubled by President Obama’s silence on the matter.
“She’s discouraged by the fact that our own government seems to have abandoned them,” Graham said. “President Obama has been silent on the issue as an American Christian endures the horrors of Evin Prison.”
Six months ago, Secretary of State John Kerry called for the Iranians to release Abedini, but since then the Obama Administration has been silent. Not once has the president telephone the pastor’s wife.
“Sadly, since then our government appears to have done little to pressure Iran to release a fellow American citizen,” Graham said.
Abedini traveled to his homeland last year to visit family and help build an orphanage on family-owned land. During that visit, he was pulled off a bus and arrested. He spent months languishing in jail without any notice of charges. Iranian officials sentenced him to eight years in prison.
“Pastor Saeed was in Iran trying to help children,” Graham told Fox News. “With the permission of Iran’s government, he was working to build an orphanage. But his humanitarian mission led to an arrest on bogus charges and nearly a year of inhumane treatment simply because he loves Jesus Christ.”
Since his imprisonment, Abedini has suffered long stints in solitary confinement, and, according to his family and attorneys in Iran, beatings and torture at the hands of his jailers and fellow inmates inside Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. The pastor has been suffering from serious injuries including internal bleeding from beatings.
The Iranians claim he was convicted of endangering national security. However, Pastor Abedini’s family said in reality — he was sent to prison for one reason — because he is a Christian.
More than a decade ago, Abedini helped organize home churches in Iran — where Christians are forbidden from praying in public. He was arrested in 2009 but was released after promising to stop formally organizing house churches.
Naghmeh Abedini testified before the United Nations last month – urging foreign diplomats to put pressure on the Islamic republic to free her husband.
“My husband, a U.S. citizen and loving father of our two young children, has been held in Iran’s brutal Evin Prison because of his faith — without a voice to fight for his freedom,” she testified. “I must, therefore, be his voice.”
Portions of her testimony were published on FoxNews.com.
Graham is calling on Americans to join a national prayer vigil on Sept. 26 – the one year anniversary of the pastor’s imprisonment.
“I also encourage churches and people everywhere to join the hundreds of thousands of others who are showing solidarity with this courageous man of faith,” he said.
A website has been created to organize support for Pastor Abedini at SaveSaeed.org.
With reporting from Fox News