Tuesday, March 19, 2013
US Government Reaction Swift After Wife of Pastor Jailed in Iran Visits Capitol Hill
"The visit to Washington, DC, last week of Naghmeh Abedini, wife to American pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran for his Christian humanitarian work there, was very effective in moving our government toward engagement in the release of Pastor Abedini. The pastor's family has the best legal representation possible in Jay Sekulow and Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice. The testimony of the Sekulows and Mrs. Abedini before the Lantos Human Rights Commission in the United States Congress was very powerful. We're all grateful to Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf for convening the meeting, and for Representatives Chris Smith of New Jersey, Robert Aderholt of Alabama, Trent Franks of Arizona, Raul Labrador of Idaho, and Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon who participated.
There was considerable criticism for the US State Department during this hearing because of its absence among the witnesses, and because of its sustained silence on the plight of Pastor Abedini and his family. One notable exception has been the good work of the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, the Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, who from the beginning has taken both an aggressive professional and personal interest in assisting Pastor Abedini. From my numerous discussions, and even prayer times, with the Ambassador, she has always demonstrated the utmost concern for seeing that Pastor Abedini is returned to his family and to his country of citizenship, the United States of America. All of the witnesses before the congressional commission made clear that the Ambassador's office has been the one exception in an otherwise unresponsive State Department. It's important to note that, immediately following Friday's hearing, Ambassador Johnson Cook convened a meeting of several officials in various divisions of the State Department and hosted Mrs. Abedini and her legal team for an extended and comprehensive discussion. The Ambassador listened intently as Jay and Jordan Sekulow aggressively detailed their client's need for concrete assistance from the highest levels of the Department. Ambassador Johnson Cook also reached out in a deeply personal way to Mrs. Abedini and allowed me the rare privilege to close the meeting with prayer for the Pastor, for his family, and for all those working on their behalf.
I wish to commend Ambassador Johnson Cook and her staff, the other State Department officials that participated in this long-awaited meeting, and, of course, the Sekulows and their team at the American Center for Law and Justice for the critical progress that was made last week on behalf of Pastor Abedini and his family. We urge all Americans of conscience to keep the Abedini family in their thoughts and prayers, and to continue to support the Sekulows and Ambassador Johnson Cook in their continuing efforts, as well as Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama, who, we trust, will join in vocal support of Pastor Abedini and use the full force of their offices to secure his immediate release."
Rev. Rob Schenck, D. Min.
President, National Clergy Council
Lead Missionary, Faith and Action
Chairman of the Board, The Evangelical Church Alliance International