Sunday, December 1, 2013

Albuquerque Pastor Launches Social Media Blitz to Bring Attention to Saaed Abedini's Plight

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- American-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini didn't intend for it to work out like this - prison in Iran.

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Abedini, 33, was suddenly detained in Iran for his faith. He had been in Iran in mid-2012, working on the administrative details for an orphanage he was planning in the city of Rasht. He was forced off a bus at the border of Turkey and Iran, his passport confiscated and placed under house arrest at his parent's home. A nightmare was about to begin.

On Jan. 27 2013, he was sentenced to eight years in prison, on charges of undermining national security because of his Christian faith.

Abedini was taken to Evin Prison, a facility for political prisoners, and recently transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison.

He is now held in a ward for rapists and murderers, according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents Naghmeh and her husband, who is now an American citizen.
Pastor Alan Hawkins

Abedini's plight caught the attention of Alan Hawkins, founding pastor of Albuquerque's New Life City Church. Hawkins has organized a social media "event" to bring attention to Abedini's plight. Those interested are encouraged to get involved by going to

The hope is that an onslaught of attention, and the accompanying pressure, will help in Abedini's release.

But how did Hawkins, 59, come up with this idea? In a recent interview he told me that his interest took a while to sprout.

Hawkins said it was his brother-in-law who first drew his attention about a year ago to Abedini's situation.
"I read the basics and then forgot about it," Hawkins said.

That changed when a group of men with whom Hawkins "blogs with theologically" began sharing their displeasure about how Abedini's situation has been handled by the American administration.

Hawkins said, "We complain a lot. Why don't we do something?"

Some more discussion resulted in a social media blitz focused on Dec.4. Hawkins said he came up with theDec. 4 date as that was the day former hostage and Associated Press Correspondent Terry Anderson was released in 1991 from six years and nine months of captivity in Lebanon.

Hawkins said the project is an attempt to create "viral awareness" a bout Abedini's plight. He dubbed it a "spontaneously generated passion."

Reflecting on his fellow theological bloggers, Hawkins said "We're a bunch of people who had spent years debating over stuff who finally decided to do something."

And now the spark of passion has ignited, Hawkins said he's going to see it through.

"I don't expect them to release Abedini on the 4th, but I expect the awareness to rise to another level. I think American Christians really care, but they don't know much. This will put it in their faces, and we'll also make sure the politicians know we do care."

People do care. At time of writing, more than 7,000 people had signed up for the "event." 

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