Oct. 21, 2013
South Bay residents gathered on the corner of Torrance Boulevard and Madrona Avenue on Thursday evening, September 26th to pray and offer support for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen held in captivity in Tehran, Iran for more than a year. Approximately 50 people representing some seven different churches gathered for the 6:00 p.m. prayer vigil organized to publicize the plight of this America pastor who lost his freedom as a result of his Christian beliefs. Among those in attendance were two South Bay pastors and three candidates for public office: Pastor Milton Herring, candidate for Torrance City Council, John Wood, candidate for Congress in Congressional District 43, and Dr. John Paul Tabakian, candidate for Torrance School Board.
( Click here to watch the video )
Pastor Saeed is a 33 year old man who was born in Iran and converted to the Christian faith in 2000, after his conversion, he began creating Christian churches. He met his wife, Naghmeh, an Iranian born woman who had been raised in the United States since age four, when she herself was in Iran visiting. The two fell in love and were married in Tehran two years later. In 2005 the couple moved to the United States. Subsequently, in 2010 at the age of 29, Pastor Saeed became a naturalized citizen of the United States. From 2009 through 2012, Pastor Saeed made eight trips back to Iran to set up a government-approved orphanage in Rasht.
On his ninth trip in July, for no apparent reason Pastor Saeed was arrested and imprisoned. Since his arrest, His wife, Naghmeh has been working tirelessly for her husband’s release and early on enlisted the help of the American Center for Law and Justice to escalate the case. Secretary of State John Kerry has raised the issue on more than one occasion with the government of Iran, and Naghmeh has presented her husband’s case on the floor of the United Nations. One day after the one-year mark of Pastor Saeed’s imprisonment, President Obama made mention of Pastor Saeed’s case in a historic phone call to the new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, the first such phone conversation between an American president and an Iranian president since 1979. Unfortunately, in the days since that phone call, Pastor Saeed’s beatings have increased and he has been denied needed medical treatment for internal bleeding caused by the maltreatment at the hands of his Iranian captors. At times he has been put in solitary confinement. His case went to a very high Iranian appeals court this year, but in August the conviction was upheld.
Constitutionally, one of the clear responsibilities of our federal government is to protect its citizens, reference “provide for the common Defense” (Article I, Section 8). If the US government ignores its citizens in peril abroad, this is a dereliction of duty and should cause each one of us to feel less secure. It is necessary that Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama himself keep the pressure on the Iranian regime until Pastor Saeed is released.
One of the key ways to influence the Iranian authorities is to raise the level of awareness and outcry from the international public and their leaders, something the Prayer Vigil handily accomplished, as on the day of the Prayer Vigil, with the volume of cars stopping at the stoplights and/or passing by, it is estimated that the demonstration could have been seen by approximately 6000 vehicles in the one-hour period. There was one very large sign and 6 or 7 smaller signs, a dozen or so American flags, large and small, and yellow armbands to remember prisoners, which were visible to passersby. Many enthusiastic passersby in cars honked to show their support and some waved or cheered. A cluster of participants on Torrance Boulevard did a 2-minute chant when cars were within earshot and stopped at the light, chanting “Free Pastor Saeed.”
Besides alerting the public to Pastor Saeed’s unjust imprisonment, the group also prayed in pairs, in groups, or individually, focusing prayer on Pastor Saeed but also praying for other desperate nations of the Middle East and North Africa that have been rocked by violence against Christians in recent months, including Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Unfortunately, the mainstream media has largely ignored these events, as was pointed out by Senator Rand Paul on October 11, 2013 in Washington, D.C., in his address to the Values Voter Summit. This makes it even more imperative for non-traditional media and average citizens to get Pastor Saeed’s message out.
The Prayer Vigil in Torrance brought unity, enthusiasm, bolstered faith, and new connections among participants, and prayer cover for Pastor Saeed and his family and the Persecuted Church in general, and will likely result in increased awareness of Pastor Saeed, not only in the Christian community locally but also in the general public, through the Prayer Vigil itself as well as through the publicity both before and after the event.
Sponsored worldwide by the American Center for Law and Justice and the beheardproject.com project and held in some 70 cities across the US including Washington, D.C. on September 26, the Prayer Vigil in Torrance was organized by the Faith Council of the Beach Cities Republicans.