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Embracing Their Suffering: Martyrdom Today

Back in February, I told BreakPoint listeners about Saeed Abedini, an Iranian pastor and American citizen sentenced to eight years in prison for supposedly threatening Iran’s national security.

He did no such thing. His actual “crime” was converting to Christianity, which in Iran is regarded as a crime against Islam and the Islamist regime, that is, treason.

His conversion, along with his ties to Iranian house churches, caused Iran’s rulers to make an example of him.

Since that first broadcast, there have been two developments in his case, one good and one bad.

The good news is that, in late March, Secretary of State John Kerry called on the Iranian government to release Abedini. He said that he was “deeply concerned” and “troubled” about Abedini’s treatment by Iranian authorities and the “lack of due process” in his case.

The bad news is that Iran has demonstrated no inclination to relent in either its detention or mistreatment of Abedini. On the contrary, the American Center for Law and Justice is reporting that the Iranian pastor “has been severely beaten in Evin Prison in Tehran, denied proper medical care, and experiencing fainting spells.”

In a letter Abedini wrote in March, he said that “My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown. The nurse would also come to take care of us and provide us with treatment, but she said in front of others ‘in our religion we are not supposed to touch you, you are unclean. Baha'i ... and Christians are unclean!’ She did not treat me and that night I could not sleep from the intense pain I had.”

Abedini’s torment isn’t limited to physical torture. The pastor reports that “cellmates have been threatening to suffocate him in his sleep and try and make it look like an accident.”

If you haven’t done so already, please join the ACLJ’s letter writing campaign at The goal of the campaign is to let Saeed Abedini know that his Christian brothers and sisters have not forgotten him.

Abedini’s suffering is a sad reminder of the conditions under which many of the world’s Christians live. In their book, Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea document a fact that many westerners would find almost impossible to believe: the most persecuted religious group in the world are Christians.

For Christians living in approximately 130 countries around the world, harassment, discrimination, intimidation, imprisonment, and even death are the price of Christian faithfulness. In some countries, such as Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia, the persecutors are government officials. In others, as we recently saw in Egypt, they are mobs and militants who act with legal impunity.

Either way, Nina Shea is correct when she writes that “religious persecution is the gravest human rights abuse of our day.”

Yet, it’s a human rights abuse that receives relatively little attention in the mainstream media. I won’t speculate why this is the case. Instead, I urge you to get informed and spread the word.

Those of us who aren’t persecuted should thank God by using our freedom on behalf of Saeed Abedini and the rest of our suffering brothers and sisters. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “If one member [of Christ’s Body] suffers, all suffer together.” Let’s make their suffering our own and let’s use our freedom to set all God’s people free.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: April 26, 2013

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