Today America honors one of her great dreamers for freedom. Yet on this same day, another American fighting for freedom also faces death for his stand.
Dr. Martin Luther King would have been 83 years old had he lived until his January 15th birthday this year. But standing on the second floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee in the early evening of April 4, 1968, King was felled by an assassin’s bullet. Although some still question the identity of the assassin and certain of his associations, history records that there is no question that the civil rights movement King founded based on peaceful, non-violence would live beyond him and bear the fruit of freedom and dignity for his people and all Americans.
King had a dream, and God uses dreamers – especially those who seek to fulfill the dreams of God Himself on earth. We often remember the great men and women of the Bible such as Moses, David and Mary, who despite human weaknesses, fulfilled God’s purposes in their generation. King dared to dream of a time when “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character … one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” Today, although our nation still strives for her ideals, probably most Americans do rejoice that we can join together, black and yellow, red and white, and know that each of us is precious in God’s sight.
But on this very day that many American’s took to the streets to honor Martin Luther King’s life and legacy, another American freedom fighter faced death for his dream of freedom. Just as this day began to dawn in Texas, far away in Iran, American pastor, Saeed Abedini, stood before a man dubbed “the hangman’s judge” for his Christian faith in that Islamic nation.
A former Muslim from Iran who became a Christian, Saeed now pastors a church in Boise, Idaho. And much of the crux of charges against Saeed stem from that fact that he converted from Islam, a religion that allows followers to kill those that turn from the faith. That charge by the Iranian government along with claims of his spreading Christianity, have been turned into accusations that he is working against the Iranian government and so is a security threat. However, reports have come forth of Saeed’s being harshly treated in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran where he has been since last September after he was pulled off of a bus. Saeed has written that he has sustained severe beatings in prison and told that he will “hang for his faith.”
Pastor Saeed is represented by Dr. Naser Sarbazi, a Muslim lawyer in Iran who believes in the right of all people to practice their religion freely. However, Dr. Sarbazi was only allowed to meet with Saeed less than 24 hours before the trial began. Reports have come forth that in the hearing, Dr. Sarbaza and Saeed both made strong defense before judge Pir-Abassi who has been charged with human rights violations for his previous rulings.
Saeed’s wife Nagmeh reported that “Saeed was able to share from the Bible to the Judge and say that he was not a political person and had no political intentions, but he was a follower of His Lord Jesus Christ.” She indicated that there will be no more hearings and the formal charges and sentences will most likely be announced next week according to his lawyer in Iran. Jordan Sekulow, reporting from the website of the American Center for Law and Justice which is supporting Saeed and his family in the United States, stated that, “It is still unclear from the trial what sentence, whether a lengthy prison term or even death, the regime seeks to impose on Pastor Saeed.”
The Scripture’s remind us: "Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also." (Hebrews 13:3). From the comfort of our homes as Americans and even Christians we often think, “this is happening in some other distant land – it can’t happen here.” But this Scripture reminds us that Saeed is our own brother, our own flesh-and-blood through the body of Christ. He, like us, is a citizen of not only the United States, but of Heaven.
Please continue to pray, petition the Lord and do spiritual warfare on behalf of our brother in Christ, Saeed Abedini, his wife Nagmeh and their two young children. Also please pray in faith for Saeed’s attorney, Dr. Sarbaza, and the judge Pir-Abassi. Remember: we are not praying against Muslims, or against this judge. We are praying for
the love, power and truth of Jesus Christ to be revealed to all, leading to transformation of hearts and the release of pastor Saeed. Also, please pray for our American government and State Department which has show little interest thus far in intervening.
Almost fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King stood firm on his God-given dream of freedom and equality for all. He paid the ultimate price of his life that today many can reap the benefits of that dream. Today, another man of God has placed his life on the line, to stand for not only religious freedom without bodily chains, but for spiritual freedom for all through Jesus Christ. Let us honor both heroes of the faith for their courageous stand. But even more, let us who now have freedom and voice stand with our brother in chains, that he and his family, along with us, can reap the blessings of true freedom our Redeemer paid for with his life.