November, in some Canadian churches, has been designated as a month of prayer for the persecuted church. It's appropriate, then, to highlight the plight of just one of many thousands of cases of persecution around the world. I have written before of the case of Pastor Saeed Abedini (right), a U.S. citizen in prison in Iran for his faith.
His situation has become even more critical in recent days. According to reports from The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Abedini has been moved from Evin Prison in Tehran to Rajai Shahr Prison in Kara. This prison has been described as "the place prisoners go to disappear."
A Dutch diplomat, Loes Bijnen, described the prison like this: "Rajai Shahr is the place where political prisoners who are seen as a
nuisance, are stowed away. Going to Karaj is a severe punishment. Once
in there one stops to be a human being. One is put out of sight, even of
human rights activists and the press. In Rajaï Shahr, political
prisoners have to share cells with dangerous criminals like murderers,
rapists and drug addicts who don't hesitate to attack their cell mates.
They have nothing to lose: many of them are condemned to death anyway.
Murders or unexplained deaths are a regular occurrence."
Coming, as it does, in the midst of an anti-West backlash in Iran, Pastor Saeed's life is in real danger. There is a petition that has been launched in the U.S. to ask President Obama to intervene to bring about a resolution to this situation. If you are a U.S. citizen, please consider signing it. Jay Sekelow describes this as a "life or death situation" and thinks that there may be 24-48 hours to save Saeed.
If you are a believer, it's time to pray. Persecution is nothing new. The Apostle Paul wrote numerous letters during his time in prison, finally giving his life at the hands of a Roman executioner. He said, in his letter to the Colossians, "Remember my chains." It's very easy for us, living in the free world, to blithely go about our daily affairs, never giving a moment's thought to Christians around the world suffering for doing what we so often take for granted.
Whether it's a Pakistani Christian falsely accused of blasphemy, a Christian in China or Vietnam in jail for being a part of an unregistered church, or a Christian in India, beaten for their faith, they ought not to be forgotten. So take a few moments today to pray for those living under the threat of violence and death. How should we pray? Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, wrote "Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."
Pray for strength and courage for those undergoing persecution. Pray that they would remain faithful. Pray that they would be delivered and that the Gospel message would continue to go forward. Pray for God's presence in the middle of their trial. Pray for their families as they suffer in other ways. Pray for those working through various means to bring about relief and/or release for the prisoners. Pray for government officials who would be in a place to make a difference. Finally, pray that God would keep your heart soft to the needs of others and that they would never have to stand alone.
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