What are the views of Evangelical Focus readers on the refugee crisis, marriage, ecumenism, sexual exploitation and the reliability of the Bible? We have selected the answers to some of the questions asked on our website.
The kids keep asking me, ‘When are we going to see him?’, Naghmeh Abedini says. The exchange happened on the same day that the USA observes Religious Freedom Day.
More than three years after Iranian authorities arrested U.S.-Iranian pastor Saeed Abedini on charges of “threatening national security”, he was released last Saturday, along with 3 other dual-citizens.
A Swiss plane took pastor Abedini; Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief; and Amir Hekmati, a former US Marine from Flint, Michigan, as well as some family members, from Tehran to Geneva.
Shortly afterwards, the three left for a US military base in Germany, arriving there later on Sunday, a US State Department official confirmed.
One more Iranian-American released under the same swap, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, was not aboard the aircraft. A fifth prisoner, American student Matthew Trevithick, was released separately on Saturday, a US official said.
The swap also involved seven Iranians held on charges of violating sanctions and came after more than a year of closely guarded talks.
“I WILL TAKE CARE OF IT”
Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of the pastor, announced the release on her Twitter account: "It is confirmed, Saeed is released from Iranian prison."
Ms Abedini told Morning Star News that she heard about the release from friends in Iran who saw reports about it on state TV. Some hours later, U.S. officials confirmed it to her.
“Over the past three years I have felt a huge weight, not only as a wife, but as a mom, seeing my kids in so much pain”, she commented.
“Birthdays, Christmases – we just passed another Christmas, so I feel like a huge weight has been lifted”, she added.
“We heard about it this morning, and it’s been a whirl of media. I told the kids as soon as we confirmed it with our government, and they are very excited. They keep asking me, ‘When are we going to see him?’”, she told Morning Star News.
Naghmeh Abedini said she learned to trust God with her husband’s fate while in the middle of a 21-day fast that she began on Jan. 5: “I don’t know what I was expecting, but I felt the Lord saying, ‘Let it go – don’t touch the situation with Saeed, and I will take care of it’”, she recalled.
“So I let go. I stopped my travels. I stopped speaking. Interestingly enough, it happened when I let it go”, Naghmeh concluded.
IRAN´S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The exchange happened on the same day that the USA observes Religious Freedom Day, though the timing was related to ongoing diplomacy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
Speaking after the released Americans had left Iran, USA President Barack Obama said Iran now would not "get its hands on a nuclear bomb" and the planet would be more secure.
"This is a good day because once again we are seeing what's possible through strong American diplomacy", Obama declared at the White House. "These things are a reminder of what we can achieve when we lead with strength and with wisdom."
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hailed the nuclear deal as a "golden page" in Iran's history and said the agreement could be used as a model to resolve other regional issues.
The lifting of sanctions and the prisoner deal considerably reduce the hostility between Tehran and Washington that has shaped the Middle East since Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.
MORE THAN 3 YEARS OF TORTURE
Abedini made frequent trips to Iran. A convert from Islam to Christianity, he had been warned by the Muslim nation against his involvement with house churches. In 2012, he returned instead to continue building a government-approved orphanage.
While there, Abedini was pulled off a bus, charged with undermining national security, and sentenced to eight years in prison for allegedly threatening “national security” by planting house churches in early 2000.
Abedini was tortured at various times throughout his imprisonment, and last year prison officials further pressured him to recant his faith by threatening to hold him in prison indefinitely.