Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini is currently serving an 8-year prison sentence in Iran’s Rajai Shahr Prison for spreading Christianity within Iran. The goal of our mission is to influence the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran to release Pastor Saeed Abedini and to allow me, Río Tenango, to serve Pastor Abedini’s remaining sentence in part or whole.
Pastor Abedini’s health is failing due to the harsh realities he has experienced inside the Iranian prison system. The implementation of our proposal would allow Pastor Abedini to receive immediate medical attention and be reunited with his wife and children in Idaho. On January 17, 2014, when my wife, Leah, and I learned of Pastor Abedini’s plight (on K-LOVE Christian radio) the Abedini Family became imprinted on our hearts. We immediately understood our destined role and began working out the logistics of this endeavor. Our prisoner swap proposal is not based in protest; as we acknowledge that Saeed Abedini participated in religious activities at odds with current Iranian law, whether written or implied. Although every aspect of Abedini’s case is associated with the concept of freedom of religion, we are simply offering a grassroots solution to an international issue.
Multiple representatives of the U.S. government have made demands to the leadership of Iran to release Abedini immediately and without condition. To date, those demands have gone unheeded. If Iran speculates that the immediate and unconditional release of Abedini would be perceived as bowing to the demands of the West, then Abedini will remain incarcerated. However, if Iran is offered a collateral-based exchange, independent of U.S. government involvement, then the feasibility of Abedini’s release improves. The most attractive element of our proposal is that it would not compromise the national support base of Iranian politicians. It would also circumvent diplomatic setbacks (with the U.S.) that would result from Abedini’s death while in Iran’s care.
Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are not willing to help deliver our proposal to the Iranian government. Their staff members have informed us our goal is impossible on many levels. Fortunately, feasibility of success has no bearing on actions carried out to advance the common good. Aside from securing Pastor Abedini’s release, this effort could improve U.S.-Iran relations and spark a global reinvestment in the concept of altruism. Since Leah and I have no way to initiate direct dialogue with Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Khamenei or President Hassan Rouhani, we are relying on media coverage to convey the content of our proposal. As soon as we are confident that Khamenei is aware my intention, I will travel to Tehran.
Critics have said our effort has no legal precedence and is categorically unthinkable. We take heart in knowing every significant triumph involving social justice began with an act that seemed unthinkable. During previous humanitarian efforts I have been detained, interrogated, hospitalized, jailed, and even hunted. I mention these experiences to highlight the fact that my appraisal of the word unthinkable falls outside the spectrum of mainstream thought. Regardless of legal convention, social endorsement, or certainty of events, I offer to share the burden of another.
Other critics have said our success would merely trade one tragedy for another. The following Biblical scriptures tell us this is not the case.
John 15:12-13 (NIV)
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” ~ Jesus Christ
Hebrews 13:3 (NIV)
“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV)
” ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ ” ~ Jesus Christ
Spiritual love manifests itself through selfless sacrifice; spiritual love is never a tragedy. You can confirm this by asking any devout Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, Sikh, Jew, Bahá’í, Christian, or Hindu.
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