The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress has announced that it will hold a hearing on “The Worsening Plight of Religious Minorities in Iran,” taking specific testimony about the case of American Pastor Saeed Abedini imprisoned in Iran for his Christian Faith.
I, along with ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow and Pastor Saeed’s wife Naghmeh, have been called to testify before Congress on Pastor Saeed’s behalf this Friday.
The bipartisan congressional commission, co-chaired by Representatives James McGovern (D-MA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) exists to “to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms in a nonpartisan manner, both within and outside of Congress, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.” It’s mandate is to “[a]dvocate on behalf of individuals or groups whose human rights are violated or are in danger of being violated” by working “closely with the President of the United States and the Executive Branch.”
This is precisely what this Friday’s hearing aims to do. In announcing the hearing, the Commission stated:
Since the beginning of 2012, there has been an increase in the arrest, imprisonment and killing of religious and cultural minorities in Iran – particularly Christians, Baha’is and Sufi Muslims. The State Department has designated Iran as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) every year since 1999 while members of minority communities continue to flee Iran in significant numbers for fear of persecution, unjust detention and even death. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), “more than 500 Baha’is have been arbitrarily arrested since 2005,” while since June 2010 alone, “approximately 300 Christians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained.” More recently, Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced to eight years in prison for allegedly promoting Christianity in Iran.
The hearing will have a special focus on Pastor Saeed’s case. It will consist of three Panels. The first will focus on the State Department. The Second will focus on the general state of Religious freedom, or the lack thereof, in Iran, and the witnesses will consist of Katrina Lantos-Swett, Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow. The third panel will focus on specific cases of religious persecution, and the witnesses will be Ken Bowers, Secretary of National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, Pastor Saeed’s wife Naghmeh, and ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow. Each of these witnesses will present testimony and receive questions from the Members of Congress present.
As the bipartisan commission consists of at least 75 members of the House of Representatives, it provides a new and vitally important opportunity to elevate Pastor Saeed’s case in Congress and ultimately to the Executive Branch – the President and Secretary of State Kerry.
The congressional hearing will be held on Friday, March 15, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. and is open to the public. You can learn more information here, and we will provide updates throughout the week.
Please call the members of this commission today and urge them to attend this vitally important hearing.