Pastor Joel Hunter, known as President Obama’s spiritual advisor, recently returned from a trip to Iran where he raised American Pastor Saeed Abedini’s case with Iranian officials. Pastor Hunter stated that he “specifically” discussed Pastor Saeed’s case “with the right person and in the right environment,” asking “the Iranian government for clemency.”
In an interview with BBC Persia, Pastor Hunter responded to a question about Pastor Saeed. Here is a translation of that question and answer:
BBC Reporter: Human Rights organizations have given special focus and attention to those who are imprisoned in Iran because of their religious beliefs including the American-Iranian Pastor Mr. Abedini who has been imprisoned for the last two years. How can these interactions between the two countries (USA and Iran) - including your recent trip to Iran - help in making the environment better inside of Iran and the pressure on these individuals (religious minorities) be reduced? Did you do a special follow-up on Mr. Abedini on this trip?
Pastor Joel Hunter: One of our great hopes was that. It was actually one of our main goals in this trip to create such a different environment which would include giving more leeway to different religions. Now that we have this connection, we were able to discuss these prisoners, specifically in regard to Pastor Saeed Abedini. It was because of this dialogue that we were able to ask the Iranian government for clemency for him and we were able to bring this up with the right person and in the right environment. This opportunity was provided to us by the Iranians themselves and it did not happen because of any pressure from us. In general, these dialogues help these prisoners a lot.
We are grateful for Pastor Hunter’s efforts raising Pastor Saeed’s case with key leaders inside Iran and once again requesting that he be granted clemency. This is a welcomed development that keeps Pastor Saeed’s case in the public eye. It also sends an important message to Iran – It is time to free Pastor Saeed, a U.S. citizen, so he can return to his family in the United States.
Pastor Saeed’s wife Naghmeh stated:
I am thankful that our government is discussing religious freedom issues in Iran and Saeed's freedom. This is great news for Saeed and for the Iranian people. This development is very encouraging and I remain hopeful that the United States will continue to raise Saeed's case with Iran. We continue to pray for his freedom. I want to thank the many people who continue to keep Saeed and our family in prayer. That continues to provide tremendous strength and support for our family.
More than 285,000 people have joined the call for clemency – judicial release – for Pastor Saeed. Next month will mark two years since he was first arrested in Iran for his Christian faith.
We continue to urge Iran to release Pastor Saeed and are working around the clock and across the globe to fight for this persecuted pastor. Join with us by signing the petition at our #BeHeard Project.