By Mark Ellis
The Iranian American Christian Pastor, Saaed Abedini, held in prison in Iran for over three years due to his underground church activities, shared the Gospel as he waited at the airport for his release.
Pastor Abedini spoke at a rally September 20th in New York protesting a visit to the UN by Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani. Pastor Abedini and others called for a halt to Tehran’s sponsorship of terrorism. They also demanded a halt to the executions in Iran, and urged the prosecution of the regime’s leaders.
Following the protest, Pastor Abedini was interviewed by Neil Cavuto of Fox News and shared further details about his release in January from Iranian confinement and return to the U.S.
The release and prisoner swap became controversial when it was later revealed that the arrival of a plane with $400 million in cash from the U.S. was instrumental in the process.
In addition to Pastor Abedini, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati and Nosratollah Khosrawi were also released by Iran on January 16, 2016.
Pastor Abedini recalled the circumstances of his release on Fox News. “When they escorted us from Evin Prison to the airport they told us in 20 minutes you will get into a plane from Switzerland and then fly out of the country,” he recounted.
“But when we got to the airport it took 20 hours. They kept us and we slept in the airport.”
During the lag time, Pastor Abedini felt emboldened to share the Gospel with his captor. “There was a guard with me who was in charge of all intelligence and policing at Evin Prison. I knew I was going to be free and they couldn’t do anything to me so I started sharing the gospel with him,” he told Fox.
“I talked about my faith. I talked about Jesus, that he was God in the flesh who came on the earth and took the punishment for our sins.
“When I shared the Gospel, the Good News with him, he opened up his heart because I said Jesus wants to go into your heart and save your life and cleanse all your sins because he went on the cross for you.”
The man also told Pastor Abedini they would never let the prisoners go free until a plane from Switzerland arrived in Iran. “Until that plane comes we will never let you go,” the man told him.
“They said it was another plane with the money that is going to come. If they never got the money they would never let us go. It seems like it was (ransom).”
At the protest September 20th, Pastor Abedini spoke out against the harsh treatment of Christians and other political prisoners in Iran. “In the last few months, 2000 people have been executed in Iran. There are at least another 1000 young people who will be executed. We are trying to be a voice for people who don’t have any voice,” he told Fox.
Pastor Abedini said his faith made the difference during his confinement. “Every time they told me I would be executed I went back to solitary confinement and started praying and God told me by the Holy Spirit that I would testify for Him one day.
“The only person I could cling to was God. He was with me in solitary confinement.”
Pastor Abedini believes that 90 percent of the Iranian people are against the government. He says the money paid by the U.S. will never get to the people. “This money will go for the Palestinians, against Israel, it goes to executions in Iran. The cash can go to North Korea for nuclear weapons.
“They will never use this money for starting orphanages or helping people. They will use it for security, shutting down protests, supporting Hezbollah. One day you may find it went to North Korea for their nuclear site.”
Pastor Abedini feels the world needs to pay attention to Iran’s threats against Israel. “They are serious about attacking Israel, more than we think,” he told Fox. “I don’t trust the government. They never changed their announcement that they want to remove Israel.
“They say they want to make the whole world Muslim. The supreme leader said in 20 years there will be no Israel. They don’t allow any activities by Christians or Jews. They have many Muslims, Christians, and from every different group in prison. Even musicians and filmmakers are in Evin Prison.”
Pastor Abedini believes that whatever hardships he endured in prison were worth it from an eternal perspective. “I believe it has been counted for me in heaven, all the hard things I went through. I believe all my sufferings will be counted for me in heaven, so I didn’t lose anything.
“I learned to cling to the Word of God and His promises and not focus on my feelings or my situation. Even after I got the death sentence, I prayed and God said I will testify for him.”