I would like to thank those of you at the Missouri Baptist Convention’s annual meeting who offered kind words of encouragement to The Pathway staff. Your overwhelming affirmation of your state newspaper is humbling. We are grateful to God for the privilege to serve Southern Baptists in Missouri and around the world. We will try even harder to exceed your expectations for truth and information from a biblical worldview perspective.
I would also like to thank the nearly 1,000 messengers who stood and gave an extended warm welcome to our special guest, Naghmeh Abedini, during the Oct. 29 morning session. As I stood behind Naghmeh on stage after introducing her, we both felt your love and support for her and her family (see story and photos on pages 13-14). Her testimony was powerful as evidenced by the many tears shed by messengers throughout the convention hall as she spoke about her husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence in Iran because of his Christian activities. It was obvious Missouri Southern Baptists are genuinely concerned about the Abedinis, as well as all Christians worldwide who are being persecuted because of their Christian faith.
Naghmeh told me there is no change in her husband’s situation. Naghmeh, hand-delivered a letter asking for her husband’s release to the staff of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a New York City hotel lobby in September. But in an interview with CNN, the new president said he couldn’t interfere with Iran’s due process.
Meanwhile, Saeed has been beaten at least twice because he continues to proclaim the gospel among fellow inmates and has led more than 30 to Christ. Intimidation is also utilized by the Iranians. A prison guard told Saeed he would hang for his crimes and on another occasion prison guards shot and killed two inmates in front of Abedini in an effort to get him to renounce Christ and accept Islam.
Iran ranks among the worst nations when it comes to persecuting Christians. Dozens have been imprisoned, including Iranian Pastor Farshid Fathi, 34, who has served nearly three years of a six-year prison sentence because of his Christian faith. Fathi has spent nearly a year in solitary confinement, and described in a letter from prison how interrogators used emotional manipulation to try to break his resolve. (He says officials falsely told him his wife had been arrested, and his father had suffered a heart attack.)
Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute says that persecution, if you include discrimination, is affecting approximately 600 to 700 million Christians globally. Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world with followers of the faith being actively harassed in 130 countries, according to a 2011 Pew Forum study. An average of 100 Christians around the world are killed each month for their faith and according to the World Evangelical Alliance, more than 200 million Christians are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith.
Nov. 3 was known this year because it marked the end of daylight savings time. But Nov. 3 was also known for something far more important – the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. It is one of two Sundays set aside this month to pray for our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted because they are Christians. Nov. 10 will give churches another opportunity to do so.
I could say much more about the persecuted church. Instead, I think it would be best to let Farshid Fathi have the final say in a letter he wrote from his Iranian prison cell last month:
“How can I complain about my suffering when my brothers and sisters are paying a high price for their faith all over the world? I recently learned about many people killed in front of a church in Pakistan. I also heard a young sister in Christ sharing about how she lost her family for the sake of the gospel and still she is willing to share the good news. … So when I look at all these heroes of faith, how can I complain about my suffering?”