Beltway Buzz

Pastor Saeed: One Man's Faith Stronger than Words from US Gov't

Despite intense scrutiny and harsh criticism, the State Department remains silent on the plight of religious minorities in Iran, and in particular, the case of imprisoned American Pastor Saeed Abedini.

***UPDATE: Secretary of State John Kerry releases a statement calling for Saeed Abeini's release. Click here to read more***

Last week, Rep. Frank Wolfe, R-Va., co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, convened a hearing that highlighted the Iranian regime's discrimination and persecution of religious observers of Baha'i, Sufi Islam, and Christianity.

The commission invited the State Department to send a witness. When no one showed, Wolfe ordered the record to remain open for one week to allow the agency to file a response. At the time of this entry, the State Department had not contacted the commission to update the record.

Pastor Saeed has been in Iranian custody since last July. In January, Iran's "hanging judge" sentenced him to eight years in one of the country's most brutal prisons. His crime? He was charged with threatening Iran's national security, but his wife and lawyers say he's really in trouble because of his Christian faith.

With her voice shuttering before the hearing's packed audience, Pastor Saeed's wife, Naghmeh, described breaking the news to their two young children that their "daddy was in prison because he loves Jesus."

While the European Union and United Nations have called for Abedini's release, the White House and State Department have been virtually "AWOL," to quote one member at the hearing.

Perhaps the State Department has a legitimate and compelling reason to avoid making a forceful public statement about Pastor Saeed's case. However, its silence, coupled by its lack of assistance to the Abedini family, seems only to suggest that either it's afraid or unwilling to engage.

Until we ultimately hear from someone, we cannot determine whether it's the former or latter - or, giving them the benefit of doubt, an entirely different reason.

Meanwhile, Pastor Saeed, an American citizen since 2010, remains in prison, beaten and bleeding internally - unwilling to renounce his faith in Christ in exchange for his freedom.

Hear what Pastor Saeed's wife says about his unwavering faith:

For Naghmeh, their two children, and human rights supporters around the world, his resolve and conviction are stronger than any statement the administration can ever make.