Pastor Abedini's Wife Cites Stress in Suspending Public Efforts for Husband's Freedom
Naghmeh Abedini is pulling back her public fight to see her husband Pastor Saeed Abedini freed from an Iranian prison.
Christianity Today reports the emotional stress of the effort, along with "abuse" issues in her marriage before and since Saeed's imprisonment, have taken a toll. CBN News contacted the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents the Abedini family, for a response.
"In recent days, Naghmeh -- Pastor Saeed's wife -- has revealed that she is dealing with some very serious personal issues inside her family. She has asked for privacy and prayer. We are respecting her request. The ACLJ will not have any comment on the personal issues that she is addressing," the ACLJ told CBN News.
Rev. Patrick Mahoney calls Christians to pray for the Abedinis.
The CT article is based mostly on two emails Abedini sent to supporters revealing the problems. In those emails she listed marital problems, including "physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse [through Saeed's addiction to pornography] ."
The ACLJ gave CBN News the following statement from Naghmeh Abedini:
"I regret having sent the emails. I was under great psychological and emotional distress. I am now taking time off to heal and to rest and to spend much needed time with my kids. I would appreciate for those who care about Saeed and our family to give us time for rest and healing and to respect our privacy."
Rev. Dr. Rob Schenck, President and lead missionary of Faith and Action expresses concern and support for Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Iran.
Meanwhile, The ACLJ told CBN News it remains committed to seeing Saeed's freedom.
"What we are focused on is this: bringing home an American pastor who has been wrongly imprisoned in Iran because of his faith. We know that Pastor Saeed remains in grave danger in prison where he continues to be beaten and psychologically abused by Iranian guards and remains in need of medical care," the ACLJ said.
Rev. Patrick Mahoney talks about how Christians must not give up on calling for Saeed Abedini's release from an Iranian prison.
"We continue to pray for Naghmeh, Pastor Saeed, and their family. We will continue our work -- in this country and abroad -- to secure the freedom of this U.S. citizen," the ACLJ statement concluded.
Naghmeh also asked for prayer to continue for Saeed and their family. CT reported she pointed out that Saeed still shares his faith in Jesus while imprisoned -- and that she calls her husband a "treasure."
"But that does not mean he has not been battling with his own demons which I am believing that he can be freed of," CT quoted from Naghmeh's writings.
"I will continue to pray for my husband's release and advocate for him as he suffers in an Iranian prison for his Christian faith. I would also ask others to join me in continuing to pray for his release," Naghmeh said in her statement to CBN News.
Saeed Abedini has spent more than three years in an Iranian prison simply for his Christian faith. He is still being mistreated, beaten and denied medical care.
Despite Naghmeh's revelations, several groups that have stood with the family said they will continue to speak out on her husband's behalf.
"Regardless of any struggles that Pastor Saeed may be experiencing it doesn't change the fact that the faith community needs to be a powerful and passionate voice calling for his immediate release and standing with our persecuted brothers and sisters," said Rev. Patrick Mahoney, who leads the Christian Defense Coalition.
Mahoney has led several prayer vigils across the country and met with political leaders to try and secure Pastor Abedini's release.
Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, has also been actively involved in Pastor's Abedini's case.
"It's hard to imagine the pressures that souls like Nagmeh and Saeed Abedini endure," Schenck said in a statement released by his office. He reminded people who've prayed for the Abedini family that "they are not super heroes, just regular people facing the same problems we all do, only under extreme circumstances."
Mahoney and Schenck will hold a press conference later on Friday to show their continued support for Pastor Abedini.
"God calls us to stand on principle and justice not personalities," Mahoney said.
Meanwhile, reaction to Naghmeh Abedini's personal family trauma on social media has been mixed.
Robin G., writing on CBN News' Facebook page, said, "Something about his just doesn't feel right in my spirit."
Jan H. wrote, "I'm sad that she didn't keep this private. What is the point in exposing this to the whole world?"
Jenny J. said, "This is absolutely heart breaking. I am shocked."
Nadege S. added, "It is easy to accuse a man who is locked up thousands of miles away in a dungeon."
Meanwhile, another poster, Teresa C., warned people not to judge the Abedini's writing: "We don't know the whole story and it is not for us to know."
The emotional and psychological trauma of enduring a hostage or kidnapping situation can be extremely difficult for families and loved ones involved.
"There's a lot of studies that have shown that families incur post-traumatic stress at the same rate that hostages do," Chris Voss, founder and CEO of The Black Swan Group, a company that solves business negotiations with hostage negotiation strategies said. "The reality is that this is the family's darkest hour."
Voss is a 24-year veteran of the FBI's negotiation team and was the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the agency.
Voss spoke with CBN News' George Thomas about the pressures that prolonged, illegal imprisonment can put on families. Click below to watch the interview.
"When someone is a hostage, the fear and trauma is overwhelming and unending they don't know when it is going to end and it is a really horrifying experience for families," Voss told CBN News from his office in California. "Families are held hostage as much as the hostages are."
In a Washington Post, editorial Naghmeh Abedini wrote about the emotional toll the ordeal was taking on her family.
"The continued imprisonment of Saeed has taken a very emotional and tragic toll on our family," Naghmeh said. "My kids have had to grow up without a father. Saeed has missed so many birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions."
Abedini said since the US and Western countries signed a nuclear deal with Iran, her husband's physical condition has gotten worse.
"Saeed was being beaten and interrogated by Iranian guards in prison," Abedini wrote in the Washington Post. "During that encounter, guards interrogated Saeed and used a stun gun on him. Although there was no detailed information provided, Saeed was told he would face additional new charges, possibly extending his eight-year prison sentence."
Voss says in such cases where a hostage victim endures great physical and psychological torture at the hands of their captors, families back home also feel the pain.
"What we have a tendency to do as human beings is that we imagine it in a very horrific fashion so the people that love him [Pastor Abedini] and the people that care about him are really putting themselves through hell trying to get him out, thinking about what he must be going through. It is truly the families darkest hour," Voss said.
CBN News will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.