An Iranian-American pastor released by Iran last weekend is expected back in the U.S. after more than three years in prison there.
Saeed Abedini, who since has been at a U.S. military hospital in Germany, is scheduled to arrive on American soil Jan. 21 evening, according to a Facebook post made Jan. 20 by his wife, Naghmeh Abedini. She described him in “very good condition.”
“Please pray for us as we will be spending weeks or possibly months healing as a family and going through counseling,” Naghmeh Abedini said. She also asked for prayers “that we can heal and move forward united as a family.”
Naghmeh Abedini shocked supporters in November when she said her husband abused her and was addicted to porn.
Saeed Abedini will spend a few days with his parents before his wife and children join him Monday, she said. And, she added, their son Jacob might even get his birthday wish to spend his 8th birthday in March at a Disney theme park with his dad.
The release of Abedini — along with four other Americans — was welcomed by many who had prayed for the freedom of the jailed pastor, many of whom had voiced their support for him on social media since his imprisonment in 2012 with the hashtag #SaveSaeed.
But celebratory tweets from Republican presidential candidates — who had previously criticized President Obama for not doing enough to gain Abedini’s release — were swiftly followed by criticisms of the nuclear deal that appears to have facilitated the prisoner swap.
“In Iran deal we get four prisoners. They get $150 billion, 7 most wanted and many off watch list. This will create great incentive for others!” Donald Trump tweeted.
But Naghmeh Abedini did tweet: “I just had a wonderful call w/ @BarackObama @POTUS ! Our family is so thankful for all the hard work and support in bringing Saeed home.” She also has expressed gratitude to others for their efforts, including Franklin Graham and lawyers at the American Center for Law and Justice.
For Michael Wear, who worked on faith outreach for the White House during Obama’s first term and is now a strategist on faith and politics, it recalls the politics surrounding the case of Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Nadarkhani had been sentenced to death for “apostasy” in the Islamic Republic after converting to Christianity and was later released.
“It was almost the exact same thing — the same type of suggestions that the president wasn’t dong all he could, even though he probably was,” Wear said.
Obama spoke about Abedini at last year’s National Prayer Breakfast, saying “we’re doing everything we can to bring him home.”
Wear acknowledged that the pastor was helped by the prayers and advocacy of people across the United States, including critics of the president.
Still, he said, “To be an effective advocate is not just to critique elected officials when they do something wrong, but applaud them when they accomplish something and do something right.”