(CNSNews.com) – Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of jailed Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini, gave a resounding testimony of faith before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday, saying she and her family have been able to endure the pain of his imprisonment in Iran only through “a relationship with God, through the price that Jesus Christ paid on the cross.”
Originally a Muslim, Saeed Abedini converted to Christianity in 2000 and worked to help establish house churches in Iran. He moved to the U.S. in 2005, but was arrested in 2012 while visiting family in Iran. He is now serving an eight-year prison term after being convicted of “crimes against national security.”
Since his arrest, he has been beaten, placed in and out of isolation, transferred to a prison for murderers and infected with lice, his wife told the committee.
“He refuses to deny his Christian faith, and the Iranian government continues to harass him and threaten him with more imprisonment. They’ve put him in and out of solitary to break him,” she said.
“When they release Saeed, they want to make sure they release a very sick person,” Abedini said.
For nearly three years, Saeed Abedini has endured torture and separation from his family simply for being a Christian.
“I came to the United States 30 years ago, and the greatest gift this country gave me was the freedom to choose Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior,” she testified. “And for that I’m forever grateful. And I felt safe. I felt I came to a safe place, a country that would protect me when I would stand up for my freedom, especially religious freedom. And Saeed is in that situation right now.”
Abedini explained how her faith has been her only pillar of strength, helping her and her children to cope with her husband’s imprisonment.
“When you’re going through a trial, the do’s and don’ts of religion can’t do anything for you. It’s only a relationship with God, through the price that Jesus Christ paid on the cross, that you can go through trials of life with peace and strength,” she said.
“No religion can give you that, it has to be a relationship with God. And I believe this is where the blessing of this nation came from. The freedom we have is because of the blessing that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ. Our family has relied on this personal relationship to endure this pain and to overcome our daily worries and concern.”
Abedini recalled the Old Testament account of three Israelites, threatened with death in a fiery furnace for refusing Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s order to bow before an idol.
“As you might know, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had refused to deny and worship other gods, and they were told that they would be put in the fiery furnace,” she said.
“And they say, ‘Oh, king, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God who we serve is able to serve us. He will rescue us from your power. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to your majesty we will never serve your god,’” she quoted from the Bible.
“And this is our situation: Saeed refuses to recant his faith,” she said.
“And they commanded the furnace to be heated more, and in the end, the king says, ‘I see four men unbound, walking in the fire,’” Abedini continued from the biblical account, adding, “The fourth man was Jesus.”
“Jesus has been with us through this fiery furnace and excruciating pain, and it’s difficult to even breathe most days,” she concluded. “But I am here to say that Jesus has been with us through every second of it, with me and my family, and that invitation is open to anyone who wants to receive Him.”
Saeed Abedini is one of three Americans known to be imprisoned in Iran. Amir Hekmati, a former Marine, was arrested in 2011 on allegations of spying for the CIA. Originally condemned to death, his sentence was overturned, although Hekmati continues to be incarcerated.
Iran has also imprisoned Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian since 2014 on charges of espionage. Rezaian’s trial began on May 26, although details have not been made public.
Robert Levinson, an American private investigator and former FBI agent, disappeared from the Iranian island of Kish in 2007. Iran has never admitted to having arrested him.
Later on Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed a bipartisan measure introduced by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) stating that Iran should immediately release the three U.S. citizens it holds – Abedini, Hekmati and Rezaian – and provide all known information on any U.S. citizens who have disappeared within its borders.
As CNSNews.com has reported, the State Department’s release of its congressionally-mandated annual report on human rights around the world, including Iran, is overdue – now by 98 days.
The Obama administration and its P5+1 negotiating partners are hoping to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran by a June 30 deadline.