By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
TEHRAN/WASHINGTON (BosNewsLife)-- An Iranian American pastor jailed in Iran for his Christian activities faced a tense weekend after family members and supporters around the world remembered the 2nd anniversary of his imprisonment.
Saeed Abedini, 34, already received threats from Islamic militants who plan to kill him in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, according to Christians with close knowledge about his situation.
September 26 marked two years of Saeed's imprisonment, prompting Christians to hold hundreds of vigils around the world, including outside the White House in Washington, where hundreds of people were seen calling for his release.
His wife, Naghmeh Abedini, said he is serving an eight year prison sentence "for Jesus" and urged prayers for him and all Christians suffering for their faith.
Reading from a letter that Saeed wrote to his daughter Rebekah she recalled that he shared with her how to understand and persevere through trials.
SUFFERING FOR CHRIST
"People die and suffer for their Christian faith all over the world and some may wonder 'why?' But you should know the answer of WHY is WHO. It is for Jesus. He is worth the price," he wrote.
Saeed's children led the prayer vigil in one of their dad's favorite songs, singing that Jesus is worth the price that their dad is paying, according to a video release by advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC).
Jesus is "altogether lovely, altogether worthy, altogether wonderful to me," Saeed's children sang, echoing the words of their father.
The Iranian-born evangelical pastor, who settled in Idaho, was detained September 26, 2012 during a visit to Iran's capital Tehran where he was helping to build an orphanage.
He was given an 8 year sentence for evangelizing and attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam. Christians also linked the prison sentence to his decision to abandon Islam and embrace the Christian faith, some 14 years ago.
His family said it has become increasingly concerned about the alleged lack of medical treatment in prison and reports of death threats from Islamic State militants being held in the same facility.
The Vatican has also expressed concern about his situation, with Vatican Radio covering an ecumenical service in Rome held in the Italian Methodist Church on Via XX Settembre.
“The kids and I are longing to see Saeed returned home safely to us," said the pastor's wife Naghmeh Abedini. "The kids have been suffering for too long. Our family is ready, it is time."
Several other Iranian evangelical Christians also face possible death in prison, including Pastor Behnam Irani who already is serving a six-year prisin sentence on what his supporters view as trumped-up charges of "crimes against national security".
Irani and fellow detained pastor Matthias Haghnejad and Christian Silas Rabbani, all of the same Church of Iran movement, were recently told they would be prosecuted for the death-sentence carrying charge of "Mofsed-e-filarz” or "spreading corruption on earth", BosNewsLife reported earlier.
Iranian Christians say the detentions are part of a wider crackdown on devoted Christians in the strict Islamic nation amid concerns among officials about the spread of Christianity among Muslims.