17-June-2013 -- Catholic News Agency |

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Worldwide Protests Push For Human, Religious Rights In Iran

(http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=27443)

WASHINGTON D.C., June 14 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Grassroots activists gathered at the Iranian Embassies across the world on June 13 to protest human rights violations in Iran, particularly the imprisonment of American citizen, Pastor Saeed Abedini.

According to Tiffany Barrans of the American Center for Law and Justice, activists in Washington, D.C., "held up signs saying 'release Pastor Saeed' as they stood in quiet support of religious freedom for all."

"Messages were drawn on the sidewalk with chalk, reminding passers-by that Pastor Saeed is 'in prison for his faith' and calling on Iran to release him," Barrans said in an online post.

The peaceful protests, titled "Standing together for Human Rights in Iran," occurred not only in the U.S., but throughout the world, in front of Iranian embassies, consulates and protectorates in countries including Hungary, Egypt, Sweden and Germany.

In the United States, which has cut formal ties with Iran, the protest occurred in front of the Pakistani Embassy, which has served as a meeting ground for the two governments in the past.

The protest was organized by Naghmeh Abedini, whose husband, Saeed, is a Christian pastor currently imprisoned in Iran.

Although he was born and raised as a Muslim in Iran, Pastor Abedini converted to Christianity in 2000 and drew the ire of the government for his work with underground churches in the country.

He eventually reached an agreement with the regime in which he could travel freely in the country so long as he did not work with the churches.

Instead, he turned his focus to non-religious orphanages. During a September 2012 trip to visit these orphanages, he was arrested and charged with threatening national security for his previous work with the churches.

While in prison, Abedini has reportedly faced harsh conditions, including severe beatings, a lack of medical care, restricted access to his family and solitary confinement.

However, he has refused to recant his Christian beliefs, instead asking for continued prayers.

The American Center for Law and Justice has been working to raise international awareness of Abedini's imprisonment and says that it has gathered "over 600,000 signatures demanding Pastor Saeed's release from individuals all across the globe."

It has also sought for greater action on the part of the U.S. government, highlighting the fact that the imprisoned pastor has been a U.S. citizen for several years and lived with his wife and children in Idaho before the trip to Iran during which he was arrested.

The global protests took place a week before Iran's elections. According to the American Center for Law and Justice, this international cry for a focus on human rights is hoping to send a "powerful message at a time when Iran is listening."

"These events have been a tremendous success and take Pastor Saeed's case directly to Iranian officials. Iran now knows the world is watching, demanding Saeed's freedom and the end of human rights abuses," noted Barrans.

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