Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of wrongfully imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini, has been traveling the world meeting with leaders asking them to pressure the Iranian government for her husband’s release with the help of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
JBS News writer, Jason Wert, recently had the honor of interviewing Tiffany Barrans of the ACLJ. Barrans has been at Naghmeh’s side since 30 hours after Saeed was imprisoned by the Iranians and has traveled with Naghmeh around the world.
Tiffany spoke with USA Headline News about their travels and the reception of world leaders, including a trip last week to the European Parliament, Germany and then yesterday in front of the U.S. Congress.
Q: What kind of reception did you receive from European Leaders?
Barrans: We had an incredible reception both at the European Parliament and with every member of the German government that we met. Individuals at the Foreign Ministry, the top leaders, the people in the party who were second in command to Chancellor Angela Merkel.
It is always amazing to me how in touch Europe is with the issues of religious freedom in particular and more broadly with human rights. And they look for ways to make sure their actions match their words. Something I hope we can improve upon here in the United States! We truly had a great reception from everybody.
Q: Given that America and Europe do not have the best relationship right now, have you found some countries do not want to become involved because Saeed is an American?
Barrans: It’s always a touchy subject, obviously. There are some countries that hesitate to get involved because he is an American. Sometimes it’s related to their relationship with the American government and sometimes it’s because they’re concerned he may have been a spy!
Luckily for us, the Iranian government came out very quickly in their state controlled media and said that [Saeed] was not being considered a spy so we can quickly nip that one and move on.
Germany in particular, the Netherlands has been great as well, has a real heart for those who have been persecuted for their faith and have been active in this field.
Q: This may seem out of left field, but do you think perhaps the legacy of the Holocaust is what contributes to Germany’s passion for religious freedom?
Barrans: I don’t think that’s out of left field, I think that’s right on! A lot of them would even admit that themselves. There are so many in current generations that centuries of trying to right that wrong are necessary and even then, you can’t. So they’re very sensitive to those who are persecuted, on religious grounds in particular. It’s also in many businesses whose equipment was used for medical experiments. So that’s why you see Germany taking a lead on religious freedom issues.
Q: How is Naghmeh holding up?
Barrans: I’ve been with Naghmeh since 30 hours after her husband was taken the summer of 2012. So I’ve walked with her very closely through this process. It never ceases to amaze me the strength that the Lord gives her. It truly is a divine thing for her to walk in peace.
I see those moments when we travel together, when we’re tired, when something bad happens when I get that 3:30 in the morning call when she’s broken because she’s human just like the rest of us. But her faith has always encouraged me and strengthened my faith, to be honest.
It’s hard for me to watch her to have to console her two young children who fear when she leaves to advocate for Saeed and to bring their daddy home that they’re concerned that she won’t come home. That like their daddy she will go to do good and not come home.
But her faith always encouraged me.
Q: We spoke with Naghmeh after she met with the President in Idaho about her husband’s situation and how the President told her son that he would try to bring him home by his birthday.
Barrans: Naghmeh tells the story of six-year-old Jacob, her son, at his birthday in March. When he met the President at the end of January he said “Mister President, will you bring my daddy home for my birthday?” And the President looked him in the eye and said “Well son, when’s your birthday?” and Jacob said “March 17th!” You know, a very strong little boy. And the President said “oh, that’s very soon but I will try, I will try.”
In the heart and the mind of a little boy, if I can speak with the President of the United States then of course my daddy is coming home. And he woke up on March 17th on his birthday and he ran around the house looking for his daddy and his hopes were just crushed when he wasn’t there.
You think of it through the experience of a child that age and realize that he’s lived almost half of his life without his father. It’s very difficult and then imagine being the mom who is missing her husband and trying to insure that her children are still living a life that is whole and complete when something so large is missing.
Q: Naghmeh spoke before a Congressional committee on Tuesday. What kind of reception did she receive from the committee?
Barrans: I have never seen a Congress so unified on something to be quite honest. Religious liberty is something that they should be, to be quite honest. But as you had the family members of the four held captive in Iran and the pain they experience there was such an incredible reaction from Congress.
You saw Democrats, in some cases for the first time, asking how they can consent to the nuclear deal and trust Iran with something as important as a nuclear deal when they’re violating their own law and international law very publicly by holding these Americans?
That’s incredible in that we haven’t necessarily heard that before loudly from the party but it was great to see the Dems taking that position as well as the Republicans at the hearing.