Boise & Garden City

Boise pastor ‘hoping and praying for healing and restoration’ in marriage

Despite “great stress” in his marriage, Saeed Abedini said Saturday he loves his wife, Naghmeh, and plans to work on rebuilding their relationship.

In his first public statement since he returned to Idaho on Tuesday, Abedini said he appreciated the national attention Naghmeh brought to his case in encouraging millions of people to pray for his release from the Iranian prison where he was held for more than three and a half years.

“Naghmeh has been a hero to me and suffered enormously as a result of being 7,000 miles away from me and being a single parent to our two precious children while traveling and leading a crusade on my behalf, Abedini wrote in a two-page statement sent to the Idaho Statesman by his sister, Zybandeh Abedini. “I will always love her for her sacrifice.”

Saeed, 35, grew up in Iran and is a former Muslim who converted to Christianity in 2000, moved to Idaho with Naghmeh in 2005 and became a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen in 2010. For some time in Iran, he organized underground “house churches,” where groups of Christians worshiped together.

On a 2009 family visit to Iran, Saeed was detained at the airport and he agreed to cease all house church activities. For the next few years, he traveled back and forth to Iran to build an orphanage. But he was detained again in July 2012 on charges of evangelizing and sentenced to eight years in prison. Saeed, who said he was imprisoned for “being a Christian and refusing to renounce my faith in Jesus Christ,” was released two weeks ago following a prisoner exchange.

In November, Naghmeh Abedini wrote in two emails to supporters that she had suffered physical, emotional and psychological abuse throughout her 11-year marriage. The content of the emails were later shared with the media.

In 2007, Saeed Abedini pleaded guilty to domestic abuse in Ada County Magistrate Court and received a 90-day suspended sentence. He was placed on probation for a year.

On Wednesday, Naghmeh said she regretted having hid from the public what she had lived through. She had hoped that the “horrible situation” her husband went through would bring about a spiritual change in both of them and improve their marriage. But instead, she wrote, Saeed made demands about his public image she felt she couldn’t meet and threatened that if she didn’t carry out his wishes, it would cause the end of their marriage and bring pain to their children.

On Tuesday, the same day Saeed returned to Boise, Naghmeh filed a petition for legal separation in Ada County. She also sought a temporary restraining order to prevent Saeed from taking their young son and daughter out of state or removing property.

“When I arrived there this week I was met with news that she had filed a domestic relations case, apparently in order to ensure our children could remain in the state,” Saeed wrote. “Of course, I had no intention of taking our children away from our home or our state.”

Without providing any specifics, Saeed said that “much of what I have read in Naghmeh’s posts and subsequent media reports” were untrue. He said that while he was a prisoner in Iran, he was unable to respond to her comments and accusations.

“I have chosen not to respond in the two weeks I have been back in America because I believe personal issues are best dealt with personally,” Saeed wrote.

Saeed said he seeks “God’s will” for both he and Naghmeh.

“I am a sinner, saved only by the wonderful grace of God. While I am far from perfect — as a man or as a husband, I am seeking every day to submit to God as He molds me into what He wants me to be,” he wrote.

When he returned to the United States, Saeed spent five days with his parents and sister at a North Carolina retreat operated by the Rev. Franklin Graham. He said he expected Naghmeh and their children to join him there, but they remained in Idaho.

In closing, he said he plans to work on his marriage in private and not speak in public “at least until I believe we have made significant progress in private.” He thanked people for their understanding and support.

“The God I serve today is the same God I served while being interrogated and beaten in some of the harshest prison conditions in the world and He is capable of restoring a marriage that has withstood unbelievable pressure. I ask for prayer for another victory,” he wrote.

Here is Saeed Abedini’s complete statement:

Two weeks ago today I was released from an Iranian prison after being held captive for three-and-a-half years. My crime? Being a Christian and refusing to renounce my faith in Jesus Christ. Throughout my imprisonment my wife Naghmeh drew national attention to my case and encouraged millions of people to pray for my release. God answered those prayers and brought me safely home. Naghmeh has been a hero to me and suffered enormously as a result of being 7,000 miles away from me and being a single parent to our two precious children while traveling and leading a crusade on my behalf. I will always love her for her sacrifice.

Last November, Naghmeh began to write about our marriage on her Facebook page and suspended her public advocacy for me. Her Facebook reports have been widely reported in other media outlets, raising questions about me, and the state of our marriage. As a prisoner in Iran I was not able to respond to her comments and accusations. I have chosen not to respond in the two weeks I have been back in America because I believe personal issues are best dealt with personally.

When I arrived in America I went to the Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina with my parents and my sister, fully expecting Naghmeh and our children to join me there. She chose instead to remain at home in Idaho, and when I arrived there this week I was met with news that she had filed a domestic relations case, apparently in order to ensure our children could remain in the state. Of course, I had no intention of taking our children away from our home or our state.

This latest development, which Naghmeh first made public, leads me to offer this brief statement.

1. Our marriage is under great stress and I am hoping and praying for healing and restoration.

2. I love my wife and want God’s will for both of our lives.

3. I am a sinner, saved only by the wonderful grace of God. While I am far from perfect—as a man or as a husband, I am seeking every day to submit to God as He molds me into what He wants me to be.

4. Much of what I have read in Naghmeh’s posts and subsequent media reports is not true. But I believe we should work on our relationship in private and not on social media or other media. Naghmeh wrote this week, “We are taking personal time to work on very serious personal issues.” I intend to do this hard work in private.

5. The God I serve today is the same God I served while being interrogated and beaten in some of the harshest prison conditions in the world and He is capable of restoring a marriage that has withstood unbelievable pressure. I ask for prayer for another victory.

It is not my intention to speak further publicly—through social media or any other channels—at least until I believe we have made significant progress in private. I thank you for your understanding and support.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell

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