Christian leaders are reacting to the news that the wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini is stepping back from publicly advocating for his release from an Iranian jail because of difficulties facing their marriage.
According to Christianity Today, Naghmeh Abedini recently sent emails to supporters explaining the need to withdraw for a time or prayer and rest because of troubles which include "physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse (through Seed's addiction to pornography)." She said the abuse started early in their marriage and has worsened during his imprisonment.
"It is very serious stuff and I cannot live a lie anymore," she wrote, according to CT. "So, I have decided to take a break from everything and seek the Lord on how to move forward." She added that she will continue to pray for her husband's release – and invited her fellow Christians to do the same.
Rev. Dr. Rob Schenck, president and lead missionary of Faith and Action, says the right thing for all Christians to do is to "support them in prayer with our Christian love and concern" and be "very careful to resist the temptation to judge too quickly, to come to conclusions."
"They [Saeed and Nahgmeh] as a unit have done so much to help the church in the West and in free countries to appreciate the cost of the gospel, even if they are far from perfect people," he adds.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which has worked to secure Saeed's release since he was imprisoned in Iran more than three years ago, released the following statement.
"In recent days, Naghmeh ... has revealed that she is dealing with some very serious personal issues inside her family. She has asked for privacy and prayer. We are respecting her request. The ACLJ will not have any comment on the personal issues that she is addressing.
"What we are focused on is this: bringing home an American pastor who has been wrongly imprisoned in Iran because of his faith. We know that Pastor Saeed remains in grave danger in prison where he continues to be beaten and psychologically abused by Iranian guards and remains in need of medical care.
"We continue to pray for Naghmeh, Pastor Saeed, and their family. We will continue our work – in this country and abroad – to secure the freedom of this U.S. citizen."
Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, agrees, saying that regardless of the personal struggles, the fight to free Saeed continues.
"He is unjustly jailed in Iran for his Christian faith, he's being brutalized, he is facing persecution," states Mahoney, "and we must continue to work for his immediate release – [and] of course, the release of the other three Americans being held in Iran – and continue to be a loud voice for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world."
Mahoney says commitment to religious freedom, human rights, and justice is not based on personality but principle.