While an Idaho pastor sits in an Iranian prison, his wife, parishioners and human rights advocates took to the steps of the Idaho Statehouse Thursday afternoon to pray for his release.
“This [event] has not built my faith. My faith has always been there," said Phil Debenham, a member of Calvary Chapel congregation. "Jesus said, 'If they persecuted me, how much more will they persecute those who follow me. So we expect it. And it brings us close to [God] because we hurt.”
A year ago Sept. 26, Canyon County minister Saeed Abedini was accused and convicted by the Iranian government of "seeking to thwart state security" and sentenced to serve eight years in an Iranian prison. Abedini had journeyed to Iran in 2012 Iran to finalize work on an orphanage when he was arrested by local authorities.
Jody Gregory, a Boise resident, said Abedini's detainment and persecution makes her anxious about the state of religious freedom in the U.S.
“Through this, more and more people are realizing that Christians are becoming persecuted. And it has been through this persecution in other countries that they have cried out for God, and fought for religious freedom, like we [Americans] did 200 years ago. And we have gotten lazy and complacent,” said Gregory.
Some attendees of of the Statehouse vigil said they still maintained hope for Saeed’s release.
“Sometimes we think we are the only ones who are going through [trials], but in big events like this where everyone comes together you realize how much support there is from people," said Inna Lyaschuck, a Boise resident and member of the Calvary Chapel congregation. "It is not about religion. It is about being united and God.”