6 On Your Side was able to sit down with Boise Pastor Saeed Abedini. He was freed from an Iranian prison this January after spending more than three years behind bars. Abedini was sentenced to 8 years for undermining national security by setting up home churches. Below is a transcript from part of the interview by reporter Jake Melder.
Melder: Going back to the night of your arrest in Iran, can you describe the night for me? What were you doing, what was it like and the events maybe 24 hours after your arrest?
Abedini: Everybody was sleeping. They woke up and we saw the guard come in. They took me to the prison, which was five miles from my parents’ house - Evin Prison. And they put me in solitary for a month.
M: What was that month like being in solitary confinement?
A: After a week, I couldn't remember any face or any voice of my children and wife at all. That actually scared me at first. What happened to me? I was meditating and trying to remember some memories. I couldn't do anything. It was just nothing.
M: What sort of communication were you able to have, particularly with your family back here in Boise?
A: Legally, the Iranian government and prison didn't let me make any phone calls, send any letter out to my family in the U.S. but illegally - like buying drugs in prison - you could buy cell phones. So I got a cell phone. The first year I just got ten minutes, twenty minutes a night. When all the guards are sleeping I go under the blankets and start talking - just to encourage my wife. I knew she was going to be in a hard situation, especially to get connected with my kids.
M: When you were faced with the abuse and the threats, the calls to reject Christ, what was your anchor? What kept you grounded in your faith and standing strong in your faith?
A: Looking to the cross. When I compare my situation with Jesus Christ on the cross it was like 'this is nothing.'
M: During your imprisonment, I understand there were other Christians you came across. Were you able to have some sort of a fellowship and a community there?
A: It was a good time to share the Gospel. So many people turned to Christ. Everywhere I went I found brothers in Christ. I'm so glad God used me to share the Gospel with people that can never come out of prison, but now they are free because they are in Christ.
M: Was there any time when you had low moments? Maybe you felt drained or that hope had fled.
A: Sure. I'm human. There had been times when I missed my children and my family. Every time I saw my mom - they beat me twice in front of my mom. Every week when my parents came I saw their tears and how the guards treat them very badly. So there were heartbreaking times. But every time I saw myself under all that pressure, it was interesting to see the Holy Spirit inside me trying to encourage me and help me stand up. Outside, everything was just dark but inside I could see the light of God inside me encouraging me and nourishing and cherishing me.
Tomorrow night, 6 On Your Side will air the second part of the interview with Pastor Saeed. He discusses the adjustment to life back in America and what he calls trials harder than what he faced imprisoned in Iran.