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Monday, August 26, 2013

Silent in the face of injustice

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!"
              Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.
               Letter from Birmingham jail
                        April 16, 1963

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 will mark the 50th anniversary of the historic, "I have a dream," speech that was given by Dr.Martin Luther King, jr, at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
In this historic speech, Dr. King prefaced his outcry's against racism with the famous opening line of, "I have a dream" and then spoke of the day when blacks and whites would join hands together instead of at each other's throats. Dr. King dreamed of the day when racial inequality would be a "thing of the past" and America would once again return to its godly roots.
Before this historic speech, Dr. King sat in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama and wrote in a private letter proclaiming that, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Today, my dear Facebook friend, Naghmeh Abedini, had to face a cruel twist in the ongoing injustices committed against her husband in prison in Iran. The Appeals court in Tehran rejected an appeal by Saeed Abedini and refused to reduce his eight-year sentence.
 The news was a devastating blow to Naghmeh and the American Center for law and Justice which is handling her case.  Once again the government of Iran has shown its disregard for the human rights of Saeed by refusing to allow him the God-given right to practice his Christian religion
Yet what is most offensive and troubling about Saeed's case is not only the reckless disregard of Iran to deny his basic human rights. That is expected. Iran treats it's own citizens that way, by imprisoning lawyers, political activists, journalists and bloggers for daring to speak a word of criticism against the brutal regime.
What is unexpected and even more offensive is that President Barack Obama, Commander and Chief of the freest nation on earth, refuses to speak a word of defense for Saeed. He has been utterly silent in the face of injustice. Perhaps if President Obama had publicly denounced the imprisonment of Saeed and demanded that Iran release him unconditionally, the decision today may have been drastically different. Why has our President been reluctant to decry the human rights violations of an American citizen who is rotting away in an Iranian prison? Why does our President speak out for gay basketball players coming out of the closet? Why is he quick to publicly denounce the evils of racism and yet remain silent in the face of evil?
Who will speak out for Saeed? Who will defend Naghmeh and come to her aid?
As I pondered this very sad news today, I was immediately reminded of a dire situation for Jehoshaphat in the Book of Chronicles in the Bible.
The armies of the Ammonites, Moabites and Menunites had declared war on King Jehoshaphat. Terrified by the news, Jehoshaphat sought guidance from the Lord and ordered an immediate fast. Soon after the prayer, The spirit of the Lord fell upon Jahaziel who gave a message of encouragement to the people.
  "Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem. Listen King Jehospsohat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but the Lord's!"
These are incredible words of encouragement. Naghmeh is facing the battle of her life to free her husband and God is saying, "Naghmeh, don't be discouraged by armies that are against you. This is my battle!"
The armies of Jehoshaphat did not stand by idle. The next morning they went out to face their enemies and sang praises about the greatness of their God. God kept his promise and brought confusion among the armies and they ended up attacking each other. He confounded the enemies of Israel and brought a mighty victory to King Jehoshaphat.
In the midst of this terrible injustice God is reminding us that he is Sovereign, 
that He is still in control. The Battle is His!
 In one month, on September 26, there will be a worldwide prayer vigil for Saeed and all Christians enduring persecution for their faith. I believe as we go out and gather at our state capitols in obedience to God, that He will speak to the government of Iran.
He is calling us to rest in his faithfulness because He is God and the battle ultimately is His!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Yours is the voice they need to hear!"

"Believe that yours is the voice that needs to be heard!"
  Erika Harold, former Miss America 2003
  speech at SGC, August 10, 2013

Standing up for the rights of women in Iran is a blessed priority in my life. Almost every day on Facebook, I put up postings speaking out against the injustices and the violation of human rights against my friends in Iran. Being their voice to the world is the joy of my life.
One year ago, I published my epic book, "The Rose of Nowruz: dreams of hope and freedom," and sent over 200 pdf files of the book to my dear Iranian friends, including human rights organizations in in both Canada and Iran. The Rose of Nowruz is the story of a young woman concert violinist who has finally seen enough injustices committed against her friends and rises up to become an activist!
Writing a book is one avenue to get the message of my friends out to the world and make a difference in their lives. Just recently, another avenue opened up for me to talk about my Iranian friends to other people. My wife Becky and I traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana to attend the Smart Girls Political Summit. Smart Girls Politics is a nationwide online Conservative movement, empowering women to connect their political convictions with the culture. The Summit featured many inspiring speakers who shared their experiences in order to motivate and empower other women to make a difference in the culture around them. One such motivating speaker was Miss Erika Harold. 
Erika Harold had the enormous privilege of being crowned Miss America in 2003. A graduate of Harvard Law school, Erika worked hard to rise up and be a voice to her generation. I had the honor to spend a few minutes speaking with Erika and sharing with her the story of my friends in Iran and their struggle for equal rights and freedom. She was saddened to hear of their plight for freedom, but promised to read their story that I wrote about them.
In her excellent speech at the summit  Erika stressed the importance of being a role model in order to transform the lives of those around us. She shared about her involvement with the late Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship ministries, taking the message of her Christian faith to the inmates on death row. For Erika, the gift of religious freedom, is a gift that we should never take for granted.
Erika admonished women to, "not let the fear of failure keep you from the destiny that you were created to be," and concluded by saying, "Believe that yours is the voice that needs to be heard!"
The inspiring and motivating speech that Erika gave that day reminded me of what true freedom can do to empower women. I immediately connected with what Erika said to my friends in Iran. They too desire to be empowered, to be free, to have true religious freedom. They also have a voice that others need to hear.
I believe Erika is an excellent role model for my Iranian friends. She has truly been privileged to realize her dreams in a country blessed with freedom. She is moving on now from being Miss America to aspiring to be the next congress woman in Illinois's 13th district.
Religious freedom, self empowerment and being a voice for others in their culture are the dreams of my Iranian friends. My friends long for the day to finally be free from government oppression. They long for the day to wear the clothes they want to wear and to say whats on their minds without the fear
 of imprisonment.
God bless you Erika for taking the time to listen to the story of my friends. I pray that your achievements will make a difference in their lives so that they can one day too realize their dreams.

Monday, August 19, 2013

"Embracing your trials."

"When trouble comes your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
 For you know that when your faith is tested,
 you endurance has a chance to grow."
                          James 1: 2-3

I think all of us would agree that life is filled with tests, trials, sorrows and disappointments. Whether it is the loss of a job, the death of a loved one or facing a life-threatening illness like cancer, none of us are exempt from the everyday trials and tribulations that find a way to interrupt our hectic lives.
Suffering and trials will come our way and the question is, how will we respond to them?
My Facebook friend, Naghmeh Abedini says that we should embrace our trials.
Embrace our trials? Most of us, if we were honest, would rebel at such a proposition. It's human nature to want to run from trials and avoid them. Trials interrupt our comfort zone, creating chaos and fear, and our first reaction is to run from them, not embrace them.
Recently, Naghmeh Abedini was a guest on my live blog talk radio program, "The Cross in the desert." Naghmeh is the wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is suffering for his Christian Faith in Evin Prison in Iran. 
Naghmeh knows first hand what trials and tribulations are all about. She has been separated from her husband for over a year now and is left to raise their two beautiful children, Rebekah and Jacob. Her life has been turned upside down, but Naghmeh has chosen to face her circumstances head on without fear. Instead of running away from the pain and suffering, Naghmeh has boldly faced her trials by fully trusting in Christ. She has been very busy appearing at churches, media outlets, tv programs, to fight for her husband's freedom and speak out for the human rights of persecuted Christians all over the world. Through the incredible support from her Facebook friends, Naghmeh has organized a nationwide prayer vigil for her husband and all persecuted Christians, that will take place on September 26.
When I asked Naghmeh how she coped and handled the pressures of trials, she immediately responded by proclaiming that, "we should embrace our trials instead of running from them." When we embrace our trials, our faith and endurance will grow. This will be a great testimony to the watching world of the power of Christ in our lives. We can be an encouragement and example to others of what the Word of God is doing in our lives when we embrace our trials."
 Naghmeh is right! This is what the Scriptures teach. James admonishes us in the midst of trials to, "consider it an opportunity for great joy."
Why would James instruct is to be embrace our trial with joy? Trials are anything but joyful. Sometimes they are very painful.
James gives us the reason to have a joyful attitude, he says, "when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow."
Trials "perfect" our faith and draw us closer to dependence on God. Without trials, our faith would not have an opportunity to grows. Let's face it! Trials reveal if our faith is genuine and for the Christian that is a very important test to pass!
 The writer of Hebrews declared that, "
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross..." (Hebrews 12:3)
How could the pain and agony of the cross be an occasion for joy? The cross was an instrument of cruel death! Yet Jesus embraced his suffering and trial, knowing that his sacrificial death would bring salvation for the world.
On the night before his suffering, during prayer, Jesus cried out to his father in agony, "If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me."
 Was Jesus afraid? Why did he pray that? Because on the cross, he would be bear the wrath of God for our sins and be separated from his father, something he had never experienced before.
Yet Jesus embraced his suffering, he didn't run away or cower in fear. The next part of the verse says, "Yet I want your will to be done, not mine!" (Matthew 27:39)
 Jesus submitted to his trial. He embraced it. The result was our salvation.
Naghmeh is a beautiful example of her Savior, Jesus. She has embraced her trials knowing that God has a purpose and plan for her suffering. She is a great example of "grace under pressure" to all of her friends.
 All of us can learn a valuable example from Naghmeh's patient endurance. Trials are never easy, but we have a perfect Savior who embraced them and because of that, we can now have an intimate relationship with God.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Hassan Rouhani, Iran's new president: A moderate or a murderer?

My dear friend, Nasrin Mohammadi recently wrote an article concerning the installation of Iran's new president.
Here is her revealing article in her own words about who Rouhani really is!

 I was born and raised in Iran under a regime that has degraded my nation and our values in life. 
As a person who lost almost everything in her life in Iran, It breaks my heart to see that the US. Government ignores all values which our nation cherishes and plays a double standard with respect to other nations, specifically Iran.
It was so disappointing to see over 130 congressmen sign up for a talk with Islamic president Rouhani (so called president elect). I say “so called,” because there is no democratic election in Iran. Iranians are coerced to go to the voting polls under the threat that if they don’t they could lose their government benefits.
What were the reasons for your desperate
 measures? Don’t you know who Rouhani is? He was one of the major players in oppressing Iranian dissidents from the early time of the revolution up to now.
Nobody knows better than me who lost her Brother (Akbar Mohammadi), arrested under Rouhani’s direct order and later killed in prison after serving seven years of incarceration.
Akbar was a non-violent political and human right activist, a voice of hope and freedom,  while studying at Tehran University.
Akbar was a caring person. He could not bear injustice and cruelty. He would donate his last pennies to others if he knew that they were in need.
Akbar was a brave, generous and a caring person.
On July 9th 1999, Akbar along with some friends tried to stop the security forces from entering the campus that were attacking students. 
According to the recent article wrote by one of his cell mates, a prominent political prisoner Heshmat Tabarzadi said of Akbar  that, “he had three outstanding characteristics which made him the symbol of the student resistancae: bravery, truthfulness and resistance”
Tabarzadi also added that on his bravery it suffices to say when he was sentenced to death at the beginning of his trial; he started to prosecute the judge by undermining his legitimacy and made it the trial of the judge.                        
 Akbar never exaggerated the extent of the tortures he endured.  He never recanted his beliefs or convictions while undergoing the most barbaric of tortures.
On July 30th 2006 Akbar finally died as the result of torture on the 8th day of his hunger strike.
Political prisoners along with student movement in Iran designated July 30 as, “National Student Resistance Day.”
Rouhani is one of the major players in killing Akbar and thousands more of Iranian people, while serving as the director of the National security.
Rouhani is now being inaugurated on the same day that he ordered the killing of Yaghoub Mehr Nahad, the first blogger in August of 2008.
The Late Mehr Nahad was a journalist, and the editor of the Mardom Salar news paper in Sistan and Balouchestan. He was hanged five years ago.
At the end I would like to say to Mr. President Obama that Iranian American people are watching those friends in need who are friends in deed.

"We are not your enemy: putting a face on real Iranians!"

"I feel bad when I see that most Americans don't know
 about the real Iran.....

When you think about Iran, what are the first images that come to your mind?
Is is images of a hostile crowd holding up, "death to America" signs? Or is it terrorists who are "hell-bent" on the destruction of Israel and all other western nations? 
Most of our conception and images of Iran are connected with the ongoing "media" coverage of the impending nuclear showdown between Iran and Israel. But is that really who Iran is?
Arezoo Hosseini, a 25 year old Nurse living in the city of Isfahan, laments the fact that most Americans don't know much of anything about the real Iran.
Arezoo is my dear online Facebook friend, that I regularly chat with. Recently when we met online, I informed Arezoo that I'm now doing a live blog talk radio program, speaking out for  the freedom and human rights all of my Iranian friends. When Arezoo heard about this, she became very excited and asked me if I would share with my listening audience who the real Iranians are. I promised her I would do just that and asked her if she would take some time to write a short story putting a face on real Iranians. Within two days, Arezooo sent me her response. As I began to read her short story, I was truly touched by her honesty and kindness. Arezoo made it very clear that she was not speaking for her government, but instead speaking up for all Iranians. Arezoo declared, "We love you Americans. We are not Terrorists!"
 I can honestly testify that Arezoo's declaration that, "Iranians love Americans"
  is absolutely true! I have spent over two years online chatting with Iranians! They are my best friends in the world! They are kind, hospitable and very respectful. They are not at all like the "hate crowd" that is portrayed by the ratings driven media. The real Iranian is a person who loves my country. They are desperate for the hope and freedom that is offered by America. The media is guilty of focusing on the nuclear showdown between Iran and Israel and ignores the desperate plight of the average Iranian living under the fear and oppression of a government who daily controls their lives.
Iranians are dear to my heart. I chat with them, pray with them and sometimes even cry with them.
These are real people with real hurts, frustrations and needs just like you and me. They want to be recognized for who they really are. 
The best way to put a face on the real Iranian is to let Arezoo tell you herself. The following short story is plea from the heart of Arezoo for us to get to know the real Iran:

"I feel bad when I see that most Americans don't know about the real Iran.
 They don't even know where Iran is located!
They don't even know that Iranians are the old Persians.
I'm not talking for my government. I am speaking for my people.
We love you Americans! We love all of the people living on this planet!
We are not your enemy! We are not terrorists!
We are the people who love humanity and fight for freedom.
We are not Arabs. We have our own history.
We are the great "children of Cyrus" who freed the slaves more than 2500 years ago and wrote the first charter of "human rights" for the nations of the world (The Cyrus Cylinder)
If you like poetry, Iran will be the best choice for you!
Here is the land of two great poets, Hafez and Khayam.
If you like history, Iran will be exciting for you. You can visit places that have existed for more than 7000 years.
I am sure that you will love Iranians. We are a people of great honesty and hospitality.

Arezoo's short little story touches me deeply. She wants to put a face on who Iranians really are and destroy the common stereotypes that are created by the media.
On my next blog talk radio program, I intend to read her story and be her voice!
I hope very soon one day that Americans will get to know the real Iranians.
They deserve our love and respect and most of all our prayers!