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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Shadi Paveh: A compassionate "voice for the voiceless."

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves:
ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice."
       (Proverbs 31:8-9)

A continuous, reoccurring theme in the Bible is standing up for the oppressed and seeking justice for the helpless. As a Christian, this is the passion of my heart and in particular, I have this passion for my friends in Iran. 
Recently on my "Cross in the Desert" radio program, I had the privilege of interviewing Shadi Paveh, a prominent Iranian human rights activist, who shares the same passion that I have in speaking up for the hopeless and oppressed. Shadi is a witness to the inhumane torture and oppression of people having grown up in Iran during the 1979 Revolution.
One of the most painful experiences she experienced was saying goodbye to her father at the airport in Tehran. Her father was a military man under the Shah and was involved in a coup to overthrow Ayatollah Khomeini, the new dictator of Iran. Shadi vividly remembers her father telling her that if the coup was successful she would see him again and if not, she wouldn't. "There are some things worth dying for, "Her father proclaimed to her. Unfortunately that was the last time that Shadi saw her father. He and many other generals were later executed by Khomeini.
The unjust treatment of religious minorities in Iran
and particularly the Baha'i Faith, was the catalyst for Shadi to begin her campaign for human rights. Today she is busily involved in translating documents and letters from political and religious prisoners in Iran in order to expose their gross human rights violations and make them known to the world.
Shadi explained the emotional toll the letters she translates has on her and described how she finds herself weeping and sobbing for hours over their horrible conditions.
One prisoner urged her in a letter to tell the world that since Hassan Rouhani, the new president in Iran has taken office, the conditions in the prisons have worsened. Shadi pointed out that there are now approximately ten executions a day, instead of ten a month, since the installation of the new president. 
The conditions in the prisons are deplorable according to Shadi. There are 60 to 80 prisoners crammed in a small room together with no beds or pillows. Therefore the prisoners are forced to sleep on the floor together. Prisoners have no access to medicine. Many of them will die from infections and poisoned food if they don't first die from the continuous beatings and tortures that regularly occur almost every day.
When I asked Shadi how does she emotionally cope after reading about suffering and evil in Iran, she responded by saying that every time she receives a letter she prays and asks strength from God.
Despite the 34 years of grotesque crimes that the Iranian government has committed against its people, Shadi still has hope for a "Free Iran," one day. She believes that democracy and peace can only be achieved through forgiveness and hope. "Goodness always triumphs over evil," according to Shadi.
Being a "voice for the voiceless" is near and dear to my heart and Shadi Paveh exemplifies this is in so many wonderful ways. She approaches her job with much humility and grace with no intent to harbor hatred against the most vile of offenders. In our interview she continually emphasized forgiveness.
Forgiveness is what Jesus taught us to do when persecuted by our enemies. Forgiveness and mercy is who God is!
Shadi doesn't receive an income for her tireless work. She spends endless hours translating letters and being a voice for the hurting and oppressed. She remembers where she came from and has dedicated her time, life and energy to those who cannot speak up for themselves.
I truly respect and admire this courageous woman. Like her father told her for the last time, "Shadi, there are some things worth dying for."
Shadi has taken the last words of her father and given her life as he did in standing up for the voiceless. God is calling us to do the same. Will you be a voice today?