Rev. Rob Schenck, who has worked with a team of Christian leaders seeking the release of Iranian born American pastor Saeed Abedini imprisoned in Tehran, said he was moved to tears at today’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington after President Barack Obama told attendees he joins in prayer on behalf of Pastor Saeed and called for his immediate release.
The President said from the podium at the Washington D.C. Hilton, “We pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini who’s been held in Iran for more than 18 months, sentenced to eight years in prison on charges relating to his Christian beliefs, and as we continue to work for his freedom today, again we call on the Iranian government to release Pastor Abedini so he can return to the loving arms of his wife and children in Idaho.”
The President’s statement comes just days after Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition spoke face to face with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about Abedini’s plight, and after prior meetings involving Schenck and others with State Department personnel, including former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney said, “The conversation I just had with a member of the President’s inner circle appears to have gotten through and for that I’m very grateful. There is more of this story to be told, but for now we pray the President’s call for Pastor Saeed’s release will prove immediately effective. The President is only reflecting what millions of Americans and others around the world have prayed for and demanded for too long. It’s time for Iran to act and free this innocent man… The faith community applauds President Obama for publicly standing for religious freedom and human rights.”
Rev. Schenck said, “This is the breakthrough so many have hoped for, prayed for, and worked for, for so long. This call by the President needed to happen. We are enormously relieved to hear it and thank the President for taking a risk in saying it publicly.”