The American Center for Law and Justice, the law group that raised awareness and started petitions signed by millions calling for the freedom of Pastor Saeed Abedini, says it's grateful that he's finally been released, and urged the focus to move on to the many other persecuted Christians around the world.
"From our involvement in Pastor Saeed's case more than three years ago, our goal was two-fold: keep Pastor Saeed alive in one of the world's most dangerous prisons — and work to secure his release. To accomplish that, we implemented a three-point strategy," ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said in a statement to The Christian Post on Monday.
"First, we wanted to get the State Department engaged. Secondly, we knew that we had to work with the international community as well. And, finally, here at home, we knew that it was vital to get members of Congress involved in the fight to free Pastor Saeed," Sekulow explained.
Abedini, who was imprisoned in Iran for over three years because of his Christian faith, was released alongside three other Americans by the government of Iran over the weekend.
News of the pastor's long-hoped for freedom has been welcomed by American politicians, including President Barack Obama, though some, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have criticized the prisoner swap that allowed it to happen.
Sekulow did not comment on the political issues surrounding the release of the four Americans, but said that the ACLJ is grateful both for the pastor's release, and for the more than 1 million people who signed petitions and offered prayers for the cause.
"The fact is the release of Pastor Saeed — and the other Americans — should not have taken this long. We should have secured their release before we even began negotiating with the Iranians," he added.
"With the release of Pastor Saeed, this case comes to a close. Our attention is now focused on the plight of numerous other persecuted Christians around the world. As we rejoice that Pastor Saeed is now free, we continue our work to protect Christians under attack because of their faith."
Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of the newly released pastor, has been speaking out on social media about the overwhelming developments of the past couple of days, and also expressed gratitude to all who have helped raise awareness for her husband's case.
"I wanted to say thank you to all of you for having prayed and have wept with us, have signed petitions and have called your government officials. Thank you for having stood with our family during this difficult journey," Abedini wrote, going on to thank Obama, the Rev. Franklin Graham, and the many other political and faith figures that have stood by her family.
The Boise mother of two, who traveled the country and spoke at numerous events, including at Congress, advocating for more engagement in Christian persecution cases, also expressed how deeply she appreciated all the ACLJ has done for her family.
"They did not stop and they did not give up until Saeed was brought home safely. They worked tirelessly. I cannot express my gratitude enough. They are a gift from God in my life," Abedini wrote.