President Barack Obama met on Wednesday with Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of imprisoned Pastor Saeed Abedini, and their two children in Boise, Idaho. Abedini said that she had been praying a long time for such a meeting, while Obama promised the family to do all he can to bring the pastor home.
"I am extremely thankful the president took the time to meet with our family and told us that securing the release of my husband is a top priority," Naghmeh Abedini said following the meeting.
"The president was focused and gracious — showing concern to me and my children. I know that this meeting could not have occurred without prayer, and I am grateful to the many people around the country and world who continue to pray for Saeed's release. The president repeated his desire to do all that he can to bring Saeed home. That means the world to me and my children and has given me a renewed sense of hope."
Pastor Abedini is serving an eight-year sentence in Iran, after having been arrested in September 2012 while working on an orphanage. The American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Naghmeh Abedini and the couple's children, has said that the pastor, who was born in Iran but became an American citizen, is being punished for his Christian faith.
During the meeting, which occurred in an office at Boise State University, Obama promised 6-year-old Jacob and 8-year-old Rebekka that he will do all that he can to bring their father home. Abedini told Obama that she prays for him, and believes that their meeting is a result of fasting and prayer.
When Obama announced that he will be visiting Boise this week, Abedini wrote him a letter expressing her hopes that he will decide to meet with her.
"My heart leapt with hope when I heard that you would be visiting my hometown of Boise, Idaho. Since the Iranian government took my husband, Saeed Abedini, almost three years ago, I have been praying and wanting to meet with you," the letter read.
The ACLJ noted that during the meeting Jacob asked Obama the question: "Mr. President, can you please bring daddy home for my birthday?" Obama then asked the young boy when his birthday is, and after Jacob told him it is on March 17, the president promised he will make every effort to grant his wish.
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have joined together in prayer and signed petitions calling on Iran to release Abedini, who has faced beatings and other mistreatment while in prison. Obama has spoken to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over the phone about freeing the pastor, but the ACLJ has said that more must be done if that goal is to become a reality.
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, said that the law group is grateful that Obama took the time to meet Abedini's family.
"Pastor Saeed has been wrongly imprisoned for nearly two and a half years. He has been separated from his wife and children. The pain experienced by the Abedini family is impossible to imagine. The meeting between President Obama and the Abedini family is a very welcomed development," Sekulow reflected.
"It demonstrates the president's concern and compassion for this family. It also underscores the importance of Pastor Saeed's case, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran merely because of his Christian faith. The face-to-face meeting elevates pastor Saeed's plight on the world stage — and should send a powerful message to the Iranians — it is time to release pastor Saeed so he can return home to his family."