A petition for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini, the American citizen currently serving eight years in prison in Tehran, Iran, has reached nearly half a million signatures a day before an important congressional hearing concerning his case.
"This is a crucial moment and our best chance yet to spur the United States government into action," said American Center for Law and Justice Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow in a letter.
"We need to send a message. We need 500,000 signatures to help Save Saeed by the time I testify. If you have not signed the petition, please do so now," Sekulow urged.
The ACLJ, which is representing Abedini's wife, Nagmeh, and their two young children in America, has been petitioning for the pastor's release ever since his imprisonment last year and subsequent trial in Iran, which the legal firm called a "sham."
The online petition has so far collected over 490,000 votes, and the law group is hoping it will cross the half million mark by Friday. Sekulow will speak before the U.S. House of Representatives about Pastor Abedini and the persecution many Christians are facing in Muslim-dominated countries. He hopes to inspire action from the congressmen.
Abedini was sentenced by an Iranian judge for "endangering national security," but the ACLJ says that the real reason had more to do with the pastor's Christian faith, his work helping underground churches and building an orphanage for children. He converted to Christianity in 2000.
According to reports, the pastor has been beaten in prison, and has been pressured into converting back to Islam but he has said that he will never deny Christ.
"This nightmare and the plea for my husband's life should cross religious and political barriers," Nagmeh Abedini wrote in a recent letter.
"It should grip all human beings at our heart's core, motivating us to do what is right, to stand up for someone whose human rights are being violated. While Saeed doesn't have a voice to sing to his children, we each have a voice for his freedom; we can make a difference."
The ACLJ is encouraging all believers and everyone concerned with the pastor's life, which is said to be in danger in prison, to spread awareness about his plight.
"Think of three people who care about religious freedom, who care about the persecuted Church. Simply tell them about Pastor Saeed. Tell them about his unwavering courage and faith. Send them to SaveSaeed.org," Sekulow concluded.