More than 460 prayer vigils in 30 countries and territories next week are set to mark the two year anniversary of American pastor Saeed Abedini's imprisonment for his faith in Iran.
"The kids and I are longing to see Saeed returned home safely to us. The kids have been suffering for too long. Our family is ready. It is time," said Naghmeh Abedini, the pastor's wife.
"We are praying for a miracle. My hope is that, as thousands gather together on Sept. 26, our governments and leaders will be reminded of the importance of religious freedom for all and continue to pressure Iran to secure Saeed's release."
The American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Naghmeh and the couple's two young children back in the U.S., noted that it was over 700 days ago that Abedini boarded a flight to Iran, but never came back. The pastor, who was working on an orphanage project in Iran when he was arrested by local authorities, was later sentenced to eight years in prison for his Christian faith.
"Christmas has come and gone twice; he's missed children's birthdays and other family celebrations," the group notes. "After many false hopes that freedom could come, the Boise, Idaho, resident remains imprisoned by the Iranian government on charges related to his Christian faith."
The pastor has faced a number of threats to his life while in prison, including threats from members of the terror group ISIS. In August, the ACLJ reported that jihadists have said they are planning to kill the pastor in Rajai Shahr prison.
Although the ISIS militants are kept in a separate section of the prison ward, they reportedly were able on several occasions to make their way to the pastor's section on their way back from the prison yard, forcing Abedini to hide.
International campaigns have called for the pastor's release, and the highest levels of American office have spoken out on his behalf. President Barack Obama made a historic phone call to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to ask for Abedini's release, a gesture which was praised both by Naghmeh and the ACLJ, but they have called the American president to do more.
"Pastor Saeed has become the face of the persecuted Christian church worldwide, one of many Christians around the world who face imprisonment, beatings and even death for their faith," said Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ executive director.
"As the world's eye turns to violence against Christians in the Middle East, we raise a united voice in urging Iran to free pastor Saeed and grant him clemency. It's time for Saeed to come home."
Naghmeh has spoken before the United Nations and has shared her story on numerous occasions, revealing that her husband's imprisonment has helped her grow and realize important truths about herself.
"I finally learned how to fight my deceptive selfish flesh on a daily basis; every nag, tantrum, despairing thought, and fear," Naghmeh wrote on TrueWoman.com in a post in August. "Before Saeed was thrown into one of the world's worst prisons, I struggled with fear and anxiety. More than anything, I was afraid of flying and speaking in front of people."
The Beheard project website allows people wishing to participate in the upcoming events in support of Abedini to find the closest vigils to where they live and the times they are scheduled to take place.