Republican Sen. James Risch of Idaho has sent the Iranian people a message ahead of the presidential elections on Friday, reminding them of the imprisoned Pastor Saeed Abedini and pledging America's support in their search for freedom and democracy.
"An American citizen from my hometown of Boise, Idaho, Pastor Saeed Abedini, is currently being held in the Evin prison for practicing his faith and helping children in your country," Idaho's 28th Senator says in a 54-second video, which is also dubbed in the Farsi language. "For this and many other reasons, the citizens of America support your hope for freedom and democracy and wish you well as you find the path to a brighter future."
Pastor Abedini has been held in an Iranian prison ever since being arrested in September 2012 while he was working on an orphanage for children. He was later sentenced to 8 years in prison, supposedly for endangering national security. But the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents his wife, Naghmeh, and two children back in the U.S., has said that the sentence has more to do with the pastor's Christian faith.
Sen. Risch's message is airing in Iran through Voice of America, the official broadcast channel of the U.S. government, in hopes that it will reach citizens as they get ready to cast votes on Friday and select the successor of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
BBC News noted that the Islamic country stands at a crossroads as it prepares to choose between six candidates for the position, after the eight years of Ahmadinejad's rule has been marked by economic turmoil and growing tensions against Western countries over Iran's nuclear program.
In the meantime, efforts around the world continue to call for Abedini's release. The U.S. pastor has been denied proper medical care while in prison, and was punished earlier this year for protesting against this treatment by being thrown into solitary confinement along with several other prisoners.
Throughout his trials, Abedini has held fast to his Christian faith, even when officials threatened to increase his sentence if he did not renounce Christ.
"My response to them is Romans 8:35-39. The reality of Christian living is that difficulties or problems do arise in our lives. Persecution and difficulties are not new occurrences, but are seen often in the Christian life. It is through the suffering and tribulations that we are to enter the Kingdom of God," the pastor responded to these threats in a letter.
"Pastor Saeed is refusing to deny Christ. We must let him know that we will never forget him and will never stop working for his release," the ACLJ has said. A global petition for his release has reached over 600,000 signatures.