Prayers for release of US pastor jailed in Iran get diplomatic push

(Photo: REUTERS / Gary Cameron)U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas(3rd L), prays with members of the Christian Defense Coalition in front of the White House in Washington September 26, 2013. The event marked the one-year anniversary of Saeed Abedini, an Iranian American pastor who is serving eight years in an Iranian prison.

Billy Graham has written to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to release Iranian-American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini from jail.

And U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by phone with  President Rouhani on September 27 for 15 minutes calling for the release of the pastor.

They talked just one day following a global prayer vigil for the release of Abedini who has been has been held in an Iranian prison for one year. suffering beatings according to the Beheardproject.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz from Texas prayed for Abedini outside the White House

He has many people pleading for him, including the President of the United States and his Secretary of State, John Kerry.

That may give Abedeni some hope, but an interview Rouhani had with CNN revealed he may be a pawn in haggling between Iran and the United States.

Obama and Rouhani spoke about numerous topics including the release of Abedini and other U.S. citizens held by the Iranian government.

Abedini's wife gained support and awareness for her husband's release by holding a Global prayer vigil on the one-year anniversary the pastor's incarceration.

People gathered in 17 countries and hundreds of cities around the world including the front steps of the White House in Washington D.C.

Abedini learned Monday morning from family that President Obama had spoken out for his release.

The American Center for Law and Justice said in a statement, "For the first time, Pastor Saeed had a glimmer of hope that he would soon be released... Pastor Saeed was aware that his case, among other imprisoned Americans, was raised during this historic phone call - the first direct conversation between an American president and an Iranian president in 34 years."

The center has 273,792 signatures in a campaign for the release of the man who converted to Christianity from Islam in 2000. Another petition from by the Beheardproject has 626,447 signatures.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour interviewed the Iranian president earlier in the week and asked about Abedini's detention.

Rouhani told the television presenter, "I would like to say that we also have people who are in prison here in the United States. And we have all - this is a sort of a mutual request.

"Um, the U.S. government, who must assist those Iranians, those people who are of Iranian citizenship, who are in prison here, as we should assist those people who have American citizenships that are incarcerated in Iran."

Abedini was arrested in latter part of 2012 during a visit to an orphanage in Iran.

According to his wife Naghmeh, the orphanage was one that she and her husband founded themselves.

He had previously been working until 2009 with house churches throughout Iran. His incarceration is meant to last for eight years.

On the one-year anniversary of Abedini's arrest, during the worldwide prayer vigil held on his behalf, his wife wrote an open letter to the Iranian president in the Wall Street Journal.

Naghmeh quoted Iranian law regarding the protection of religious freedom in the country of Iran. She then questioned, "But how little do these commitments mean if peaceful gatherings of Christians solely for religious purposes are treated as threats to the security of Iran and used as a justification for imprisonment and abuse?"

She added, "President Rouhani, I ask you, as a religious leader, to examine how the peaceful practice of any faith is grounds for imprisonment.

"The Bible and Quran are similar in their commandments that believers should seek justice, and that they should fulfill the promises they make."

Naghmeh Abedini also actively participates in a Facebook page calling for prayers for Abedini's release.

The Facebook page, called "Pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini" has more than 13,000 likes.

The page includes YouTube videos made to raise support for Abedini's release, calls for prayer and many comments from supporters around the world.

Many Christian music artists including Michael W. Smith, Switchfoot, Relient K and others have added their voices to the videos and petitions.

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