The Christian Defense Coalition and Church on the Hill have announced that they’ll be setting up a Thanksgiving place for American pastor Saeed Abedini in front of the White House on Thanksgiving morning, reminding President Barack Obama about the imprisoned husband and father.
“While Americans enjoy the blessings of spending Thanksgiving Day with family and friends, it is important to remember that millions around the world are being brutalized, persecuted and attacked for their Christian faith. Thousands are in prison,” Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said in a statement.
“Pastor Saeed will not be able to spend this special day with his wife and two young children but instead will be spending it in a cramped prison facing constant violence and persecution,” he continued.
Mahoney reminded Christians that they can never be silent on issues concerning human rights and religious freedom.
“Leaving a Thanksgiving place setting is a powerful way for Americans to stand in solidarity with the persecuted church around the world and teach their families about the important issues of human rights and religious freedom,” Mahoney said.
“We will also be reminding President Obama that while he celebrates Thanksgiving with his wife and two children, pastor Saeed will be spending Thanksgiving in a brutal Iranian prison separated from his wife and two precious children.”
A Facebook page urging Americans to prepare Thanksgiving places for Abedini in their own homes has also been set up. The effort echoes a similar initiative for Thanksgiving in 2013, which was also set up by Mahoney.
Abedini faces his second Thanksgiving locked up in a prison cell in Iran after he was sentenced to eight years in prison for his Christian faith.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which represents his wife, Naghmeh, and two children in the U.S., has continued campaigning for the Obama administration to do more to pressure Iran for his release.
Earlier this week it was announced that important negotiations on a nuclear deal between Iran and several nations, including the U.S., are being extended into July. The ACLJ has called on the president to use the opportunity to test Iran’s promises of improving its human rights and religious freedom record by releasing Abedini.
“The reports indicate that there will be no lull in the negotiations; they will continue as soon as next month. That means now continues to be a critical time to pressure Iran to release pastor Saeed,” wrote Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ.
In his Thanksgiving message, Mahoney claimed that Obama “has not been a loud and active voice for the persecuted church around the world,” pointing to the nuclear negotiations with Iran.
“We pray and hope that while President Obama is thanking God for all the wonderful blessings of the past year, he would pause and reflect on the fact that his silence and lack of engagement on the issue of religious freedom has created untold hardship for millions of Christians across the globe,” the Christian Defense Coalition director said.