It has been two years since Pastor Saeed Abedini was imprisoned in Iran for preaching his Christian faith. On Thursday evening, Christian evangelist Franklin Graham and Abedini's wife, Naghmeh Abedini, hosted a prayer vigil in Washington, D.C. to encourage worldwide prayer for those imprisoned for their faith.
"The kids and I are longing to see Saeed returned home safely to us," Abedini said in a release. "The kids have been suffering for too long. Our family is ready. It is time. We are praying for a miracle. My hope is that, as thousands gather together on September 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.”
Thousands are expected to gather for vigils in more than 27 countries according to the Be Heard Project, which is coordinating the event.
A similar event took place in 2013 on the one-year anniversary of Abedini's arrest. One day later President Obama called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to express concern about Abedini’s treatment and called for his release.
Franklin Graham's father, the prominent evangelical leader Billy Graham, also called for Abedini's release in a 2013 paid advertisement in the New York Times. Graham wrote:
"[Pastor Abedini's] situation has been receiving an increasingly high level of attention in the United States. Unfortunately, this publicity has been entirely negative for Iran, with the belief that the primary reason for Pastor Abedini's imprisonment was because of his Christian faith."
Abedini was arrested in July 2012 while building a government-approved orphanage, and he is currently serving an eight-year sentence at Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj, Iran.
Follow the Twitter feed for #SaeedVigil below: