Following the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini, the American Center for Law and Justice, the law group that raised awareness and started petitions signed by millions calling his freedom, is urging believers not to rest, but to continue advocating for the many persecuted Christians around the world.
"I want to join Pastor Saeed in thanking all our friends and members here at the ACLJ who have stood with us, resolute, in our advocacy across the globe for Pastor Saeed's freedom," wrote ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow in a statement on the group's website.
"As we celebrate his release, it is important to remember that Pastor Saeed was just one of thousands imprisoned for their faith and millions facing deadly persecution just for being Christians," he continued.
"Now that Pastor Saeed is free and safe, we turn our attention and advocacy to the plight of numerous other persecuted Christians," Sekulow wrote. "More than 1.1 million of you made your voice heard for Pastor Saeed, and now he is free. It's time for us to raise our voices again. Be heard with us as we aggressively advocate for Christians in the Middle East facing genocide for their faith."
As reported by the Gospel Herald, Abedini was released this weekend from an Iranian prison after more than three years of harsh imprisonment for his Christian faith. The pastor's release comes after than a year of secret negotiations, officials said, and was part of a prison swap involving seven Iranians held by the United States on sanctions charges.
Abedini's highly-publicized case helped put a face on the issue of persecution, especially in the Middle East, for Christians across the globe. His long-awaited freedom has been praised by a number of political and faith leaders, including the Rev. Franklin Graham, President Obama, and many others.
In a statement on the ACLJ website, Sekulow revealed that he recently spoke with Pastor Saeed, who thanked those who advocated for his release.
"I cannot underscore enough how grateful he is for the tireless efforts of the millions of people who prayed and spoke out for his freedom over the last nearly three and a half years," Sekulow wrote.
"In a phone call from a U.S. military hospital in Germany where he's being treated, Pastor Saeed thanked our entire ACLJ team and the more than 1.1 million ACLJ members who worked to secure his freedom, saying, 'May God bless you for everything you did.'"
Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of the newly released pastor, also took to social media to thank all who have helped raise awareness for her husband's case.
"I wanted to say thank you to all of you for having prayed and have wept with us, have signed petitions and have called your government officials. Thank you for having stood with our family during this difficult journey," Abedini wrote, going on to thank Obama, the Rev. Franklin Graham, and the many other political and faith figures that have stood by her family.
The Boise mother of two, who spent years campaigning for her husband's release, also expressed how deeply she appreciated all the ACLJ has done for her family.
"They did not stop and they did not give up until Saeed was brought home safely. They worked tirelessly. I cannot express my gratitude enough. They are a gift from God in my life," Abedini wrote.