The most significant statement made during President Barack Obama's National Prayer Breakfast address Thursday morning might have gone unnoticed, especially among those who haven't been following American Pastor Saeed Abedini's ongoing detention in Iran.
Obama pledged during the speech to do everything in his power to secure the release of Abedini, a Christian who has been detained in Iran for the past 18 months. The president plainly proclaimed, "Today, we call on the Iranian government to release Pastor Abedini."
Naghmeh Abedini, the detained pastor's wife, told TheBlaze that this moment in the speech was profoundly notable, as it marked the first time Obama had publicly made a statement directly calling for her husband's release. Previously, she had told TheBlaze that the president's silence on the matter showed "in his heart that he doesn’t care."
Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini (Image source: ACLJ)
"This is the first sign of him speaking out and I do hope it will continue," Naghmeh Abedini told TheBlaze.
She's hoping it wasn't merely a gesture aimed at appeasing her family and their supporters and that real and fruitful action will follow. And while Abedini is thankful for what she calls a step in the right direction, she thinks the president should have spoken out sooner.
"I had hoped that my government would have [responded] sooner and [that I would have] felt more supported and felt reassured -- and that this was a very important issue," Abedini added.
Watch Obama's speech below:
But if given the opportunity, she said she would thank Obama for his public call for Iran to release her husband, though Abedini has yet to ever hear directly from the president or from any other high-ranking official for that matter.
Aside from periodic interactions with lower-ranking federal employees, she has received relative radio silence since her husband was first arrested a year and a half ago.
In moving forward, she is hopeful the president will continue to support her family's cause and that he will view the detained pastor's plight not through a political lens, but "as a father and a husband" and "as a human being."
When she first heard about Obama's remarks this morning, Abedini said she was instantly grateful for the thousands of people in the U.S. who have heard her husband's story and appealed on his behalf.
"The first thing that came to my mind was all the efforts ... and all the people being the voice of Saeed -- knowing that this is the result of so many speaking out," she said.
Pastor Saeed Abedini (Image source: ACLJ)
As for Saeed Abedini, she said that she is concerned for her husband's health.
"His family has been able to see him every week," she said. "The last we heard, he needs surgery. He's feeling weak. It's from the injuries he got from the beatings."
His current condition aside, Abedini said her husband's Christian faith is guiding him through the ordeal.
TheBlaze has highlighted Abedini’s plight over the past year, including barbaric treatment and horrific abuse he has reportedly endured in prison as a result of his Christian faith. He was first arrested in 2012 on charges stemming from meetings he had with other Christians inside private homes -- an act that is not illegal in Iran.
Featured image via ACLJ