The world is watching. And the world is listening. The focus at the United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights Council today was on defending human rights in nations around the world – with special emphasis on the right to religious freedom.
"Freedom of expression as it pertains to religious expression must be an open dialogue for all faiths, without regard to whether a specific religious belief is popular and embraced by a vast majority or, conversely, the religion is disliked by the majority and practiced only by a small minority of a state’s citizenry. Religious minorities, like Saeed Abedini, who is imprisoned in the Islamic Republic of Iran for expressing his religious beliefs, must be able to publicly and privately express their chosen religious beliefs with equal freedom as the majority faith and without threat of government or social persecution.
Violations of the right to freedom of expression must be something more than a discussion. Member states must address the reality – that restricting freedom of expression, especially religious expression, is not in the best interests of a country’s citizens or a country’s security."
My complete remarks, as prepared, can be found here.
Of course, this is a critical opportunity before the United Nations to highlight the case of 33-year-old American Pastor Saeed Abedini – a U.S. citizen – who is being held in a brutal Iranian prison because of his Christian faith.
On Friday, I raised this critically important case before the Human Rights Council.
Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, is with me in Geneva. She was scheduled to address the Council today, but the session ran long and she will now offer her personal testimony – and plea for her husband – tomorrow before the Council.
For Tuesday’s presentation, individuals can watch the live stream of the 23rd Plenary Session of the Human Rights Council between the hours of 9:00a.m. and 5:00p.m. (GMT) at this U.N. site here.
There’s been a new development here at home in the ongoing effort to call attention to the plight of Pastor Saeed.
The White House has once again spoken out on Pastor Saeed’s behalf. Mike Majchrowitz, the White House Correspondent from FOX News Radio, asked about Pastor Saeed during a White House briefing on Friday. The White House responded to him with this paper statement:
"We remain deeply concerned about U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini who has been sentenced to 8 years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. We can confirm that Mrs. Abedini and her lawyer met with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva Eileen Donahoe. We have reached out to numerous international partners to raise awareness of Mr. Abedini's case and to press Iranian officials to provide him medical attention and to release him.
We continue to send requests for consular access and to press for his release through our Swiss Protecting Power in Tehran. As in every communication we send on this case, the Iranians refuse all requests, as they do not recognize Mr. Abedini's US citizenship. We will continue to press for Mr. Abedini's release . . . until [he is] safely returned to [his] famil[y]."
We believe all the immense pressure on Iran is having an impact and are hopeful that this past week at the U.N. will move Pastor Saeed’s case to new heights and soon lead to his release.
Please continue to sign the petition for his freedom and share his story at SaveSaeed.org.
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