A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing Dec. 12 on the status of jailed American pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been held in some of Iran's most notorious prisons for more than a year because of his Christian faith.
The hearing before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations is expected to investigate Iran's human rights violations against the American pastor.
Responding to the news, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., an outspoken advocate for religious freedom, told WND that the hearing is a move in the right direction.
"I am pleased that they're having the hearing next week. The committee hearing is a positive step, and it's hoped this will put adequate pressure on the Obama administration to speak out for the release of Pastor Abedini," Wolf said.
American Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said the hearing gives the U. S. a critical opportunity to raise the pastor's case.
"I will be testifying along with Pastor Saeed's wife, Naghmeh, about the worsening condition of Pastor Saeed – imprisoned in a deadly Iranian prison simply because of his Christian faith," he said.
Sekulow said the hearing comes at a critical time, as the pastor's health is worsening.
"Many members of Congress have expressed their support for Pastor Saeed and called on Iran to release him," Sekulow said. "Many members of Congress also understand that this situation is dire and that the life of a U.S. citizen is at risk."
Sekulow noted, however, that the Obama administration, including the State Department, refused to ask for Abedini's release in recent direct negotiations with Iran over it's nuclear program.
"The State Department and the Obama administration must make Pastor Saeed's freedom a true priority," he said. "That message will be communicated clearly at the upcoming hearing."
WND reported recently that Wolf said Christians in the U. S. should be praying for Abedini's release.
"Are people praying for Pastor Abedini? Are they sending letters to the president asking for his release?" Wolf asked. "Prayer, write, contact President Obama and contact Secretary [of State John] Kerry.
"This is a time that the American people have an obligation to speak out and urge the Obama administration to be more forceful in their advocacy," Wolf asserted.
Wolf said the issue of religious liberty is gaining traction worldwide. On the House floor Thursday, in debate over a bill to appoint a religious freedom envoy, Wolf said the fact that the British Parliament is debating human rights means that the cause of religious liberty is gaining ground worldwide.
"It is worth noting that several weeks earlier the House of Commons had a debate on the persecution of Christians specifically in the Middle East. There was an overwhelming number of speakers – too many for the allotted time. This week's debate sought to satisfy that interest," he said.
"In comparison, we have before us relatively modest legislation that has languished in the Senate for two consecutive Congresses now, which would create a Special Envoy within the U.S. State Department, charged with advocating for vulnerable religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia," Wolf said.
"How do we explain the utter lack of urgency on the part of our own government to address an epic exodus – that of Christianity from its very birthplace?" he asked.
"The House of Commons debate is timely not simply because of the magnitude and pervasiveness of the problem, but also because millions of professing Christians around the world have just embarked on the Advent season in anticipation of celebrating the birth of Christ – a birth marked by its humble beginnings in a small Middle Eastern town called Bethlehem," Wolf said.
While Abedini started out serving his six-year term in Iran's notorious Evin Prison, he recently was transferred to the even-worse Rajai Shahr prison.
WND reported recently that billionaire Donald Trump has joined the cause to achieve Abedini's freedom.
"How does Obama rationalize giving Iran $8B in sanction relief when a Christian pastor is being tortured in an Iranian prison?" he tweeted.
His message followed another one posted a day earlier when the Obama administration announced a six-month deal with Iran over its nuclear program and sanctions against the rogue regime.
Then, Trump asked: "Why didn't Obama, as part of the negotiation, free the Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini?"
Nagmeh Abedini, the pastor's wife, told WND she was delighted by Trump's intervention.
"I am very happy to hear that he is doing this, because this is the first example of anyone outside of the legal and political areas speaking out," she said. "I hope that more people like him will speak out."