During the annual National Prayer Breakfast Thursday, President Barack Obama asked for the release of two U.S. Christians who have been punished overseas.
The Christians are American Christian missionary Kenneth Bae, who has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor; and Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been sentenced to eight years in prison.
“History shows that nations that uphold the rights of their people, including the freedom of religion, are ultimately more just and more peaceful and more successful,” Obama said at the breakfast. “Nations that do not uphold these rights sow the bitter seeds of instability and violence and extremism. So, freedom of religion matters to our national security.”
Bae was arrested in November 2012 for hostile acts against the state after he guided tour groups of Americans and Canadians in North Korea. Reports say that Bae made trips to North Korea to help orphaned children.
“Let us pray for Kenneth Bae,” Obama said. “His family wants him home, and the United States will continue to do everything in our power to secure his release.”
Abedini, who is a former Muslim, moved to the U.S. from Iran in 2005, but he traveled back to Iran in 2012 to build an orphanage and visit his family. He was charged with threatening the national security of Iran and trying to turn youth away from Islam.
“And as we continue to work for his freedom, again we call on the Iranian government to release Pastor Abedini so he can return to the loving arms of his wife and children in Idaho,” Obama said.
The president also told attendees at the breakfast that he’s grateful for God’s work in his own life.
"I'm grateful not only because I was broke and the Church fed me, but because it led to everything else," he said. "It led me to embrace Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. It led me to Michelle, the love of my life, and it blessed me with two extraordinary daughters."
Publication Date: February 7, 2014.