This Thanksgiving and throughout the holidays we will join together with family and friends to celebrate our many blessings—time with loved ones, health, contentment, a home, food on our tables. Whatever our blessings may be, let us keep those Idahoans who are far from home in our thoughts and prayers.
Unfortunately, many Idahoans are spending the holidays separated from their loved ones. Included among them are Boise Pastor Saeed Abedini and Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been held captive since June 4, 2009, and is believed to be in the mountains of Pakistan, just across the border from Afghanistan. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with Bowe and his family. I continue to follow developments about him closely and press for his safe return, raising this issue with senior administration officials whenever possible.
Pastor Abedini, whose wife, Naghmeh, and children live in the Boise area, went to Iran to visit family and build orphanages. During his visit, he was imprisoned by the Iranian government and is being persecuted for spreading Christianity. Having almost completed the first year of his eight-year sentence, Saeed Abedini is one of three Americans being held in Iran. Pastor Abedini was recently transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison, a prison that is known for being even more brutal than Evin prison, where he was previously housed. His appeal to the Tehran appeals court was denied in August, 2013.
Like for Sgt. Bergdahl, my Senate colleagues and I continue to use every opportunity to press for Pastor Abedini’s safe return. Fellow Idaho Senator Jim Risch and I were joined by senators, Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), in authoring a resolution calling on the government of Iran to immediately release Pastor Saeed Abedini and all other individuals detained on account of their religious beliefs. The Senate recently passed this resolution by unanimous consent. His focus on human rights and dignities has touched the hearts of many, and we continue to press for his immediate release.
Idaho is home to many great Americans helping others and serving our nation around the world. This includes the numerous Idaho military service members who work to keep us safe both at home and abroad. Many of these Idahoans come in harm’s way as they serve. This Thanksgiving, as we join family and friends to enjoy a meal and companionship, let us be thankful for our ability to be with our loved ones, particularly as there are many Idahoans unable to do so.
As I count my blessings this Thanksgiving, I will continue to pray for Bowe, Saeed and the many other Idahoans who are far from home and their families.
I look forward to the day when we can welcome them all home.