Kerry said, "In Iran, U.S. Iranian citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini remains imprisoned. The Iranian authorities sentenced him to eight years behind bars simply because of his religious beliefs.
"We will continue to call for his release and we will continue to work for it. And make no mistake: We will continue to stand up for religious minority communities under assault and in danger around the world, from Jehovah's Witnesses to Baha'is to Ahmadi Muslims.
"So we have a long way to go to safeguard these rights. We also have a long way to go when governments use national security as an excuse to repress members of minority religious groups."
Kerry’s speech came in response to the release of the State Department’s 2013 Report on International Religious Freedom. The report covered cases on religious persecution worldwide, but Kerry emphasized American pastor Abedini who has been held in an Iranian prison for nearly two years.
According to the report, “The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran, and therefore has limited opportunity to directly raise concerns with the government over its religious freedom abuses and restrictions.
"On several occasions, however, senior U.S. government officials, including the President and the Secretary of State, raised directly with their Iranian counterparts the case of Christian pastor and dual U.S.-Iranian national Saeed Abedini, who is being held on charges related to his religious beliefs, and called for his release.
"The Department of State also publicly called for the release of Mr. Abedini and other prisoners held on religious grounds."
September 26 will mark the second anniversary of Abedini’s imprisonment. The Be Heard Project has called for global prayers for Abedini and his family
on that day.
Publication date: July 30, 2014