For over three years, millions of Americans and people around the world have made Pastor Abedini a focal point of their prayers and petitions.  The news of his release is made even more special because today is January 16th which is commemorated as Religious Freedom Day in the United States.

We are grateful to the members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who tirelessly advocated for the release of Pastor Abedini.  Congress and the American people clearly made the difference in engaging the Obama administration to step up pressure on the Iranian government.

Iran and the nations of the world must understand that we will not leave behind any American who is in a foreign prison for simply standing up for a God given human right.   Pastor Abedini’s imprisonment and torture is a reminder of the vigilance required to preserve and promote not just our First Freedom as Americans, but the basic human right of the freedom of religion.

Today is a day for rejoicing and we pray it will prompt the administration to make the promotion of religious freedom a greater priority, and do so by designating ISIS’s attempts to exterminate minority religious groups – including Christians -- as genocide.

The reality is that there are Christians and religious minorities throughout the Middle East and around the world who look toward America, hoping they are not forgotten and that someone will speak out on their behalf.

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.