BOISE, Idaho (Christian Examiner) – Nearly two months ago in Boise, Idaho, President Obama made a promise to Jacob Abedini, six-year-old son of Pastor Saeed Abedini who is a prisoner in Iran, that for his seventh birthday he was "going to try very hard" to free the boy's father.
According to Naghmeh Abedini's account of the president's encounter with her son, "President Obama asked Jacob when his birthday was and Jacob said March 17."
The president's promise was the result of a meeting with the Abedini family on Jan. 21 during his visit to speak at Boise State University.
The American pastor's wife intended to relay her son's request to "please bring my Daddy home." But she and both children were with the president for 10 minutes, she said, and Jacob was able to speak to the president himself.
According to Abedini, Jacob asked, "Mr. President, can you please bring my Daddy home for my birthday?"
Since that meeting the president mentioned the captured pastor's plight during remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 5, but otherwise has not talked about the issue publicly or his promise to young Jacob.
Saeed Abedini is a dual citizen of Iran and the United States who was sentenced to eight years in prison on January 27, 2013 for "undermining Iran's national security" through his work as a Christian minister in Iran's house church movement.
Supporters' attempts to push for Abedini's release have been complicated by the United States' precarious relationship with Iran:
-- President Obama has described mentioning Abedini's case during a phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. But during that same historic call, the two presidents discussed negotiations about Iran's controversial nuclear program – a forthcoming deal which came under fire during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's high profile speech before Congress earlier this month.
-- The Shiite-majority Iran has joined Sunni-majority multinational forces in against the forces of the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State.
-- Last month the National Security Agency excluded Iran from its terrorism report to Congress despite saying in last year's presentation that Iran directly threatens "the interests of U.S. allies. Despite being de-listed by NSA as a terror threat, Iran remains "a country of particular concern" in the International Religious Freedom Report, put out every year by the State Department.
The international intrigue that frames the situation is lost on Jacob Abedini who simply wants his father home, and not deterred by the hopelessness of the situation he even sent a birthday party invitation to the Rajai Shahr Prison:
Date: March 17