WASHINGTON D.C. — Vice President Mike Pence addressed the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington D.C. on Thursday with words of encouragement for persecuted Christians around the globe that the United States stands with them as God knows the plans he has for his people.
The summit was brought together by Reverend Franklin Graham, the son of renowned Christian evangelist Reverend Bill Graham. Pence addressed the crowd while also recognizing Graham, Senator Lankford, Senator Blunt, Congressman Smith and Congressman Hultgren.
The vice president brought greetings from President Donald Trump, calling him, “a champion of the freedom of religion and the freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights.” Pence also recognized several faith leaders in the room as well as those present from across the world who have been persecuted, “Reverend Sami Dagher, Father Douglas Bazi, Reverend Eliseo Villar, Rashin Soodmand, Cheol Kang, Ishak Shehata, Ishmail” and many others.
“The Bible tells us: ‘All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,’” the vice president told the crowd.
He continued, “The reality is, across the wider world, the Christian faith is under siege. Throughout the world, no people of faith today face greater hostility or hatred than the followers of Christ.”
Pence stated over 215 million Christians in more than 100 countries, including Iran, Eritrea, Nigeria, and North Korea, “confront intimidation, imprisonment, forced conversion, abuse, assault, or worse, for holding to the truths of the Gospel.” He said this persecution against Christians is nowhere “more evident than in the very ancient land where Christianity was born” — in Israel.
Pence spoke of Disciples of Christ who spread the Christian gospel, “in the valleys of Syria, Palestine, the plains of Nineveh and the Nile, on the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates, they planted seeds of belief. They watered them with their sacrifice and their courage. They blossomed into fruit, and have borne fruit for the Gospel ever since.”
The vice president recalled bombings of churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday this year. “I was just this weekend with a pastor who — from Egypt who spoke of the images that day, of seeing the palms the people carried into church on the ground, marked with the blood of the injured,” he said.
He spoke of religious buildings destroyed at the hands of extremists, priests and monks beheaded in Iraq, “…believers tortured for confessing Christ, and women and children sold into the most terrible form of human slavery” in Syria.
President Trump sees those, the “embodiment of evil,” who perpetrate these acts of hatred as what they are and calls them by name: “radical Islamic terrorists,” said Pence.
He went on:
From al Qaeda to al Shabaab, from Boko Haram to the Taliban, these extremist groups seek to stamp out all religions that are not their own, or even a version of their own that they approve. And believers from every background have suffered grievously at their hands. And this summit is about calling the attention to the world to those tragic circumstances.
He charged the Islamic State (ISIS) with, “genocide against people of the Christian faith.”
“In Syria, the Christian population has plummeted from one-and-a-quarter million to only 500,000 in just the past six years,” he said. “In Iraq, followers of Christ have fallen by 80 percent in the past decade and a half due to the violence of extremism and acts against Christian communities.”
The vice president recalled a trip to al-Basrah in Iraq during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, in 2004, as initial Operation Iraqi Freedom combat operations had concluded. Pence spoke of witnessing a warm interaction between a Muslim imam and a local bishop.
Pence pledged that the Trump, “administration is fully committed in bringing relief and comfort to believers not only across the Middle East but across the world.” He went on, “we will not relent until we hunt down and destroy ISIS at its source.”
He assured the crowd that, “anywhere terror strikes, America stands with those who are targeted and tormented for their belief, whether they’re Christian, Yazidi, Druzes, Shia, Sunni, or any other creed.”
The vice president said that, under the current president, America will continue to condemn persecution against any faith, “The President’s commitment to protecting people of faith also will not end with the elimination of ISIS or the eradication of terror.”
He cited a Pew Center report that “nearly 80 percent of the human family lives in places where restrictions on religion are either ‘high’ or ‘very high,'” a one-year increase of 5 percent.
Speaking of the many nations of the world where religious minorities are trampled upon, Pence said, “the limitations placed on people of belief have become too numerous to count. They range from violence to vandalism — forced conversion to crush free speech, blasphemy laws to building codes, to detainment, to death.”
Pence then turned to say, “persecution of one faith is ultimately the persecution of all faiths.”
The vice president spoke as he has many times before, of a plaque that has hung in whatever home the Pence’s occupied from his years in Congress to his days as Governor of Indiana and now in the vice president’s residence. It quotes from the Bible, Jeremiah 29:11 — “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope, and a future.”
He encouraged the audience, “fellow believers in Christ, cling to one another in these challenging times,” adding that God, “knows the plans he has for us.”
“As history records, even in times of persecution, this church has prospered, it’s grown, it’s had hope and a future,” said Pence. “with the strong and unwavering support of America and its courageous President, Donald Trump, I know that future is bright indeed, now and in eternity.”
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana.