Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Tuesday at a press briefing to unveil the 2017 International Religious Freedom Report that the United States will host a ministerial summit to bring together “like-minded” countries to discuss action against religious persecution.
“I look forward to hosting my counterparts from like-minded governments, as well as representatives of international organizations, religious communities, and civil society to reaffirm our commitment to religious freedom as a universal human right,” Pompeo said. “This ministerial, we expect, will break new ground.”
“It will not just be a discussion group,” Pompeo said. “It will be about action.”
“We look forward to identifying concrete ways to push back against persecution and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all,” Pompeo said.
The “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom” will take place at the State Department on July 25 and 26.
“Religious freedom is indeed a universal human right that I will fight for, one that our team at the department will continue to fight for, and one that I know President Trump will continue to fight for,” Pompeo said. “The United States will not stand by as spectators.”
“We will get in the ring and stand in solidarity with every individual who seeks to enjoy their most fundamental of human rights,” Pompeo said.
“Religious freedom is in the American bloodstream,” Pompeo said. “It’s what brought the pilgrims here from England.”
“Our founders understood it as our first freedom,” Pompeo said. “That is why they articulated it so clearly in the First Amendment.”
“Religious freedom was vital to America’s beginning,” Pompeo said. “Defending it is critical to our future. As our National Security Strategy so clearly states: ‘Our Founders understood religious freedom not as the state’s creation, but as the gift of God to every person and a fundamental right for a flourishing society.’”
“We’re committed to promoting religious freedom around the world, both now and in the future,” Pompeo said.
Sam Brownback, ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, oversaw the publication of the latest report and spoke after Pompeo, who thanked him for his work.
“We all have a stake in this fight,” said Brownback, former U.S senator and governor of Kansas. “One person’s bondage is another person’s burden to break.”
“We’re all people with beautiful and undeniable human dignity,” Brownback said. “Our lives are sacred. Our right to choose the road our conscience takes is inalienable.”
“Our goal is to protect the freedom of conscience for all people. That means protecting a Muslim, Buddhist, Falun Gong practitioner, or Christian in China and their ability to pray and live out their life,” Brownback said. “That means protecting a blogger in the Middle East, who doesn’t believe … what his government might believe. Our desire is to protect both – to protect everyone’s right to freely practice what they believe.”
Brownback named Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan as four countries that are designated in the report as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC).
He also cited religious persecution in Pakistan, where about 50 people were given life sentences for blasphemy, and Russia, where Jehovah’s Witnesses are targeted because the Kremlin considers the denomination a terrorist organization.
The Department of State submits the annual report to Congress in compliance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended. This report covers the period of January 1 to December 31, 2017.