WASHINGTON, DC – The State Department is bringing together Christian and other religious leaders from all corners of the world this week for a ministerial advocating religious freedom around the world, including Muslim-majority nations like Pakistan, predominantly Hindu India, and communist China, where both Christians and Muslims face harsh oppression.
In a statement issued Monday, the State Department noted that these “episodes and others like them are abhorrent. Religious freedom is a God-given right to which all people are entitled. That is why President Donald Trump is taking action to protect religious freedom around the world. It belongs to all people, everywhere,” adding:
On July 24-26, the State Department will bring together religious leaders, civil society groups, survivors of religious persecution, and delegations from foreign governments for the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. Vice President Mike Pence and other senior Trump administration officials will also be participating.
“Our goal is simple,” the statement concluded, “to promote the God-given human right to believe what you want to believe.”
In a statement Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted the atrocities Christians are facing across the world, specifically noting, “The religious intolerance of the regime in Iran also applies to Christians, Jews, Sunnis, Baha’is, Zoroastrians, and other minority religious groups simply trying to practice their faith.” He continued:
In Burma, since August 2017, nearly 700,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee to Bangladesh because of an ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by the Burmese security forces. Reports have indicated children, elderly, and infirm persons were burned alive in houses.
And in Sudan, the government demolished a Presbyterian Evangelical Church in February after police ordered congregants to vacate it after Sunday worship services without any advanced warning. This attack was the latest government-ordered church demolition to have occurred in the country.
The State Department revealed this year that “hundreds of thousands” of Uighur Muslims who make up the majority of China’s Xinjiang, the largest province in the country, are facing deadly persecution, being forced into political re-education camps and having their freedom of movement and employment severely limited.
The Trump administration urges all countries to work together to rid the world of the scourge that is religious persecution.
In an editorial published by USA Today, Pompeo noted that fighting for religious freedom is not just the responsibility of religious groups and individuals, but of countries, particularly those that deem themselves to abide by the rules of God.
Promoting religious freedom for all not only advances the interests of individuals, but countries and faith groups around the world. Where fundamental freedoms of religion, speech, press, and peaceful assembly exist, ideas compete with one another and different views are discussed openly. Greater understanding comes from this free exchange. Countries that champion individual freedoms are often the most secure, economically vibrant, and prosperous in the world. Religious freedom is an indispensable building block of free societies.
The Trump administration is passionate about promoting and defending international religious freedom. But the challenge is too big for any one nation. We need every country to protect and defend freedom of religion for everyone. I look forward to welcoming my counterparts to the U.S. State Department as we fight for the persecuted, speak out for the voiceless, and work together to pave the way for greater religious freedom around the world.
The State Department summit started Tuesday and will continue until July 26.