Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday the scheduled gathering next week to advance religious freedom around the globe is a sign the Trump administration is making “the clarion call for religious freedom all around the world.”
During an interview with Family Research Council president Tony Perkins on his radio show Washington Watch, Pompeo said the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom will bring together over 80 delegations from different countries and more than 40 of his counterparts at the foreign minister level, as well as religious leaders of different faiths.
The event, scheduled for July 24-26 at the State Department in Washington, DC, is the first of its kind. Pompeo himself will host the event that will include addresses by Vice President Mike Pence and Ambassador at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.
Pompeo told Perkins, a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom:
It is incredibly important in President Trump’s administration to make the clarion call for religious freedom all around the world. There are many countries in which religious freedom is not available and we believe that by gathering citizens from around the world … we will highlight the central nature of religious freedom and its importance to individuals in countries.
We believe religious freedom is important for every citizen around the world and we want to bring everyone together to discuss how individuals of all faiths have the right to worship as they choose, or if they choose not to. Every country ought to honor that.
Perkins noted the Trump administration is working to have Presbyterian minister Andrew Brunson released from Turkey, where he has been held for two years.
Asked by Perkins what he hopes will be the “tangible outcomes” of the gathering, Pompeo replied, “We expect this to be far more than just talk.”
The secretary said that gathering people from different countries together to discuss religious freedom, in and of itself, will empower them to return home to advocate for religious freedom in their native countries, he acknowledged that in many countries to even speak about religious freedom is challenging.
“So, we hope to provide a support system for them as they head back to their countries,” he said, adding that a number of initiatives will be announced at the ministerial next week.
“We’re hopeful that the State Department can lead a process where religious freedom is raised as a priority for the citizens of every country,” Pompeo said. “We’ll have our teams in the subsequent weeks and months in the field talking about religious freedom on a continued basis. We’ll have just three days here, but this will be a mission of the State Department every day.”
The secretary explained he wants to provide courage for those for whom religious freedom is still a goal to be achieved. He said this goal was laid out in Trump’s national security strategy and was unique from past administrations.
“We think this forum will reinforce for countries that enjoy that religious freedom and encourage those around the cusp who are in a place where it’s more challenging,” he said. “We do place a high priority on religious freedom and we will continue to fight for it every place we travel.”
Asked by Perkins about the response to the ministerial from his counterparts around the globe, Pompeo replied, “It’s been remarkable. As I was traveling this past week – I think I was in six or eight different places – I had foreign ministers say, ‘I’m going to be there!’”
“They’re excited to come and be around others who believe religious freedom is important,” he said.
When Perkins mentioned there are even countries on a waiting list that have asked to attend the ministerial, Pompeo said, “It is indeed oversubscribed which we consider an enormous blessing. And we’re going to do our best to accommodate each and every one of them.”
Perkins asked the secretary how average Americans can bring about greater awareness to the issue of religious freedom.
“There’s a number of things we can do,” Pompeo responded. “Those of us who believe in faith and prayer can pray. It’s also important for every individual to demand of their elected officials that they consider religious freedom among their priorities as they seek to lead and be part of government service.”
The secretary added Americans can support nongovernmental organizations that are prepared to help fight for religious freedom around the world.