U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday announced plans to create a broad global alliance to defend and expand religious liberty worldwide.
The announcement for the International Religious Freedom Alliance came on the last day of the State Department’s second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C., where Pompeo addressed a gathering of representatives from 106 countries.
“We hope that this new vehicle—the first-ever international body devoted to this specific topic—will build on efforts to date, and bring likeminded countries together to confront challenges of international religious freedom,” Pompeo said in his keynote address at the ministerial. “It will provide a space for the work that we do here to flourish throughout the year. And importantly, it will defend the unalienable rights for all human beings to believe—or not to believe—whatever it is they choose.”
Later in the day, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the ministerial.
“As vice president of the United States, I stand for the freedom of religion that animated the American founding and is enshrined in our Bill of Rights,” Pence said. “But this is a special day for me as well because, on a personal level, my faith in Jesus Christ has brought meaning and purpose to me and my family every day of my life.”
“Our Declaration of Independence proclaims that our precious liberties are not the gift of government, but rather they’re the unalienable rights endowed by our Creator. Americans believe that people should live by the dictates of their conscience, not the diktats of government.”
On Facebook, Franklin Graham applauded the vice president for his strong message. “The accounts that he shared inspire us to stand in prayer for those who are persecuted for their faith around the world,” Franklin said. “Thank you Vice President Mike Pence.”
Pence later announced that the U.S. has placed sanctions on two leaders of Iranian-backed militias, groups he said have “terrorized the people of the Nineveh Plain,” a region of northern Iraq where religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, are persecuted, RNS reported.
He also announced visa sanctions on Burma’s top two military leaders, the commander in chief and his deputy, as well as two commanders of light infantry brigades, for failing to stand up for the persecuted Rohingya people in Burma who are facing “a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing” that “has forced more than 700,000 to flee across the border to Bangladesh.”
In addition to the announcement of sanctions, Pence ensured those in attendance, “The United States stands with all victims of religious persecution. And the America people have them in our hearts and in our prayers.”
The event included two days of meetings where foreign ministers shared ways their nations are working to affirm religious liberty, persecution survivors shared their stories, and many religious leaders and activists made plans to foster interfaith understanding.
Some 80% of the world lives in a religiously restricted environment, according to the Office of International Religious Freedom.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence addresses delegates at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C. on July 18, 2019.
Photo: Ralph Alswang/State Department/Public Domain