Last week, the U.S. State Department held the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The event brought together government, religious, and civic leaders representing more than 100 countries and a large diversity of faith traditions to discuss religious freedom challenges faced around the world. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, the goal of the Ministerial is “to turn our convictions into action.”
During his keynote address, Pompeo made news by announcing the creation of an International Religious Freedom Alliance. While short on details for now, the Alliance appears designed to continue the work envisioned at the Ministerial year-round.
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.
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. We’re eager to discuss this new initiative with you and to work with you and to build it out.
As Adelle Banks reports at Religion News Service, Vice President Pence also made news with his announcement of new sanctions imposed by the United States against leaders of groups that have terrorized religious minorities in Iran. “To this day,” he explained, “Iranian-backed militias extort and terrorize the people of the Nineveh plain, which is still recovering from the days of ISIS’s brutal reign.” The Vice President also stated that similar sanctions have been levied against Burmese officials over the brutal persecution of the Rohingya.
In conjunction with the Ministerial, President Trump also met with several victims of religious persecution, including Pastor Andrew Brunson, recently released from imprisonment in Turkey, and Nobel Prize winner Nadia Murad, a member of the Yazidi faith who was taken prisoner (and whose entire family was killed) when her Iraqi village was attacked by ISIS.
You can watch videos of all speeches given during the three-day Ministerial here.