Announces Two Initiatives to Fight Worldwide Problem
“11 Christians a day are killed for following the teachings of Christ!”
– President Donald Trump, United Nations, New York
September 26, 2019
President Donald Trump, in an historic speech before the United Nations on Monday, September 23, 2019, announced two new initiatives to promote religious freedom. Trump’s speech in New York City marks the first time an American president has ever convened a U.N. meeting on religious freedom, according to Vice President Mike Pence, who introduced the president.
In setting the stage for Trump’s remarks, Pence spent time outlining widespread global persecution, saying that 80 percent of the world’s population lives in nations where religious freedom is threatened or banned. He cited the brutal persecution of Christians, Sunnis, Bahá’ís, and Jews in Iran; the terrorizing of Christians and Yazidis who were nearly wiped out by ISIS; the ongoing arrests of Christian pastors, Bible bans and church demolition in China; the imprisonment of more than a million Uighurs in the Muslim population; and murderous attacks on places of worship.
As Pence concluded his introduction, he extolled Trump’s commitment to religious freedoms.
“To be here, at this historic gathering with leaders around the world, standing for our first freedom of religious liberty is among the greatest honors I’ve ever had,” Pence declared, adding that it was his “high honor and distinct privilege to introduce to you a tireless champion of the freedom of religion and people of every faith in America and around the world.”
In taking the podium, Trump said he was honored to host such a gathering.
“It’s long overdue,” he said. “And I was shocked when I was given that statistic that I would be the first. That’s very sad, in many ways.”
In launching his international address, Trump took a few minutes to laud the religious legacy of the United States and its commitment to religious freedom.
“The United States is founded on the principle that our rights do not come from government; they come from God,” the President said. “This immortal truth is proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Our Founders understood that no right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous, and virtuous society than the right to follow one’s religious convictions.”
Joining Trump at the U.N. meeting was Pastor Andrew Brunson, who spent two years in a Turkish jail and was freed last year after the president made a direct appeal to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Also in the audience were other survivors of religious persecution who met with Trump at the White House in July.
“Some of these individuals suffered as a result of state-sponsored persecution; others, at the hands of terrorists and criminals,” Trump said. “No matter the case, America will always be a voice for victims of religious persecution everywhere. No matter where you go, you have a place in the United States of America.”
As part of his international call to end persecution, Trump announced during the speech that his administration is dedicating an additional $25 million to protect religious freedom and religious sites and relics. He is also forming a coalition of U.S. businesses for the protection of religious freedom.
“This is the first time this has been done. This initiative will encourage the private sector to protect people of all faiths in the workplace,” he said, adding, “Too often, people in positions of power preach diversity while silencing, shunning, or censoring the faithful. True tolerance means respecting the right of all people to express their deeply held religious beliefs.”
In August, the Labor Department announced proposed rule changes protecting religious companies that contract with the federal government. If approved, Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella, said the rules will make it “clear that religious employers can condition employment on acceptance of or adherence to religious tenets without sanction by the federal government, provided that they do not discriminate based on other protected bases.”
The two new programs announced at the U.N. augment a list of previously revealed initiatives:
- The annual Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom, the largest-of-its-kind gathering of more than 1,000 civil society and religious leaders from 100 different nations.
- The International Religious Freedom Fund, which has already received nearly $5 million in pledges and given more than 435 Rapid Response Grants to help 2,000 victims of religious persecution worldwide.
- The International Religious Freedom Alliance, a network of like-minded nations devoted to confronting religious persecution around the world.
- The Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program, which has provided more than $370 million to aid ethnic minorities in faith communities persecuted by ISIS in Iraq and throughout the region.
- The appointment of a special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.
Trump concluded his 11-minute speech with a global challenge.
“Today, I ask all nations to join us in this urgent moral duty,” he said. “We ask the governments of the world to honor the eternal right of every person to follow their conscience, live by their faith, and give glory to God. The United States has a vital role in this critical mission.”