WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence hosted the first Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom last week at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. to discuss ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination and to protect religious freedom around the world. This was a historic first for any country in the world, and representatives of international organizations from over 80 countries attended.
Vice President Pence delivered the keynote address which stressed the importance of international religious freedom and its role in American foreign policy. Pence said, “The right to believe or not believe is the most fundamental of freedoms. When religious freedom is denied or destroyed, we know that other freedoms are imperiled. That’s why the United States stands for religious freedom yesterday, today and always.” Pence also announced the establishment of the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program in response to genocide perpetrated by ISIS to “ensure that religious freedom and religious pluralism prosper across the Middle East as well.”
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, a key catalyst in the development of the ministerial, kicked off this historic event at a prayer breakfast hosted by Liberty Counsel and Faith & Action at the Faith & Action building. Those in attendance prayed for the ambassador and the ministerial.
Ambassador Brownback stated the ministerial was “the launch of an expanded conversation” about the fundamental right of all individuals to do with their own souls whatever they choose. It is a right, he said, no government should interfere with. He announced the release of the Potomac Declaration and the Potomac Plan of Action and encouraged the international community to draw on the plan of action’s provisions when responding to violations and abuses of religious freedom or instances of persecution on account of religion or belief. “These documents reassert the United States’ unwavering commitment to promoting and defending religious freedom. They recommend concrete ways the international community and governments can do more to protect religious freedom and vulnerable religious communities,” said Brownback.
“I am proud that the United States, under the Trump administration, was the first country to host this historic Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom because innocent people around the world are imprisoned, tortured and persecuted for their faith,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “I am grateful for leaders who are encouraging religious freedom and protecting people of faith instead of trying to control them,” said Staver.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.