(Jerusalem, Israel) — In the face of genocide against Christians in the Middle East, the United States government is finally making the advancement of international religious freedom — and solidarity with persecuted Christians and other faith communities — a top priority.
Several days ago, Vice President Mike Pence delivered the keynote address at a conference in Washington organized by the group, “In Defense of Christians.” You can watch the full speech by clicking here. You can read the full text by clicking here. I encourage you to do both, and share it with family friends. It was an excellent address, and very encouraging to see the seriousness with which this administration is taking the issue.
Pence said he will soon travel to Israel and Egypt, in part to advance the issue. “President Trump has directed me to go to the Middle East in December,” the V.P. told the assembled Christian leaders. “And I promise you one of the messages that I will bring on the President’s behalf to leaders across the region is that now is the time to bring an end to the persecution of Christians and all religious minorities.”
Pence also noted that “President Trump has nominated a great leader and a great man of faith to be our Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Governor Sam Brownback.” I’ve known Brownback for more than twenty years (and recently had dinner with him and his wife in Jerusalem), and I can’t tell you how encouraged I am by his appointment. He co-wrote the U.S. dealing with religious freedom, and I have full confidence he will pursue the issue with vigor.
Please continue praying for persecuted followers of Jesus Christ and other religious minorities throughout the Middle East and around the world. Please pray for the President, Vice President, Ambassador-designate Brownback and other administration and Congressional leaders as they work to defeat the forces of Radical Islam and come alongside suffering faith communities of all kinds in the region.
I also commend to your attention a new report we just issued from The Joshua Fund on “The State of the Epicenter 2017: How Many Followers of Jesus Are There?”
Here are excerpts from the VP’s address…..
AMONG THE MOST PERSECUTED IN THE WORLD
- The Bible tells us that: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” and the flocks you shepherd are among the most persecuted in all of the world. It’s largely what brings us here tonight.
- Nearly 2,000 years ago, the disciples of Jesus left their home country. They left their land, radiating outward from Israel in every direction, bringing with them the Good News that is proclaimed to this day. But sadly today, Christianity is under unprecedented assault in those ancient lands where it first grew….
- Let me assure you tonight, President Trump and I see these crimes for what they are — vile acts of persecution animated by hatred for Christians and the Gospel of Christ. And so too does this President know who and what has perpetrated these crimes, and he calls them by name — radical Islamic terrorists.
- The practitioners of terror seek to stamp out all religions that are not their own, and believers of many backgrounds have suffered grievously at their hands — Yazidis, Druze, and even their fellow Muslims.
- Yet these barbarians harbor a special hatred for the followers of Christ. And under the unwavering attacks, Christianity now faces an exodus in the Middle East unrivaled since the days of Moses.
GENOCIDE IN SYRIA AND IRAQ
- It’s heartbreaking to think that the Christian population in Syria has been cut in half in just the past six years — plummeting from over 1.25 million to only 500,000 today.
- In Iraq, the followers of Christ have fallen by 80 percent in the past decade and a half. And across the wider Middle East, we can now see a future in many areas without the Christian faith. But tonight, I came to tell you: Help is on the way….
WINNING THE WAR AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
- Under the leadership of President Donald Trump be assured this administration calls these vicious actions by ISIS what they truly are — they are genocide and they are crimes against humanity. And we will call them what they are.
- As a candidate, our President pledged to “crush and destroy ISIS.” And today, thanks to the courage of American Armed Forces and the resolve of our Commander-in-Chief, I’m pleased to report that ISIS is on the run.
- Three years ago, those barbarians celebrated in the streets of their self-declared capital in Raqqa. They proclaimed the start of a thousand-year caliphate as they raised their black flags across the region, but those black flags no longer fly in Raqqa.
- Just last week, American and allied forces liberated Raqqa, and across Syria, and Iraq, the caliphate is crumbling. And you can be assured, we will not rest, we will not relent until we hunt down and destroy ISIS at its source — so it can no longer threaten our people or anyone who calls the Middle East home.
- But for the believers in that ancient land, we know that victory in combat is only half the battle. Just as important as driving ISIS out of existence is making sure that we provide aid and comfort to those who have suffered so much loss and grief and ensure that they can avail themselves of their right to return….
PROMOTING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
- The right to worship according to the dictates of our conscience is at the very heart of who we are as Americans, as men and women created in the image and likeness of God. And protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign-policy priority of the Trump administration.
- As evidence, President Trump has nominated a great leader and a great man of faith to be our Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Governor Sam Brownback.
PROVIDING U.S. AID TO PERSECUTED COMMUNITIES
- Our fellow Christians and all who are persecuted in the Middle East should not have to rely on multinational institutions when America can help them directly. And tonight, it is my privilege to announce that President Trump has ordered the State Department to stop funding ineffective relief efforts at the United Nations.
- And from this day forward, America will provide support directly to persecuted communities through USAID.
- We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups. The United States will work hand-in-hand from this day forward with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith.
This is the moment. Now is the time. And America will support these people in their hour of need.
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