Pompeo: Religious Freedom ‘Not Exclusively an American Right - It Is a God-Given, Universal Right’

Melanie Arter | July 26, 2018 | 3:51pm EDT
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Screenshot)

(CNSNews.com) - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday hosted the State Department’s first ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, pointing out that religious freedom is “not exclusively an American right,” but a “God-given, universal right bestowed on all of mankind.”

“President Trump’s unwavering commitment to religious freedom and the decision to hold this first-ever religious freedom ministerial is not driven by my own personal story, but rather it is rooted in the American story. The Trump administration recognizes that religious freedom is fundamental American liberty and this has been clear from the administration’s earliest days and indeed the earliest days of our nation,” Pompeo said.

“The United States advances religious freedom in our foreign policy, because it is not exclusively an American right. It is a God-given, universal right bestowed on all of mankind. Seventy years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirmed this when 48 nations declared that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscious, and religion,” he said.

“More than 80 delegations, including dozens of minister level representatives from around the world,” were in attendance. Pompeo thanked them for making religious freedom a priority in their countries and for working with the United States.

“My own faith is of the greatest importance to me personally. As an American, I’ve been blessed with the right to live out what I believe without fear of persecution or reprisal from my government. I want everyone else to enjoy this blessing too,” the secretary said.

“The vice president will speak more about this in a moment, but it bears repeating: Millions of people of all faiths are suffering everyday, but the Trump administration will not be silent,” Pompeo said.

“As part of that, the State Department will continue the good work it has already done for many years to ensure religious freedom. Right now, we remain in conversations with Turkey to bring home Pastor Andrew Brunson. The vice president will speak more to this as well,” he said.

The secretary announced that the State Department is “providing an additional $17 million of additional demining efforts in the Ninevah region in Iraq.”

“This is on top of the $90 million we have provided countrywide in this year alone. The additional funding will help us make more progress in clearing mines from areas with a large population of religious minorities who are subject to ISIS genocide,” he said.

Pompeo recognized the survivors of religious persecution who were in attendance at the event.

“We honor your personal courage, your depth of conviction, and that you have done so in spite of great violence done to yourselves and to your families. God bless you,” he said.

Pompeo pointed to an example of religious freedom with Uzbekistan.

“When religious freedom flourishes, a country flourishes. As one example today, we applaud the steps that Uzbekistan is taking towards a more free society. We have great confidence that a degree of religious freedom, greater than before, will have a positive ripple effect on their country, their society, and the region as well,” he said.

“We’ve seen this too in several Gulf countries. As the region has become an economic hub and attracted foreigners of many faiths, several governments have taken important steps. They’ve been wise to permit the construction of places of worship like churches and temples. That’s become an even more attractive destination for international investment,” the secretary said.

Pompeo pointed to strides that the U.S. government has made recently towards advancing religious freedom worldwide.

“The State Department’s done a few other things, and so has the United States government. We’ve created a new international visitor leadership program to bring those working on the front lines of religious freedom issues from all around the world to the United States. It’s a 10-day project, and it will focus on promoting religious pluralism and protecting the rights of religious minorities,” he said.

“Second, in October the State Department will host a three-day accelerated workshop called Bold Line to support and scale innovative public, private partnerships that promote and defend religious freedom around the world,” the secretary said.

“Third, we look forward to continuing the important work done today throughout the world. That’s why we’re finalizing commitments from several countries who are willing to host regional follow-up conferences on the topic of religious freedom. I want to thank each country that is prepared to help us host that,” Pompeo said.

“And finally, and perhaps most importantly, we will release the Potomac Declaration and the Potomac Plan of Action. 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,” he said.

“We will also be releasing several statements on specific countries - Burma, China, and Iran - and specific issues representing some of the greatest challenges to religious freedom in our world today,” the secretary concluded.

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