Pompeo touts international religious freedom alliance
The U.S. State Department on Thursday in Washington concluded its second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom by announcing plans to create the International Religious Freedom Alliance. The three-day event featured nearly 900 religious leaders and activists from more than 100 countries and focused on joint efforts to end religious persecution. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the alliance will be the first international body to specifically combat religious persecution.
During the conference, persecution survivors from several countries shared stories, including that of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman released this year after 10 years in prison on trumped-up charges of blasphemy against Islam. “I want you all to know that there are 200 more Asia Bibis in jail accused of the blasphemy law in Pakistan today,” said Shaan Taseer, the son of a Pakistani governor who was killed for supporting Bibi and pushing for an end to blasphemy laws. “And these are only the reported cases.”
The ministerial highlighted several other successful cases, including the release of American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was detained in Turkey for two years and attended the event.
Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence called religious persecution a global problem. Pompeo noted that Cuba prevented four evangelical pastors from attending the event, while China tried to dissuade delegates from other countries from going. He condemned China’s crackdown on Uighur and other minority Muslims as “the stain of the century.”
On Thursday, Politico reported that the Trump administration was considering slashing the total admissions of persecuted Christians and other refugees next year to nearly zero. World Relief, a global Christian nongovernmental organization, condemned the announcement. “The president has promised again and again to protect persecuted Christians, and refugee resettlement is an essential tool to achieve that end,” World Relief CEO Tim Breene said in a statement. “Americans of faith should recognize and respond to this assault on our call to protect the ‘least of these’—especially as a country where most citizens profess to be Christians.”
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