President Donald Trump, on Sept. 23, held an event at the U.N. General Assembly that focused exclusively on religious freedom, and was the first ever U.S. president to do so.
The event, titled Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom, addressed the heads of state, ambassadors, civil society representatives, and survivors of religious persecution, where attendees are reminded of facts related to religious persecution.
“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,” the president said. “Regrettably, religious freedom enjoyed by American citizens is rare in the world.”
“As we speak, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, many other people of faith are being jailed, sanctioned, tortured, and even murdered even at the hands of their own governments simply for expressing their deeply held religious beliefs,” the president lamented, as he called on world leaders to be more tolerant.
“Today, with one clear voice, the United States of America calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution. Stop the crimes against people of faith,” President Trump said. “Release prisoners of conscience. Repeal laws restricting freedom of religion and belief. Protect the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed.”
“The United States is founded on the principle that our rights do not come from government, they come from God. This immortal truth is proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in our First Amendment to our Constitution, Bill of Rights,” Trump said.
Pastor Robert Jeffress of Dallas commended the president for his gallant call for an end to religious persecution.
“What president in history would have the guts to do what President Trump is doing?” Jeffress said on Fox News. “And it’s this kind of leadership that is absolutely infuriating the president’s enemies, but it’s also energizing his base, especially his religious base of voters.”
According to WSJ, president Trump has also stressed that it is an issue of “urgent moral duty” for all nations, making his intentions clear where he plans to engage the U.N. system where it has the potential to positively impact on those suffering human-rights abuses, particularly those whose religious freedom are deprived from them.
US ambassador for international religious freedom Sam Brownback said that, despite the focus on current tensions between the Chinese government and Muslin Uighurs, the issue is more widespread, according to CNN.
“The reason China has such a focus is they’re kind of exploring the limits of new systems of how you persecute a religious minority. But we’ve got persecution in 80% of the global population,” Brownback said, citing Iran, Venezuela, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt as places where there exist “difficulties” with religious freedom.