International Religious Freedom

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October 27, 2017

In Defense of Christians hosts 4th Annual Religious Freedom Summit

In Defense of Christians (IDC) organized its fourth annual summit this week October 24-26 in Washington, D.C. The summit included a press briefing by Christian Church leaders as well as a conference, featuring experts who spoke about persecution of Christians in the Middle East followed.

This was followed by an advocacy day on Capitol Hill. This year’s IDC Solidarity dinner included a speech by the Vice President Michael Pence who promised that the “United States will always stand with people who are persecuted in their faith and we will always support them in their hour of need.”

Last night, speaking at the In Defense of Christians 2017 Solidarity Dinner, I announced that President Donald J. Trump has ordered the U.S. Department of State 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 and now is the time. America will support these people in their hour of need.

Posted by Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday, October 26, 2017

 

Pence affirmed that “American leadership is crucial to securing the future of Christians in the Middle East” and announced that President Donald Trump has ordered the U.S. State Department to fund the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) instead of programs run by the United Nations in helping persecuted Christians in the Middle East, saying: “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 vice president also praised the United States Armed Forces working with allied partners in Iraq and Syria for their recent military victories against “the embodiment of evil in our time: ISIS.”

Vice President Pence was met with applause when stating:

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.

Earlier that day, Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) President Mark Tooley moderated a panel discussion on How to Advance U.S. Interests by Protecting Religious Minorities in the Middle East. The previous day, Tooley spoke at IDC’s press briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

During the panel discussion, Philos Project Executive Director Robert Nicholson along with other notable speakers offered their opinion based on their experience and expertise. Nicholson remarked that “pluralistic societies tend to be stable societies” in regard to the issue of restoring order and stability to the war-torn Middle East. The discussion was based upon the alarming truth as stated by Loay Mikhael: “We are witnessing the disappearance of Christians from the Middle East and we need to do something about it!” Mikhael serves on the Foreign Relations Committee of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council. The panelists contributed a diverse set of views but came to a consensus that “protecting Middle East Christians is morally necessary and in best interest of the U.S.”

In Defense of Christians Vice President Andrew Doran moderated a panel entitled: Who Are America’s Allies and Enemies in the Middle East? A Hard Look at Turkey, Iran and the Gulf States. Serious questions were raised about U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy going forward. Religious Freedom Institute Executive Director Kent Hill remarked that “anyone who thinks that our problems are over with the demise of ISIS were not paying attention” and he proposed four foreign policy missteps that have been made in engagement: implementation of short-sighted strategies, avoidance of addressing root causes of conflict, making the wrong arguments on security issues, and failing to foresee the unintended consequences of our actions. Furthermore, Trump’s recent decertification of the nuclear deal with Iran was praised by the panelist as a positive U.S. strategy against “a state sponsor of terrorism.” However, caution was raised in overlooking activities of allies in the Persian Gulf as well.

Since its recent start in 2014 responding to widespread Christian persecution by Islamists, IDC has grown and evolved to be an influential platform for awareness and advocacy among the general public in America and the Western world. Founded also to address the fact that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world, the organization has focused on communicating the urgency to policymakers and public servants to promote values abroad that are consistent with the core values of human rights, including the rights to life and the freedom of religion and conscience. This is why the IRD co-sponsored the summit and works alongside IDC in its mission of promoting international religious freedom.


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