President Donald Trump signed an executive order this week that earmarks $50 million for religious freedom programs around the world.
CBN News reports that under the order, named Advancing International Religious Freedom, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will create action plans for countries to help eliminate religious persecution. The money will go to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
"Religious freedom, America's first freedom, is a moral and national security imperative," the order states. "Religious freedom for all people worldwide is a foreign policy priority of the United States, and the United States will respect and vigorously promote this freedom.”
The order comes as religious persecution, including against Christians worldwide, continues to rise. According to Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List, North Korea, Afghanistan and Somalia are the most dangerous countries for Christians.
USAID Acting Administrator John Barsa praised the executive order, saying the organization was “grateful for the President's leadership in advancing religious freedom around the world."
"Americans have always believed our first freedom is the freedom of religion, and it is a key component of our national security strategy," Barsa wrote. "Whether in response to genocide committed against Christians and Yazidis in Northern Iraq, or the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya in Burma, the institutional culture regarding international religious freedom has become a top priority at USAID."
Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that he was “proud to stand with [Trump] today as he continued to take decisive action to promote Religious Freedom around the world.”
The order follows the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s annual report, which was release in April. The report named 14 countries around the world as “countries of particular concern,” where those countries encourage or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations.”
"USCIRF has long called on the U.S. government to develop an overall strategy for promoting religious freedom abroad, as well as country-specific action plans, and we welcome the fact that this Executive Order requires the State Department and USAID to do exactly that," USCIRF Vice Chair Gayle Manchin said in a statement.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Win McNamee/Staff
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.