President Trump on Monday announced $25 million in funding to protect religious freedom and religious sites around the world, and asked the world’s governments to join together to end religious persecution.
Trump also announced an initiative comprised of a “coalition of U.S. businesses for the protection of religious freedom.”
Trump was speaking at a meeting on religious persecution he convened at the United Nations, with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and other international officials in attendance. Vice President Mike Pence said Trump was the first American president to hold a meeting at the U.N. on religious persecution.
The $25 million, Trump said, will go toward protecting religious freedom, religious sites and relics.
“We're … urging every nation to increase the prosecution and punishment of crimes against religious communities,” Trump said. “There can be no greater crime than that.”
The initiative involving business, he said, will “encourage the private sector to protect people of all faiths in the workplace.”
“Too often, people in positions of power preach diversity, while silencing, shunning or censoring the faithful,” Trump said. “True tolerance means respecting the right of all people to express their deeply held religious beliefs.”
Trump listed several examples of religious persecution: the Easter bombings of churches in Sri Lanka, the murder of an 85-year-old Catholic priest in France, anti-Semitic attacks at synagogues in Pennsylvania and California, and the murder of Muslims in New Zealand.
“These evil attacks are a wound on all humanity,” he said.
An estimated 11 Christians are killed every day for “following the teachings of Christ,” Trump said.
“America stands with believers in every country, who ask only for the freedom to live according to the faith that is within their own hearts,” he said. “... As president, protecting religious freedom is one of my highest priorities and always has been.”
Trump contrasted the religious freedom in the U.S. with the lack of freedom around the world.
“The United States is founded on the principle that our rights do not come from government; they come from God,” he said. “This immortal truth is proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. 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.
“Regrettably,” Trump said, “the religious freedom enjoyed by American citizens is rare in the world. Approximately 80 percent of the world's population live in countries where religious liberty is threatened, restricted or even banned.
“... Today with one clear voice, the United States of America calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution, to stop the crimes against people of faith, release prisoners of conscience, repeal laws restricting freedom of religion and belief [and] protect the vulnerable, the defenseless and the oppressed.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Alex Wong/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.