Religious freedom supporters are awakening all around the world!

July 31, 2018

“Religious freedom is a universal aspiration, and its supporters are awakening,” said USAID Administrator Mark Green at the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom last week. Samuel Brownback, the Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, agreed. He thinks nations are tearing down the Iron Curtain that has prohibited religious freedom. A burst of religious freedom is hopefully on its way!

“Ensuring religious freedom around the world is a key priority of the Trump Administration’s foreign policy,” declared U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who hosted the Ministerial. Since it’s a key priority, the U.S. invited over 175 civil society representatives and more than 100 religious leaders from around the world to create an action plan for ending religious persecution and to inspire commitment toward religious freedom.

The first day of the Ministerial (aka a meeting with government ministers) was focused on equipping and empowering civil society organizations that spread religious freedom. The organizations learned how they can access U.S. grants to help support their efforts. Senior U.S. government officials also provided an overview of their foreign policy goals regarding religious freedom.

The second day involved speeches by religious leaders representing every corner of the world. Breakout sessions included discussions about countering violent religious extremism, the connection between religious freedom and economic prosperity, and best ways to provide support to religious persecution victims.

The third day brought together government authorities and international organization representatives from over 80 counties. They participated in sessions about global challenges to religious freedom. Delegations announced their new plans and commitment to protect religious freedom.

At the end of the 3-days, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the U.S. has now established a Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program and is also launching an International Religious Freedom Fund. The Potomac Declaration was also unveiled. It’s a Declaration of Religious Freedom that comes across as strong as the Declaration of Independence. The accompanying Potomac Plan of Action sets forth the important work to be done.

Throughout the three days, survivors of religious persecution also shared their stories.

One woman spoke of her many family members in Iran who have been incarcerated for many years because they follow the Baha’i faith. Their family farm—which belonged to the family for hundreds of years—was deliberately demolished.

Two other women, Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh, told their story of converting to Christianity and then being arrested and sent to one of Iran’s most notorious prisons for nearly a year. They were threatened with execution unless they denied their faith in Jesus Christ, which they wouldn’t do. The women said they endured only because of their personal relationship with Jesus and the love of God they had experienced. Fortunately, they were released because Christian ministries, international organizations, etc., put too much pressure on the Iranian government, but unfortunately, religious persecution continues in Iran.

A Muslim man named Qasim Rashid explained that it was Election Day today in Pakistan, yet the Ahmadiyya Muslim community is not allowed to vote because of their religion.

A woman named Ji Hyeona was in the audience, and Mike Pence told her story. She had been imprisoned and tortured in North Korea simply for carrying a Bible. When she tried to escape, the North Korean authorities forced her to have an abortion.

Nadia Murad, a part of the Yazidi faith community, was also in attendance, and Mike Pence described how she had been taken captive by ISIS and was forced to endure the “most degrading form of human slavery” before escaping.

After hearing such heart-breaking testimonies, Bryan Hook, the Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary of State, said these stories underly the importance of the work being done to promote religion freedom: the work is critical so that we no longer have victim stories like these.

Such work is also critical for protecting freedom as a whole. Mark Green said our Founders enshrined freedom of religion into our Constitution from the very first lines of the Bill of Rights: religion is America’s first liberty. It first must exist, or else our other freedoms will be lost.

Hopefully, many more will be awakened to that fact.  Johnnie Moore, a commissioner for a governmental body that defends the universal right to freedom of religion world-wide, dubbed last week’s Ministerial the “first-ever Super Bowl for religious freedom.” Now that people are pumped up and awake, religious freedom might start ringing through every nation.

At least, that’s our prayer. Please join us in praying for an end to religious persecution and an influx of religions freedom.

In Service,

Texas Citizens Coalition

Gary Gates started the non-profit Texas Citizens Coalition because he has a passion for individual liberty and preserving the Constitution, and it’s a fight he’s engaged in with every facet of his life. He believes a coalition is needed because it takes all of us being actively involved to move our state and country forward. We as citizens must stay informed because We the People are in charge and must hold government accountable. Gary desires to provide Texas citizens a free resource to get useful information about state government from a conservative perspective.

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