President Donald Trump made history on Monday when he became the first U.S. president to convene a meeting at the United Nations on religious freedom when he began the annual session of the U.N. General Assembly with a “Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom.”
Accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary-General António Guterres, Trump told the General Assembly: “No right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous, flourishing society than religious freedom, yet it is rare around the world. As we speak, many people of faith are being jailed, murdered, often at the hands of their own government.”
The president was referring to the fact that, since 2009, more than 80% of the population of the world has lived in a nation that restricts religious freedom.
In addition, President Trump is also scheduled to meet with several world leaders, including Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi as well as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan. The likely topics of conversation will be about the violations of the human rights of religious minorities – which includes Christians, Egypt’s Islamic extremist groups, and Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
Last year, the U.S. left the U.N. Human Rights Council and some believed the U.S. would leave the U.N. altogether. But, the president has shown that he plans to continue to be a part of the U.N. with intentions of making a positive impact on human rights — especially the right to freedom of religion, as he declares it is an issue of “urgent moral duty” for all countries.
President Trump has made it no secret that he feels strongly about religious freedom. The U.S. has issued consistent statements to the U.N. that religious freedom is a top human rights priority, which is why the State Department hosted its second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington in July. More than 100 countries were represented by over 1,000 civil society leaders who gathered to discuss Trump’s many religious freedom victories. These include the freeing of Pastor Andrew Brunson after two years in a Turkish prison and the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian accused of blasphemy.
President Trump announced at the U.N. meeting that the U.S. will continue to fight for this important right, and has committed $25 million to religious freedom efforts to establish a united coalition of businesses for religious freedom. In fact, the Trump Administration has already launched the International Religious Freedom Alliance, which is the first international body that is devoted to the advancement of religious freedom. The goal of the alliance, as stated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his keynote address at the July ministerial, is to “build on efforts to date and bring like-minded countries together to confront challenges of international religious freedom.”