Tue. Nov 12th, 2019

Trump earmarks $25m fund for the protection of religious freedom

President Donald Trump announced
Monday that the United States will dedicate
$25 million to protect religious sites and
houses of worship across the world and
also announced the creation of a coalition
of top business leaders to help protect
religious freedom in the workplace.
Trump became the first American president
ever to convene a meeting at the United
Nations headquarters in New York City
focusing solely on religious freedom. In a
speech Monday morning, the 73-year-old
called for the nations of the world to do
their part to “end religious persecution.”
The event was called ” Global Call to
Protect Religious Freedom ” and was
attended by Trump, Vice President Mike
Pence and Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo.
“As president, protecting religious freedom
is one of my highest priorities and always
has been,” Trump assured.
The meeting was also attended by high
ranking U.S. officials, survivors of religious
persecution, faith leaders, business leaders
and religious freedom advocates. Trump
was introduced before his speech by
Pence, who declared that Monday would be
a “very special day.”
“Today, giving evidence of his passion for
religious liberty, the president will announce
additional steps that the United States will
take to protect religious liberty and defend
people of faith around the world,” Pence
said.
During his nearly 15-minute speech, Trump
detailed a number of things his
administration has done to advance
religious freedom around the world, such
as securing the release of imprisoned
pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey and
holding two historic State Department
ministerials on religious freedom.
Toward the end of his speech, Trump
mentioned new initiatives that the U.S.
government is undertaking to help promote
religious freedom across the globe.
One of those initiatives involves a
significant contribution by the U.S.
government to help protect religious sites
across the world.
“Today, the Trump administration will
dedicate an additional $25 million to
protect religious freedom and religious sites
and relics,” Trump vowed, after listing
attacks targeting Christian, Jewish and
Muslim places of worship in the last year.
Trump did not offer specifics on the plan to
dedicate the $25 million in funds.
Trump also announced a new coalition to
promote international religious freedom.
“We are also pleased to be joined today by
many of the partners of the business
community as we announce a very critical
initiative,” Trump explained. “The United
States is forming a coalition of U.S.
businesses for the protection of religious
freedom. This is the first time this has
been done.”
“This initiative will encourage the private
sector to protect people of faith in the
workplace and the private sector has
brilliant leadership,” he added.
“That is why some of the people in this
room are among the most successful men
and women on Earth. They know how
things get done and they know how to take
care of things. They are with us now for
the first time, to this extent, for the first
time ever. We are really honored to have
you in the room. Great business leaders
and great people of strength.”
A White House fact sheet issued Monday
did not offer many specifics on the
coalition.
The new initiatives announced by Trump
come as the Trump administration has
launched a number of efforts over the last
several years designed to promote religious
freedom worldwide or help those who have
suffered from religious persecution.
At the second annual Ministerial to
Advance Religious Freedom in July, the
U.S. launched the International Religious
Freedom Alliance , an alliance of like-
minded nations dedicated to confronting
religious persecution around the world.
In his remarks Monday, Pence explained
that the U.S. has given over $370 million in
aid to minority communities in Iraq and
Syria in need of help resettling after they
were pushed from their ancient homelands
by the Islamic State terrorist organization
in 2014.
Aid to persecuted minorities in Iraq and
Syria has been given out through the
administration’s Recovery and Persecution
Response Program.
At the first-ever State Department
Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom,
the International Religious Freedom Fund
was created to help survivors of religious
persecution. According to Pence, the fund
has raised over $5 million from pledges
and given over 435 rapid response grants.
“To date, this effort has helped some 2,000
victims of religious persecution around the
world,” Pence declared.
Trump’s speech was praised by Christian
conservative activist Tony Perkins, who
also serves on the U.S. Commission on
International Religious Freedom.
One of the top four recommendations listed
in USCIRF’s 2019 annual report calls for
the State Department to allocate funding
through its Antiterrorism Assistance
Program to train and equip local officials
and communities to protect places of
worship and holy sites.
“The president delivered a historic speech
that goes beyond talking about
international religious freedom to taking
tangible steps that will lead to people of all
faiths being able to securely and publicly
worship,” Perkins, the president of the
Family Research Council, said in a
statement.
“Not only is religious freedom a
fundamental human right, as recognized by
the United Nations’ Universal Declaration
of Human Rights, but there is a growing
body of research that shows that nations
that uphold religious freedom have greater
social and economic security — which
indirectly makes all nations more secure,
including the United States.”
After Trump’s remarks, U.N. Secretary-
General António Guterres gave a short
speech explaining how the U.N. is taking
steps to combat religious persecution.
“The best way to promote international
religious freedom is by uniting our voices
for good, countering messages of hate with
messages of peace embracing diversity
and protecting human rights everywhere,”
Guterres said.
“The United Nations is stepping up action
through two new initiatives that I have
launched in recent weeks. First, a strategy
on hate speech to coordinate efforts across
the U.N. system addressing root causes
and making our response more effective
against hate speech. Second, an action
plan for the U.N. to be fully engaged in an
effort to safeguard religious sites and
ensure the safety of houses of worship. All
these sites should be places of worship,
not places of war.”

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