America’s first ministerial for international religious freedom will not be its last.
The State Department and USAID will partner on a new program to ensure that public and private aid can rapidly get to persecuted religious minorities.
And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed today the Potomac Declaration, which proclaims religious freedom to be “a far-reaching, universal, and profound human right that all peoples and nations of good will must defend around the globe” [full text below], as well as an accompanying plan of action.
“These documents reassert the United States’s unwavering commitment to promoting and defending religious freedom,” said Pompeo. “They recommend concrete ways the international community and governments can do more to protect religious freedom and vulnerable religious communities.”
Vice President Mike Pence also reiterated the US commitment to religious freedom on the final day of the unprecedented event in Washington DC.
“The United States is also committed to ensuring that religious freedom and religious pluralism prosper across the Middle East as well. To that end, America is launching a new initiative that will not only deliver additional support to the most vulnerable communities, but we trust that it will also embolden civil society to help stop violence in the future,” said Pence as he announced the establishment of the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program.
The Vice President was quick to point out that the organization would partner with “local faith and community leaders,” and that “this support will flow directly to individuals and households most in need of help.”
Pence mentioned that the Trump administration had already sent more than $110 million to the Middle East. (The funds were announced by Pence in 2017, but have been slow to arrive in Iraqi Kurdistan.)
In the first two days of the ministerial, dozens of civil society leaders from around the globe heard the stories of the religiously persecuted and learned how to better work with the philanthropy sector and US government to secure funds.
On Thursday, delegations from more than 80 countries attended the ministerial. Among them were leaders from Uzbekistan, which the US has designated a Tier 1 Country of Particular Concern (CPC), its harshest classification for countries which it does not believe respect religious freedom. Also present were leaders from some Tier 2 CPC countries: Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, and Kazakhstan.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Morgan Lee