United Nations Headquarters
New York, New York
11:41 A.M. EDT
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General Guterres, Ambassador Craft, Mr. Secretary Pompeo, members of the Cabinet, distinguished members of Congress, world leaders, and most especially to the courageous men and women who join us here today who have suffered persecution and violence for simply living out your faith — whether that be Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam — it is my great honor to be here today with the President of the United States to reaffirm America’s commitment to what the people of our nation have always believed: that every person is endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. And Americans have always believed our first freedom is the freedom of religion.
Today, President Donald Trump becomes the first American President to convene a meeting, here at the United Nations, on religious freedom. And it is my great honor to introduce him. (Applause.)
And there’s no better time for a meeting like this on the world stage. As we gather here at the United Nations, more than 80 percent of the world’s population live in nations where religious freedom is threatened or banned.
The regime in Iran brutally persecutes Christians, Sunnis, Bahai’i, and Jews.
In Iraq, Iran-backed militias terrorize Christians and Yazidis who were nearly wiped out by ISIS’s recent campaign of genocide.
The Communist Party in China has arrested Christian pastors, banned the sale of Bibles, demolished churches, and imprisoned more than a million Uighurs in the Muslim population.
In our hemisphere, the regime of Daniel Ortega is virtually waging war on the Catholic Church in Nicaragua. And in Venezuela, the dictator Nicolás Maduro uses anti-hate laws to prosecute clergy, even as his media cronies spread anti-Semitism by trivializing the Holocaust.
Communities of faith across the wider world have also faced unspeakable acts of violence in places of worship, shocking the conscience of the world.
In October, 11 Jews were murdered in the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In March, a gunman killed 51 Muslims at prayer in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. And just a month later, suicide bombers murdered more than 300 Christians during Easter services at three Christian churches in Sri Lanka.
These attacks strike at the heart of everything free peoples hold sacred. And the threats of religious freedom and the attacks on people of faith underscore why President Trump has taken such decisive action, since the very first days of our administration, to build and promote our nation’s proud tradition of advancing religious freedom. And that continues today.
At the President’s direction, the United States created the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program, and we’ve provided more than $370 million to aid ethnic minorities in faith communities persecuted by ISIS in Iraq and throughout the region.
Earlier this year, at the President’s direction, the Secretary of State held the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, inviting more than a thousand civil society and religious leaders, in 100 different nations, to the largest event of its kind in the world.
And last year, at the inaugural ministerial, at the President’s direction, we established the International Religious Freedom Fund, which already has received nearly $5 million in pledges and given over 435 Rapid Response Grants to those persecuted for their deeply held beliefs. And to date, this effort has helped some 2,000 victims of religious persecution around the world.
As the President often says, America is a nation of faith, and we will always stand for the freedom of religion of every person, of every race and every creed, to live, to work, to worship according to the dictates of their conscience.
And 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.
This is a very special day. And I always say it is a high honor to introduce this President. But to be here, at this historic gathering with leaders around the world, standing for our first freedom of religious liberty is among the greatest honors I’ve ever had.
And so let me say, it is my high honor and distinct privilege to introduce to you a tireless champion of the freedom of religion and people of every faith in America and around the world, the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
11:46 A.M. EDT