– Vice President Pence remarks at MARF –
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– Vice President Pence remarks at MARF –

well ambassador Brownback your excellencies and to all of those who have struggled under religious persecution you honor us by your presence all welcome welcome to the second ministerial to advance religious freedom and welcome to the largest Human Rights ministerial ever held at the United States State Department we gather today as people who believe in freedom of religion and also the power of faith it’s vice president in the United States I stand for the freedom of religion that animated the American Founding and is enshrined in our Bill of Rights but this is a special day for me as well because on a personal level my faith in Jesus Christ has brought meaning and purpose to me and my family every day of my life so I’m honored by your presence and I’m especially honored to address you today as vice president to an American president who has been a great champion of religious freedom at home and abroad so allow me to begin by bringing greetings and welcome on behalf of the 45th President of the United States of America President Donald Trump since the earliest days of our nation America has stood for religious freedom our first settlers left their homes and all they knew for the chance to as they said begin the world all over again they carved protections for religious liberty into the founding charters of our nation and our very earliest laws and after our independence was one the crafters of America’s Constitution enshrined religious liberty as the first of our American freedoms our Declaration of Independence proclaims that our precious liberties are not the gift of government but rather they’re the inalienable rights endowed by our Creator Americans believe that people should live by the dictates of their conscience not the diktats of government we’re proud proud that our long tradition of inspiring other nations to embrace religious freedom and respect for human rights has ushered in important improvements in the lives of people all over the world and I want to take this opportunity to thank to thank the distinguished representatives of the 106 countries who have chosen to be here today join us in taking a strong stand in defense of religious freedom free minds build free markets and wherever religious liberty is allowed to take root it is prosperity and peace that ultimately flourish as well as we tell even our closest allies those who reject religious freedom are more likely to breed radicalism and resentment it can sow those seeds of violence and it can too often cross borders those who deny religious freedom to their own people often have few qualms denying those rights to others that’s why under president Trump’s leadership this administration has taken decisive action to defend our first freedom at home and abroad the president made a bold statement in support of religious liberty when he appointed a friend and a lifelong champion of our first freedom as our ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom and that man has now traveled the world and his good work is evidenced in the historic turnout today would you all join me in recognizing and thanking ambassador Sam Brownback for his work on behalf of religious liberty around the world thank you Sam earlier this year our administration build on that progress by appointing Alan Carr as a special envoy for monitoring and combating anti-semitism and earlier today as you all heard Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a new initiative to create a forum for dialogue about religious liberty around the world and we look forward to working with each of you in the newly instituted International Religious Freedom Alliance and with this renewed focus on religious liberty we’ve stood with those who are oppressed for their religious beliefs around the world since the first days of this administration three years ago an American pastor was arrested in Turkey and imprisoned for the alleged crime of dividing and separating the nation simply by spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in one meeting after another with president air dawuan I saw President Trump demand the release of this good man of faith through two years of imprisonment we stood strong in in October of last year through the president’s efforts and by God’s great kindness pastor Andrew Brunson came home pastor Bronson’s story of perseverance in the face of incredible hardship was an inspiration to people across our country and believers around the world we express our admiration to him from the bottom of our hearts being an example of faith that is like gold tested in fire I understand he is with us today he is my friend so let me just say pastor Brunson welcome home it is good to be back with you for the second year in a row last year was my great honor to address the first ministerial where I announced two initiatives and I’m proud to report have made great progress we announced a new initiative to ensure that religious freedom and religious pluralism would prosper across the Middle East the genocide recovery and persecution response program and today I’m proud to report the United States has provided more than 340 million dollars in aid to faith and ethnic minority communities persecuted by Isis in Iraq and throughout the region second at that ministerial we announced a new initiatives to support those who fight for religious freedom and those who suffer from religious persecution the International Religious Freedom Fund and since then we’ve received nearly five million dollars in pledges with donors from several countries well represented here with your support we’ve provided more than 435 Rapid Response grants to those persecuted because of their beliefs helping more than 1,800 people directly as well as their families and fellow believers for example in Sri Lanka we’ve given much needed assistance to the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks and as I said last year America is proud to lead this program we ask all the nations gathered here and around the world to join us in this important fund together we will champion the cause of Liberty as never before and I believe that our combined leadership will make a difference for religious liberty for generations to come so we’ve made progress but we still have much work to do for as we gather here today a stunning eighty-three percent of the world’s population live in nations where religious freedom is threatened or even banned the victims of religious persecution face economic sanctions they’re often arrested and imprisoned there the target of mob violence and state sanctioned terror and all too often those whose beliefs run counter to their rulers face not just persecution but death the list of religious freedom violators is long their oppressions span the globe here at our hemisphere in Nicaragua Daniel Ortega and his vice-president and wife Rosario Rosario murió continued their assault on faith and human rights their regime violently suppresses dissent assaults opponents and condones thugs who repress and intimidate Catholic Church leaders for defending democracy and religious freedom in Venezuela the dictator Nicolas Maduro is using his so-called anti hate laws to prosecute Catholic clergy who speak out against his brutal regime that has impoverished millions in this once prosperous country Jewish community leaders report that media associated with the Maduro regime often cast coverage of Israel in anti-semitic tones and trivialize or even deny the Holocaust Nicolas Maduro has brought nothing but misery to the people of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power and Nicolas Maduro must go at president Trump’s direction the United States was proud to be the first nation on earth to recognize interim president Juan Guido as the legitimate president of Venezuela and since then we’re grateful that more than 50 nations have joined us in this cause including Greece just last week which became the fifty-fifth nation to recognize interim president Juan Y del so we’re standing strong for free and democratic Venezuela we’re also calling out the persecution of religious minorities in the greatest state sponsor of terrorism in the world the Islamic Republic of Iran the Iranian people enjoy few if any freedoms least of all the freedom of religion Christians Jews Sunnis behind and other religious minorities are denied the most basic rights enjoyed by the Shia majority and believers are routinely find flogged and arrested in Iran like a story of a courageous Christian pastor whose daughter is here with us today in 2009 Iranian authorities shut down a pastor Viktor BETT Tam razzes church but instead of fleeing the country he continued to share the good news in 2017 the Iranian government sentenced him to 10 years in prison and in 2018 they sentenced his wife to five years and later charged their couple’s son to four months in prison for spreading Christian propaganda pastor Bette Tam Raz and his family are an inspiration to freedom loving people the world over and we couldn’t be more honored to have his daughter Sabrina here with us today please join me in recognizing to Brina that Tamra’s of course Iran’s leaders aren’t content to persecute only their own people they routinely export violence and terrorism throughout the region including to their neighbors in Iraq to this day iranian-backed militias extort and terrorized the people of the Nineveh plain which is still recovering from the days of Isis brutal reign now let me be clear the United States will not stand idly by while iranian-backed militias spread terror and today I’m announcing that the United States has placed sanctions on two leaders of iranian-backed militias for all they’ve done we will hold them accountable but the people of the United States of America have a message to the long-suffering people of Iran even as we stand strong against the leaders in Tehran know that we are with you we pray for you and we urge you to press on with couraging the cause of freedom and a peaceful and prosperous future for your people so we’re standing up to the regime in Tehran we’re also standing up for the persecuted Roma people in Burma while that conflict has fallen along ethnic lines we cannot ignore the rise of militant Buddhism against Muslim and Christian minorities that’s taken place a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against syringa has forced more than 700,000 to flee across the border to Bangladesh and though the United States has repeatedly urged the Burmese government to hold accountable all those responsible the government has continued to imprison and harass innocent men and women like a young rahaga woman who’s here with us today when she was just 18 years old she was thrown in jail for the simple crime of being the daughter of a political activist who dared to challenge the old military regime for seven years she and her family endured deplorable conditions but they never lost faith in the freedom that was their birthright eventually she was released and since then she’s gone on to earn a law degree in a masters of laws from the University of California Berkeley now she’s a leading advocate of empowering women and girls all over the world she’s an inspiring woman and we’re honored to have her with us today join me in recognizing Wei Wei new thank you for your example and your leadership the United States has urged the Burmese government to hold accountable those responsible and make it clear that these mass atrocities must never happen again but so far our words of admonition seemed to fall on deaf ears that’s why this week the United States of America placed visa sanctions on Burma ‘he’s top two military leaders the commander in chief and his deputy as well as two commanders of light infantry brigades we will hold them accountable so we’re standing up to the Millian regime in Iran and pressing for accountability in Burma but the United States has also spoken out against religious persecution in the People’s Republic of China and we do so again today China’s oppression of Tibetan Buddhists goes back decades as part of its efforts to oppress Tibetan Buddhism back in 1995 Chinese authorities captured the legitimate punch in Lama then a six-year-old boy and neither he nor his family have been heard from in the 24 years since in Jinjiang the Communist Party is imprisoned more than a million Chinese Muslims including Uighur in internment camps where they endure around-the-clock brainwashing survivors of the camps have described their experiences as a deliberate attempt by Beijing to strangle Weger culture and stamp out the Muslim faith religious persecution in China has also targeted the Christian faith but in one of the greatest ironies in the history of Christianity in today’s communist China we actually see the fastest growth in the Christian faith that we have ever seen anywhere on earth in the last 2,000 years just seventy years ago when the Communist Party took power there were fewer than a half a million Chinese Christians yet today just two generations later faith in Jesus Christ has reached as many as a hundred and thirty million Chinese Christians the truth is faith is breaking out all across China even in the streets of Hong Kong as the pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai told me earlier this month when young people encounter police in the streets during protests marches that have drawn millions he said those young people often sing songs of worship and praise as he said they sing hallelujah to the Lord Chinese authorities may ban the sale of Christian Bibles but that hasn’t stopped China from publishing more Christian Bibles than any country on earth Chinese authorities may ban the construction of Christian churches but that hasn’t prevented China from building more Christian churches than any other country in the world China’s experience is just more of a time-worn truth the pathway through persecution lies in the faith and resilience of the persecuted like that of a pastor of a large unregistered Church in Guangzhou China on December 9th 2015 Pastor su Tian foo was placed under house arrest after Chinese law enforcement raided the living stone church later he and his fellow co-pastor were charged a fine of up to a million dollars for collecting illegal donations from their church parishioners and just last year he was sentenced to one year in prison his courage in the face of such relentless persecution is an inspiration to freedom loving people all over the world and we’re honored to have with us today his courageous wife who’s been with him every step of the way so join me in recognizing Mon ping o yang we are honored that you are with us today and we are inspired by your faith the United States is engaged in ongoing negotiations and discussions over our trading relationship with China and those will continue but whatever comes of our negotiations with Beijing you can be assured the American people will stand in solidarity with the people of all faiths in the People’s Republic of China and we will pray for the day that they can live out their faith freely without fear of persecution but for all the challenges that believers face in China the treatment of people of faith in North Korea is much worse as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights reported and I quote the violations of human rights in the DPRK constitute crimes against humanity the gravity scale and nature of which has no parallel in the contemporary world open doors has identified North Korea as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians for the past 18 years the North Korean regime formerly demands that its officials act – in their words wipe out the seed of Christian reactionaries and position of a Bible is a capital offense so you can be confident as president Trump continues to pursue the denuclearization of North Korea and a lasting peace the United States will continue to stand for the freedom of religion of all people of all faiths on the Korean Peninsula the United States stands with all victims of religious persecution and the American people have them in our hearts and in our prayers whether be North Korea China Burma Iran or all around the world but today I’d like to draw your attention to for men who have faced down enormous pressure to stay true to their faith and whose release even now after long captivity would help restore the reputation of the countries that have detained them in Eritrea the ninety-year-old patriarch of the Orthodox Church abouna on Tonia’s continues an already 12-year long house arrest because he refuses to excommunicate critics of the government in his church in Mauritania the blogger Mohammed Sheikh Maharshi is still being held for criticizing the government’s use of Islam to justify discrimination in Pakistan professor Junaid Hafiz remains in solitary confinement on unsubstantiated charges of blasphemy in in Saudi Arabia bloggers relief ba-da we is still in prison for the alleged crime of criticizing Islam through electronic means all four of these men have stood in defense of religious liberty the exercise of their faith despite unimaginable pressure and the American people stand with them and so today the United States of America calls upon the governments of Eritrea Mauritania Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to respect the rights of conscience of these men and let the these men go while religious freedom is always in danger in authoritarian regimes threats to religious minorities sadly are not confined to autocracies or dictatorships the truth is they can and do arise in free societies as well not from government persecution but from prejudice in Europe where religious freedom was born as a principle and is enshrined in law anti-semitism is on the rise in France and Germany things have gotten so bad that Jewish religious leaders have warned their followers not to wear keep us in public for fear that they could be violently attacked and attacks on Jews even on agent Holocaust survivors are growing at an alarming rate regrettably the world’s oldest hatred has even found a voice in the halls of our United States Congress so let me say clearly anti-semitism is not just wrong it’s evil an anti-semitism must be confronted and denounced wherever and whenever it arises and it must be universally condemned I met just this last week with Rabbi Israel Goldstein from shavonda Poway the California synagogue that was the scene of a tragic shooting in April of this year he was still wearing the bandage from a wound that he suffered during the attack his courage was incredible and while I was there I also met the hero who chased the assailant out of the synagogue and meeting him only confirmed in me an old truth that faith inspires heroes that’s why faith always triumphs but to all the victims of persecution who are here with us today know this the American people are with you we are with you the people of the United States are inspired by your testimony and by your strength and it steals our resolve to stand for religious liberty in the years ahead the American people will always cherish religious freedom and we will always stand with people across the world who take a stand for their faith we’ve gathered here a hundred and six nations strong because we believe in the freedom of conscience the right of all people to live out their lives according to their deeply held religious beliefs we’re here today because we are and will forever remain dedicated to the principle that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights and among them are life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness these are not the birthright of Americans they are the birthright of the human race and I promise you under this president will always respect the sovereignty and diverse cultures of every nation in the world but as we do America will continue to aspire to be that city on a hill that john winthrop wrote about so long ago will always continue to stand for the freedom to live to work and worship according to the dictates of your conscience and freedom of religion will always be an American anthem so today I thank you for being present here today for the many nations represented here and for your solidarity with us and your determination in your Nations to advance the cause of religious liberty I leave here today with renewed confidence as I see all of you and properly I close with faith faith that we will make progress on behalf of religious liberty in the years ahead you know inscribed on the Liberty Bell which was given to the United States of America by France shortly after we want our independence our ancient words it reads proclaim Liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof Americans and Liberty loving people throughout the world and throughout our history have done this and I believe with all my heart that as each of us in all the nations represented here renews our commitment to proclaim Liberty throughout all our lands that all faiths and freedom itself will flourish for where the Spirit of the Lord is there’s Liberty so thank you all thank you for your stand may God bless all who yearn for freedom and labor beneath persecution for their faith may God bless all your Nations I may God continue to bless the United States America you

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