WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed the Trump administration’s commitment to addressing persecution of Christians around the world and urged Americans to call the targeting of Christians by Islamic terrorists genocide during a speech Thursday.
“Throughout the world, no people of faith today face greater hostility or hatred than the followers of Christ,” Pence said at the World Summit In Defense of Persecuted Christians, organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).
The first World Summit includes influential religious leaders from across the world, including delegations from Russia, Syria and Egypt, with representatives from Protestant and Roman Catholic denominations in America.
“The [Christian] faith is under siege,” Pence told the audience of around 600 people, particularly by ISIS and radical Islamic terrorists. Across the world, “over 215 million Christians confront intimidation, imprisonment, forced conversion, abuse, assault, and worse for holding to the truths of the Gospel,” Pence said.
The decline of Christianity in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in Middle East, where “the messages of our Lord were first uttered,” must be addressed, Pence continued. Extremist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram “seek to stamp out any religions that are not their own” and harbor a particular hatred of Christians, according to Pence.
“I believe ISIS is guilty of nothing short of genocide against people of the Christian faith, and it is time the world called it by name,” he said.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the Palm Sunday attacks on Egyptian Coptic Churches April 9, which President Donald Trump condemned as “heinous terrorist attack.”
Christians are not the only religious groups affected by violence, and Pence said the administration will work to protect them as well. “As history attests, persecution of one faith is persecution of all faiths,” Pence said.
Pence, who was raised Roman Catholic but now identifies as an Evangelical, said his presence at the World Summit was a tangible sign of Trump’s commitment to defend religious freedom around the world.
Trump’s vaunted executive order on religious liberty, signed May 4, eased some regulations on religious groups who advocate for political causes, but many church leaders, including Franklin Graham, the host of the world summit, are dubious about its long-term effects. (RELATED: Trump To Sign Executive Order That Allows Churches To Endorse Political Candidates)
“Could more be done? Yes,” Graham, who attended a small meeting with the president during the signing of the order, told The Washington Post. “I think we’ll take what we can take when we can get it. Eighty percent is better than nothing.”
Franklin Graham, president of the BGEA, offered a prayer of gratitude for Pence, asking God to protect the Vice President, his wife and family.
— BGEA (@BGEA) May 11, 2017
Graham also prayed for Trump. “I pray as Vice President Pence advises him, that you would give him wisdom,” Franklin said during his prayer, eliciting chuckles from the crowd.
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