“…the Christian faith is under siege.”
Vice President Pence addressed the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians on May 11, 2017, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. Here are highlights from his courageous remarks:
The Bible tells us: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” And those of you gathered here today are emblematic of millions across the world. You’ve persevered through the crucible of persecution. You refused to be conformed to this world. You have chosen instead to be counted with those outside the city gate for your faith. And by your life, you bear witness to the truth that brings us together here at this summit.
The reality is, across the wider world, the Christian faith is under siege. Throughout the world, no people of faith today face greater hostility or hatred than the followers of Christ. In more than 100 countries spread to every corner of the globe –- from Iran to Eritrea, Nigeria to North Korea –- over 215 million Christians confront intimidation, imprisonment, forced conversion, abuse, assault, or worse, for holding to the truths of the Gospel. And nowhere is this onslaught against our faith more evident than in the very ancient land where Christianity was born.
Two millennia ago, the Disciples of Christ, the forefathers of our faith, fanned out from Israel in every direction to bring the good news that we proclaim across the globe to this day. And in the valleys of Syria, Palestine, the plains of Nineveh and the Nile, on the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates, they planted seeds of belief. They watered them with their sacrifice and their courage. They blossomed into fruit, and have borne fruit for the Gospel ever since.
The Christian communities where the message of our Lord was first uttered and embraced today, though, are often the targets of unspeakable atrocity. In Egypt, just recently, we saw bombs explode in churches in the very midst of the celebration of Palm Sunday. A day of hope was transformed into tragedy. I was just this weekend with a pastor who — from Egypt who spoke of the images that day, of seeing the palms the people carried into church on the ground, marked with the blood of the injured.
In Iraq, at the hands of extremists, we’ve actually seen monasteries demolished, priests and monks beheaded, and the two-millennia-old Christian tradition in Mosul virtually extinguished overnight. In Syria, we see ancient communities burned to the ground. We see believers tortured for confessing Christ, and women and children sold into the most terrible form of human slavery.
Know today with assurance that President Trump sees these crimes for what they are: vile acts of persecution animated by hatred — hatred for the Gospel of Christ. And so too does the President know those who perpetrate these crimes. They are them the embodiment of evil in our time. He calls them by name — radical Islamic terrorists. (Applause.)
From al Qaeda to al Shabaab, from Boko Haram to the Taliban, these extremist groups seek to stamp out all religions that are not their own, or even a version of their own that they approve. And believers from every background have suffered grievously at their hands. And this summit is about calling the attention to the world to those tragic circumstances.
The practitioners of terror harbor a special hatred for the followers of Christ, and none more so than the barbarians known as ISIS. That brutal regime shows a savagery, frankly, unseen in the Middle East since the Middle Ages. And 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. (Applause.)
Now, Christianity faces unprecedented threats in the land where it was given life, its creed in an exodus unrivaled since the days of Moses in some communities. In Syria, the Christian population has plummeted from one-and-a-quarter million to only 500,000 in just the past six years. In Iraq, followers of Christ have fallen by 80 percent in the past decade and a half due to the violence of extremism and acts against Christian communities.
But you know, it wasn’t always like this. I saw it firsthand in 2004, shortly after the end of initial combat operations in Operation: Iraqi Freedom. I traveled to al-Basrah in Iraq. It was my first time overseas and in that part of the world. And I’ll never forget, we met with local leaders — political leaders and religious leaders — our small delegation of congressmen.
And there I witnessed something I’ll never forget. I saw the local imam standing in his traditional apparel, and then as the local bishop arrived I saw the two of them embrace warmly, and began to speak with one another in animated ways. And the translator who was with me said that they were speaking about their families. The imam was expressing the appreciation that the bishop had expressed for condolences for the loss in their community. And there was warm affection between them.
I turned to the State Department official who was traveling with us and said — not knowing, I said, how long has there been a Christian church in al-Basrah? And he smiled and said, about 1,500 years. (Laughter.) It’s a community of common purpose and affection. And it can be that way again.
Our brother and sisters in faith, I can assure you are being carried by the prayers of the faithful across this nation and across the world. You have the prayers of our President and all the American people. And the Old Book says, not be anxious about anything but in every form of prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God and the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
So know those of you that stare persecution in the face every day in distant lands, you have the prayers of the American people, prayers of my family, and you have the prayers of the President of the United States.
The suffering of Christians in the Middle East has stirred America to act, and it brings me here today. President Trump rightly said not long ago that — of the Christian church, “nobody has been treated worse in the Middle East.” He’s made it clear that America will stand by followers of Christ in this hour of need. Our administration is fully committed in bringing relief and comfort to believers not only across the Middle East but across the world. This President knows the terrorists will not stop until we stop them. And under President Donald Trump, we will stop them. (Applause.)