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At United Nations General Assembly Meetings, United States Launches Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom, Sites, and Relics

September 23, 2019

UN Photo/Manuel Elias
UN Photo/Manuel Elias

As world leaders again converged in New York for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the United States highlighted threats to the world’s religions and launched an international campaign to fight back, pledging $25 million to safeguard religious freedom, sites, and relics.

The “Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom” took place Monday, September 23rd at the United Nations headquarters in New York. President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — joined by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and others — spoke to a packed conference room that included U.S. cabinet leaders, as well as heads of state, foreign ministers, and other diplomats from around the world.  The high-level attendance from the U.N and U.S. government demonstrates the priority that both are placing on this issue. AC Chair and Founder Deborah Lehr and Executive Director Tess Davis were among those in attendance, in recognition of the important role that cultural preservation plays in the broader mission of ensuring religious freedom.

Why You Should Care

As President Trump recognized in his remarks, the intentional destruction of sacred sites and relics is part of a broader attack on people of faith.

Daesh (ISIS), Al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations have deliberately targeted religious communities, along with their sites and objects. Their main goal has been to erase all memory of their enemies and any evidence of their existence. These crimes are atrocities in and of themselves, as well as key indicators of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. The dangerous propaganda promoted by these violent extremists also stokes the flames of hatred and promotes further destruction and loss.

This threat is unfortunately not going away anytime soon. According to the day’s speakers, approximately 80% of the world’s population live in countries where religious liberty is threatened, restricted, or even banned.

Key Takeaways

  • The goal of promoting international religious freedom can only be accomplished with the joint efforts of each nation.
  • To this end, the United States is pledging $25 million to protect religious freedom, as well as sacred sites and relics, around the world. Details on how to apply for this funding will be forthcoming.
  • The UN is also taking action with two recent initiatives to step up action against religious intolerance. They seek to address the root causes of hate speech and to support efforts to safeguard religious sites and houses of worship.

Notable Quotes from The Meeting:

  • “We must all work together to protect communities of every faith.  We’re also urging every nation to increase the prosecution and punishment of crimes against religious communities. There can be no greater crime than that. This includes measures to prevent the intentional destruction of religious sites and relics.” – President Donald J. Trump
  • “In just the past years, we have witnessed horrific acts of violence committed against worshippers in mosques, churches, and synagogues. President Trump recently hosted victims of religious intolerance at the White House and expressed his support of their beliefs and the importance of protecting the beliefs of others.” – Ambassador Kelly Craft
  • “Jews have been murdered in synagogues, their gravestones defaced with swastikas; Muslims gunned down in mosques, their religious sites vandalized; Christians killed at prayer, their churches torched. And in many hotspots around the world, entire communities have been targeted because of their faith – including in places where those communities have existed for centuries, if not millennia.” –Secretary-General António Guterres

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