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US call to protect religious freedom at UN General Assembly

NEW YORK (23 September 2019) – Today, in a speech today during the United Nations General Assembly, United States President Donald Trump will announce a “global call to protect religious freedom.” His speech will be the first time a sitting US President has ever spoken on the issue of religious freedom at the UN.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental right that all countries are called to protect,” said Kelsey Zorzi, ADF International’s Director of Global Religious Freedom and President of the UN’s NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief. “The President’s speech is an important and historic moment precisely because religious freedom is too often ignored or downplayed at the UN. At a time when persecution is on the rise, and over 80% of the world’s population lives in countries with high restrictions on religious freedom, every country should make securing religious freedom a high priority.”

The goal of President Trump’s speech is to highlight and broaden international support for religious freedom. The President will speak of increasing attacks on houses of worship and religious sites.

Over 150 foreign leaders, faith leaders, victims of persecution, and religious freedom activists will attend for the President’s speech.

Vice President Mike Pence will also give opening remarks.

International religious freedom priority of US administration

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Religious freedom has become a central pillar of US foreign policy. In July 2019, the State Department hosted over 100 foreign delegations and 1000 civil society members during its second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. President Trump also met with more than 30 victims of persecution in the Oval Office at that time. He is expected to raise the issue with multiple heads of state in bilateral discussions during high-level week at the UN General Assembly.

The United States also will host side events on the mass detention of Uyghur Muslims in China, and on the links between religious freedom and economic development.


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