U.S. State Department to Fight Religious Persecution

The U.S. Department of State has recently announced that it will host a summit this summer to allow the U.S. and its allies to focus on the ever growing problem of religious persecution across the globe. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled the State Department’s annual report on global religious freedom that highlights the religious persecution on such countries as Russia, Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea. Pompeo announced the plans for the summit and said, “It will not just be a discussion group. It will be about action. We look forward to identifying concrete ways to push back against persecution and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.” This comes as encouraging news to many as a fulfillment of the promise President Trump made on the campaign trail. In turn, the Trump administration has stated they intend to make religious persecution a top priority of its foreign agenda. This is becoming evident as the U.S. has also recently proposed to divert their monetary contributions to the United Nations so that the funds could be sent to countries who are actively fighting with religious persecution such as the struggles with ISIS in Iraq.

Naming Names of Offenders

Putting some traction to this plan requires a clear-cut identification of which countries are the worst offenders in terms of religious persecution. To achieve this, the State Department also re-designated counties include Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as “countries of particular concern.” Also, for only the second time, the State Department created a new designation as it announced its “Special Watch List.” The Special Watch List is meant for countries that engage in or even tolerate violations of religious freedom that do not yet meet the threshold of Countries of Particular Concern. Adding to the seriousness with which members of the administration intend to treat this issue, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback is helping to push through a law that he created when he served as a US Kansas senator which would publicly identify the countries participating in – or tolerating – religious persecution and implementing “some type of punishment, such as economic or humanitarian sanctions,” Brownback said. "We must move religious freedom forward," Brownback urged, “We must defend religious freedom in every corner of the globe. That's why the secretary is hosting the first ever ministerial on advancing religious freedom.”

Relevant Bible Passages

While it is encouraging that the U.S. government is taking the threat of global religious persecution seriously, we should not expect this to wipe out the problem. As we are often reminded, the apostle Paul warned us in 2 Timothy 3:12 that, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The Bible teaches that religious persecution of Christians will continue to increase as the last days draws closer. For example, Matthew 10:22 indicates that Christians will be persecuted and “shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (KJV).  This persecution not only manifests itself in the more obvious means of physical persecution, but also in social persecution as we can see around the world with Christians being outcast in many countries and prohibited from government positions and even employment. In fact, in many countries it is illegal to openly profess Christ or to publicly evangelize. Our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are being beaten, and killed for their faith. Hopefully these recent measures by the U.S. State Department can alleviate some of this.

PRAY: Pray for the courage of U.S. leaders to stand by this recent proposal and to actively fight religious persecution around the world. Pray also that whether persecution is lifted or not, that the Gospel will be proclaimed boldly.