WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Trump administration is drawing attention to the plight of persecuted Christians.
The second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom took place July 16–18, featuring about 1,000 religious leaders. Hosted by the U.S. State Department, it is said to be the largest religious liberty event in the world.
On Wednesday, President Trump had a televised meeting in the Oval Office with survivors of religious persecution from around the world. Trump delivered his remarks before yielding the floor to persecuted people in attendance, many of them Christians.
"With us today are men and women of many different religious traditions, from many different countries," the president said. "But what you have in common is each of you has suffered tremendously for your faith."
"You've endured harassment, threats, attacks, trials, imprisonment and torture," he added.
Trump said in his remarks, "We know that if people are not free to practice their faith, then all other freedoms are at risk."
Among those in the Oval Office were a survivor of the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand, a Nigerian woman who escaped from Boko Haram and a Chinese woman whose husband is in a labor camp.
Andrew Brunson, an American Presbyterian pastor imprisoned in Turkey for two years, was present at the event, along with Nadia Murad, a Yazidi from northern Iraq who was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. She was captured in 2014 by ISIS and stayed in captivity for several months. After escaping, she founded Nadia's Initiative, a non-profit organization advocating for victims of sexual violence in armed conflict.
In response to Trump's question about her Nobel Peace Prize, Murad said, "I make it clear to everyone that ISIS raped thousands of Yazidi women."
As ISIS spread, it committed genocide against the Yazidis, killing them by the thousands. ISIS militants also took thousands of Yazidi girls and women as slaves.
The ministerial consisted of various presentations and breakout sessions. One of the speakers was Shawn Taseer, whose father was murdered by Muslim radicals for trying to protect Catholic mother Asia Bibi from her death sentence on charges of blasphemy.
Taseer said that "there are 200 Asia Bibis in jail in Pakistan today."
"Abandon them at your own peril," he exhorted the audience.
During Wednesday's event, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich announced that the United States and the Vatican will co-host a summit on religious liberty on October 2.
Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, gave a talk about the efforts that his organization and other Catholic groups have made to help Iraqi Christians return to their homeland after the retreat of ISIS.
"During a visit to Iraq earlier this year, I was told repeatedly that security is the primary concern of those trying to return home after ISIS," Anderson said. "The Knights of Columbus along with other organizations, and the United States ... have spent millions of dollars to assist returns by targeted communities to Nineveh — the place that has been their home for millennia."
"We stand at a critical juncture," he continued, "and we urge Baghdad and the other governments of the Middle East to take the protection and preservation of their minority communities seriously."
Many Christians, especially Catholics, were forced to flee their ancestral home in the Nineveh Plains when ISIS took over the region. Even with ISIS quashed, Christians continue to face struggles as they try to return home.