On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence addressed hundreds of Christian leaders at the first-ever World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington, D.C. Rev. Franklin Graham of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association led the four-day, multi-denominational event aimed at encouraging and empowering faithful Christians at home and abroad.
— Vice President Pence (@VP) May 11, 2017
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) May 11, 2017
The vice president began his speech by thanking Rev. Graham and Christian leaders “across this country and across the world.” He then took a moment to honor President Donald Trump, “a champion of the freedom of religion and the freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights”:
I’m here on behalf of the President as a tangible sign of his commitment to defending Christians and, frankly, all who suffer for their beliefs across the wider world. I stand here today as a testament to President Trump’s tangible commitment to reaffirm America’s role as a beacon of hope and light and liberty to inspire the world.
Pence went on to address “the courageous men and women … who have stood without apology for their faith in Christ and suffered persecution across the wider world”:
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 vice president noted that “the Christian faith is under siege” in many parts of the world, with hundreds of millions of Christians facing “intimidation, imprisonment, forced conversion, abuse, assault, or worse, for holding to the truths of the Gospel.”
“Throughout the world, no people of faith today face greater hostility or hatred than the followers of Christ,” he said, adding, “And nowhere is this onslaught against our faith more evident than in the very ancient land where Christianity was born.”
Pence specifically addressed one of the greatest threats modern Christians face: Radical Islamic terrorism. He mentioned the recent church bombings that occurred in Egypt on Palm Sunday.
“A day of hope was transformed into tragedy,” he said of the attacks.
Pence called radical Islamic terror groups like al Qaeda, al Shabaab, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and ISIS “the embodiment of evil in our time.”
“The practitioners of terror harbor a special hatred for the followers of Christ, and none more so than the barbarians known as ISIS,” he continued. “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.”
The vice president assured summit attendees that persecuted Christians “are being carried by the prayers of the faithful across this nation and across the world” and “have the prayers of our President and all the American people.”
Pence then implored those present to “persevere in prayer” for the servicemen and women who work tirelessly to protect the religious freedoms so many Americans depend on.
“The freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience is at the very heart of who we are as Americans,” he said. “In a very real sense, America was founded by people who had the courage to cross the Atlantic, motivated in so many cases to come here so that they might have that freedom of religion.”
Pence concluded his address with a personal anecdote about a Bible verse that has become the underlying mantra for his political career:
When I first ran for office back in 1999 — okay, when I first ran successfully for office — (laughter) — my wife presented me with a framed verse. It hung over our mantle for 12 years when I served in the Congress of the United States. And it hung over the mantle of the Governor’s Residence in Indiana. Now it hangs over the mantle in the home of the Vice President of the United States of America.
It simply reads some ancient words people of faith have clung to throughout the millennia. And as we reflect on the great challenges at this world summit today that believers Christ face across the globe, I think we do well to claim this promise again. It simply reads, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope, and a future.”
“Know that America stands with you and will labor alongside,” he told the crowd. “But be confident because in the midst of it all, he knows the plans he has for us.”
Many Christians may find Pence’s speech refreshing, especially in the wake of last week’s religious liberty executive order that received very mixed reviews. The new administration’s vocal support for Christians and their willingness to address the threat of radical Islam is a big reason why Donald Trump was elected.
To read the full transcript of Vice President Mike Pence’s speech, click here.
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