President Trump delivered a sharp rebuke to world leaders during a United Nations summit on Monday, accusing his fellow heads of state of hypocrisy on worldwide religious persecution.
“Too often people in power preach diversity, while shunning or silencing the faithful,” the president said during his remarks. “True tolerance means respecting the rights of all people to express their deeply held religious beliefs.”
“Today, I ask all nations to join us in this urgent moral duty,” Trump said. “We ask the governments of the world to honor the eternal right of every person to follow their conscience, live by their faith, and give glory to God. The United States has a vital role in this critical mission.”
Vice President Mike Pence was more specific in his criticism, which he directed at China, Venezuela, and Iran for their persecution of religious minorities.
The president also announced that an additional $25 million will be dedicated to protecting religious freedom, although the details of how it will be used have not been spelled out.
Trump also mentioned his administration’s successful efforts to free pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey where he was held captive for over two years. Brunson attended the UN religious freedom session.
This country is “founded on the principle that our rights do not come from government, they come from God,” Trump said.
The Trump administration has made religious freedom a priority, although it has also faced criticism over policies such as his travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries, which was stalled by court challenges before being upheld by the Supreme Court last year.
Trump also briefly attended a session on climate change that he was originally expected not to attend, a change of plan that UN secretary-general António Guterres called a “step forward.”