The first-ever religious freedom ministerial in Washington, D.C.

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Friday, July 20th, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. First up on The World and Everything in It: previewing a big event in Washington D.C. next week.

The State Department is set to host the first-ever religious freedom ministerial.

WORLD’s Senior Editor Mindy Belz will be there, and she’s here now to discuss it with us.

Mindy, you know, ministerial is kind of an antiquated word for a lot of people. Can you explain to us what it is and why this one’s significant?

MINDY BELZ, SENIOR EDITOR: You’re right, Megan. Ministerial is not something we’re used to hearing out of Washington, but this is… a high-level meeting that will take place across two, three days next week, starting on Tuesday, at the State Department. And it will involve counterparts of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, those are high-level foreign ministers and the like, from 80-plus countries. And so it’s a pretty rare and pretty surprising gathering, and I think it does show that this administration is placing—or, at least, publicly placing—real emphasis on religious freedom…

Mindy, I know you were on a small conference call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday there with The New York Times, a couple of other outlets. What did you ask him?

BELZ: I asked him a question about refugees, Megan, and the reason is this: We’ve been looking at the numbers, actually, the State Department’s own numbers on refugee admissions, particularly for 2018, but also looking back and comparing with previous years… We’re seeing an 82 percent decline in the number of Christian refugees admitted to the United States under the Trump administration’s closed door policies.

That means, for instance, that when we look at persecuted Christians from Syria, the U.S. has admitted six in the last eight months. It has admitted 14 Iraqi Christians, two Iranian Christians. These are groups whose persecution and suffering under the regimes and under terrorist groups like ISIS is well-known to all of us. Zero Yazidis, another religious minority group mostly in Iraq but also in Syria, that has been almost wiped out by ISIS. And this is all on Secretary Pompeo’s watch. What he said in response to that was, you know, interesting and I think understandable in one sense, but also not really getting at the heart of this problem.

Let’s take a moment to listen to that.

POMPEO: The United States has and remains a country that is enormously receptive to protecting individuals that are being persecuted around the world and being denied their religious freedom… Our preference is that we have ministerials like this one so they can experience religious freedom in their own countries. This is the objective. It’s to create a capacity for every country to protect the religious freedom of its own citizens such that there will be fewer who have to travel to places, not just to the United States, but places other than the place they prefer to be, in their own home country, to be able to practice their faith.

So what did you think of his answer?

BELZ: I think that what comes across is that Secretary Pompeo and I know a number of other people at the State Department regard religious freedom as a priority. And I think they do so in good and right ways because they recognize that if we don’t have the freedom of belief and the freedom of expression and the freedom of worship… we will quickly see national security issues. And we can look across the world and see how terrorism, how instability, how countries that are functioning as dictatorships also are the countries that are persecuting their religious minorities. And so those two go together and so it’s right for the State Department to make this a priority. What I think is difficult is whether or not what the State Department does, what some of the officials do that we’ll be hearing from next week, translates to the White House and what it means and how important it is to President Trump. Because at the end of the day we all know that he’s the one who will be calling the shots and setting the tone for this administration.

Mindy Belz is senior editor for WORLD Magazine. Mindy, thanks so much.

BELZ: Thank you, Megan.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, July 12, 2018. Pompeo finishes a trip to North Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Abu Dhabi, and Brussels. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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