According to recent news reports, the Trump administration has instructed U.S. delegates to the United Nations to replace the term “sexual reproductive health” with those like “reproduction and the related health services” and the word “gender” with “woman” in documents and negotiations. These reports (and a resulting letter from members of Congress) stem from “leaked” State Department memos and warn that striking these terms will damage U.S.-foreign relations, hinder access to health care, oppress women’s rights, and “define transgender people out of existence.” These reports are at best misinformed about U.S. development aid and foreign relations and at worst sounding yet another false alarm to continue Obama’s legacy of “progressive” social ideology in U.S. foreign policy.
On November 4, the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, Concerned Women for America (CWA) will join thousands of Christians all over the world in praying for those who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. Will you join and pray with us? As Americans, God has blessed us with a country abounding in prosperity and founded on freedom of religion, belief, and conscience — all of which we enjoy and continue to fiercely defend. But, in our busy and full lives, sometimes we forget that our sisters and brothers in Christ around the world are being persecuted for the same beliefs and endure political, economic, or social discrimination, beating, imprisonment, and even tortuous death.
According to a Pew Research Center report in 2015, Christians are “harassed”in more countries than any other religious groups in the world; Christians are harassed in a total of 128 countries, a number which increased from 108 in 2014. Harassment includes both social hostilities and government restrictions and takes many different forms, such as verbal or “physical assaults, arrests and detentions, desecration of holy sites, and discrimination … in employment, education and housing.”
A pertinent example of growing harassment against Christians is in the People’s Republic of China. This week we learnedthat the Chinese government, in its escalating campaign to “Sinicize” religion and solidify loyalty to the Communist Party, has closed and raided churches in Beijing and several other provenances, burned Bibles, destroyed crosses, and forced Christians to sign statements renouncing their faith. Freedom House reportsthat since 2012, when Xi Jinping took over the Chinese Communist Party, religious persecution for all religion in China intensified. China’s 72 to 102 million Catholics and Protestants experience moderate to high levels of persecution, and protestants, who make up 60-70 million of China’s Christians, have in particular experienced a rise in government campaigns to remove their Christian crosses, demolish their churches, and punish their leaders and the human rights lawyers who defend them.
According to the U.S. Department of State, China has been designated as a Country of Particular Concern since 1999 under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for either “engaging in or tolerating particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” As Secretary of State Pompeo commentedin the International Religious Freedom Report of 2017 about the state of religious freedom in China: “In China, the government tortures, detains, and imprisons thousands for practicing their religious beliefs.”
Like in China, all around the world the news reports and pictures of persecuted Christians can be overwhelming. Truly, it can be hard to understand what we can do individually, but this is why our prayers for the protection and freedom of our brothers and sisters are so important. Will you commit to prayer with us?
Throughout September and October, in anticipation of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 4, CWA will send you updates on persecuted Christians around the world. We will also offer weekly prayer suggestions that you, and your Bible study, prayer group, or church may use to join with us in prayer. At the end of October, CWA will sponsor an event at Capitol Hill dedicated solely to praying for our Christian brothers and sisters. We hope that you and your communities will join with us in agreement and “pray without ceasing.”
Dr. Shea Garrison, Vice President, International Affairs, Concerned Women for America
Join CWA for a panel event co-sponsored by The Heritage Foundation on “How to Protect International Religious freedom from the Politicization of Human Rights”. This event is a side event for Secretary of State Pompeo’s Ministerial for Advancing Religious Freedom held at the U.S. Department of State July 24-26th 2018.
Panelists will discuss how our “natural” or fundamental human rights, such as religious freedom, protect the fairness of the political process by ensuring that individuals are free to think, speak, and act according to their convictions. Increasingly the human rights of individuals are being conflated with the social and economic policy priorities of particular groups and governments. This undercuts the moral legitimacy and persuasive power of our natural rights, including our freedom to live according to our religious convictions.
President Trump is a businessman and a deal-maker — we knew that when we elected him. His administration operates differently from any other previous presidential administration, including in diplomacy, where deals are truly an “art form.” So, it is not surprising President Trump threw protocol out the window when he met last week with Chairman Kim Jon Un, the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader.
Those disappointed with the outcomes of the summit posit that Kim, not Trump, benefited most, suggesting the U.S. gave up more than it got, following in the footsteps of previous U.S. administrations. For example, through threatening the U.S. with armed ballistic missiles, Kim “won” a private meeting with an American president, a longtime strategic goal of his family’s regime. Further criticism says the meeting itself gave legitimacy to the dictatorship of a gross violator of human rights, and that the result of the meeting — the U.S./DRPK joint statement — is only a one-page, “unsubstantial” document which does not outline specifics of denuclearization, nor give a timeline for doing so
Valid points, but in light of previous U.S. administrations’ “flimsy” agreements and failed diplomacy with North Korea, it is important to withhold judgement and give Trump’s new approach to foreign policy a chance. In previous administrations, the U.S. has seen a bottom-up approach to diplomacy, using lower-level officials to outline a deal, only bringing the president in at the end of negotiations to sign, seal, and deliver
Instead, Trump strategically brought the prestige of the U.S. presidency to North Korea, playing to the ego of an arrogant egomaniacal president and building trust, which in turn possibly opened the door to more substantive diplomatic discussion and relationship. He even gave a brief private meeting to Kim, which Trump called “a critical gauge of whether a deal is likely.” As Trump remarked when asked about the minimum outcome he expected from the summit: “The minimum would be a relationship — you’d start at a dialogue … as a deal person, that is important.”
In addition, he used purposeful rhetoric to lay groundwork for the meeting, sometimes smoothing Kim’s feathers, and sometimes being tough, critical, and dismissive — balancing his response in accordance with the need, but always with the ultimate objective of controlling the outcomes.
One example is when, in mid-May, Kim threatened to cancel the summit. Trump abruptly and publicly cancelled the meeting with a letter citing Kim’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” in statements regarding the U.S. In immediate response, Kim back-pedaled and offered the U.S. the “time and opportunities” to reconsider the meeting “at any time, at any format,” which Trump graciously accepted. However, he later warned Kim, “It’s a one-time shot” for negotiations, telling the world, “I think it’s going to work out very well” but that at the same time Kim “won’t have that opportunity again.”
“Trump the Negotiator,” for whom deals are an “art form,” is most likely in play here — the billion-dollar businessman who knows how to build lasting coalitions for maximum productivity and profit. Over the past eighteen months, his unorthodox methods have often brought concrete and prosperous results — such as record lows for unemployment, near destruction of ISIS, reduction in illegal immigration, and securing the release of three hostages from North Korea, just to name a few.
Certainly, more details and specifics to the agreement must be outlined, definitions of what constitutes denuclearization must be clarified, and mechanisms to verifiability firmly laid out. As Mike Pompeo pointed out, the summit only opens discussion and sets conditions for future productive talks.
But Trump knows negotiation and how to get results, and is possibly laying the foundation for an agreement, not just for agreement’s sake or for the illusion of progress, but for a process that will actually have the power to accomplish full U.S. objectives. That will not happen overnight or in just one meeting. As the president himself has said: “There’s a good chance it won’t work out,” but “there’s probably an even better chance it will take a period of time.”
Let’s give President Trump a chance to do what we elected him to do—make a deal, in his own way.
Dr. Shea Garrison is Senior Advisor for Foreign Affairs at Concerned Women for America.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article was published at Townhall.com. Click here to read it.
This week, newly appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made international religious freedom “a front burner” issue for the U.S. Department of State, declaring it a “universal human right” for which the United States will fight around the world. These statements came in conjunction with the unveiling of the State Department’s 2017 International Religious Freedom Report which Pompeo deemed critical to the U.S. mission to defend religious liberty and “a testament to the United States’ historic role in preserving and advocating for religious freedom” across the globe. Furthermore, he underlined religious freedom as a fundamental right which the Founders recognized, saying:
Religious freedom is in the American blood stream. It’s what brought the pilgrims here from England. Our founders understood it as our first freedom, that is why they articulated it so clearly in the first amendment. As James Madison wrote years before he was President or Secretary of State, “Conscience is the most sacred of all property.” Religious freedom was vital to America’s beginning; defending it is critical to our future. Religious freedom is not only ours, it is a right belonging to every individual on the globe. President Trump stands with those who yearn for religious liberty; our vice president stands with them, and so do I.
The 2017 report documents religious freedom abuses and violations committed by “governments, terrorist groups, and individuals” in 200 countries and territories. For example, the report calls out North Korea for denying rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and estimates between 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners in North Korea who are jailed “in remote areas” and under “horrific conditions,” some for religious reasons.
Additionally, Secretary Pompeo announced that the U.S. will host the first-ever ministerial to advance religious freedom at the U.S. Department of State July 25-26. The event will affirm a shared commitment of advancing religious freedom as a universal human right and will include ministers from collaborative governments around the world, as well as representatives from international organizations, religious communities, and civil society. However, Pompeo declared that the upcoming event will be held not only to discuss important issues, but will be about “action,” and the identification of clear and effective ways to ensure religious freedom is respected for all people.
“Religious Freedom is indeed a universal human right that I will fight for” Pompeo declared, “The United States will not stand by as spectators. We will get in the ring and stand in solidarity with every individual who seeks to enjoy their most fundamental of human rights.” Concerned Women for America stands with Secretary Pompeo in the fight against religious persecution and for the right to religious liberty that we believe “is not a gift from the government, but a sacred right from Almighty God.” Please join with CWA in prayer and support as we monitor religious persecution around the world and advocate for liberty, the fundamental right of all people.
Dr. Shea Garrison, CWA Senior Advisor, Foreign Affairs
This week CWA’s Senior Advisor for Foreign Affairs attended the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held March 12-23 in New York City where UN member states met to address the priority theme “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”. The commission, held each year, is the main forum where international norms, policies, and programs are established with the goal of achieving protection, empowerment and rights for women.
High on the agenda for conservative and faith-based groups at CSW is to influence UN consensus to align with President Trump’s executive action to restore and extend the Mexico City Policy. The Mexico City Policy, originally introduced by the Reagan Administration in 1984, prohibits U.S. funds for family planning programs to go to any nongovernmental organization that promotes or performs abortion as a method of family planning. Trump’s executive order created the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance (PLGHA) plan which expands the policy to include funding for all global health assistance programs, such as “HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria, global health security, family planning and reproductive health.” Under PLGHA, any organization that offers abortion counseling or advocates for abortion rights in other countries is prohibited from receiving U.S. funding.
Conservative groups are working to strengthen that pro-life stance by calling for the rejection of abortion-related terms in UN negotiations such as “reproductive rights” or “sexual and reproductive health services”—ambiguous terms, often used to promote abortion as a method of family planning. These terms written in international policies and programming can ultimately undermine the U.S. policy goal of protecting life overseas. Meanwhile, liberal leftist organizations, which greatly outnumber conservative or faith-based organizations advocating at the UN, continue to press for “comprehensive” reproductive health services and rights (to include abortion) based on the tenet that these contribute to educational attainment, economic prosperity, and longevity for women around the world.
Why should Americans who value the tenets of family and life care about what happens in UN negotiations and resolutions? Currently the U.S. is the largest provider of money to the UN, contributing 22% of the UN budget in 2017 (i.e. your tax dollars) and supporting the approximately 40,000 UN staff members who are bound by and implement the policies and ideology established in UN resolutions. Perhaps more importantly, U.N. agreements often influence national law or policy and greatly contribute to the creation of national and international social norms.
Join with CWA as we advocate and fight for family values at the United Nations and around the world. We will continue to attend UN events to represent you and conservative Biblical principles and to address the most important challenges to family, life, and women’s well being in the international arena.
In America, we trace our Christian heritage to before the founding of our nation, when European Christians sought a home free from religious persecution where they could practice their faith according to their own convictions. But in the Middle Eastern country of Iraq, Christianity has very old roots stemming from the 1st century A.D., even before the birth of Islam in early 600 A.D.
In spite of their roots, Iraqi Christian communities began to steadily decline after the birth of Islam, a decline which has continued throughout the past century. According to an article in the Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy, Christian populations in Iraq declined significantly between 1910 and 2010, falling from 6.3% to 1.4% of the population. And by 2025, that number is estimated to fall to .6%.
Since June 2014, ISIS has brought a particularly bloody decline to Iraqi Christian populations with an onslaught labeled as “genocide” by former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2016. The genocide has involved the murder of thousands of Christians, Yazidis and Shiite Muslims (other religious minority groups) under the control of ISIS. Thousands of families have been killed, taken hostage, kidnapped, and driven out of Iraq. Currently, there are only an estimated 200,000 Christians left in Iraq.
Speaking at a meeting about the future of Iraq’s Christians in September 2017, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin said the “conflicts and tensions of recent years represent a risk … for the survival of Christians”. He continued to point out that also at risk is the hope and “possibility that the Middle East can be a place of coexistence between peoples belonging to different religious and ethnic groups.” 
Where does the U.S. government stand on the issue of persecuted religious minorities in Iraq? At an advocacy summit in Washington, D.C., on October 25 of last year, Vice President Mike Pence said that America will “stand with those who suffer for their faith because that’s what Americans have always done (and) the common bond of our humanity demands a strong response.” He said also the United Nations has “too often failed to help the most vulnerable communities, especially religious minorities” and that the U.S. will take a stronger lead in directly guiding funds to help persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. 
The Trump administration recently announced a renegotiated deal with the U.N. that purports to ensure that religious minorities will receive the U.N. assistance they were previously denied. This deal directs $55 million to the U.N. Development Program Funding Facility for Stabilization in Iraq for religious minority communities in the Nineveh Province of Iraq. However Nina Shea, international human-rights lawyer and Director for the Center for Religious Freedom at Hudson Institute, has little hope that these funds will actually reach the needy populations in Nineveh. In an article in The Christian Post, Shea cites the gross mismanagement of the UNDP and its deliberate marginalization of the “genocide that targeted Christian and Yezidi minorities for over the past two years”. Meanwhile, time lags on while thousands of families suffer in inadequate refugee living situations.
Over the next few months, Concerned Women for America will watch to see if and when the allotted resources are directed to help Christian and other religious minorities in Iraq rebuild their homes, families, and lives. Pray that God would help them heal and for the wisdom of our nation in providing support for them.
 Johnson, T and Zurlo, G. Ongoing Exodus: Tracking the Emigration of Christians from the Middle East. Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy, 2013-2014, Volume III. Population statistics are taken from a table created by the World Religion Database.
We will advocate on behalf of religious freedom and threatened minorities. Religious minorities continue to be victims of violence. We will place a priority on protecting these groups and will continue working with regional partners to protect minority communities from attacks and to preserve their cultural heritage. (National Security Strategy, December 2017)
In 2017, Concerned Women for America was on the front lines fighting for America’s religious freedom, from petitioning President Trump to protect the First Amendment, to rallying support for Jack Phillips at the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Today we extend that fight to oppressed countries around the world, where Christians and other religious minorities are imprisoned, beaten, and often killed for their beliefs. As we do, we bind our efforts with the Trump Administration and the National Security Strategy of December 2017, which proposes to advance American influence and values with the priority action of “protecting religious freedom and religious minorities” around the world.
Violence against people of faith occurs globally in multiple ways–including terrorism, religious extremism, and genocide–as in the case of the murder of thousands of Yezidis, Christians, and Shi’a Muslims by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In addition, state persecution violates religious freedom in some countries, such as in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a theocratic state. In Iran, Shia Muslim clergy, along with political leaders who are vetted by the clergy, dominate the major state power structures. In many areas of the Middle East, threats to Christianity stem from Islamic radicalism and terrorist groups, while in Iran the main threats to Christianity come from the government. Although some tolerance is shown for historically Christian groups in Iran, Muslim converts to Christianity can be under threat of immediate punishment by death.
According to the Open Doors World Watch List 2018, which lists the “50 countries where it’s most dangerous to follow Jesus”, the top ten countries are (in order from 1-10): North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Iran. Open Door reports that two hundred fifteen (215) million Christians experienced high to extreme levels of persecution during the reporting period of January to October 2017. This number represents one in every 12 Christians worldwide, and includes killings, abductions, rape, sexual harassment, and attacks against churches. Open Door attributes this high number to three primary causes: 1) the spread of radical Islam and the use of Sharia law in Asia and Africa; 2) the rise of religious nationalism used to marginalize religious minorities and increase government power in Asia; and 3) a “grassroots revival of Islam” in Central Asia.
President Trump declared January 16, 2018, as “Religious Freedom Day,” noting in his declaration that our forefathers believed “freedom is not a gift from the government, but a sacred right from Almighty God.” During 2018 CWA will be monitoring religious persecution around the world to advocate for freedom and report the most important issues to our constituents. Please stand with CWA as we fight for religious freedom around the world.
Dr. Shea Garrison serves as CWA’s Senior Advisor for Foreign Affairs.