ADF International

United Nations General Assembly In New York

US President: protecting religious freedom “highest priority”


  • US president to speak on religious freedom at General Assembly
  • US to launch new international religious freedom initiative

NEW YORK (23 September 2019) – Today, in a speech during the United Nations General Assembly, United States President Donald Trump announced a “global call to protect religious freedom.” It was the first time a sitting US President has ever convened a meeting on the issue of religious freedom at the UN.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental right that all countries are called to protect,” said Kelsey Zorzi, ADF International’s Director of Global Religious Freedom and President of the UN’s NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief. “The President’s speech is an important and historic moment precisely because religious freedom is too often ignored or downplayed at the UN. At a time when persecution is on the rise, and over 80% of the world’s population lives in countries with high restrictions on religious freedom, every country should make securing religious freedom a high priority.”

The goal of President Trump’s speech was to highlight and broaden international support for religious freedom.

“Protecting religious freedom is one of my highest priorities,” President Trump said as he called for solidarity with “250 million Christians around the world who are being persecuted.”

The President spoke of a new international alliance of like-minded countries to protect religious freedom as well as a coalition of private businesses to protect religious freedom in the workplace.

Over 150 foreign leaders, faith leaders, victims of persecution, and religious freedom activists attended the President’s speech.

International religious freedom priority of US administration

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Religious freedom has become a central pillar of US foreign policy. In July 2019, the State Department hosted over 100 foreign delegations and 1000 civil society members during its second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. President Trump also met with more than 30 victims of persecution in the Oval Office at that time. He is expected to raise the issue with multiple heads of state in bilateral discussions during high-level week at the UN General Assembly.

The United States also will host side events on the mass detention of Uyghur Muslims in China, and on the links between religious freedom and economic development.

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Faith-based legal advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people.