The coverage of President Trump’s remarks yesterday at the National Prayer Breakfast was dominated by reference to his comments about Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you didn’t watch his speech or read the transcript, you may not realize what else was said.
Commenting on the denial of religious freedom in the Middle East, President Trump stated:
“We have seen unimaginable violence carried out in the name of religion. Acts of wanton slaughter against religious minorities.”
“We have seen peace-loving Muslims brutalized, victimized, murdered and oppressed by ISIS killers. We have seen threats of extermination against the Jewish people.”
Yes, President Trump recognized the fact that Muslims are being killed in the Middle East. This, however, is an inconvenient truth for biased mass media bent on portraying him as “anti-Muslim,” so it’s perfectly logical that the mass media don’t report it.
President Trump’s other reference—to minorities suffering violence—would include Yezidis, Christians, Baha’is, Shabak, Kaka’is, certain Muslims, and others. I enjoyed meeting many people from these groups when I conducted religious freedom training for civil society participants in Kurdistan, Iraq several years ago. They are fascinating people, and unknown to many outside that region. President Trump recognized their plight in his comments at the Prayer Breakfast, yet this has gone unreported, with the “mainstream” press choosing to focus on Arnold Schwarzenegger instead.
True religious freedom advocates support religious freedom for all people, both here in the United States and overseas. Indeed, U.S. and international law protect religious freedom for all people, in all contexts, within the bounds of an orderly, free society. In this sense, not only “justice is blind,” but “religious freedom law is blind.” Thus we can determine the true religious freedom advocates based on who values and supports these religious freedom laws, as opposed to those who try to limit them to certain contexts.
We have yet to see what the Trump administration will do to protect religious freedom overseas. Recognizing the problem, however, is a start.
At the Prayer Breakfast, it was also heartening to see President Trump recognize the source of religious freedom rights:
“Our Republic was formed on the basis that freedom is not a gift from government, but that freedom is a gift from God.”
Indeed. Government does not create and grant human rights; it only recognizes them. Such human rights include the right of all people to choose their faith, and the freedom to live it out. This is a hopeful note on which we can proceed.