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SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, good evening, everyone. Welcome. This is a big moment, a long time in the making, a lot of work done – a lot of work by you all and our teams, and so I want to begin by saying thank you all for being here and joining us as we mark this very special occasion. It’s a truly great honor to welcome you in this beautiful room, the Benjamin Franklin Room – deeply historic. Lots of incredibly important things that have taken place in the world have been begun right here, and so we thought this was most appropriate that we gather in this place to have a meal together to launch our effort tonight.

This is the official launch of the International Religious Freedom Alliance – an Alliance of like-minded partners who treasure, and fight for, international religious freedom for every human being.

We have built momentum for this important effort ever since I announced our intent to create it at the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which was hosted in this building this past July.

President Trump further described our vision for the Alliance at the United Nations now almost five months ago – the first-ever religious freedom event hosted by an American president at the United Nations. I know many of you joined us that day.

Defending the right of all people to live their lives according to their conscience is one of this administration’s top priorities.

I just returned from a trip to Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

I met with leaders from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, who are fighting to worship freely, without interference from Russian Government.

In Kazakhstan, I met with the families of ethnic Kazakhs detained by Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang.

I urged leaders in Belarus and Uzbekistan to continue their good work in granting greater degrees of religious freedom to their own people.

This is a real mission. We’re proud to champion this American value, we think a global value.

Because protecting religious freedom is certainly not exclusively an American priority. Look at the diversity of the other countries, organizations, and networks that are joining us here today. Our mission spans nationalities, political systems, and creeds. Together, we say that freedom of religion or belief is not a Western ideal, but truly the bedrock of societies.

That’s clear from our Declaration of Principles. It’s grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every human being has the right to believe in whatever it is they wish, to change their faith, or to hold no faith at all.

Indeed, we must affirm, and fight for, that truth now more than ever. More than eight in ten people in the world today live where they cannot practice their faith freely.

We condemn terrorists and violent extremists who target religious minorities, whether they are Yezidis in Iraq, Hindus in Pakistan, Christians in northeast Nigeria, or Muslims in Burma.

We condemn blasphemy and apostasy laws that criminalize matters of the soul.

And we condemn the Chinese Communist Party’s hostility to all faiths. We know several of you courageously pushed back against Chinese pressure by agreeing to be part of this Alliance, and we thank you for that.

Finally, our Alliance is off on the right foot as countries do their parts to advance this mission.

Tonight, I am most pleased to announce that Poland will host the next Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom this July in Warsaw. Thank you.

I know there are conversations happening now about who will host in 2021. We look forward to that announcement soon.

And the United States is committed to hosting the ministerial again here in Washington.

We are also delighted that Colombia will host the first regional ministerial in South America next month.

This multilateralism reflects the values of free societies.

To all of our friends here today:

Thank you for answering for the call to freedom.

Thank you for standing for the persecuted.

And thank you for showing true leadership.

May God bless you all, and let’s keep it going.

Thank you. (Applause.)

U.S. Department of State

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