WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a speech to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast Tuesday morning, Vice President Mike Pence described terrorism as an “existential threat” to people of faith, and perhaps none more so than Christians.
“Terrorism is an existential threat to people of faith in countries across the globe,” Pence declared. “Terrorist groups seek to stamp out all religions that are not their own or that are not their version of their own. Believers of many backgrounds have suffered grievously at their hands.”
While the vice president emphasized that he and President Donald Trump “acknowledge all of that loss and suffering,” he added that “it seems the practitioners of terror harbor a special hatred for the followers of Christ, and none more so than the barbarians known as ISIS.”
Pence denounced the Islamic State (ISIS) for “nothing less than genocide,” and lamented a long string of attacks on Christians across the Arab world.
“In Egypt, we’ve just seen Coptic Christians murdered on their way to a monastery. Bombs exploded in churches amidst Palm Sunday celebrations — a day of hope transformed into a day of pain and suffering,” the vice president declared. “In Iraq, we see ancient churches demolished, bishops and monks beheaded, a two-millennia-old Christian tradition in Mosul virtually extinguished. In Syria, we see Christian communities burned to the ground, women and children sold into the most terrible form of slavery.”
The vice president emphasized that “Christianity faces unprecedented threats in the land where it was given birth, in an exodus unrivaled since the days of Moses.”
— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) June 6, 2017
While Pence praised Trump for signing a new executive order promoting religious freedom in the United States, his fiercest words were reserved not for opponents of faith in America’s public square but for terrorists targeting Christians and other religious believers. The vice president did mention two inspiring events in the fight for religious freedom, one abroad and one at home.
While speaking with leaders of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Syria, Pence recalled one particular bishop’s story. “I heard a bishop speak about returning to his home parish in Mosul and celebrating Easter Sunday,” the vice president said. “There’s no roof on the church, the walls are falling down, but the anthems of faith rose. It had to be a glorious service.”
Pence also mentioned the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Catholic charity that had to sue the Obama administration for the religious freedom to opt out of providing medical coverage for contraception. “Just last month, the Little Sister of the Poor were at the White House, and on that day I had the high honor to stand as President Trump signed an executive order to restore religious liberty in the public square,” the vice president said. “I couldn’t have been more proud.”
“As inspired as I was by the president’s actions, I was even more inspired by the Little Sisters of the Poor — they took a big stand for faith and freedom and they prevailed” at the Supreme Court. Pence led the audience in a round of applause for the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The vice president made two powerful promises to the prayer breakfast audience. “I can promise you, President Trump will continue to fight to make sure every American has the freedom to follow the dictates of their conscience and to add their voices and their values to the beautiful tapestry of America’s national life,” Pence declared. But he also made a promise about the wider world.
“We will continue to work with this Congress to stand without apology for persecuted people of faith across the globe,” he said. “We will continue to stand with our allies, and take the fight to the terrorists on our terms on their soil, until we drive the cancer of terrorism from the face of the Earth.”