Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today delivered remarks at the Archons’ Third International Conference on Religious Freedom on the plight of Christians in the Middle East and the need for strong U.S. leadership to assist these ancient faith communities.
Rubio’s remarks begin at 11:40. A partial transcript of his remarks is below:
On religious freedom: The issue of religious freedom is deeply personal to me as it is for so many of you. It’s something I’ve dedicated much of my time advancing since first joining the United States Senate.
On America’s founding: It begins by remembering that religious freedom is actually at the center of America’s own experiment in self-governance and our very founding. Our earliest documents – our founding documents – were more spiritual documents than they were political ones. They were enshrined on an idea that all men were created equal because our rights come from our Creator – not from our king, not from our laws, not even from that constitution. But that our rights come from an all-powerful God who grants every single one of us the right to pursue life, and liberty, and to pursue happiness.
On the need for America’s foreign policy to protect religious freedom: I’m a deep believer that our foreign policy should be infused with our most deeply held values, such as these. Not to impose it on other people but to ensure that in everything we do, we protect the rights of others to also fulfill their God-given rights. The right of the ability of every man, woman and child to peacefully worship and live out their faith according to the dictates of their conscience is at the heart of human dignity, and should animate us both here and abroad. Violations of religious freedom occur daily around the globe at the hands of state and non-state actors alike. No faith and no region is untouched. But the focus today is on the persecution of Christians – which has reached staggering levels. That is our focus.
On Christianity in the Middle East: So if we go back to 2015 alone, the international religious freedom advocacy group, Open Doors, estimates that more than 7,000 Christians – 7,000 Christians – died because they were Christians. By the way, this doesn’t include the millions more who were attacked, or imprisoned, or forcibly displaced or otherwise harmed. Unfortunately, as you are all aware, the Middle East is ground zero for these attacks. Yet, it is a testament to the unbreakable ties that Christianity has to the Middle East – and to the unshakeable faith of our brothers and sisters – that they persevere in this region despite this. But the Middle East is more than where Christians live. It also at the center of our narrative as it’s set forth in the Holy Scriptures.
On the need to protect humanitarian aid: We must be moved to action to preserve the very cradle of our faith. ISIS is seeking to erase thousands of years of history and the people and stories it represented. If the United States fails to take meaningful steps to support these communities, including ensuring their access to humanitarian assistance and the resources they need to rebuild, then even more of them will be forced to rebuild their ancient homeland. This would be a tragedy on a multitude of levels, and a deathblow to the vision of a diverse, pluralistic, Middle East that respects religious freedom. It is not only a moral imperative, but also a matter of U.S. national security. The continued presence and even flourishing of these ancient communities in the lands that they have inhabited for millennia, that helps to stabilize and moderate the region.
On taking action: Today, we, gathered here in the comfort and the security, in the shadows of the White House and the Capitol – and perhaps because of it – believe that simply giving speeches and being complacent about the status quo is an option. It is not. We must move on this with a sense of urgency. We must stand with our persecuted brothers and sisters in their hour of suffering. I know that we will.