WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump denounced on Thursday once again the “repressive regimes” of Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and North Korea and said that his administration is on the side of all those people around the world suffering “persecution” because of their religious faith.
Trump delivered his remarks at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, an event that traditionally blends politics and religion.
Although Trump often cites Cuba and Venezuela among the world’s main violators of human rights, those two countries are not on the list of nations sanctioned by the US for allegedly inhibiting religious freedom, although Iran and North Korea are.
The most recent State Department report on religious freedom, released last August, said that the religious environment in Cuba had improved in recent years, and in the case of Venezuela, the report only expressed concern over alleged “anti-Semitic” commentary in the state-run media.
Trump also paid tribute in his remarks to North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho, whom he invited to attend his State of the Union address to Congress last week, saying that on Ji’s flight from North Korea he had prayed for peace and freedom, and now he has become a “symbol of hope” for millions of people.
Trump also recalled the repression of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State and claimed that the US-led international coalition had liberated “almost 100 percent” of the territory controlled by the IS in those countries.
The president emphasized the central role religion has played in US history, saying that “America is a nation of believers and together we are strengthened by the power of prayer.”
He added that the National Prayer Breakfast reminds people that “faith is central to America’s life and liberty. Our rights are not given to us by man ... Our rights come from our Creator.”
This year’s prayer breakfast was attended by Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, who met briefly with Trump prior to the US leader’s speech.