The words were genuine, delivered from his heart.
“Your faith inspires me. It humbles me.”
But as sentiments go, that wasn’t what most of the 600-plus persecuted Christians, advocates and church leaders will likely remember about Vice President Mike Pence’s address on Day 2 of the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians.
Four simple words rang true and clear to the 130 countries represented on Thursday: “We stand with you.”
“On behalf of the President of the United States, I say from my heart that we are with you,” Pence said. “And I’m here on behalf of the president as a tangible sign of his commitment to defending Christians and frankly all who suffer for their beliefs across the wider world.
>> Watch all of Vice President Mike Pence’s speech below.
“The Bible tells us all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” Pence continued. “And those who are gathered here today are emblematic of millions across the world.”
Franklin Graham, the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, introduced Pence, a personal friend dating back to his days as Indiana’s governor.
“What I appreciate so much about our vice president is his strong faith and his belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God,” Franklin Graham said. “He is not afraid to express his faith.”
During his 20-minute speech, Pence talked about the situation in Syria and Iraq, where more than half of the Christian population has been killed or forced to flee their country in recent years. And that’s just the beginning.
“In more than 100 countries spread to every corner of the globe from Iran to Eritrea, Nigeria to North Korea, over 215 million Christians confront intimidation, imprisonment, forced conversion, abuse, assault or worse for holding to the truths of the Gospel.”
In the wake of last week’s Freedom of Religion Executive Order, Pence reiterated how the Trump administration strongly objects to persecution of Christians—and all faiths.
“America condemns persecution of any faith, of any kind, in any place, at any time, and we will combat it with all our might,” Pence said.
And moments before Franklin Graham returned to the stage to pray for the 48th vice president—“We come with grateful hearts to say thank you for this man”—Pence shared a short anecdote about the framed Bible verse his wife, Karen, gave to him years ago. It’s hung above the mantle from his days as governor and is currently in Washington.
“It simply reads some ancient words people of faith have clung to throughout millennia,” Pence explained, “and as we reflect on the great challenges believers in Christ face across the globe, I think we’d do well to claim this promise again.
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“Know that America stands with you and will labor alongside,” Pence closed. “But be confident, because in the midst of it all, He knows the plans He has for us. And even, as history records, even in times of persecution, this Church has prospered. It’s grown. It’s had hope. And a future.”
What makes faith in Jesus Christ worth dying for? Find out for yourself.