President Donald Trump met with 27 victims of religious persecution at the White House on Wednesday, July 17. It was part of an effort to effect change toward religious freedom in countries where it is not an option.
Survivors from 17 countries met with the president, as part of a three-day conference from July 16 to July 18, hosted by the U.S. State Department. The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom is the largest religious freedom event in the world.
Meeting with the victims of religious persecution, the president told them, “Each of you has suffered tremendously for your faith.”
Jewher Ilham told President Trump her father is one of many Uighurs “locked up in concentration camps” in the region of Xinjiang, and she has not heard from him for the past two years.
Another of the victims, Yuhua Zhang, 59, a former professor at Nanjing Normal University was illegally imprisoned by the communist regime in China for more than seven years, where she was repeatedly tortured for refusing to give up her faith. As a Falun Gong practitioner, Zhang is one of the hundreds of thousands that have had similar treatment in China’s chain of prisons, with many losing their lives either through torture or being murdered for their organs, which are then sold on demand to wealthy Chinese or Westerners willing to pay the price. Zhang was able to escape to the United States four years ago, however, her husband Zhengyu Ma has been in Suzhou Prison for three years, and Zhang has had no word from him since 2017.
Falun Gong, an ancient meditation practice brought to the public by Mr. Li Hongzhi in China and taught free of charge, had an estimated 70 million to 100 million followers in China before 1999, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center. The communist regime began its crackdown on the practice on July 20, 1999, almost 20 years to the day of the historic meeting of the victims of religious persecution with President Trump at the White House.
President Trump spoke of religious freedom to the survivors of persecution, “In our Bill of Rights the first liberty is religious liberty. Each of us has the right to follow the dictates of our conscience and the demands of our religious conviction. We know that if people are not free to practice their faith then all of the freedoms are at risk.”
Last week, 22 countries at the U.N. Human Rights Council appealed in a letter to the Chinese Communist Party, urging it to end the mass detention and persecution of an estimated 1 million ethnic Uighurs being held in Xinjiang detention centers, aimed at destroying their culture and crushing their religious belief.