WASHINGTON (JTA) — Vice President Mike Pence will include Israel on a tour of the Middle East to check on the status of the region’s Christians.
“This president, you can know with confidence that America condemns persecution of any faith in any place at any time, and we will stand against it with all of the might of this great nation,” Pence said Wednesday in Washington, D.C., at a conference of In Defense of Christians, a group that advocates for the protection of Christians in the Middle East.
“In fact, President Trump has directed me to go to the Middle East in late December. And I promise you one of the messages that I will bring on the president’s behalf to leaders across the region is that now is the time to bring an end to the persecution of Christians and all religious minorities.”
The Israeli media said the tour would include meetings in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in the West Bank with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Those meetings appear geared more toward advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Pence and many other American conservatives see Israel as a safe haven for Christians.
The percentage of Christians among Palestinians in the West Bank has diminished substantially in recent years. Christians there attribute the population’s slow growth to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has resulted in immigration to Palestinian Christian Diasporas, including in Latin America. They say they are not markedly persecuted for being Christian. Another factor is believed to be a higher birth rate among Muslims.
Pence and others in the Trump administration have said the international community is neglecting the persecution of Christians and other Middle East minorities.