Press release

United States: Freedom House Applauds White House Meeting with Religious Persecution Survivors

On July 17, President Trump met with 27 victims of religious persecution at the White House.



In response to President Donald Trump’s White House meeting with survivors of religious persecution, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“We commend President Trump for providing strong public support to victims of religious persecution around the world,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “Freedom House has urged successive administrations to meet with survivors and send a clear signal that human rights concerns are critical to US strategic and economic interests. We commend the survivors for their bravery in sharing their stories and advocating for their fellow victims, and we urge the White House to follow this meeting with strong, decisive action in support of human rights and religiously persecuted groups around the world.”


On July 17, 2019, on the sidelines of the International Religious Freedom Ministerial, President Donald J. Trump met with 27 victims of religious persecution. Attendees included:

1. Farid Ahmed, a Muslim from New Zealand who survived the March 2019 Christchurch mosque shooting. His wife was killed.

2. Reverend Mario Félix Lleonart Barroso, who was arrested for his Christian faith in Cuba and ultimately forced to flee.

3. Helen Berhane, a Christian gospel singer from Eritrea held in a shipping container for nearly three years because of her faith.

4. Ms. Bet-Tamraz, a Christian from Iran whose father, mother, and brother were arrested for practicing their faith and are awaiting trial in Iran.

5. Esther Bitrus, a Christian from Nigeria held captive by Boko Haram for over three years.

6. Andrew Brunson, an American Christian pastor who was jailed on false charges in Turkey for nearly two years.

7. Meriam Ibrahim, who was jailed in Sudan while pregnant, arrested for apostasy and adultery for marrying a Christian mand, and sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.

8. Luong Xuan Duong, a practitioner of Cao Dai from Vietnam imprisoned for more than two years.

9. Badreldin Yousif Elsimat, a Muslim from Sudan who advocates separation of mosque and state. He was arrested and forced to watch several of his followers being tortured.

10. Pastor A Ga, Vietnamese pastor who was jailed and tortured for his faith.

11. Rabbi Faiz Grady, forced to flee Yemen for speaking out after the 2008 murder of Rabbi Moshe Nahari.

12. Farahnaz Ikhitari, a Hazara Shia Muslim from Afghanistan who survived an ISIS bombing that killed her fiancé, brother, and future brother-in-law.

13. Jewher Ilham, daughter of Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize nominee and recipient of Freedom House’s Freedom Award.

14. Ill Yong Ju, a Christian from North Korea who escaped with his family when he was 12.

15. Nyima Lhamo, a Tibetan Buddhist human rights activist forced to flee her homeland, leaving behind her mother and daughter. Nyima is the niece of Tibetan lama Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who died mysteriously in a Chinese prison in 2015.

16. Nadia Murad, a Nobel prize-winning Yazidi human rights activist who survived ISIS captivity.

17. Manping Ouyang, a Chinese Christian whose husband, Pastor Su Tianfu, has been under administrative detention in China since 2015.

18. Priya Biswas Saha, a Hindu from Bangladesh.

19. Reverend Samson, a Christian from the Kachin people group, a persecuted ethnic and religious minority in Myanmar.

20. Abdul Shakoor, from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Pakistan, charged with blasphemy and terrorism and imprisoned for five years.

21. Shaan Taseer from Pakistan, who was charged with hate speech for saying, “Merry Christmas.” His father, a politician, was assassinated for criticizing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

22. Mr. Ullah, a member of the Rohingya Muslim group in Myanmar.

23. Irene Weiss, a Holocaust survivor from Germany.

24. Yuhua Zhang, a Falun Gong practitioner and torture survivor whose husband remains in jail.

The United States is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2019  and Free in Freedom on the Net 2018.