To occupy the highest office in the nation is not only a position of power but a position of moral leadership. In this critical moment, we must ask: Will those aspiring to be the next president of the United States stand up against those who seek to eradicate religious freedom?
Religious violence is on the rise across the world, affecting various groups in different regions, most prominently today against Jews and Christians in the Middle East. Across the world, within the last year, some 360 million Christians have been persecuted or discriminated against for their faith, a growing number. As a leading humanitarian superpower, it falls upon the United States to take a stand for international religious freedom and democracy, which comes hand-in-hand with that freedom.
A world where religious persecution goes unchallenged is a world where democracy and human rights are undermined.
I have spoken with presidential candidates and emphasized the urgency of standing up for International Religious Freedom, especially in the Middle East.
While Israel has the means and every right to fight back against the terrorist Hamas forces, others have nearly no defense. Some 120,000 Christian Armenians were forcefully displaced from their homes in Artsakh, a territory also known as Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenian people of Nagorno-Karabakh were put under blockade and denied food, fuel, and medicine.
Now, the leader of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, whom Hamas has praised for previous attacks on Christians, walks through the empty streets of Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh. Citizen journalists have bravely reported that Aliyev’s supporters have gone so far as to remove Christian crosses from buildings before his visit. These acts are part of a campaign to erase Armenian Christian presence, even churches, from the area to justify their attacks.
All of this while being supported by U.S. taxpayers thanks to waivers of a U.S. law that was supposed to stop us from enabling the Aliyev regime.
Azerbaijan can also enjoy a double standard of aid from America’s enemies. Just as Hamas attacks Israeli civilians thanks to generous support from Iran, the Aliyev regime benefits from the Ayatollah, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and its neighbor Turkey. Armenians are surrounded on all sides by enemies who seek their active destruction because of their faith or who enable their subjugation.
In a now-walked-back statement, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted that Azerbaijan would likely continue its campaign against Armenian Christians with a potential invasion of Armenia proper.
The time to speak up for Armenia, the world’s first Christian nation, is now. The history of the United States is filled with previous leaders who took courageous steps to defend the persecuted, and it is now your turn to uphold this legacy.
The world looks to the United States for guidance. When the next president takes the oath of office, they must commit to championing religious freedom within the nation’s borders and on a global stage. It is not only a call for moral courage but a call for practical action. The United States must sanction those perpetrating these acts of violence. Whether it’s taking on Hamas for its genocidal campaign against Israel or sanctioning the Aliyev Regime, there are actions we as a nation can do to promote freedom on a global scale.
The next steps are clear: silence in the face of genocide is not an option. The next president must be a beacon of hope, advocating for religious freedom and sending a powerful message that the United States stands firmly on the side of justice and humanity.
Bob Vander Plaats is president and CEO of The Family Leader/InsideSources