Why Mike Pence Won't Visit Any Christians On His Trip To The Middle East
Dec 19, 2017 by Alyssa Duvall
In an October speech, Vice President Mike Pence mentioned his desire, on the president’s behalf, to visit Christians in the Middle East, express solidarity with them, and fight to end their persecution. However, after President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, part of the massive backlash from the region’s leaders, including many Christians, Pence reportedly will not be welcome to meet with any churches or Christian leaders.
“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,” Pence said at the time of his speech outlining his plans for the visit.
The hotly debated embassy move has attracted such a negative response from Christians in the region that Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Christian leadership in Israel and Egypt would not be meeting with the vice president, according to Newsweek
Three days after the president announced the embassy move in December, the leader of the Coptic church of Egypt, the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East, refused to meet Pence. He claimed that Pence’s arrival would come “at an unsuitable time and without consideration for the feelings of millions of people.”
After the cancellation of the visit with Coptic church leaders, Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, dropped all mention of faith outreach, referring only to meetings with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Pence’s scheduled trip to the city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, has also been called off. The custodian of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which is believed to be built on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, said Pence would not be welcomed if he visited the church.
The vice president still plans to visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall, which is among Judaism’s holiest and most contentious sites. The wall is in Jerusalem’s Old City, which was captured with the rest of East Jerusalem by Israeli forces during the Six-Day War in 1967. The international community still does not recognize Israel’s annexation of the city.