(RELIGION NEWS SERVICE) — WASHINGTON — “Violence arising from religious intolerance is a huge global problem,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross pointed out at the opening session of the three-day International Conference on Religious Freedom in the nation’s capital Monday night.

“The truth is that freedom of thought and belief are the underpinning of the most innovative and vibrant economies in human history – the United States among them,” Ross said. “That is at least partially why it is troubling to see a resurgence in the persecution of Christians in recent years.”

Ross spoke at the 3rd Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom. Sponsored by the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the conference is a direct response to Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who expressed their “shared profound concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their right to remain full citizens of their homelands.”

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