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Trump meets persecuted Christians including Andrew Brunson and Helen Berhane in the Oval office

by Cara Bentley

At a meeting in the Oval Office in the White House on Wednesday, the President met survivors of religious persecution and heard about their concerns for their home countries. 

One of the attendees was Helen Berhane, who was locked up for being at an unregistered church and imprisoned in a shipping container for 32 months in Eritrea, north east Africa. 

Berhane was a member of Rema church, an evangelical church, and was arrested in 2004, shortly after releasing a Christian album. 

She was later granted asylum in Denmark and took the opportunity to ask the President to support pastors and Christians who have not gained the freedom she has. 

She stood by him in the Oval office and said: "My name is Helen. I'm from Eritrea. I'm a gospel singer. So I have been, for 32 months, in a metal shipping container because of my faith.

"But the reason I am here — all our pastors, they are still in prison in Eritrea, including the Patriarch Abune Antonios. So that is my message. I am a voice for those voiceless."

Patriarch Antonios has been excommunicated from the Eritrean Orthodox Church for 'heresy'. 

President Trump simply thanked her.

In his speech before the questions Mr Trump said: "With us today are men and women of many different religious traditions from many different countries.  But what you have in common is each of you has suffered tremendously for your faith. You've endured harassment, threats, attacks, trials, imprisonment, and torture. I got to know many of you and helped you get some — get some of you out of the difficult situation that you were in. I'm very proud of you in the way you've reacted to a different life. It is a tremendous thing."

Pastor Andrew Brunson, who met the President once before when he was returned to America from Turkey, was asked by Mr Trump how he had been since he got out, to which Mr Brunson replied: "I want to tell you, an Iranian woman told me today that your fighting for me — the most powerful person in the world fighting for someone who is not known at all — was an inspiration to many people. It gave hope to many people around the world, and also many young Iranians."

Mr Brunson was imprisoned in Turkey, accused of being part of a failed coup to overthrow the government. 

Donald Trump then spoke to a Christian from Iran, whose parents are pastors. 

She said: "I'm a Christian minority from Iran. My family are being persecuted in Iran. The Iranian people are with you. The majority of Iranian people —"

Mr Trump asked: "What is happening? Explain what is happening in Iran."

"My parents are pastors. They're Christian pastors...They've been arrested — all my family: my father, my mother, and my brother. They are free on bail, awaiting the trial. Long sentences. My father was sentenced to 10 years in prison, my mother 5 years. We still don't know about my brother.

"We would appreciate if you mention my family, but also Christian persecution in Iran. 

The President asked: "They were in jail for what reason? Because they're pastors?"

"Christian pastors preaching the Gospel."

"Incredible. I will." he responded. 

There were also Christians from Pakistan, China, Cuba and Burma. 

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