US Vice President Mike Pence said that the threat to religious freedom comes not only from authoritarian regimes but also from free societies.

"While religious freedom is eternally in danger in authoritarian regimes, threats to religious minorities are not confined to autocracies or dictatorships. They can, and do, arise in free societies, as well - not from government persecution, but from prejudice and hatred," Pence said at an event organised by the US State Department with an aim to advance religious freedom.

Leaders from around the world gathered at the event in Washington DC on Thursday (26 July) to discuss the issue and come out with a common plan of action to address it.

More than 80 foreign delegations and religious leaders attended the event. There was no participation from India.

Organisers did not respond to questions about whether India was not invited or India decided against attending the event.

In Europe, where religious freedom was born as a principle and is enshrined in law, religious intolerance is on the rise in many quarters. Just 70 years after the Holocaust, attacks on Jews, even on ageing Holocaust survivors, are growing at an alarming rate, he rued.

"Last year, hate crimes against Jews hit a record high in the United Kingdom. And in the same period, there was an average of nearly four attacks against Jews every day," Pence said.

Pence announced the launch of an International Religious Freedom Fund, which would be used to support those who fight for religious freedom and suffer from religious persecution.

Urging other countries to join the US in this fund, Pence said the Trump administration would not lose sight of the importance of religious freedom. He also announced that the US would launch a Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response initiative in the coming months.

At the conclusion of the three-day mega event, the participating countries issued Potomac Declaration and the Potomac Plan of Action.

The declaration is a formal affirmation that the US takes religious freedom seriously, that it will work with others around the world to help those under attack for their beliefs, and that its expect leaders around the world to make it their priority as well, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Sam Brownback, ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom, told reporters that the administration is very serious about this. "We believe this is such a foundational right it will help in other places if we can get this one right, and so this conference is a big kickoff for that," he said.

The Potomac Plan of Action is a framework proposed by the US for activities that the international community can draw from to promote religious freedom.