In his first foreign trip as President, which begins Friday, Trump has planned a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting the homelands of all three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — before heading to Europe for meetings with Pope Francis and NATO leaders.
In all, it’s an ambitious nine-day, five-country tour that will test the religious acumen and diplomatic skills of a President who, beyond courting conservative Christians and casting suspicion on Muslims, rarely talks about religion.
Trump’s itinerary includes Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, where he aims to erase his Islamophobic image and urge Muslim leaders to address extremist ideologies. In the Holy Land, Trump wants to jumpstart the stalled peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, while visiting touchstones like the Western Wall. And in Europe, the President seeks to repair frayed relations with two of the continent’s most venerable institutions, the Vatican and NATO.
Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, called the President’s plans unprecedented. “No President has ever visited the homelands and holy sites of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslims faiths all on one trip,” he said at a press briefing last week.