The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) welcomes President Barack Obama’s appointment of David Saperstein as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, a position that serves as the principal advisor on international religious freedom to both the president and the secretary of state.

“David Saperstein will be a strong advocate and voice for religious freedom around the world,” NAE President Leith Anderson said. “It’s hard to imagine a time when there would be a greater need for such a champion.”

The NAE has urged President Obama to fill the position since it became vacant in October 2013. In February, Anderson joined a letter with other well-known American Christian leaders thanking the president for lifting up the cause of international religious liberty at the National Prayer Breakfast and asking him “to appoint a proven leader with the stature to engage world leaders and to give this person your full support as he or she represents and promotes our government’s commitment to religious freedom.”

Anderson said, “I know David Saperstein. He is an experienced leader. We applaud President Obama for elevating this important post with this appointment.”

For more than 30 years, Saperstein has represented the Reform Jewish Movement to Congress and the administration as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. In 1999, Saperstein was elected as the first Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and he also headed the Coalition to Protect Religious Liberty.

The NAE urges Saperstein to immediately work to protect Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere. The expulsion of, and violence against, Christians in Mosul, Iraq is one example of how Christians are targeted for their faith. Christians are currently the most persecuted religious group in the world.

“We pledge to work with Rabbi Saperstein in advocating for religious freedom for all around the world and to pray for wisdom and courage as he takes on new responsibilities and faces new challenges in his post,” Anderson said.