Trump Orders Aid Directly to Iraqi Christians

by Stephen Wynne  •  •  October 26, 2017   

United Nations bypass a major shift in policy

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WASHINGTON ( - President Trump has thrown a lifeline to the Christians of Iraq.

Speaking at the In Defense of Christians Solidarity Dinner Wednesday night, Vice President Mike Pence announced a major shift in U.S. policy.

"President Trump has ordered the State Department to stop funding ineffective relief efforts at the United Nations."

Moving forward, Pence proclaimed the United States will provide support directly to persecuted communities through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

"We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups. The United States will work hand-in-hand with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith."

Pence noted that faith-based organizations with "proven track records and deep roots" in the Middle East are eager to assist the suffering religious minorities of Iraq, and "the United Nations too often denies their funding requests."

"My friends," he vowed, "those days are over."

"Christians in the Middle East should not have to rely on multinational institutions when America can help them directly," said the vice president.

The United States will "stand with those who suffer for their faith because that's what Americans have always done because the common bond of our humanity demands a strong response," he added.

The policy shift comes after months of lobbying at the State Department and USAID.

Lawmakers and human rights activists fought hard to overcome stubborn, long-standing "religion-blind" policy which failed to prioritize aid to one group over another.

That policy failed to address the plight of Iraq's Christian and Yazidi communities, both victims of a campaign of genocide perpetrated by radical Islamist group ISIS.

Announcing Trump's new policy, the vice president held ISIS and other Islamist groups directly responsible for the crimes against Christians.

"Let me assure you tonight, President Trump and I see these crimes for what they are: vile acts of persecution animated by hatred for Christians and the Gospel of Christ," said Pence.

"And so, too, does this president know who and what has perpetrated these crimes, and he calls them by name: radical Islamic terrorists."

Iraqi church ravaged by ISIS

In country after country across the Middle East, the Christian population is threatened. The plight of Iraqi Christians is among the worst in the world. In 2002, 1.5 million Christians called Iraq home. Today, just 250,000 do.

Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson lauded the administration's move. "A year ago the United States used the right word to describe what was happening to Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. That word was genocide."

"Tonight," he said, "those words were put into action."

The United States has provided more than $1.4 billion in development aid in recent years, but according to Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, "Very little of that funding has been used to benefit Christian and Yazidi communities," owing to its funneling through U.N. agencies.

Much of what aid reaching the ground in Iraq was wasted, used to fund superficial projects instead of essential infrastructure and homes, churches and community buildings.

For its part, Anderson noted, the Knights of Columbus has warned for the past two years "that Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East have been falling through the cracks in the aid system and has been urging the U.S. government to provide aid directly to genocide-targeted communities."

Trump's new policy will do just that. The impact it will have on Christians in Iraq, Anderson added, "cannot be underestimated."

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