Pence: US Will Bypass UN and Aid Persecuted Iraqi Christians Directly

The vice president reiterated the Trump administration’s commitment to defending religious groups persecuted by ISIS, announcing plans to visit the region in December and a strategic shift away from funding “ineffective” United Nations programs. Instead, Pence said President Donald Trump has directed the State Department to send aid directly through USAID and faith-based partners.

 

During a speech to advocates for the persecuted church, Mike Pence unveiled plans for the United States to provide more direct aid to Christians and other minorities facing genocide in the Middle East.

The vice president reiterated the Trump administration’s commitment to defending religious groups persecuted by ISIS, announcing plans to visit the region in December and a strategic shift away from funding “ineffective” United Nations programs. Instead, Pence said President Donald Trump has directed the State Department to send aid directly through USAID and faith-based partners.

“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,” Pence told the crowd gathered in Washington, DC, for the annual summit of In Defense of Christians (IDC).

“The United States will work hand in hand from this day forward with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith. This is the moment, now is the time, and America will support these people in their hour of need.”

The Christian population in the region has dwindled significantly, with two-thirds of believers in Iraq and Syria fleeing since 2011. A 2014 CT cover story by Philip Jenkins assessed how Iraqi Christians were “on the edge of extinction.”

“This is good news and we want to thank President Trump, Vice President Pence, and all those who have been working diligently on this issue,” said Frank Wolf, distinguished senior fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. “This should impact humanitarian aid for those living as internally displaced persons and refugees and stabilization assistance for the Christians and Yazidis returning to areas seized from them by ISIS.”

The US has committed millions to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which some have called out for not doing more to help Christians in Iraq in particular.

“The money has been spent, but not on the Christian refugees,” Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, told conservative news site LifeZette. “The UN has proven itself to be extremely politicized and unaccountable and should be the last body charged with millions—even billions—of dollars of aid to help persecuted minorities on the brink of extinction.”

Pence himself echoed the UN critique at the event.

“Here is the sad reality. The United Nations claims that more than 160 projects are in Christian areas. But for a third of those projects, there are no Christians to help,” he said. “The believers in Nineveh Iraq have had less than 2 percent of their housing needs addressed and the majority of Christians and Yazidis remain in shelters. Projects that are supposedly marked finished have little more than a UN flag hung outside an unusable building, in many cases a school.”

Many experts on humanitarian efforts in the region agreed that the United States made the right move in shifting its approach, though questions remain about the logistics and specifics about the plan Pence referenced.

“It’s the right move. The question is, ‘Are we ready for it?’” said Chris Seiple, president emeritus of the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE).

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