A key provision being pursued directly by Vice President Mike Pence has paid off in the form of added financial aid earmarked for oppressed minorities in Iraq.
As the Washington Examiner reported, Pence reiterated in a speech this week his dedication to providing resources directly to Christian and Yazidi communities.
He told attendees at Wednesday’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting that his “promise” was to secure the funding to achieve his goal.
“We will not rest until we give our fellow Christians and persecuted communities across the Middle East the resources and support they need to recover, rebuild and flourish in their ancient homeland once again,” he said.
His recent declaration came after an announcement in October regarding the future of America’s international aid allocation. Pence said at the time that the Trump administration would redirect money from “ineffective” United Nations programs to USAID and faith-based charitable organizations.
The Washington Post reported that the United States Agency for International Development responded to pressure from the vice president by approving tens of millions of dollars in new spending to supplement the financial aid already benefiting these Iraqi minority groups.
Combined with the money already set aside for assistance within the two communities, the recently announced funds bring the total to more than $100 million during the current fiscal year.
First, USAID confirmed it would take advantage of a rarely used provision allowing a direct allocation of funds totaling $10 million split between two organizations. One of the umbrella groups receiving money is operated by Catholic Relief Services.
Following that initial funding, USAID pledged another $25 million to assist Iraq’s “persecuted communities,” specifically Christians living in the Nineveh Plains and the Yazidis located in Sinjar.
USAID Administrator Mark Green addressed criticism that the increased aid indicates a religious preference on the part of the Trump administration.
“No, because we are working with so many other religiously persecuted communities,” he said. “We are standing up for them.”
Green wrote a Wall Street Journal editorial on the topic, which Pence linked in a tweet celebrating the victory.
Must read @USAIDMarkGreen op-ed in the @WSJ: “At the direction of @POTUS & @VP, @USAID is now redoubling its effort to swiftly deliver & distribute the aid that Iraq’s persecuted religious communities desperately need. The delays must end, and they will.” https://t.co/hdlvPQmXnQ
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) June 14, 2018
Both minority populations have seen marked decreases since post-9/11 military intervention in the country and the subsequent uprising of the Islamic State group.
Since 2003, the number of Christians in Nineveh has dropped from about 1.5 million to less than 200,000. The Yazidi community has witnessed a similar reduction in numbers throughout the Sinjar region.
Pence has been one of many advocates for increased financial assistance to the persecuted minorities in Iraq. Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom has long argued that these communities suffered as they waited for U.S. aid.
“Why would you not give aid on the basis of creed if it’s genocide based on creed,” she said. “They’re survivors of genocide, the most heinous of all human rights abuses and atrocities. We vowed after the Holocaust that never again would we be passive, never again would we let a community flounder and vanish.”
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