One long-term solution to the security problem is “more community policing,” Anderson told CNA. Officers in the police forces need to come from the communities they serve, so that local religious and ethnic minorities can have “confidence” in law enforcement and enjoy more security, he said.
Aid to genocide survivors requires a level of security to be effective, yet it also cannot simply be short-term food, clothing, and shelter. To build for the future, families need the goods to live a normal life—education, infrastructure, and jobs—made possible through economic investment and international assistance.
Countries like Hungary and Poland have already been helping with resettlement efforts; the Hungarian government donated $2 million in 2017 to help rebuild the town Teleskov in Nineveh. The Knights of Columbus delivered $2 million for the town of Karamles in just over 12 months in 2017-18, and Aid to the Church in Need has also been instrumental in helping Christians in the area recover and resettle.
However, leaders on the ground have insisted for years that substantial U.S. assistance is necessary for the long-term stabilization of the region; charitable groups can only bring so many resources to the table. For years, displaced Christian families reportedly were almost entirely dependent upon groups like the Knights of Columbus and the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil for humanitarian assistance. They claimed that little to no assistance reached them from the U.S. and the United Nations.
Then, at the annual In Defense of Christians Solidarity Dinner in October of 2017 in Washington, D.C., Vice President Mike Pence promised that the U.S. would begin directly funding aid groups working on the ground in the region, rather than sending assistance through the United Nations.
Members in Congress also worked to establish a policy change like this one. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act to authorize and direct the U.S. to fund aid groups working with persecuted religious and ethnic minorities. The legislation passed the U.S. Congress in November of 2018 and was signed into law in December of 2018.
Pence’s announcement represented a sea-change in U.S. policy; persecuted communities would have a hand in determining the assistance they would receive, explained Mark Green, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to CNA at last week’s ministerial.
Pence “gave us the mandate, basically, and the space to, community-by-community, reach out to local faith leaders and say, ‘Look, we want to work with you. What are your needs?’ Not us telling them what their needs are, but instead them telling us what their needs are,” Green told CNA.
And now the U.S. has someone in Iraq dedicated to working with the local minority communities—USAID’s Special Representative for Minority Assistance Programs in Iraq, Max Primorac. He “spends his time every day going to communities,” Green said. “I’ve met with Archbishop [Bashar] Warda a number of times, and our team does all the time.”
Yet in the months after Pence’s announcement, Iraq’s Christians said the promised assistance was slow in arriving. Multiple proposals to USAID by local aid groups were rejected, prompting Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil to tell the National Catholic Register in June of 2018 that Pence’s announcement had backfired in a sense—it had encouraged some donors to move on to other charitable causes with the assumption that Iraq’s Christians now had a secure backing from the U.S., which they apparently did not.
Green promised that help was on the way. On Wednesday, a USAID official told CNA that the U.S. has provided approximately $367 million for the Vice President’s initiative to support persecuted ethnic and religious minorities in Northern Iraq; USAID contributed $308 million, and the State Department has contributed $57 million, the official said.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Green told CNA that the overall process of providing the needed assistance is encouraging but much work remains to be done. “In some ways, it’s turning an aircraft carrier around in a canal,” he said.
Anderson agreed that the agency “is working very hard” but is dealing with a regulatory process that will slow the delivery of aid.
There has been “an incredible change in the bureaucratic orientation” in the past year, Primorac said last week at a ministerial side event on the Holy Sites in the Middle East. The Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, and Syriac Catholic Church are now seeing “equal treatment” by the U.S. with other non-religious civic organizations in how assistance is distributed.
The U.S. has funded efforts to restore or rehabilitate holy sites in the area, such as projects at St. Matthew’s monastery, or Mar Mattai, of the Syriac Orthodox Church and damage assessments at St. George’s Monastery in Mosul, Primorac said; the U.S. is also the largest donor for demining operations in Iraq.
Local priests also attested to the U.S. help in the region. Fr. Thabet Habib Youssef, a priest from Karamles, told attendees at the ministerial that the U.S. has provided useful construction equipment and trucks to help clear out rubble, and helped bring water and electricity back to the town.
He begged the U.S. not to create a “culture of dependency” with aid, but to honor the “dignity of work” through public-private projects that create “honest economic growth.”