“.. It’s time for action. Because we do believe that time is not helping us because the more you delay the action, more Christians will leave the area,” says Archbishop Warda of Erbil.
Months after President Trump and Vice President Pence pledged direct help to Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq, the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) has announced it will increase assistance to religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq to enable them to return to their homes after two years of occupation, persecution and devastation.
Of an initial commitment of $150 million, pressured by President Trump and Vice President Pence, USAID has negotiated with the United Nations Development Programme so that $55 million of a $75 million payment will go to vulnerable religious and ethnic communities on the Nineveh Plain in Northern Iraq. Further payment will be dependent on the effectiveness of UN efforts including transparency, accountability and due diligence, areas of UN shortcomings in the past.
USAID is also soliciting innovative proposals for helping to resettle Christians and other religious minorities in the region, with results of the competition to be announced some time this spring.
While that is all to the good, questions remain. Will the delays in receiving help continue to deplete the Christian population in their historic homeland? The Christian population in the region has already shrunk from over 1.5 million to just over 275,000 under the brutality and persecution of the Islamic State. And will the U.S. step up in other ways to help Iraqi Christians?
Archbishop of Erbil Bashar Matti Warda says assistance from the U.S. in stabilizing the area is vital to ensuring the safe return of Christians and Yazids.
“It’s important for the Americans to step in. With the dollars, with the political influence, all the experience they have had over the last 100 years supporting the genocide cases, they can be of great help. This is really genocide that happened. It cannot just be headlines in the news. Actions must be taken here and that’s why we are saying, ‘this is the time.’”
Will the help be enough? Estimates say nearly $250 million are needed to restore the region, with approximately half ($125 million) going to rebuild homes, villages and cities and the other half creating institutional structures like schools and hospitals and rebuilding infrastructure.
As cited by the Archbishop, U.S. Government help and influence, is vital. But the overwhelming generosity of individuals and organizations has long been at work helping the beleaguered Christians of Iraq. Solidarity with the Persecuted Church has been on the ground, thanks to the open hearts and timely gifts of our donors, helping to rebuild churches, homes, villages, businesses and lives…working directly with parishes, priests and people… not Governments and bureaucracies, to see that the most effective, and efficient use is made of every donor dollar.
The future of Christianity in the Nineveh Plain is very much depends on America. On our Government, and on our people. SPC thanks you for the great work you are making possible, and urges you to encourage our Government to work as quickly and as powerfully, as possible.