National Catholic Register | Oct. 29, 2018
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence made a promise last year that the United States would send aid directly to the persecuted Christians in Iraq through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and through faith-based groups that work in the region.
One year after Pence’s pledge, USAID, the State Department and some in Congress have redoubled their efforts to ensure that U.S. aid effectively prioritizes Iraq’s dwindling Christian communities.
However, some of Iraq’s Christian leaders have complained that U.S. aid efforts have fallen short.
The population of Iraq’s Christians has gone from 1.5 million in 2003 to just 200,000, causing Chaldean Archbishop Habib Nafali to say, in a recent interview with Catholic News Service, that “another wave of persecution will be the end of Christianity after 2,000 years” in the region.
Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Iraq-based Chaldean Church told the Register in June that the aid situation had actually worsened since Pence’s initial promise. He cited poor decision-making on the part of USAID officials when it came to administering the funding and said USAID vetoed project proposals from local Church-related groups without explanation.
Cardinal Raphael Sako, the patriarch of the Chaldean Church, also recently criticized U.S. aid efforts as ineffective, saying at the Vatican’s youth synod that, “until now, there’s nothing [from the U.S. government] to help these people return to their homes.”
However, on the same day as Cardinal Sako’s remarks, USAID pledged to spend more than $178 million in U.S. foreign assistance to support Christians and other vulnerable communities in Iraq, bringing “total U.S. assistance for this population to nearly $300 million since Fiscal Year 2017, implemented by both the State Department and USAID.”
USAID Administrator Mark Green told the press at the synod that he disagreed with Cardinal Sako’s comments regarding the situation. He met with the cardinal at the Vatican following his remarks to provide a progress report.