Pence Demands Answers in Delay of Funds to Persecuted Christians

Iraqi Christians

Bureaucratic delays have kept much needed money from reaching Christian and Yazidi communities decimated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.  

Vice President Mike Pence is demanding it stop.

Pence is dispatching U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green to Iraq to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are going to help save Christian and Yazidi communities in the Nineveh Plain, home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world and considered by many to be the cradle of Christianity.

News reports characterize Pence as being incensed over the delay and what appears to be attempts to thwart a direct White House executive order that the funds be released to groups on the ground who were most active in helping the Christians and Yazidis survive during the years of exile from their homeland when they fled ISIS persecution.

The bureaucratic gridlock appears to be born out animus against Christian groups working in the region. Top officials at the State Department and USAID had resisted any change to their religion-blind policy of channeling most of the U.S. taxpayer dollars to the United Nations.

USAID blocking millions meant for Iraqi Christians

USAID officials had blocked proposals totaling $5 million from two groups, the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee and the Catholic University in Erbil, according to Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.) and Robert McFarlane, President Reagan’s national security adviser. The two penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that exposed the delays.

USAID officials gave no reason for rejecting their proposals, only a terse message that it would not be providing any additional information to the organizations that were not selected.

When the organizations followed up with questions, they received an automated reply that the official who had sent the rejection letter had gone on leave for a month, according to Smith and McFarlane.

Instead, USAID approved proposals from the International Organization for Migration, a group tied to the United Nations, which has lost credibility among U.S. activists for shoddy work and failing to direct the money to the Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities effectively.

“Career staff at USAID have ignored Mr. Pence’s words and thwarted the clear intent of the Trump administration,” Smith and McFarlane wrote. “As a result, the light of Iraqi Christianity could be permanently extinguished.” They also highlighted national security implications: “If Iraq’s minority communities collapse, Iran will be ever freer to exert control over the region and consolidate a land bridge to Syria.”

The vice president said in October that help for these persecuted communities was already on the way because President Trump had “ordered the State Department to stop funding ineffective relief efforts at the United Nations.”

“From this day forward, America will provide support directly to persecuted communities through USAID,” Pence said at the time after USAID promised to comply with the directive.

Pence’s anger comes from learning the agency had not.

“President Trump and Vice President Pence made restoring the rights and property of Iraq’s Christian and Yazidi communities, who were nearly wiped out by ISIS’s genocidal campaign against them, a top and unceasing priority of this administration,” Pence spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said in a statement Friday afternoon.

“The vice president will not tolerate bureaucratic delays in implementing the administration’s vision to deliver the assistance we promised to the people we pledged to help,” she added.

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Bob Ditmer
Bob Ditmer has worked in Christian media for more than 20 years including positions with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Focus on the Family.