A new round of funding, plus improved processes, will help minority faiths rebuild four years after ISIS pushed them out.
The problems facing persecuted faiths in the Middle East are too complex to be fixed by money alone. But experts are hopeful that doubling US assistance to Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, along with improved understanding of the region’s minority groups, will make a major difference for Christians returning there.
A year ago, Vice President Mike Pence pledged direct support to Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities forced out of their homelands in Iraq by ISIS. Religious freedom advocates and groups in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq cheered the news from a US administration that had long promised to prioritize persecuted believers, only to disappoint such groups when—due to bureaucratic hang-ups—the money didn’t come.
Now, the Trump administration has engaged leaders on the ground and doubled down on its promise to help. The government’s latest multimillion-dollar assistance plan, announced Tuesday, brings the total funding over the past year for religious minorities in Iraq to nearly $300 million, with allocations to rebuild communities, preserve heritage sites, secure left-behind explosives, and empower survivors to seek justice.
The announcement came just as Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, the head of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church, complained that “there’s been nothing up to now” from the US.
But American efforts in the beleaguered region already show signs of improving.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) “has been very slow in getting aid out the door, and it’s just starting to make a difference, with reconstructing schools, electricity switched on, etc., since mid-September,” said Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious …
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