USAID to Give Aid to Iraqi Christians, Yazidis Through Catholic Relief Services

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Iraqi Christians attend a mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the predominantly Christian Iraqi town of Qaraqosh / Getty Images
BY: Jeffrey Cimmino
The United States Agency for International Development is providing coalitions led by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Heartland Alliance with $10 million to aid Christian and other minority communities in Iraq that suffered oppression and massacres under the Islamic State’s rule.

USAID Administrator Mark Green announced the funding at the Interaction Forum in Washington, D.C. last week, the Catholic News Agency reported Wednesday.

“In Iraq, although the [U.S.-led] coalition has largely driven ISIS from the battlefield, much of northern Iraq now faces the daunting task of repairing broken infrastructure and rebuilding a shattered social fabric,” Green said.

Kevin Hartigan, Catholic Relief Services’ regional director for Europe and the Middle East, told the Catholic News Agency that his organization will use the funds to “assist the Catholic Church of Iraq to help all war-affected families with the provision of shelter, emergency assistance, and education and trauma healing for children.”

“It will allow Catholic Relief Services to continue and expand the projects we began in 2014, working with Caritas Iraq to provide critical assistance to Christians, Yazidis, and many other Iraqis of various faiths who had been displaced by violence and are now returning to their homes,” he added.

The USAID funding comes after Vice President Mike Pence expressed frustration over delays in delivering aid promised to the Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq, according to reports. Now, the U.S. will stop using “slow, ineffective, and wasteful United Nations programs and to instead distribute assistance through USAID in order to provide faster and more direct aid” to the affected communities, according to Pence’s press secretary.

The Washington Post reported last week that USAID will also disburse $25 million to help Christians, Yazidis, and other persecuted communities in Iraq.

Pence promised last October that the U.S. would expedite aid to Iraqi Christians. Despite his promise, reports from earlier this month said that aid was mired in bureaucratic delays.

Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.) and Robert McFarlane, who served as Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser, wrote an op-ed earlier this month saying that “USAID must use whatever creativity is necessary to complete its mission and keep Mr. Pence’s pledge to Iraq’s religious minorities.”

They also urged the Senate to “swiftly pass bipartisan legislation to authorize funding for these victimized communities.”

On June 8, Pence directed Green to travel to Iraq in the coming weeks to determine effective ways to expedite aid. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, Green said he would “assure [Christian and Yazidi leaders] that American assistance will soon turn from an inconsistent trickle into a steady stream.”