Syrian priest says US aid for Christians still not 'visible' despite Trump's promise

Christians in Syria are happy that the U.S. has offered new humanitarian aid for them, but a Franciscan priest based in Aleppo said on Feb.7 that they had yet to see the results despite President Donald Trump's promise about it.

(REUTERS / Abdalrhman Ismail)Rebel fighters and civilians gather as they wait to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo. December 19, 2016.

During a press conference in Rome organized by Aid to the Church in Need, Fr. Frias Lutfi of the Custody of the Holy Land said many people in Syria were skeptical of America's policy. He explained that there was local gossip that the U.S. had funded the forces that shot down a Russian plane which was supposed to target residual Islamic State forces in Syria, Crux relayed.

While Lutfi acknowledged that the gossip had not been substantiated, he said it reflected the mindset of the people in Syria. The Franciscan priest mentioned that they were wary of the potential economic interests that the U.S. might have behind its humanitarian aid offer.

In addition, Lutfi noted that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had announced in October that America would add humanitarian aid funding for ISIS victims. The promised funds would reportedly be available directly via local churches instead of passing through U.N. programs, but Lutfi said local Christians still do not see any concrete results.

"No new gestures of solidarity [from the U.S. government] are yet visible," Lutfi remarked.

Meanwhile, the U.S. drew praise from the Knights of Columbus after it pledged $55 million in aid for ISIS victims in Iraq's Nineveh Province. This amount will reportedly help rebuild the communities and restore power, water, sewage and other basic services in the province, the Catholic News Agency reported.

In a statement, Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson expressed gratitude to the U.S. for the increased humanitarian aid funding for persecuted religious minorities in Iraq. The organization also praised the American government for handling the atrocities against Christians in the region in the same way as other genocides.