U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's promise in October to help persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East appears to have been fulfilled as USAID has announced a change in its policy concerning relief funding.
On Oct. 25, 2017, Pence promised to "stop funding ineffective relief efforts at the United Nations" and to funnel aid directly to Christians and other persecuted minorities in Iraq via USAID. Following a number of discussions between the United Nations and the Trump administration, the United States Agency for International Development, which is commonly known as USAID, confirmed that its contribution of $150 million that would go to the Funding Facility for Stabilization in Iraq would be restructured, Fox News detailed.
USAID Counselor Tom Staal told Fox that $55 million of the $75 million already given to the United Nations Development Program fund was allotted "specifically for minorities" who had suffered because of the atrocities of the Islamic State. He added that the specific towns where the budget was to be spent was also detailed in the new agreements.
Moreover, Staal revealed that USAID has already drafted a contract containing new oversight procedures that aimed to make sure that the UNDP performed its tasks effectively. Those measures include hiring a third party that would monitor and report on the progress of the agency.
Last month, Christians in the northern Iraqi town of Teleskof were finally able to return to their homeland to celebrate Christmas for the first time since ISIS took over the region. Hundreds of once-displaced congregants gathered at the Church of Saint George as Father Salar Bodagh led a traditional bonfire ceremony which signified renewal, The Guardian reported.
Amidst the joy of being reunited once again for their Christmas celebrations after Iraq declared victory over ISIS, the damage to the mostly Christian town caused many to wonder if they could still move forward from this setback.
Based on estimates by community leaders, at least 7,000 Teleskof residents fled to various parts of Iraq, the Kurdistan region, U.S. Australia, Germany, and other countries. Many of these Christians feel that there is no more future left for them in their home country.