WASHINGTON, DC — The United States government is “financing the spoils of genocide” committed by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) against Christians and other ethnoreligious minorities in the Middle East through a United Nations program that has only benefitted Sunni Muslims, argued a lawyer who represents the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital Erbil.
His comments came Tuesday while he was testifying at House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights hearing on ISIS’ genocidal campaign in the Middle East.
Stephen Rasche, a U.S. citizen who serves as legal counsel and director of IDP [internally displaced person] Resettlement Programs for the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, told lawmakers that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has failed to take action to ensure Christians and other minority groups are receiving American-funded aid through the U.N.
He claimed the Trump administration is worried about the public misconstruing the move as discriminatory—favoring one community over another.
In written testimony prepared for the House panel, the lawyer proclaimed:
Even in the new administration, career individuals at these agencies have continued to state that they are only concerned with individuals, not communities. They have asserted that directing assistance to particular religious or ethnic communities would be ‘discrimination’ and a ‘violation of humanitarian principles,’ even if these communities had been targeted for genocide and assistance was being directed to them to prevent their destruction.
Nevertheless, the lawyer for the Iraqi Christian group testified:
I asked that the U.S. government hear our pleas for help, and warned [over a year ago] that without this help, the Christians of the Nineveh Plain could very well disappear,” declared Rasche. “I wish that I could tell you that in the 12 months that followed that our pleas were heard and that our plight has found relief. But as I speak before you now, I regret to say that we have still yet to receive any form of meaningful aid from the U.S. government.”
So far, the Trump administration has failed to “move the bureaucracy to take meaningful action” and ensure that Christians, Yazidis, and other displaced minorities gain access to U.S. humanitarian assistance without having to go to U.N. camps where they fear persecution by the Muslim majority, said Rasche.
Echoing other analysts, the lawyer stressed that he has repeatedly warned lawmakers that the United Nations is not delivering U.S.-funded aid to Christians.
Citing a former Christian Iraqi town that he believes is being used as a “settlement site for the families of slain Sunni ISIS fighters,” Rasche testified:
As such, 100 percent of the work being done in this town benefits the Sunni Arab residents of the town, and there is no consideration anywhere in U.N. aid planning for the displaced Christians, who now depend wholly upon the Church and private sources for their survival. This is well over 10,000 families. That such a representation could be made in the UNDP report, without even the barest attempt at an explanatory note, shows clearly the profound depth of disconnect between representation and reality. In effect, U.S. taxpayers are financing the spoils of genocide.
Since ISIS declared its so-called caliphate in 2014, the United States has funneled more than $1.4 billion in U.S. humanitarian assistance and over $265 million in reconstruction aid to Iraq through the U.N. Development Program (UNDP).
The Christian Postacknowledges that human rights advocates have expressed concern that the policy that mandates U.S. humanitarian and reconstruction aid for Iraq to be channeled through the U.N. “has essentially cut off Christians, Yazidis and other religious minority communities victimized by the Islamic State’s genocide from much-needed aid.”
Rasche noted that not much has changed under the Trump administration, adding that the U.N. is still forsaking religious minorities when it comes to delivering U.S. aid to them.
Without U.S. taxpayer-funded aid to complement assistance provided by the Church and other private entities, the Christian communities will not be able to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure in their historical Iraqi homeland, he said.
Over a year ago, the United States and U.N. officially determined that ethnoreligious minorities in the Middle East, including Christians, Yezidis, and Turkmen, among others, were victims of genocide at the hands of ISIS.
However, minorities were still looking for the U.S. government to take meaningful action to help them a year after the genocide declaration.
This week, former Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), the co-founder of the pro-religious freedom 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, warned U.S. lawmakers, “We will see the end of Christianity in Iraq in a few short years and a loss of religious and ethnic diversity throughout the region” without “bold action.”
The former congressman made those comments while testifying before the Senate Foreign Affairs subcommittee on human Rights.
He also testified alongside Rasche during Tuesday’s House panel hearing.
Like the lawyer, Wolf emphasized that U.S. assistance to minorities in Iraq has failed to reach Christians, Yazidis, and other groups.
Even Foreign Policy magazine writes: We Are Witnessing the Elimination of Christian Communities in Iraq and Syria
Do we want to be the generation that stood by as Christians disappeared almost entirely from the ancient homelands they have occupied since the days of the New Testament?
We are on the precipice of catastrophe, and unless we act soon, within weeks, the tiny remnants of Christian communities in Iraq may be mostly eradicated by the genocide being committed against Christians in Iraq and Syria.
The situation is bleak, but it is not yet beyond hope. Some refugees are returning, and if they receive adequate, targeted assistance immediately, this might be enough of a remnant to keep the Christianity alive in its New Testament birthplace for another generation.
But that may require U.S. politicians taking a page out of the Old Testament. The Book of Esther tells the story of a well-placed favorite in the king of Persia’s court. In those days, local political factions were conspiring to exterminate another religious minority, the Jews, and Queen Esther was challenged by her adopted father to use her political clout to intervene on their behalf. Mordecai’s words ring down through the ages, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
The alternative is a bleak one that should sear the conscience of people of every faith and conviction. Unless we act soon, we may bear witness to the final chapter of a genocide that we could have prevented.