US donates $2.5 million to displaced Iraqi Christians in Kurdistan Region
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US government said on Thursday that it would donate $2.5 million to internally displaced Iraqi Christians currently seeking shelter in the Kurdistan Region, many of them after fleeing their home towns following the Islamic State's rise in 2014.
In a press conference held at Saint Joseph’s Church in Erbil, US Consul General Rob Waller announced the pledge in the presence of Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, the current Chaldean Archbishop in the capital of the autonomous region.
The sum, Waller said, will be administered by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) through the newly established Ankawa Humanitarian Committee (AHC), an affiliate of Erbil’s Chaldean Archdiocese.
Following the ascendancy of the Islamic State, which targeting Christian and Yezidis (Ezidis) minorities among other religious communities it views as heretical, thousands of Christians in Nineveh Plain and other parts of the country fled to various parts of the Kurdistan Region’s including its capital of Erbil.
AHC founding member Fahmi Sliwa told Kurdistan 24 that the first phase of the money donated by the US government will "be spent on covering the housing fees" of between 2,000 and 2,500 displaced Christian families.
Although many Christian families displaced by the Islamic State have returned to their homes since the territorial defeat of the extremist group in Iraq in late 2017, a significant number of them say they are wary of returning because of the uncertain security situation and, as Sliwa added, "have more trust in the Kurdistan Region."
In June 2018, US Vice President Mike Pence instructed USAID to speed assistance to decimated Iraqi religious communities—Christians and Ezidis—who were targeted by the Islamic State and to provide that aid directly, rather than through the UN.
“The Vice President will not tolerate bureaucratic delays in implementing the Administration’s vision to deliver the assistance we promised to the people we pledged to help,” Pence’s press secretary said in a statement.
Editing by John J. Catherine