US Vice President Mike Pence’s promises Wednesday of better aid for persecuted Christians and others in the Middle East has drawn praise from Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus.
Pence addressed In Defense of Christians’ annual Solidarity Dinner for Christians in the Middle East Oct. 25. The vice president said groups such as the Islamic State have singled out Christians for persecution. He noted that Christianity could disappear from some parts of the Middle East.
“Let me assure you tonight, President Trump and I see these crimes for what they are — vile acts of persecution animated by hatred for Christians and the Gospel of Christ,” said Pence.
Pence said that President Donald Trump has told the State Department to stop funding “ineffective” U.N. relief efforts.
“Our fellow Christians and all who are persecuted in the Middle East should not have to rely on multinational institutions when America can help them directly,” he said. Instead, the U.S. will provide humanitarian assistance through the U.S. Agency for International Development, faith-based groups, and private organizations “to help those who are persecuted for their faith.” “This is the moment, now is the time, and America will support these people in their hour of need,” the vice president said.
Pence charged that the U.N. has often failed to help “the most vulnerable communities, especially religious minorities” and has repeatedly denied funding to faith-based groups with “proven track records.” “We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups,” he said.
Commenting on Pence's speech, Anderson noted that “A year ago the United States used the right word to describe what was happening to Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. That word was genocide,” said Anderson, referring to a March 2016 State Department declaration. For Anderson, Pence’s speech meant “those words were put into action.”
“The Knights of Columbus applauds Vice President Mike Pence’s announcement that the Trump administration will begin providing aid directly to religious minority groups impacted by ISIS’ genocide,” he said. Anderson said a lack of aid to Christians and other religious minorities has been a major problem.
“For almost two years, the Knights of Columbus has warned that Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East have been falling through the cracks in the aid system, and has been urging the United States government to provide aid directly to genocide-targeted communities,” he said. “We are pleased that tonight, the administration has promised to do just that.”
In 2014 the Catholic fraternal organization launched a Christian Refugee Relief Fund that has given more than $13 million in humanitarian assistance, largely in Iraq, Syria, and nearby countries. The group was among those documenting Islamic State group atrocities and advocating on behalf of Middle East Christians and other minorities.
According to Anderson, the impact of Pence’s announcement on the survival of threatened minority communities “cannot be underestimated.”