WASHINGTON – United Nations “refugee” programs have focused on Muslims in the Middle East for years, even though the populations of Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in the region have been under siege.
A recent report from Aid to the Church in Need notes that “Christians are the victims of at least 75 percent of all religiously motivated violence and oppression.”
The organization said more than half of Iraq’s Christians now are internal refugees, having been driven from their homes.
The Syrian city of Aleppo was home to the largest Christian community in the Middle East in 2011. But the Christian population there is down more than 75 percent in just six years, the report notes, from 150,000 to about 35,000.
Still, U.N. programs largely have selected Muslims to come to the United States, Britain and other countries as refugees in recent years.
But now there’s been a shift, with the United Nations conceding there is a problem with the persecution of Christians.
Two U.N. officials have pledged in letters to the American Center for Law and Justice that the international body will aid persecuted Christians.
ACLJ sent a letter to Adama Dieng, the U.N.’s under-secretary-general and special adviser regarding the prevention of genocide, urging the U.N. to acknowledge the reality of the genocide being perpetrated by ISIS against Christians and other religious minorities.
Dieng responded, assuring ACLJ he will hold the perpetrators of genocide accountable and pledging the U.N. will provide a safe return home for those wrongfully displaced.
“I have also reiterated that taking steps toward accountability is critical to demonstrating that all populations will have a place in the future of Iraq, including ethnic and religious minorities,” Dieng stated in his response.
The United Nations, he said, will also encourage Iraq to lead the way in protecting Christians and preventing genocide.
“In the absence of accountability processes at the national level, the international community can explore the options that you set out in your letter, some of which can also be initiated by the government of Iraq,” he said. “I have personally shared these options with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq.”
Dieng is backing up his promise with action, including leading the U.N. to unanimously adopt Resolution 2379, ACLJ said.
Resolution 2379 calls for the creation of an investigative team for the purpose of “collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by the terrorist group [ISIS] in Iraq,” evidence that will then be used to hold ISIS members accountable.
“We’ve seen the U.N. begin to act,” ACLJ explained. “After Mr. Dieng shared our policy proposal with Iraq, Iraq took that proposal to the U.N. We also urged action from the British government, which then worked with Iraq at the U.N. to propose a key U.N. Security Council resolution. That resolution to take the first step on our genocide proposal just passed unaminously.”
In a letter to ACLJ last week, Ivan Simonovic, another U.N. adviser regarding the responsibility to protect at-risk populations, also vowed to take immediate to protect religious minorities.
“We need to ensure that all minority groups have a space in the future of Iraq,” Simonovic stated.
The U.N.’s acknowledgement of Christian persecution comes just weeks after President Trump ordered the State Department to stop funding the U.N’s humanitarian programs the administration claims are inadequately combating the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
Speaking at the In Defense of Christians summit in Washington, D.C., last month, Vice President Mike Pence explained the State Department’s funding of “ineffective” U.N. relief efforts will be terminated and replaced by providing humanitarian assistance directly through U.S. Agency for International Development and “faith-based groups.”
Pence sharply criticized the U.N., arguing the international body has “often failed to help the most vulnerable communities especially religious minorities.”
“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,” Pence said to applause.
Pence argued that the U.N. is neglecting vulnerable communities, especially religious minorities, and said persecuted Christians in the Middle East have not been getting the relief they need.
“My friends, those days are over,” Pence said. “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.
“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,” Pence said. “The United States will work hand-in-hand from this day forward with 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.”
Pence is slated to visit the Middle East in December, where he will discuss peace agreements with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and tell various leaders it is time to bring an end to the persecution of Christians and religious minorities.