Pence noted that although the Obama administration gave over a billion dollars in aid to the Middle East, through the United Nations, little of that money made it to Christians and other minority groups.
“The UN has too often failed to help the most vulnerable communities,” said Pence. “And while faith-based groups with proven track records and deep roots in the region are more than willing to assist, the United Nations continues to deny their funding requests.”
Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom, told conservative news site LifeZette , “The money has been spent, but not on the Christian refugees. The UN has proven itself to be extremely politicized and unaccountable and should be the last body charged with millions—even billions—of dollars of aid to help persecuted minorities on the brink of extinction.”
Trump’s administration plans to bypass the UN entirely and give the funds directly to organizations on the ground in the Middle East.
“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,” Pence said . “This is the moment, now is the time, and America will support these people in their hour of need.”
Christians in the Middle East have suffered horrible persecution over recent years, and more than two-thirds of believers have fled Iraq and Syria since 2011, according to Christianity Today.
Pence said that most of these Christians have yet to receive any significant aid. Many of them are still living in shelters, and little progress has been made on relief projects, despite those projects being marked as finished.
However, Pence announced some hopeful news at the summit as well. He said that ISIS is being pushed back and defeated.
Last week, US-backed forces reclaimed Raqqa, one of the last city strongholds under ISIS’s power.
The Trump administration hopes to now provide resources for rebuilding and restoring the communities that have been destroyed.
“Reconstruction is one of the only areas of economic activity in the Nineveh Plains region at this point,”
said Shea in Christianity Today . “Hiring local Christians to help rebuild is expected to draw displaced believers back to the area.”
Chris Seiple, president emeritus of the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), described the loss of trust between religious and political groups in the region and said that restoring that trust will be fundamental as well.
“Everything that’s done in relief and development has to embed reconciliation or else there’s no way in hell it’ll work.”
Pence announced his plan to visit the Middle East by the end of this year and expressed his high hopes for God’s work there.
“I have faith because I am a believer. And I believe that He who said, ‘that when you pass through the waters I will be with you.’ That He who said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ never will.”