US breaks with UN on anti-Christian persecution

What happened?

The White House has overhauled its strategy for helping persecuted Christians, promising to give money to organisations which work directly with Christians and other vulnerable minorities in the Middle East. Until now, the US State Department has given money to the UN, but vice president Mike Pence said this was ineffective, and the money would now go to “faith-based groups and private organisations to help those who are persecuted for their faith. This is the moment, now is the time.”

What aid agencies are saying

Andrew Doran, vice president of In Defense of Christians (IDC), told the National Catholic Register that Pence’s announcement was a “game changer”. Everyone working with religious organisations to defend vulnerable populations, especially those who worked with Christian groups, must feel “enormously encouraged”. An IDC report had found that at least a third of UN aid targeting Christian areas was not reaching Christians.

His enthusiasm was echoed by Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, who said the announcement was an important action against genocide. For two years, he said, the Knights had “warned that Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East have been falling through the cracks in the aid system”.

What commentators are saying

Don’t celebrate just yet, said John Allen at Crux. It remains to be seen whether the administration will follow through – and whether it can do so quickly enough. To begin with, the White House must issue detailed guidance on how the direct funding of church groups (and others) will work. “Based on church/state concerns and other issues, such a step is often a stretch for the federal bureaucracy, and this isn’t a case in which institutional inertia or ambivalence can be allowed to take hold.”

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