The US State Department will no longer fund “ineffective” UN relief efforts for persecuted and religious minorities in the Middle East, Pence told the audience.
Instead funding for Christians will directly be distributed through the US Agency for International Development.
Some 215 million Christians experience “high, very high or extreme persecution” in the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be of the faith, according to Open Doors USA’s 2017 World Watch List.
The summit provided a platform for introducing victims, advocates, leaders and influencers to create partnerships that can help bring about change, while encouraging and praying for those who have faced beatings, torture, imprisonment, rape and even death because of their Christian faith.
According to Pence, in countries like Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon, Christianity was “under unprecedented assault in those ancient lands where it first grew”.
“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,” Pence said.
The UN has failed religious minorities, leaving them to “suffer and struggle needlessly”, Pence added.
The US State Department on Thursday, denied that it would be a blanket cut of US funding to all United Nations relief agencies.
According to the United Nations, its four main relief agencies are the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP).
The latest data shows that the United States provided some $4.5 billion a year in total funding, making it the top donor for all except the UNDP.
But John Eibner, CEO of the Zurich-based Christian Solidarity International, told Voice of America that much more than redirecting aid was needed to support persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria.
“It is true that the UN is a big, bureaucratic organization, and there are lots of politics connected with how aid is distributed, but the same is also true of USAID,” Eibner told VOA. “But the real issue facing Christians in the Middle East is not humanitarian aid, it’s security. It’s insecurity that has put them in the position where they now need humanitarian aid.”
Eibner blamed US policy in the region, saying it has greatly contributed to the hardships Christians currently face in the Middle East.
“There have been waves of persecution against Christians and other religious minorities over the centuries, but there’s no question about the instability that has been created by failed regime-change policies that have not produced what was promised,” Eibner noted.
In June, the UN General Assembly voted $600 million in cuts to the $8 billion annual peacekeeping budget as a result of pressure from the United States.
The Trump administration announced in April already that it would no longer fund the UN Population Fund.