U.S. Agency for International Development Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick’s As Delivered Remarks at the Second International Conference on Christian Persecution

Remarks

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Good morning everyone, and thank you for that kind introduction.

I want to begin by thanking the government of Hungary for all it is doing to help the United States Agency for International Development to support and nurture not only the Christian community in Northern Iraq, but also other religious minorities in that fragile remnant of what was once such a beautiful mosaic of faiths.  

We have a duty to history and to our common humanity to protect and strengthen these communities of Kurds, Yazidis, Chaldeans and others who shared the Ninewah Plain in relative peace for millennia before being ravaged by ISIS a few years ago.  

I’m proud that USAID and the Government of Hungary are implementing our Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate rehabilitation projects in the Sinjar province and to restore the town of Qaraqosh.

The United States and Hungary have demonstrated  our joint commitment to empowering these communities not only to recover from the trauma they have endured, but also to return to -- and thrive in -- their ancient homelands.
  
In Qaraqosh, in the Ninewah Plain, Iraqi Chaldeans are rebuilding after years of ISIS control. USAID is partnering with the Assyrian Aid Society to rehabilitate 100 locally-owned shops and to help restore the St. George Commercial Center.  Our previous work has helped re-establish the delivery of public services, like power and clean water; to rehabilitate public spaces and schools; and, to improve public health and safety.  Our work is encouraging many of the 50,000 people who had fled that ancient town to reestablish their roots in their ancestral home. 
 
Hungary Helps is also reaching out beyond the Christian community, recently providing 175 million forint to expand cooperation with Yazidi programs like the Free Yazidi Foundation, Nadia's Initiative, and other efforts to support Yazidi women and their children, who suffered so terribly at the hands of ISIS.
 
Such collaboration among different religious and ethnic organizations inspires hope in a world where religious intolerance and persecution seem, in recent years, to be on such a relentless forward march around the globe
 
In China, more than a million Uighurs have been forced into Chinese prison camps for “re-education.” Recent escapees recount harrowing tales of medical experimentation on prisoners, and crushing repression of even the smallest observance of Islamic worship.  The Chinese government has done its best to distract attention from its activities in the Xinjiang region, but cultural genocide will not stay hidden forever from those who are willing to confront it.

Meanwhile, as if in a grim contest of atrocity, soldiers in the Burmese government continue to torment the Rohingya people.  Hundreds of thousands have been systematically massacred, raped, maimed, driven from their homes, with their villages bulldozed, and with escaping survivors forced to take refuge in IDP camps in Burma and in refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh.  

There they cling to survival with the aid of humanitarian organizations -- including USAID -- that may be able to provide basic material necessities, but can only offer so much in the way of spiritual comfort.  On the Burmese side of the border it’s even worse: the Rohingya are denied education, health care, and the opportunity to practice their Muslim faith with any dignity at all. On my recent visit to the Rohingya camp in Bangladesh, I was moved to hear the Islamic call to prayer originating from the camp’s makeshift mosques as I thought of those being destroyed in the refugees’ home villages. Even in the squalor of a refugee camp, that freedom to worship restores a bit of dignity to the lives of over a million Rohingya.

Not long ago I had the honor to meet with Nadia Murad, a courageous young Iraqi Yazidi who received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with victims of genocide, mass atrocities, sexual slavery, and human trafficking.  She herself survived sexual slavery and witnessed six family members killed by ISIS in the infamous Sinjar Massacre.  

Her personal story is equal parts humbling and inspiring.  Nadia and I also discussed the terrible suffering of Jewish Iraqis who were violently forced from their homes in Iraq. The pogroms against Iraq’s Jews led to their mass exodus from their historic lands. It was so swift and so total that an ancient part of the country's cultural and religious landscape is now essentially extinct.  

Ms. Murad told me of her fears that the same fate that befell the Jews a half-century ago could befall her own people, as thousands of Yazidi were killed and hundreds of thousands more were driven from their homes by ISIS.  Similarly, Christians in that same historic area of Nineveh once counted more than a million; today barely a quarter of that number remains.  

I want to turn now to what has been called the world’s oldest hatred: the persecution of Jews. History has shown that what begins with anti-semitism leads to widespread societal decay. From the Roman Empire to the pogroms across Europe, and from the Arab world’s expulsion of a million Jews to the Nazis’ murder of 6 million Jews in its attempted Final Solution, anti-semitism has portended broader political repression and ultimate national decline. This is why it is essential for a healthy society to uproot that hatred from its soil. 

Recent events remind us of our responsibility. Around the world, Jews continue to be targeted because of their faith and heritage.

Last month marked one year since the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the United States.

And here in Europe, in the last decade alone, Jews have been murdered just for being Jews in Bulgaria, Brussels, Paris; and, last month, Jews were targeted on Yom Kippur, their holiest day, in Halle, Germany. A deeply troubling poll released last week revealed 24.6 percent of Europeans hold strongly-antisemitic views.

On the street we see that every news cycle seems to bring new reports of swastikas spray-painted on Jewish graves, and violent attacks motivated by nothing more than the sight of a traditional skullcap known as a Kippah.  In fact, last May, the German commissioner on anti-semitism actually had to warn Jews against wearing the Kippah in public.

This is happening in Europe today, the continent where — within living memory — six million European citizens were brutally murdered by their neighbors simply for being Jews.  

On the eve of the Holocaust, more than half of the world’s Jews lived in Europe, today it is barely 10 percent.

That small remnant of a once vibrant population nonetheless faces increasing hostility from across the political spectrum. 

The increasingly desperate allegiance of European leaders to the misbegotten Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, in the face of clear Iranian malign actions is sobering.

Domestically, remember, inside Iran, the Islamist regime persecutes not only Jews but also Baha’is, Christians and even Muslims who dare to question the government.  Globally, Iran is the world’s No. 1 sponsor of terrorism.

Iran’s rulers seek to undermine freedom and democracy throughout the Middle East. Its proxy Hezbollah carries out attacks throughout the world, and intentionally targets civilians. 

Despite comments by some senior European officials that anti-zionism is not the same as anti-semitism, the reality is that every part of Hezbollah seeks the killing of Jews.  Its leader has declared that Israel’s existence eases his soldiers’ task of finding and killing all the world’s Jews. 

As if to hit the point home, just to make sure we don’t forget, the mullahs remind us by encouraging rallies and parades that call for “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.”

So-called anti-zionism is absolutely the same as anti-semitism.

If we do not want history to repeat itself, we cannot afford to remain silent today when, as President Donald J. Trump said, 80% of the world’s population lives in countries where religious liberty is threatened, restricted, or banned.

The price of liberty, it has long been said, is eternal vigilance.  More recently, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel observed that, “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.”  

We must not be indifferent, and we must remain eternally vigilant.  

You may have heard of our emphasis, at the United States Agency for International Development, on helping our partner countries achieve self-reliance, as we work toward the day when foreign assistance is no longer necessary.

If there’s one thing I would have all of you take home from your time here, it is this:  No country can be considered genuinely self-reliant without effectively safeguarding the fundamental rights of religious minorities.

I do want to close on a hopeful note.  My first stop in Hungary was to visit the historic Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest in all of Europe, and a powerful symbol of a resurgent community.

That joyful visit, however, was tempered by a more sobering visit along the Danube where the monument to Jewish victims of the Holocaust is represented by their shoes, cast in brass. The shoes remind us to remain vigilant, to guard those of all faiths. We must remain vigilant. We cannot be indifferent.

Please accept my blessings and best wishes for good fellowship and may God bless all of you here today.

Thank you very much.

Last updated: December 04, 2019

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