U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Remarks at the Genocide and Persecution Response Program Roundtable

Press Release Shim

Speeches Shim

For Immediate Release

Friday, November 9, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

November 8, 2018
U.S. Agency for International Development
Washington, DC

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you very much. And we do want to (inaudible) Sam and a few other of those people who want to hear from you as much as anybody. I would like to begin with some thanks on top of what Samah has just mentioned. I personally want to thank the White House, in particular, the Vice President and his team, for their tirelessness in the cause of religious liberty, especially in the Middle East, but not only in the Middle East; Ambassador Sam Brownback for his unbending advocacy of the cause, our champions in Congress; and leaders like Chris Smith and Jeff Fortenberry and Senator Lee and others; and to the Hudson Institute's working group on Christians and religious pluralism in the Middle East, but so many others. But most importantly, I want to thank all of you, who, what you're doing each and every day, to be a voice for so many like those that had feared they had been forgotten.

I'm sometimes asked why the Trump Administration is devoting so much time and resources to this cause. And it's actually not fairly complicated. First, we have the unwavering support for religious freedom. And not only is that freedom part of our national character and our national DNA, but we believe that it is an essential attribute of any country that seeks to be free and democratic and just.

Second, in the case of northern Iraq, we see our assistance for religious and ethnic minorities as inseparable from the broader mission of destroying ISIS once and for all. We must not only defeat them on the battlefield, we must not only root them out from the dark holes in which they may try to hide, but we must revive that which they tried to steal, that special mosaic of faith traditions and ethnic communities in Iraq. That mosaic was, itself, a target in ISIS' evil invasion.

The Yazidis have been an ancient and vibrant community in Iraq for centuries as you all know. When ISIS rolled into their homeland in 2014, thousands were killed. Thousands of women were taken captive and sold into sexual slavery. Hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes, and many were chased as far away as Europe.

In 2003, Iraq's Christian population numbered over a half -- one and a half million. Today, less than 250,000 remain. Iraq has often been referred to as the cradle of Christendom. The ancient homeland of patriarch Abraham and Jonah himself were buried.

For both of these principles, these reasons, Vice President Pence directed me to lead a delegation in northern Iraq in July, included Ambassador Sam Brownback, representatives in the Vice President's office, who are with -- here with us today, Frank Wolf, Congressman Fortenberry, and others.

And the Vice President was very clear. He asked us to both personally assess the devastation, but also to see what it would take to bring some relief, to restore at least a little bit of hope to those who have lost so much. It was one of those trips, speaking for all of us, that touches your heart and touches your soul.

We visited Yazidi survivors in an IDP camp where I will never forget standing in a hot tent looking into the eyes of a desperate mother. She still did not know the fate of many of her immediate family. In fact, she showed us photos of two of her daughters that had disappeared, as if, like, we were able to find them for her. It was just that sense of hopelessness that I think really rocked us in a number of ways.

We visited a heavily damaged church in Karamles, and we saw the desecrated graves of religious leaders. The church itself had been badly, heavily damaged. But somehow its bell tower survived, and the bell actually rang when we were there. It was, in a way, proclaiming that the power of faith leadership is not so easily destroyed as ISIS might like.

But our mission wasn't merely to see the damage. It was also to try to provide a down payment in our drive to restore that hope to which I was referencing. We conducted a clear-eyed assessment of projects already underway using U.S. funds, then most often through UNDP.

To be honest, I didn't always like what I saw. Make no mistake, American taxpayer resources were going into the region, but not enough was targeting the immediate needs in damaged communities. Not enough was going in response to those needs identified by faith and community leaders. Not enough was aimed at sowing seeds for a more hopeful future.

We returned to Washington. I reported to the Vice President, and we had a plan to change all that. And with the help of the Vice President, State Department, our champions in Congress, and many others, I believe our plans are well underway.

Back here, we launched USAID's Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program. The idea was to create a clear inter-agency framework for our efforts. We've been able to allocate nearly $300 million in assistance to northern Iraq, which is much more than double when I first got to the Agency.

But I mean, I know for all of you, it's not the top-line number, not the number that matters; it's how it's spent. Projects that are chosen and partners were identified. So I deployed Max Primorac, whom many of you know, I sent him to Erbil as my Special Representative for Minority Assistance to engage with local leaders and their communities.

We had a chance to meet yesterday to catch up on some of these challenges. I know he meets regularly with community leaders individually and collectively in Erbil and Baghdad, but as importantly as anything, in their homes, identifying priorities, and trying to keep those lines of communication going and updating progress.

We've established partnerships with 36 local, 11 faith-based, and 27 international organizations, including Yazda, the Alliance for Iraqi Minorities, Samaritan's Purse, Caritas Iraq, and the list goes on and on. I signed an MOU with the Knights of Columbus that will help pave the way for future collaboration. And I've met with many other donors in an effort to try to improve coordination.

I recently traveled to Vatican City to meet with Catholic leaders, Catholic organizations, and others to explore ways to forge new partnerships. And I promise you I'll be meeting with representatives in other faith communities in the coming weeks.

To be clear, our gathering today is not meant to celebrate success. It is, instead, a chance to recharge our determination. There is a lot of work ahead. And much of this work is going to be difficult. Security remains a daunting challenge. And we all know that. Everyone here knows that...in so many parts of northern Iraq.

Disunity, fragmentation, in-fighting is another challenge. And I'll be honest and very direct. That's my style. If communities let rivalries reemerge, then in some ways, those who inflicted so much pain and suffering will have accomplished one of their objectives, because we'll never be able to restore that mosaic, which we all believe is so precious.

So I, personally, need your help. We need to remind ourselves over and over again that the enemy is extremism. The enemy is ISIS, not each other. If we work together, if we stay together, we can restore hope in this part of the country.

And a great symbol of that is the story of a newly reopened road to Batnaya. Our work together, across the Administration, across the communities represented here, that's what made it possible. People can now travel between Batnaya and Teleskuf as well as to Mosul, making it easier for Christian and Yazidi families to finally return home. These families will now have better access to health care, education, and hopefully employment opportunities in the future.

We're on the ground working with these communities to restore basic services; that's our bread and butter work. In partnership with local leaders like Father Salar, we are on the ground helping returned families revive their towns. We've got work to do, doing work in rehabilitation and furnishing, and equipping the local health center, boy's high school, girl's primary school.

Max, kept saying, "This is a game changer. This is a game changer." It's good, but I think it's fair to say, on behalf of the Trump Administration, it's a game changer, but it's just a good start. We all recognize, again, there's lots of work to do. And the only way that we're going to restore that hope is if all of us are pulling together. We need your help. We need your ideas. And we pledge to you that you'll have an open ear and that we will listen and work with you. Thank you.

Last updated: March 30, 2020

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