America must stop funding Christian persecution around world

United States taxpayers fund Christian persecution around the world with the nation’s existing foreign aid program of more than $30 billion a year.

That brutal conclusion surfaces by examining Open Doors USA’s 2015 study on the most severe Christian persecution worldwide and compare it to the list of nations that receive U.S. foreign aid.
Of the 50 nations identified in the Open Doors USA World Watch List of Christian persecution, 41 of those nations receive U.S. foreign aid this year. Open Doors USA, which is based in Santa Ana, Calif., has a scale of Extreme, Severe, Moderate, and Sparse persecution to grade nations worldwide. The only nations on the Open Doors USA list that will not receive U.S. foreign aid this year are North Korea, Iran, Eritrea, Qatar, Myanmar, Brunei, Bhutan, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait.

Worse, this ugly aspect of America’s effort to assist third-world nations receives no scrutiny from the U.S. media. It also receives little, if any, criticism from President Barack Obama and American legislators who are accountable for how the nation spends taxpayer dollars.

Even worse, while we make “religious freedom” a priority in U.S. foreign aid, it’s just symbolism over substance. The data reveals billions of dollars land in nations that sanction or fail to punish Christian persecution.

Christian persecution is growing in intensity. Islamist terrorists aligning themselves with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Qaeda, including its Somalia affiliate al-Shabaab, and other Islamist terrorist groups, target Christians for imprisonment, slavery, sex slavery for women and girls, torture, rape, and murder. ISIS recently abducted about 350 Assyrian Christians, and their fate remains in doubt. ISIS has freed some of them, but does anyone believe ISIS will let all of them go free?

Christian persecution occurs from West Africa, through the Middle East and Asia occurs frequently in Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and communist nations.

This Newsweek article could provide the most comprehensive snapshot of what’s happening to the Christian population in the Middle East. What’s absent is deeper research on what is happening to Christian populations in Africa and Asia.

Open Doors USA found the following trends in its study:

“In 2015, persecution increased around the world, even in places where it has not been reported in the past, such as parts of Asia, Latin America, and especially sub-Saharan Africa. There have been some significant trends documenting this persecution.”

• The most rapidly growing area of persecution in the World Watch List is in the countries of Africa, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
• Worldwide levels of persecution have risen, but this has not been primarily due to increased
violence, but increased cultural marginalization.
• Several Asian countries have seen rising levels of persecution.
• Mexico is on the World Watch List this year, along with Colombia.
• Islamic extremism is by far the most significant persecution engine- 40 of the 50 countries on the World Watch List are affected by this kind of persecution.

With more than 80 percent of these nations receiving U.S. foreign aid, this demands immediate action from members of Congress and President Obama. On social media and at churches, many are finally asking other than prayer and giving money to organizations helping persecuted Christians, what can we do? Bombard the House and Senate with demands to get foreign aid right or end it altogether. Also make demands on granting asylum to refugees and stronger military action. These are just three of the things Americans can do.

Foreign aid’s purpose, benefits

Many Americans approach a debate about U.S. foreign aid with misperceptions because ending all U.S. foreign aid makes a mere dent in the national debt of $18.5 trillion.

Foreign aid represents about 1 percent of the nation’s more than $3 trillion annual budget. About a dozen federal departments and agencies disburse foreign aid for various programs, which include: expanding economic development, giving military aid, completing humanitarian projects, and advancing good government practices. The majority of U.S. foreign aid comes from the “150 Account.” This money funnels through at least three federal departments, Agriculture, State, and Treasury, plus the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

The website states the following about what foreign assistance means:
“The U.S. government has a long history of providing foreign assistance to respond to global needs, assist people overseas struggling to build a better life, and make the world safer. It is this compassion and action that stands as a hallmark of the U.S. and reflects the true character of this nation.”

“Compassion and action?” Christians being persecuted in Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, and Mexico don’t experience what represents “the true character of this nation.”

The virtues of U.S. foreign aid come complete with statistics, graphics, and success stories on the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and The Borgen Project websites. No one should doubt these humanitarian successes and the benefits in certain nations.

The MCC also outlines some several key foreign aid criteria, which includes focus on civil and political rights, which includes religious freedom, rule of law, and freedom of information. MCC officials note the organization Freedom House monitors civil and political rights, which includes religious freedom. But, the harsh reality is America pours foreign aid into nations that regularly violate religious freedom.

What religious freedom?

Ardent defenders of foreign aid will argue the money goes to specific projects in countries, not in the hands of leaders of nations who may persecute Christians. And it certainly does not get in the hands of terrorists. So the money does not fund religious persecution.

Good government programs specifically outline priorities that highlight “civil and political rights.” Yet, America does not remove foreign aid at the hint of another martyred Christian, such as the current death sentence for Asia Bibi in Pakistan or Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan in 2014? If the U.S. removed foreign aid for religious persecution, other countries would cry foul and the mainstream media would proclaim those pleas.

Federal agencies laud their benevolent actions. However, we stand hypocritical on one of the most fundamental freedoms anyone can have: worshiping freely, which does not occur in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Indonesia and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, The Foreign Policy Initiative printed an article February 25, 2013 which contends U.S foreign aid advances American security, prosperity, and leadership around the world.

“Foreign aid—along with diplomacy, trade, intelligence, national defense, and other tools of statecraft—plays an indispensable role in furthering America’s strategic, economic, and moral objectives throughout the world. If the United States is to remain a global leader in the 21st century, then it is critical that the President and Congress work to sustain investments in civilian foreign assistance commensurate to America’s interests and values,” the article states.

How can “moral objectives” be achieved when Christian persecution receives no consequences? How can “moral objectives” be achieved when people die in nations because of who and what they believe? How can an organization possibly proclaim “moral objectives” without connecting it to the most fundamental aspect of any person’s morality: their faith?

No consequences

Officials at FPI and other self-proclaimed foreign policy experts are not alone in this approach. These officials compartmentalize civil and political rights, never recognizing glaring violations of religious freedom. And the foreign aid flows with no ramifications.

This column reveals other aspects of foreign aid, primarily from a left-wing perspective, that also draw concerns about U.S. foreign aid.

No government should persecute religious minorities. But the tendency all over the Muslim world, and in a growing number of Hindu and Buddhist nations, which is where much of our foreign aid lands, is the targeting of Christians for persecution. U.S. government leaders stunningly maintain the status quo.

In many Muslim nations, government leaders sanction persecution, or when they become aware of it, they do precious little to establish justice and punishment.

For all of the U.S foreign aid success stories, one would think dozens of third-world nations developed mass social, political, and economic stability, simply because they receive U.S. money. Religious freedom is the foundation for economic growth and social and political stability. When nations fail to punish violations of religious freedom, the internal turmoil they experience will continue. No amount of American dollars will change that.

No financial accountability
And like so many federal government programs, the lack of financial accountability persists with U.S. foreign aid. Consider a Government Accountability Office audit titled, “USAID Has Increased Funding to Partner-Country Organizations but Could Better Track Progress.”

More outrageous wastes of money have occurred in the federal government. But with one program in one agency disbursing foreign aid, even the USAID can’t keep track of their hundreds of millions of dollars.

The GAO concluded with the following:

“The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) reporting on its principal Local Solutions indicator—the percentage of mission program funds obligated to local organizations in partner countries—lacks clarity, complicating the assessment of the agency’s progress toward its fiscal year 2015 target of 30 percent. The March 2013 USAID Forward progress report states that these obligations increased from about 10 percent of mission program funds in fiscal year 2010 to about 14 percent in fiscal year 2012—a $465 million increase. However, the agency also has reported progress on the principal Local Solutions indicator in three other ways, depending on whether two key types of funding—cash transfers and certain qualifying trust funds—are included (see full report, emphasis added).

These reporting differences make it difficult to compare the indicator from year to year and to quantify the progress needed to achieve the 30 percent target by fiscal year 2015. Moreover, USAID’s approach to tracking the Local Solutions indicator has evolved since the launch of the initiative. For example, USAID included funds in Afghanistan and Pakistan, missions the agency previously had planned to exclude. If these missions are excluded, the percentage of mission program funds obligated to local organizations in fiscal year 2012, including qualifying trust funds and cash transfers, decreases by 10 percentage points.”

Time for change

American taxpayers deserve better. Most Americans would be shocked to know the data in this report that ties international Christian persecution to U.S. foreign aid.

Religious freedom must be a core American value that separates America from other nations. And it must be cherished to the point where violators don’t get money, and anything less is unacceptable.

Incremental change, which is so common in government, won’t suffice with Christians being martyred for their faith. American lawmakers and President Barack Obama must fix it … now. Members of the American elected class who fail to address this issue and speak up for persecuted Christians can pay with their end of their political careers. American voters must not hesitate to ensure that happens.

Curt W. Olson is a former professional journalist of more than 20 years in New York State, Ohio, Texas, and South Carolina. He lives in South Carolina.

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