Acting Administrator John Barsa’s Remarks at the In Defense of Christians 2020 Digital Summit

Press Release Shim

Speeches Shim

For Immediate Release

Thursday, September 24, 2020
Office of Press Relations


Hello everyone. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be here with you tonight. I’d like to thank Toufic Baaklini and the IDC community for your tireless advocacy on behalf of persecuted Christians across the globe.

In Defense of Christians has always been a strong voice for advancing international religious freedom - a top priority for the Trump Administration. Tonight, I want to use my time to talk to you about USAID’s ongoing work in Iraq and share some thoughts from my recent trip to Lebanon.

Vice President Mike Pence made history at this dinner three years ago when he announced that the Trump administration would deploy aid through USAID directly to victims of ISIS’ genocide in Iraq. 

Since that time, significant progress has been made to help restore these communities and provide hope for so many, but there is still much to be done.

To date, the Trump administration has spent more than $450 million to help with the restoration of schools, infrastructure, roads, and hospitals. 

We have also funded psycho-social support, capacity building for local organizations, the mobilization of the private sector to invest in northern Iraq, and much, much more.

These efforts are essential to support these communities and their ability to recover, return, and thrive in their ancient homelands once again. USAID is committed to this important work. 

I want to thank each and every one of you in the audience whose advocacy and perseverance helped to play a significant role in getting us to this point. We still rely on your support and insights to help keep us on track.

As you know, on August 4th, Lebanon experienced devastating explosions that killed hundreds, injured thousands, and displaced hundreds of thousands. 

The international outpouring of assistance was swift and coordinated. USAID led the U.S. humanitarian response, and we joined local organizations and donors from around the world to provide emergency relief.

A few days after the blasts, I traveled to Beirut to help coordinate USAID’s relief  efforts and make clear to the people of Lebanon that the United States stood shoulder to shoulder with them. 

I also knew that in a country so divided along sectarian lines, that I needed to hear from religious leaders to understand how this disaster would shape the future. 

We convened a meeting of faith leaders who represented the beautiful mosaic of Lebanese society to learn about their efforts to provide relief after the disaster. 

I heard about how their organizations moved immediately to distribute hot food, make additional masks, and match needs on the ground with resources. The leaders demonstrated how the local connections and logistical capabilities of religious organizations can translate into effective humanitarian work. 

I also learned about how these groups view sectarianism in Lebanon. They told me how the tragedy brought the Lebanese together, but also adds new challenges that threaten to stoke division and tension. As we know from Iraq and Syria, when crisis hits in the Middle East, it is religious minorities, often Christians, who bear the brunt. 

That is one reason why USAID responds rapidly in moments of crisis and why we weave protection for religious and ethnic minorities into every part of what we do. 

I believe that the work we are doing in Lebanon will both strengthen faith-based partners and help prevent the kind of instability that so often threatens religious minorities.

I’m proud of this model and of the work that USAID is doing to put it into practice. Thank you to IDC for your strong support and dedication to this essential mission.

God Bless you and God Bless the United States of America.