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August 22, 2017
Humanitarian needs going unmet in Iraq, Catholic leaders tell Congress
Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre visits a refugee camp in Dawodiya, Iraq, April 10, 2016. Credit: Elise Harris/CNA.
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.- Given new and expanded humanitarian crises in Iraq and elsewhere, Congress should respond generously to a request to approve additional aid funding, the U.S. bishops and Catholic Relief Services leaders have said in a letter.

“As we have already learned in Iraq, individuals, communities, and countries divided by war face significant challenges amidst their suffering. They must rebuild their communities, and establish inclusive governance that protects majorities and minorities,” the letter said.

“We must provide them with humanitarian help and durable solutions to their plight because it’s the right thing to do, and because their security and prosperity is critical to the stability of the entire region.”

The Nov. 28 letter to Senate and House leaders of the Subcommittees on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs was signed by Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace; Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration; and Dr. Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services.

“In partnership with Caritas Iraq and others, CRS continues to help the more than 80,000 people affected by the liberation of Fallujah and others displaced from Hawija,” they said. “But existing funding is insufficient.”

More than 50,000 people have fled Mosul since it was retaken from the Islamic State group. About 3.3 million Iraqis have been internally displaced since 2014, when ISIS militants began to occupy parts of Iraq.

The Obama administration on Nov. 11 requested an amendment to Congress’ final appropriations for the 2017 fiscal year to increase aid funding. The U.S. bishops and Catholic Relief Services strongly backed the request for new overseas contingency operations funds given “unmet humanitarian needs.”

Other areas that have witnessed increased suffering since the appropriations bill were passed include the Southern African drought, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Lake Chad basin, the letter reported.

The United States, as the world’s wealthiest nation, has “an obligation to help the innocent who fall victim to war, to protect the marginalized, and to lift people out of poverty,” the bishops and Woo wrote.

“At USCCB and CRS, we know through our own emergency appeals that when Americans are asked to help, they respond generously,” they said.

In 2015, CRS aided more than 100 million people across 100 countries, with the aid of Catholic donors and public money. Its partnership with local Catholic organizations and others who are trusted by local communities in order to “maximize the impact of assistance.”