Human rights activists and Catholic leaders are urging President Trump to fulfill his promise to help protect Christians, Yazidis, and other persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East by changing the way U.S. relief funds are distributed on the ground.

After meeting with Pope Francis and again in the wake of the Islamic State attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt Friday, Trump reiterated his pledge to do everything in his power to defend and protect the “historic Christian communities of the Middle East.”

Turning rhetoric into actions on the ground is the next and more important step said activists and Catholic leaders.

The State Department estimated that the Christian population in Iraq numbered between 800,000 and 1.4 million in 2002; that number had dwindled to fewer than 250,000 by 2015. Without action, activists and charities say Christians could disappear completely from Iraq in the near future.

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