St. Louis, Mo. – The survival of Christianity in the Middle East hangs in the balance, Carl Anderson said today at the annual convention of the Knights of Columbus he heads. “They have every right to live. And we are determined that they should survive.”
Issues like international Christian persecution are often tough to get and keep attention on. People feel powerless. But they’re not. We’re not. And we don’t have to wait for the Trump administration or anyone else to get its act together to participate in a solution.
Already having contributed $13 million in humanitarian aid through their Christian Relief Fund, today Anderson announced that an initiative to raise $2 million to rebuild one of the formerly majority Christian towns in Iraq, Karamdes on the Nineveh Plain.
The Knights are following the lead of Hungary, which recently donated $2 million to rebuild Teleskov, another majority Christian town in Ninevah. Partnering with the Archdiocese of Erbil, they’ve helped 1,000 families return home. The Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil has been host to a majority of the Iraqi Christians who fled the so-called Islamic State, trying to create hopes of a stable future by providing them with humanitarian help and educational opportunities.
With this initiative announced today, not for the first time the Knights of Columbus are taking the lead on the frontlines of religious freedom. In 2016, they lead the effort to insist the United States government recognize the genocide being perpetrated against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria and other areas in the Middle East region (including Lebanon and Jordan).
The move could be a significant step in saving the future of Christianity in the region, the cradle of Christianity, which many Western Christians don’t even realize has been a hotbed for Christianity around the conflicts of its history. Besides being simply right and just – to help Christians who fled ISIS to return to their homes – the prospect of their stabilizing influence as leaven in the region should be a foreign-policy goal.
And it’s one that citizens themselves can take the lead on. Today the Knights, which have already contributed $13 million to the region through their Christian Refugee Relief Fund, are encouraging Knights of Columbus councils, parishes, other Church groups, and families and individuals to consider donating $2,000 for the effort, which is their estimated cost of resettling one family. According to the Knights, “The rebuilding work will begin this week and money will begin flowing to the project immediately.”
“The terrorists desecrated churches and graves and looted and destroyed homes,” said in announcing the initiative, urging members of the Knights, the largest fraternal organization in the world, to get behind this historic new initiative at the Knights 135th annual convention. “Now we will ensure that hundreds of Christian families driven from their homes can return to these two locations and help to ensure a pluralistic future for Iraq.”
Anderson quoted Winston Churchill: “Put your confidence in us …We shall not fail or falter, we shall not weaken or tire. We will give you the tools and together we will finish the job.”
This is the Church and civil society at its best.
Anderson also announced an upcoming prayerful week of awareness for persecuted Christians after Thanksgiving later this year in conjunction with the U.S. Catholic bishops. In a letter from the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis read at the convention, the Knights were heralded for their work in support and solidarity with the persecuted.