CHRISTIAN REFUGEE RELIEF
The following is an excerpt of Supreme Knight Carl Anderson’s Remarks on the Order’s Christian Refugee Relief Fund.
Iraqi and Syrian Christians, as well as other religious minorities, continue to face violent persecution and the very real prospect of extinction. Thousands have fled their homelands to escape forced conversion or martyrdom.
Our Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund donated $2.2 million to help these families in Iraq. Our donation paid for the construction of new homes on property owned by the Chaldean-rite Archdiocese of Erbil.
The houses were built mostly for Iraqi Christians who were driven from their homes in Mosul and the surrounding area — many of whom have been unable to find room even in emergency shelters.
We also gave $150,000 to provide emergency medical care for refugees in Erbil this summer. Our Christian Refugee Relief Fund has also sent $200,000 in general aid to the Melkite-rite Archeparchy of Aleppo, Syria. And more recently, an additional $150,000 was donated after the diocesan facilities were bombed.
FAITHFUL CITIZENSHIP — AID TO CHRISTIANS
Eighty-nine years ago, Supreme Knight Flaherty addressed the Supreme Convention in Philadelphia with these words:
He also said, “We are bidden to hold our peace, but we shall not hold our peace.”
In 1926, Supreme Knight Flaherty was speaking of the persecution of Catholics in Mexico.
But who among us, hearing those words today, does not think of the religious cleansing — or, as Pope Francis recently said in his address to the World Meeting of Popular Movements, the “genocide” — of Christians in the Middle East? What is their only crime? To believe in the one who 2,000 years ago taught us to love our neighbor.
In Iraq alone, the Christian population has fallen by at least two-thirds, from 1.5 million to less than 400,000. Many of these Christians have fled to the city of Erbil.
In Syria, almost 10 percent of the population is Christian. There, too, violence against Christians has caused a refugee crisis. Thousands have fled for their lives to escape forced conversion and martyrdom.
Just days ago, a headline in The New York Times asked, "Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?"
The world remains largely silent. These refugees’ cries for help remain largely unheard. Thankfully, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the nations of Jordan and Lebanon have offered safe haven for many, and we are grateful. But neither the United States government nor the United Nations are doing enough.
The blood of these martyrs cries out to heaven for justice. And the blood of these martyrs cries out to you and to me for help.
As with Mexico in 1926, the Knights of Columbus will come to their aid.
Through our Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund, we have already delivered more than $3 million to assist our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria. Our dollars provide housing and medical care, but we can and must continue to do more.
Today, I announce that the Knights of Columbus will redouble our efforts to bring aid to these victims in the Middle East. We will begin a new education campaign to expose the crimes against humanity that are being committed.
It is time for a season of truth about what is happening to Christians and other minorities.
It is a time for action.