At Convention, Knights of Columbus Call Attention to Suffering Middle Eastern Christians
The Knights of Columbus will redouble its humanitarian efforts benefiting persecuted Middle Eastern Christians and begin an education campaign to make their plight better known. The effort is part of the Knights’ Christian Refugee Relief Fund, which has delivered more than $3 million in humanitarian aid to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.
Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson appeared at a press conference in Philadelphia on Aug. 4, the first day of the Knights’ 133rd international convention, along with two archbishops whose people have suffered intense persecution in Iraq and Syria.
“Today I announce that we will begin a new campaign to expose the crimes against humanity that are being committed,” said Anderson. “It is time for a season of truth about what is happening to Christians and other minorities.”
Melkite Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo, Syria, and Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, C.Ss.R. of Erbil, Iraq, expressed their thanks to the Knights for their support and prayers.
“Please, speak for the Christians in the Middle East, because they have been subject to all kinds of violence because they are Christians,” said Archbishop Warda. “This is part of your heritage, this is part of being an American. Please speak for the persecuted around the world.”
The Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund has already distributed more than $3 million even before the supreme knight announced the organization’s plans to expand its effort on Tuesday. The humanitarian assistance provided has included permanent housing for those who have had to flee their homes, as well as support for medical facilities in areas flooded with Christians and other refugees.
“We have seen people killed, slaughtered, women violated, priests and bishops kidnapped, houses destroyed, churches and convents invaded,” said Archbishop Jeanbart. “I don’t want to make a list, it will take me too much time. But we persist with the help of God and with the help of those who help us, like the Knights of Columbus.”
Those wishing to assist with the relief efforts can donate by visiting www.christiansatrisk.org or by sending checks or money orders payable to Knights of Columbus Charities at P.O. Box 1966, New Haven, CT 06509-1966. The memo portion should indicate that the check is for Christian Refugee Relief.
One-hundred percent of all donations directly supports humanitarian assistance and raising awareness of persecuted Christians and other religious minorities, especially in the Middle East. Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Knights of Columbus Charities, Inc., is recognized by the IRS as a charitable organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.
Anderson recalled that, at its 1926 convention, also held in Philadelphia, the Knights of Columbus announced that it would take up the cause of Mexican Catholics, who were being persecuted and killed by their government, with little attention paid to their plight by the outside world.
“We raised awareness about the issue, and financially helped many refugees who fled north,” said Anderson. “We were able to do much good, for many people. Today, we are compelled as an organization to speak up for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East as the world remains largely silent.”
Anderson made the issue a central part of his annual report. Together with the assembled convention, the supreme knight held up an olive wood cross made by Christians in Bethlehem and recited a prayer on behalf of the persecuted Christians. He told the convention: “The blood of these martyrs cries out to you and me for help,” and added, “Our [$3 million dollars to date] provide housing and medical care, but we can and must continue to do more.”
Tuesday evening at the convention’s annual States Dinner, Archbishops Warda and Jeanbart each addressed the Knights and their families, putting into personal perspective the horrors faced daily by Christians in their countries, and appealing for the help.
The papal greeting to the convention expressed the pope’s “gratitude” to the Knights “for the practical solidarity shown to suffering individuals and families through the recently established Christian Refugee Relief Fund.” It also noted that the Holy Father was “profoundly grateful for the efforts of the Knights to raise public attention to this grave humanitarian tragedy.” The letter relaying the Holy Father’s sentiments was signed by Vatican Secretary of States, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization with nearly 1.9 million members worldwide. One of the most active charitable organizations in the United States, the Knights of Columbus donated more than $173.5 million and 71.5 million hours of service in 2014.