Our Work Continues
9/1/2018by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
Through prayer, material aid and advocacy, we stand in solidarity with Christians suffering in the Middle East
THIS ISSUE of Columbia details our aid to our brothers and sisters in the faith who have been marked for extinction by ISIS and other terrorists in the Middle East.
The hard truth is that Christians are on the verge of extinction in the Middle East. We must not allow this to happen.
Since 2014, the Knights of Columbus has committed more than $20 million to aid Christians and those of other religions in their care. This money has provided food, shelter, clothing and medical care to thousands who lost everything in Iraq and Syria because they refused to give up their love of Christ.
We have supported true heroes in these countries, and several have spoken at our Supreme Conventions — including Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan of the Syriac Catholic Church of Antioch, Melkite Catholic Archbishop Jean- Clément Jeanbart of Aleppo, Syria, and Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq.
We have been proud to support the medical clinic in Erbil operated by St. Elizabeth University of Health and Social Sciences in Bratislava, Slovakia. The young doctors and staff of this clinic were some of the first to treat Yazidi and Christian women escaping from sexual slavery at the hands of ISIS.
Last year, we launched a special initiative to resettle the Iraqi town of Karamles. It had been a Christian town for centuries before ISIS overran it, drove out its inhabitants, destroyed their homes and desecrated their churches.
When their land was recaptured from ISIS, the Christians were ready to return to their homes. But their towns were in ruins. Who would help them rebuild?
The first to act was the government of Hungary, which provided funds to rebuild the town of Teleskof. During a consultation with Hungarian government officials in Budapest, I discussed with them our similar effort.
Today, with $2 million from the Order, Karamles is being rebuilt and Christian families are returning home.
We have provided more than financial aid. We worked closely with then- Secretary of State John Kerry to ensure that Christians and other religious minorities were recognized as victims of genocide. We also worked with U.S. Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Anna Eshoo to urge Congress to unanimously pass legislation declaring Christians the victims of genocide.
Similarly, we worked with Rep. Chris Smith, who has been a hero in leading the effort to make U.S. assistance available to these communities. He was the first senior government official to go to Erbil to see firsthand the situation of the Christians there.
Now, we are working with Vice President Mike Pence to see that U.S. assistance reaches these communities.
When the conflict between Kurdistan and the government of Iraq threatened an ancient Christian town, we alerted the State Department and the White House. We worked with them to de-escalate tensions and avoid a bloody conflict that could have ended the Christian presence in Iraq.
Archbishop Warda has said that without the support of the Knights of Columbus, Christianity might have died in Iraq.
Our work has brought a message of solidarity and of hope — that no Christian community is an island. Every Christian is “a piece of the continent.”
Every Christian is a member of the Body of Christ. No Christian has been abandoned by the Lord. And no Christian should be abandoned by us. Their suffering continues. And our work must continue.
This year’s pilgrim icon program will focus the eyes of our Church on the sacrifice of these communities. As St. John Paul II said in 2000: “The precious heritage which these courageous witnesses have passed down to us is a patrimony. … May (their) memory … grow still stronger! Let it be passed on from generation to generation, so that from it there may blossom a profound Christian renewal!”
And to again focus the attention of our nation, this month we begin a new national awareness campaign.
My brothers, these heroic Christians have not abandoned the field. And neither will we.