“THE BLOOD of these martyrs cries out to you and me for help,” said Supreme Knight Anderson during his 2015 annual report, as he invited his brother Knights to stand with him in solidarity for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. “It is time for a season of truth about what is happening to Christians and other minorities.”
His impassioned words galvanized further support for the Christian Refugee Relief Fund — the massive campaign of prayer, humanitarian aid and diplomacy put in motion by the Knights of Columbus after Islamic State militants swept into Iraq and Syria in 2014. The Order has since donated more than $28 million to assist affected communities through the support of food programs, medical clinics, housing, education and other Church-sponsored initiatives, primarily in Iraq and Syria.
The Order also launched an intense public policy and media campaign to raise public and government awareness. Supreme Knight Anderson testified before members of the U.S. Congress and at human rights conferences, and then submitted a report documenting atrocities against Christians in the Middle East to the U.S. State Department in March 2016. Eight days later, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared that Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East faced genocide at the hands of ISIS.
Urging immediate government action, Anderson provided further congressional testimony in May, telling lawmakers, “The world’s greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II is unfolding now.” His advocacy was instrumental in the creation of the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act that was signed into law in late 2018.
During the crisis, the Knights of Columbus co-sponsored with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops a Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians on Nov. 26, 2017, followed by a Week of Awareness and Education. The Order also unveiled the icon “Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians” as the centerpiece of its latest Marian Prayer Program.
Following the military defeat of ISIS, the Order continued its support in the Kurdistan region by rebuilding the Iraqi town of Karamles and the Syriac cathedral in Qaraqosh; constructing McGivney House, an apartment building for internally displaced Christian families in Erbil; and helping expand the Catholic University of Erbil.
This was not the first time the Knights of Columbus has addressed religious oppression around the world, and, the supreme knight affirmed, it won’t be the last.
“While the threat from ISIS has been reduced, the persecution of Christians in other parts of the world has increased,” Supreme Knight Anderson said in his 2020 annual report, citing escalating persecution in Africa. He then announced a new initiative to report on the situation in Nigeria, similar to what was done in Iraq, “in the hope that greater attention by American diplomacy and humanitarian aid can make a difference there.”
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