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Supreme Knight Visits Iraq, Pledges Additional Support to Genocide-Targeted Communities

3/21/2019

Archbishop Warda, Supreme Knight Anderson, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Najib Mikhael Moussa of Mosul, Bishop Mikha Pola Maqdassi of Alqosh, Syriac Orthodox bishop Mor Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf of Mosul, Father Samer Sorish and Father Thabet Habib Yousif discuss the needs of the Church in Iraq. (Photo by Tamino Petelinsek)

Photos

The Knights of Columbus will spend $3 million in direct funding for humanitarian programs in Iraq, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson announced in the wake of a recent visit to the country. An additional $2.5 million in co-funding is anticipated for a total of $5.5 million.

The announcement came after a visit to Iraq this month by Supreme Knight Anderson to review the K of C’s work in support of Christian and other communities targeted for genocide by ISIS.

“Those we met with made clear that Knights of Columbus support has been decisive in helping these communities survive,” the supreme knight said. “More help is on the way, as we remain committed to ensuring that ISIS and its ideology do not eliminate Christians and religious minorities from this region.”

The K of C funding will also be coordinated with the U.S. Agency for International Development under the memorandum of understanding signed by the Knights and USAID as part of the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program announced by Vice President Mike Pence last year.

While in Iraq, Supreme Knight Anderson reviewed several K of C-sponsored projects and met with families displaced by ISIS. The visit was at the invitation of Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, and the supreme knight also met with many senior Church leaders, as well as with U.S. and Kurdish government officials, to discuss the issues facing these communities and possible solutions.

Supreme Knight Anderson, religious education students and local Church leaders stand with a tapestry depicting Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians,which was given to Sts. Peter and Paul Chaldean Catholic Church in Erbil. (Photo by Tamino Petelinsek)

 

The supreme knight hands out rosaries, which were given to him by Pope Francis to personally deliver to Christians in Erbil. (Photo by Tamino Petelinsek)

Since 2014, the Knights of Columbus has spent more than $20 million on behalf of persecuted Christians and other religious minorities targeted for genocide in the Middle East. The support has funded rebuilding — and saving — the town of Karamles, after its liberation from ISIS; feeding tens of thousands of displaced people; providing short-term and long-term housing for the displaced; supporting educational and medical programs for those targeted by ISIS, etc.

In addition, the Knights of Columbus was a key proponent of the declaration by Secretary of State John Kerry that ISIS had committed genocide against religious minorities in the region. The Knights also worked with the Trump administration to ensure that U.S. assistance programs would no longer overlook the needs of persecuted minority communities.

Supreme Knight Anderson’s congressional testimony on the situation facing these communities was a key component in the drafting of HR 390: The Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act. The bill received bi-partisan support and was passed unanimously by both the House and the Senate. It was signed into law by President Trump in December of 2018. The act provides for direct funding by the U.S. government of groups targeted for genocide by ISIS.

Following his trip to Iraq this month, Supreme Knight Anderson announced that the Knights would be funding several additional projects, including:

  • The reconstruction of the Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Qaraqosh (Nineveh).
  • Additional reconstruction in the town of Karamles for the Chaldean Archdiocese of Mosul.
  • A Property Rights Center at the Catholic University of Erbil.
  • Restoration of Christian cemeteries destroyed by ISIS in Nineveh.
  • Step-In clinics in Erbil and Dohuk, which focus especially on displaced Yazidis.
  • The needs of Syriac refugees and Internally Displaced People in Lebanon and Syria.
  • Unexploded ordnance and landmine abatement in Northeast Syria.
  • The establishment of a human rights and religious freedom observatory at the Catholic University of Erbil, which will make use of high-tech mapping from the University of New Haven to document atrocities and create an alert system to help prevent future genocides.