Former Supreme Knight Carl Anderson honored for support of Iraqi Christians

Carl Anderson, pictured at the Angelicum in Rome on March 17, 2022 Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Carl Anderson, the former supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, was honored Tuesday night for the work the charity has done on behalf of Christians in Iraq to help ensure that future generations of Christians will continue to live in what is known as the cradle of Christianity.

In accepting the 2022 Faith and Culture Award from the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) based in New York City, Anderson remembered his former colleague, the late Andrew Walther, who died of leukemia at age 45 in 2020, as a “true hero in this cause.” 

“I accept this award on behalf of my brother Knights who in so many ways stood up for our fellow Christians in their time of need, especially my friend and colleague, the late Andrew Walther, who devoted the last six years of his life to the protection of Iraqi Christians — it was his passion, and he is a true hero in this cause,” he said.

Anderson, who served as supreme knight from 2000 to 2021, saw the Knights take a leading role in helping Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq in the wake of the 2014 invasion of Iraq by ISIS. Today, thanks to material support from the Knights, Christians are able to see a future for themselves in Iraq. The establishment of the Catholic University in Erbil, thanks to the Knights, and others, offers young Christians economic opportunity and a reason to stay in Iraq.

In his speech, Anderson shared three “lessons” from helping Christians from Iraq’s Nineveh Plains.

First, he said, Catholics should do more to make persecuted Christians around the world “true neighbors in the faith.”

“We should get to know them better. We should do more to mainstream them into the life of the Catholic Church — and especially the Church in the United States,” he said.

Second, the United States, as well as other nations, should do more to help persecuted Christians.

“We need to do more to adjust to the new geopolitical reality that confronts Christians throughout the developing world. Minority Christian communities increasingly inhabit a toxic environment of prejudice and violence — often openly tolerated by governments and sometimes even sponsored by them. The hard reality is that Muslim communities throughout the world — even when they resort to violence — can rely on broad-ranging support from Muslim governments — including Iran and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“Can we confidently say that there is a Western government that will have the back of the minority Christian communities throughout the Middle East, Africa, or Asia?” Anderson asked.

“We are proud of what the United States accomplished to protect Christians in Iraq. But our government can and should do better. While we are grateful to officials in the two previous administrations, including Secretaries of State John Kerry and Mike Pompeo and the bi-partisan coalition in Congress — and especially the leadership of Congressman Chris Smith — it is indisputable that a sustained, determined campaign was necessary to overcome the business as usual inertia of the United States government in order to initiate the U. S. response — a response that saved many, but could have saved many more if it had been made earlier,” he said.

And third, Anderson said that helping persecuted Christians is a mission that every Catholic should take on.

“The survival of endangered Christian communities throughout the globe is the responsibility of every Catholic — both clergy and lay. All of us must have some share in this work. Not only for their sake, but for our sake as well,” he said.

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