Aug 12, 2014 / 13:54 pm
The Knights of Columbus have established a matching fund to assist Christians and other religious minorities facing severe persecution or displacement in Iraq and nearby countries.
"The unprovoked and systematic persecution and violent elimination of Middle East Christians, as well as other minority groups, especially in Iraq, has created an enormous humanitarian crisis," Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said Aug. 12.
"It has shocked the conscience of the world that people are systematically being purged from the region where their families have lived for millennia – simply for their faith," Anderson continued.
"It is imperative that we stand in solidarity with them in defense of the freedom of conscience, and provide them with whatever relief we can."
In addition to an initial pledge of $500,000, the Catholic fraternal organization will match another $500,000 in donations from the public.
Militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIL or ISIS, have seized large areas of Iraqi territory. They took the country's largest Christian city, Qaraqosh, on the night of Aug. 6, forcing tens of thousands to flee.
The militants have ordered Christians and other minorities to convert, pay a tax known as a jizya, or be killed.
Anderson cited Pope Francis' request that the world pray and support those affected by the "terrible persecution."
"We are asking our members, and all people of good will, to pray for those persecuted and support efforts to assist them by donating to this fund," the head of the Knights of Columbus said.
Donations may be made through the webpage www.kofc.org/Iraq or via check or money orders sent to K of C Christian Refugee Relief, Knights of Columbus Charities, P.O. Box 1966, New Haven, CT 06509-1966.
The Knights of Columbus said that 100 percent of all donations will be used for humanitarian assistance.
Knights of Columbus Charities, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization and donations are tax-deductible.
There are more than 1.8 million members of the Knights of Columbus in councils worldwide. The fraternal order has responded to disasters including the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., typhoons in the Philippines, hurricanes and tornados in the U.S., floods in Mexico, and tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan.
The Knights of Columbus have historically supported oppressed Christians, such as during the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico in the 1920s. The Knights provided humanitarian assistance for victims of persecution and worked to raise international awareness about the situation there.
Last year, the Knights provided more than $170 million and 70 million hours to charitable causes.