Washington D.C., Sep 11, 2014 / 01:04 am
A Knights of Columbus relief fund for persecuted Iraqi refugees has now surpassed $2 million, and the order has released a special prayer to add a spiritual dimension to the humanitarian response.
"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," Knights of Columbus CEO and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said Sept. 9.
"It is imperative that we stand in solidarity with them in defense of the freedom of religion and conscience, and provide them with whatever relief we can."
In three weeks, a matching campaign by the Catholic fraternal order has drawn more than $1 million in public donations. The order has also committed $1 million from its own funds, bringing the total to more than $2 million.
The money will go toward humanitarian aid for Christians and other persecuted religious minorities who have fled their homes in Iraq due to the rapid expansion of the militant Islamist group ISIS. The terrorist group has imposed a strict version of Islamic law in its territory that mandates conversion, payment of a jizya tax, or death for Christians and other minorities who refuse to submit. Hundreds of thousands have fled due to the violence.
Iraqi Christians in the United States have been urging the U.S. government to create a protected zone and safe-passage corridors for Christians in Iraq and to increase refugee visas and streamline their approval.
Auday P. Arabo, a spokesman for the Michigan-centered Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, told the New York Times that there is "a slow-motion genocide" occurring in Iraq.
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who serves as the Knights of Columbus' supreme chaplain, has also written a Prayer for Those Persecuted in Iraq.
The prayer, available on the fraternal order's website, asks for "perseverance and courage" for those being persecuted and asks God to "look with mercy on your servants in Iraq who are persecuted for their faith." The prayer asks for wisdom for national leaders to work for peace and for the conversion of "those who contradict your will."
"The Knights' twin efforts are a concrete response to Pope Francis' request for prayers and material assistance for those affected by this terrible persecution," Anderson said. "We are asking our members, and all people of good will, to pray for those persecuted and to support our efforts to assist them by donating to this fund."
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 for persecuted or displaced Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and surrounding regions.
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 natural disasters and man-made disasters like the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
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.