The four pillars of the organization are charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism.
An international aid organization as well, the Knights’ Christian Refugee Relief Fund has provided over $13 million in aid to persecuted Christians since 2014, mostly in Iraq and Syria. In 2014, forces of the Islamic State overran large swathes of Syria and Iraq, killing or displacing many Christian families.
The group has since been forced back, losing much of its territory, including the Nineveh Plain where many Christians lived.
Around 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003, but that number has fallen to below an estimated 250,000. The situation for Iraqi Christians is so dire, Anderson said, that “without substantial assistance” in the next two months, many of them might leave Iraq for good.
Christians have lived in the area for centuries, tracing their communities back to almost the beginning of Christianity. Some speak Aramaic, the language Jesus would have spoken, and various ancient shrines existed in the region, including the tomb of the prophet Jonah which was destroyed by Islamic State.
“These Christian communities are a priceless treasure for the Church and for humanity,” Anderson said on Tuesday. He called the Knights’ drive to raise money for them a “concrete step” to aid the beleaguered Christians.
The amount of $2 million would also match the donation of the government of Hungary, which has helped resettle around 1,000 families in the Iraqi village of Telskuf.
The Knights will partner with the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil to help rebuild Karemlesh, which is just 18 miles east of Mosul.
Anderson said that while the town was controlled by Islamic State, homes were vandalized or destroyed and churches were desecrated. “We will give them and many others hope for the future,” he said.
The Knights will also partner with the U.S. bishops' conference to sponsor a national day of prayer and a “week of awareness” for persecuted Christians, starting Nov. 26.
Those wishing to make a tax-deductible donation to the project for Karemlesh can do so at www.ChristiansAtRisk.org, or by phone at 1-800-694-5713. 100 percent of the donations will go to the project.
In his annual address, Anderson noted other work the Knights had accomplished, including more than $177 million in donations and over 75 million volunteer hours.
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Local Knights councils had responded to various disasters and tragedies, including providing drinking water and sandbags to families in Louisiana after over 60,000 homes had been flooded by record rainfall, Anderson said. The Knights provided more than $100,000 in emergency relief after Hurricane Matthew caused hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in damage in the Caribbean and the United States.
The Knights also worked to provide for the spiritual life of families, he said, as the family which Fr. McGivney grew up in “was a true domestic Church.”
He said that Knights councils had organized pilgrimages in various dioceses for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and had introduced a spiritual program for men based on a pastoral letter by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, “Into the Breach.”
Knights had also organized “Warriors to Lourdes” pilgrimages, taking wounded veteran soldiers to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes for healing.
Anderson called the Knights to stand against the “polite persecution” of secular society, quoting Pope Francis.