Faith

Knights of Columbus donates millions to fight Christian persecution

Author Mindy Belz travelled extensively in the region to gather stories of Christians threatened, killed for their beliefs

 

The Knights of Columbus has $1.9 million in new assistance to support Christian refugees in the Middle East -- a charitable effort on behalf of those directly targeted by ISIS.

"A year ago, our country declared with one voice that genocide was occurring to Christians and other religious minority communities, but words are not enough," said Carl Anderson, CEO of the Catholic organization, in a statement.

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Last year, former Secretary of State John Kerry declared that ISIS, the terror group, was committing genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

"Murder of Christians is commonplace," said a Knights of Columbus March 2016 report about this genocide against the Christians. The organization submitted the report to Kerry before he declared genocide.

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Kerry "accused ISIS of 'crimes against humanity' and 'ethnic cleansing,'" as Fox News and others noted in March 2016.

Some refugees in the Middle East have risked their lives in converting from the Islamic faith to Christianity. Many have lived under constant threat of death.

Other religious minority groups, like the Yazidi -- an ethnic and religious group in Iraq -- have been targeted by radical Islamic groups as well.

The 300-page report from the Knights of Columbus a year ago detailed and provided evidence of ISIS genocide.

"Our fact-finding mission to Iraq earlier this month [March 2016] found stories of rape, kidnapping, forced conversions and murder, in addition to property confiscation and forced expulsion," the report said.

Discoveries made by the organization had not been previously reported.

The report said, "The story of the mother whose child was taken from her arms by ISIS has been reported in the media. We found that her experience was not isolated. Similar reports of family members, adults and children alike, were common."

The organization also detailed the sexual exploitation that occurred.

"Like the Yazidis, Christian women face sexual slavery, a main tool the 'Caliphate' uses to recruit young men and to exterminate religious groups," the report said. "A now infamous ISIS slave menu lists the prices by age for 'Christian or Yazidi' women on sale in their slave markets."

The Knights of Columbus has raised more than $12 million since 2014 for Christian refugee relief. The newest humanitarian aid just donated will go toward supporting medical clinics in Iraq; general relief for Christians in Aleppo, Syria; and other support for Christian refugees in the Middle East. The donation will also help provide Easter baskets for Christians displaced in Erbil, Iraq.

"Those targeted for genocide continue to need our assistance, especially since many have received no funding from the U.S. government or from the United Nations," CEO Anderson said. "The new administration should rectify the policies it found in place, and stop the de facto discrimination that is continuing to endanger these communities targeted by ISIS for genocide."

"It is not un-American to prioritize those who have been targeted for genocide because of their faith. It has been seen as quintessentially American for a century," Andrew Walther, Knights of Columbus vice president of communications, wrote in a commentary piece in Morning Consult.

President Donald Trump's controversial refugee travel ban has been at the forefront of U.S. political discussion related to the crisis. His executive order signed this month does not give priority to Christians refugees, but it placed a temporary ban on refugees resettling in the United States from several Muslim-dominant Middle Eastern countries because of the terror threat those countries pose.