NEW HAVEN, Conn., May 25, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following the shared concerns about Christians in the Middle East expressed by Pope Francis and President Trump at their recent meeting, the Knights of Columbus, which has been among the top financial supporters of these persecuted Christians, is urging the public to donate to its Christian Refugee Relief Fund to help avert a crisis and will be matching up to $1 million in donations.
Church leaders in Iraq are warning that, without immediate support, the country's Christian population could be reduced to unsustainable levels.
The Christian population has fallen from as many as 1.5 million in 2003 to only about 200,000 today, according to the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil. Erbil is home to the largest Christian population still in Iraq and the largest community of displaced Christians in the country (12,000 families). The archdiocese now faces a shortfall of $600,000 a month in food aid.
"As we approach the third anniversary of ISIS' genocide against our community in Iraq, Iraqi Christians face a new threat," explained Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil. "Even as their home towns are liberated, our people often cannot move home because there is not enough money for reconstruction or security. What's worse, at this point we face a serious shortfall in the money needed just to cover the costs of providing food to the displaced Christians in our care. Having to decide between rebuilding homes or feeding the displaced is not a choice," he said. "It is a potential death sentence for our Christian communities."
He added: "As never before in 2,000 years, the future of Christianity in Iraq now hangs in the balance, and whether it survives will depend in great measure on whether or not we are able to provide the essentials that our people need in the short term, and whether or not they receive help with reconstruction and assurances of security in the longer term."
The Knights of Columbus has donated more than $12 million for Christian refugee relief since 2014 in support of communities too often ignored by direct U.N. or U.S. government assistance. The bulk of the funding has aided Christian communities in Iraq with food, clothing, shelter, and education, and has also helped threatened or displaced communities in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. Other religious minority groups targeted by ISIS, including Yazidis, have also been recipients of the Knights' aid.
"A century ago, the American people helped save Christianity in the Middle East after the genocide they endured during and following World War I," said Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus. "Today, it falls to us to act, and to act quickly, if Christianity — and with it, pluralism — are to be saved in the Middle East. The Knights of Columbus is absolutely committed to aiding our brothers and sisters in Iraq and to ensuring that pluralism is not erased there." He added, "We urge all who can to donate to our Christian Refugee Relief Fund as soon as possible.
The Knights of Columbus will match donations received by July 1 up to $1 million, and 100 percent of the money raised will be used to assist with food programs for Christian refugees in Iraq. Donations can be made at www.ChristiansatRisk.org or by calling 1-800-694-5713 and are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Knights of Columbus Charities Inc. is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a charitable organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.
The Knights set a new all-time record for charitable donations in 2015, with more than $175 million in donations and more than 73.5 million hours of service valued at $1.7 billion.
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SOURCE Knights of Columbus