NEW YORK, Oct. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Peace in the Middle East is helped by the presence of Christians within a pluralistic society in which they are full and equal citizens, said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson as he accepted the Path to Peace Award on Wednesday night in New York.
The Path to Peace Award is sponsored by the Path to Peace Foundation, which was founded 25 years ago to support the work of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. It was conferred by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, for the Knights' life-saving work in the Middle East and for "their humanitarian work throughout the world."
In his remarks, Anderson said Christians in the region have provided a remarkable witness by forgiving their persecutors, noting that they are "the ones most deserving of an award and of all the support we can give them, especially in Iraq and Syria."
He also called for an increased level of government funding directed to communities that have faced genocide to ensure their survival, and for "the creation of real equality regardless of religious belief."
Anderson stated, "The regime of second-class citizenship faced by Christians in much of the region before the advent of ISIS has been seen as the breeding ground for the genocide. We must insist that Christians and other non-majority communities are no longer marginalized."
Noting that Western countries and those in the Middle East may not always have the same concept of rights, he added, "Dialog is, of course, necessary if we are to make any progress in this regard. But dialog is possible only when all the participants agree upon the meaning of the words they use."
He also stated that direct funding must be made available for those communities who are victims of genocide. Currently, both U.S. and U.N. officials in Iraq have confirmed that they prioritize aid to individuals in need of assistance but do not consider the situation of groups — even if the groups have been targeted for genocide and now are in danger of extinction.
"The idea that we should help everyone is noble," said Anderson. "But the idea that we should help only individuals and ignore communities facing extinction is not."
He underlined that "victims and survivors of genocide should be prioritized."
By prioritizing direct funding and human rights, Anderson concluded, "We will not only have saved the faith of a people, we will have ensured that their witness of mercy and reconciliation — which is the only authentic path to peace — continues to be a leaven in this region."
In announcing that Anderson and the Knights would receive the Path to Peace Award, Archbishop Auza noted that, under Anderson's leadership, the Knights of Columbus "used their resources to put together a compelling 300-page report on the violence against Christians in the Middle East that compelled U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to declare what was happening to Christians, Yezidis and other religious minorities in the region a genocide."
The genocide declaration was made in March, and Anderson spoke in April at a Holy See Mission-sponsored conference at the United Nations. He has also testified on the issue several times on Capitol Hill in the last year.
Past recipients of the Path to Peace Award include U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1993), former President Corazon C. Aquino of the Philippines (1995), and former President Lech Walesa of Poland (1996).
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SOURCE Knights of Columbus