NEW HAVEN, Conn., May 31, 2017 /Christian Newswire/ — With Christians facing increased pressure in the Middle East, the Knights of Columbus has launched a nationwide digital and television ad campaign to raise awareness and funds on their behalf.
A bus attack in Egypt last week resulted in almost 50 casualties. In Iraq, the situation has become dire, with money running out for food for the Christian refugees who fled ISIS. Without immediate support, Iraqi Church leaders warn that the country’s Christian population – already 90 percent depleted – could be reduced to unsustainable levels.
“We must act and act quickly if Christianity is to survive in the Middle East,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. “Three years after ISIS rolled through their country, these minority communities of Christians could face extinction without our help, and if they disappear, the chance for a pluralism and tolerance of minorities will be increasingly lost in that country.”
Anderson also said the Knights will match up to $1 million in donations. The commercial can be viewed here: youtu.be/Uhst4k2coCc
The Knights’ commercial includes an appeal by Father Douglas Bazi, who headed the Mar Elia refugee center in Kurdistan and was himself previously kidnapped and tortured by terrorists in Iraq. In the commercial, Father Bazi notes: “Genocide is an easy word compared to what’s happened to my people.” He then adds a plea to the viewers: “Help my people and save my people.”
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, which cares for 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.
While ISIS has been pushed back in many places and Christian towns have been liberated, people have not been able to return because there is not enough money for reconstruction or security.
“We face a serious shortfall in the money needed just to cover the costs of providing food to the displaced Christians in our care,” said Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil. “Having to decide between rebuilding homes and feeding the displaced is not a choice; it is a potential death sentence for our Christian communities.”
In addition to raising funds for the beleaguered Christian community in Iraq, the Knights of Columbus is also urging Congress to pass H.R. 390, which would help ensure that American government aid dollars reach Christians and other religious minority communities that faced genocide in Iraq and Syria.
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.
The K of C 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.