Last year, in a nearly unprecedented event, the United States declared that Christians, Yezidis, Shi’a Muslims, and other religious and ethnic minorities are victims of ISIS genocide.
It was only the second time the State Department has used the label to describe ongoing atrocities committed by a state or non-state actor. Genocide is the “crime of crimes,” according to the United Nations, because it involves the intentional destruction, “in whole or in part,” of an entire people.
Marking the one-year anniversary of that declaration, the Knights of Columbus are continuing their work to assist persecuted Christians in the region by contributing nearly $2 million in new assistance.
In a statement announcing the new aid, the fraternal organization’s CEO Carl Anderson said that “words are not enough” to protect Christians and other targeted populations.
“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. 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.”
Many others have also called on the Trump administration to do more to help Christians and other minorities in the Middle East on the anniversary of the declaration. This week, Professor Robert Destro of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America announced a joint statement of “recommended actions” for the administration to take to protect genocide survivors.
The document was a call “to stand up constantly” for minorities “who are being targeted today by ISIS and all of its affiliates around the world” and was signed by numerous political and religious leaders.
The Knights of Columbus played a key role in lobbying for the declaration of the Christian genocide last year, as they compiled and presented a 278-page report to the State Department, documenting evidence of Christian genocide at the hands of ISIS.
Since 2014, they have donated more than $12 million to aid Christians in the Middle East, which has gone to medical clinics in Iraq, Easter food baskets for displaced Christians under the care of the Archdiocese of Erbil, general relief for the Christians of Aleppo, Syria, via the city’s Melkite Archdiocese, and support for the Christian refugee relief programs of the Syriac Catholic patriarch.
Anderson said 2017 may be “the decisive year in determining whether many Christian communities throughout the Middle East will continue to exist,” and has called for aid from the U.S. government and the international community.
The Knights of Columbus are also leading a Novena (nine days of prayer) from March 12 to 20 for grace and solidarity with Christians in the Middle East. Donations to support Christian refugees and other religious minorities can be made at www.christiansatrisk.org