On the first day of August, two different Catholic organizations, the Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need, announced separate initiatives to assist victims of anti-Christian persecution in various parts of the world.
Speaking at the Knights’ annual convention, held this year in St. Louis, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson announced a $2 million initiative to Karamdes (Karemlash), a predominantly Christian town on the Nineveh Plain which was liberated from ISIS late last year, after ISIS occupied the area in 2014.
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The Knights’ action matches a similar donation by the government of Hungary, which recently donated $2 million to save another predominately Christian town, Teleskov. About 1,000 families have moved back to that town, providing a proof of concept, according to a Knights’ statement, showing that such actions work in restoring pre-ISIS populations to their homes and towns.
Like the government of Hungary, the Knights will partner with the Archdiocese of Erbil, which is currently housing the largest population of Christian refugees in Iraq, including many of the residents of Karamdes.
“The terrorists desecrated churches and graves and looted and destroyed homes,” said Knights’ CEO Carl Anderson. “Now we will ensure that hundreds of Christian families driven from their homes can return to these two locations and help to ensure a pluralistic future for Iraq.”
The Knights announced that they’re urging their own councils, Catholic parishes and other Church groups and individuals to donate $2,000 to the campaign – the approximate cost of resettling one family. Only a thousand such donations would be necessary to reach the $2 million goal.
Rebuilding work will begin this week, according to the Knights’ statement, and money will begin flowing to the project immediately.
In the same speech, Anderson announced that the Knights of Columbus will partner with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on a “Week of Awareness” for persecuted Christians beginning Nov. 26.
Also on Tuesday, Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical foundation headquartered in Germany and with a branch in the United States, announced an emergency grant of roughly $82,000 to help the Diocese of Maiduguri in Nigeria assist victims of Boko Haram, the radical Islamic group born in the country that’s believed to be responsible for more than 20,000 deaths.
According to a statement from Aid to the Church in Need, the grant comes in response to an appeal from Bishop Oliver Doeme of Maiduguri, who finds himself struggling to cope with the physical and spiritual needs of some 5,000 widows and 15,000 orphans as a result of Boko Haram violence.
Part of the Aid to the Church in Need grant, according to Tuesday’s statement, will be used for healing sessions for the widows, as well as teaching them basic skills so they can generate an income in the absence of their husbands.
Another part of the grant, the statement said, will cover school fees and the feeding of orphans and half-orphans in the diocese.
Maiduguri, according to the statement, is the logical place to begin such an effort.
“It is not only the place of origin of Boko Haram, but also the worst hit by its attacks,” the statement said. “The three north-eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa lie at the center of Boko Haram activities. The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri covers two and half of these states.
“Since 2009, over 200 churches and outstations, numerous priests’ rectories, 25 schools, 3 hospitals, 3 convents, countless shops, personal houses of lay people and business centers have been destroyed on this territory,” the statement said.
Both initiatives form part of an ongoing effort by a variety of Catholic groups to assist victims of religiously motivated violence. Among those other organizations are the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, another pontifical foundation based in New York, and Catholic Relief Services, the overseas humanitarian and development arm of the U.S. bishops’ conference.