The world's largest Catholic fraternal organization has established a fund to assist religious minorities as Christians face increasing violence and persecution at the hands of ISIS in Iraq and surrounding regions.
The Knights of Columbus, which boasts of more than 1.8 members worldwide, have pledged an initial $500,000 and will match additional $50,000 in donations from the public to assist those terrorized by Sunni militants in the Middle East.
"The unprovoked and systematic persecution and violent elimination of Middle East Christians, as well as other minority groups, especially in Iraq, has created an enormous humanitarian crisis," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. "Pope Francis has asked the world for prayers and support for those affected by this terrible persecution, and we are asking our members, and all people of good will, to pray for those persecuted and support efforts to assist them by donating to this fund."
Anderson added: "It has shocked the conscience of the world that people are systematically being purged from the region where their families have lived for millennia - simply for their faith. It is imperative that we stand in solidarity with them in defense of the freedom of conscience, and provide them with whatever relief we can."
Currently, the crisis in Iraq has escalated to a horrific point. Accrdoing to Open Doors relief program, more and more Christian refugees are streaming in Kurdistan as ISIS continues to persecute Christians in a brutal manner. Churches are "packed" with displaced Christians--many of them children who have firsthand experienced violence at the hands of ISIS militants. The city of Mosul, which formerly housed thousands of Christians is now completely void of believers.
"Friends that fled from Mosul came to our house last week. My brother called the church to see if they had any places left for them, but the church was full," reports Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors.
"The church had 300 refugees staying in the hall already. It isn't easy to escape and travel safely to the Kurdish region. Now people start worrying that ISIS will also attack us here. Some families have already fled further into the Kurdish region. I don't know what to do anymore. I don't know how to prepare for the moment that ISIS will come here. I hope they never will. It is so hard and I need to pray and ask God to help. We really need help!
To donate to the Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief, visit www.kofc.org/Iraq or by send checks or money orders to: K of C Christian Refugee Relief, Knights of Columbus Charities, P.O. Box 1966, New Haven, CT 06509-1966.