K of C, USAID team to help Mideast minorities
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Knights of Columbus and the U.S. Agency for International Development signed an agreement today to work together in helping religious minorities who have been the targets of attempted genocide by ISIS, according to a Knights news release.
Beginning in Iraq and expanding throughout the region, the initiative will try to stabilize and rebuild persecuted communities by delivering aid rapidly and directly to “individuals and households most in need,” according the memorandum of understanding signed by the Knights and USAID.
To facilitate that, USAID plans to rely on “the unique expertise and relationships of trust that organizations like K of C [have] forged with local and faith-based organizations in the region,” the release said.
USAID, charged with implementing Vice President Mike Pence’s “Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program in the Middle East,” has more than $195 million for planned and active recovery projects in northern Iraq.
The Knights of Columbus already has committed more than $20 million in aid to the region since 2014 and plans to donate $5 million more over the next six months.
Beyond that, the memorandum foresees that the cooperation between USAID and the Knights of Columbus “will bring together funding not only from the U.S. government, but also from the vast network of American philanthropists to assist the survivors of genocide and persecuted communities to reconstitute themselves after years of suffering and war.”
The agreement notes that “both USAID and the K of C will leverage our respective strengths ... to help preserve and promote pluralism in the Middle East,” assisting not only Christians but Yazidis, Shi’a Muslims and other ethnic and religious victims of persecution by ISIS. “We cannot allow ISIS to succeed in driving them out” of the lands they have called home for centuries, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in the release.
The Knights of Columbus has been a leading U.S. and international advocate on behalf of the persecuted minorities. The organization submitted a report two years ago detailing ISIS atrocities in the region.