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Knights of Columbus launches fundraising effort to help resettle Christian refugees in Iraq

(Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani)A priest puts cross on the street of Qaraqosh, near Mosul, during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq.

The Knights of Columbus (KoC) has announced that it is raising $2 million to help rebuild the Iraqi town of Karamdes (or Karemlash), in the hopes of resettling Christian refugees there.

Karamdes, which was liberated from the Islamic State late last year, was once a predominantly Christian town on the Nineveh Plains before the region was captured by the terror group in 2014.

"The terrorists desecrated churches and graves and looted and destroyed homes," said Knights CEO Carl Anderson during his annual report at the fraternal organization's 135th annual convention.

"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," he added.

The fundraising effort matches a similar donation by the government of Hungary, which recently donated $2 million to save Teleskov, another predominantly Christian town. About 1,000 Christian families have now returned to Teleskov, which has been seen as a proof that such efforts can work in restoring pre-ISIS populations to their homes and towns.

The Knights will be working with the Archdiocese of Erbil, which is currently housing the largest population of Christian refugees in Iraq, in the resettlement and rebuilding project.

"We've been hearing from the people in Erbil — the church running the refugee camps — that the next two months are critical," KoC Vice President Andrew Walther told The Stream, adding that the refugees may lose hope altogether and leave Iraq if they do not receive the support they need in rebuilding their homes and town. "It would be the end of a culture, the end of faith in the region," he continued.

Walther noted that groups, churches and even individuals can help resettle a family for the amount of $2,000. "They can help maintain pluralism and help move the refugees back into their town," he said.

The amount includes sorting out burn damages, rebuilding houses, cleaning up and making the place habitable.

The church will be working with the Iraqi government to turn the power and water back on, while families will work with the church's structural engineers to ensure that their homes are safe.

Since 2014, the KoC's Christian Refugee Relief Fund has donated over $13 million for humanitarian assistance, mainly in Iraq, Syria and the surrounding region. The organization's documentation of ISIS atrocities was instrumental in the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's 2016 genocide declaration for Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

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