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Catholic charity pledges $1 million to aid Middle East Christians

(Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah)An Iraqi Christian prepares for the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016.

The Knights of Columbus has announced that it will be donating more than $1 million this Holy Week to help rebuild the homes of persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria.

According to Catholic News Agency, about $500,000 of the donation will be used to fund the food program run by the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil, while 300,000 will be sent to the Syriac Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, which provides nearly 3,000 families from Iraq and Syria with food, clothes, shelter, medical care and education.

An additional $250,000 will go to a project that aims to rebuild the Iraqi town of Karemlesh in the Nineveh plains. Locals have been committed to rebuilding the town since it was recaptured from the Islamic State.

"As we recall the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, it is particularly timely for us to remember and support our brothers and sisters in Christ who have, in places like Iraq and Syria, endured so much persecution for their faith," said Knights of Columbus CEO in a March 27 statement, as reported by CNS News.

"Having faced suffering and even death at the hands of ISIS, we hope that our assistance will help these communities to rise up again and rebuild for the future," he added.

Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil Bashar Warda stressed that the Knights have contributed significantly to help maintain the presence of Christians in the region.

"Our people know that without the direct support from the Knights of Columbus to Christians in the region, and without assistance in making our case to the United States government, Christianity might already have been driven out of Iraq completely," he said.

Since 2014, the Catholic fraternal organization has contributed a total of $19 million to support Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.

Last year, the Knights donated over $million-worth of food supplies during Christmas season to ensure that 15,000 displaced families will not go hungry.

The Catholic organization donated another $2 million to help rebuild the town of Karemlesh. According to Karemlesh priest Thabet Habib, the efforts to recapture the town from the Islamic State has destroyed hundreds of homes in the town, which was once home to around 850 Christian families. The donation from the Knights has since been used to help resettle 80 to 90 Shabak families.

A 300-page report released by the Knights regarding the violence committed by ISIS against Christians and other minorities has been partly responsible for the decision of the U.S. State Department to officially declare the terror group's actions as "genocide" in 2016.

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