Knights highlight MC’s work for persecuted Christians

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From left: Marin Catholic theology teacher Joseph Tassone, Sydney Miller, Andie Davis, Muneera Raees, Joe Garbarino, Paul Raees.
By Valerie Schmalz
The Knights of Columbus were so impressed by Marin Catholic High School’s efforts to raise money to help persecuted Middle East Christians that the national organization presented Marin Catholic with a Holy Family icon blessed at the Vatican at the Immaculate Conception Mass and produced a touching YouTube video highlighting their achievement and distributed it this Lent to Catholic high schools nationwide.

“People forget very quickly that this is the part of the world where Christianity began,” said Andrew Walther, Knights vice president for media, research and development based in New Haven, Connecticut. He said Marin Catholic’s approach demonstrates an effective way to both raise money for Christians and educate the students about what Pope Francis declared “is a form of genocide” by ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Marin Catholic’s Lenten project “helps build solidarity with the people persecuted there,” Walther said.

The Knights are also lobbying Congress and President Barack Obama to revise the current approach to admitting Syrian and Iraqi refugees because they say it discriminates against Christians. “Our position has been that people who are enduring the genocide that’s ongoing over there should not also be put at the back of the immigration line,” said Walther.

During Lent 2015, the school, in partnership with the local Knights and Marin Network for Life held a dinner and collected money at school to raise $23,000 for the Christian Refugee Relief Fund established by the Knights of Columbus. This year the school, led by the student St. Vincent de Paul club, is again raising money for Christians in Syria and Iraq, said Marin Catholic theology teacher and Knight Joe Tassone. Tassone led a discussion of the ongoing genocide of Christians and a mother and son, refugees from Iraq, spoke with the all students March 2 at the school.

As of December, the Knights of Columbus has contributed more than $5 million in direct aid to Christians and other persecuted minorities in the region, working with Catholic Relief Services, Aid to the Church in Need, Caritas and local dioceses in Iraq and Syria. This year the Knights’ project is “40 bucks for Lent,” Walther said. More information can be found at christiansatrisk.org. “It’s a great thing for high schools to do because they can really help people in a very concrete way who need the essentials, who need what we would consider the basics to get by,” said Walther. “At the same time, it is very helpful for these students to understand how important the faith is to people who won’t give it up, even in circumstances like this. It’s an incredible witness.”

Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson testified Dec.9 before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee asking for several actions against the genocide. He spoke in support of a House Resolution decrying the genocide against Christians and other minorities.

Anderson, Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl and a group of clergy and religious scholars sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking for an opportunity to brief him about the genocide. The Christians of Iraq and Syria and other vulnerable minorities fear taking refuge in the United Nations camps because of “religiously motivated violence and intimidation inside the camps,” Anderson said in his testimony.

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