WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2018 – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Knights of Columbus have signed an agreement to work together to help religious minorities, beginning in Iraq and then throughout the region, to rebuild their communities following persecution and genocide at the hands of ISIS.
“The Knights of Columbus is pleased to work together with USAID in the important work being done to stabilize these communities and hope that our joint and combined efforts will bring hope and concrete improvement to the situation confronting minority communities targeted by ISIS,” said K of C Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “Vice President Mike Pence and Administrator Mark Green are to be commended for working to ensure that these communities are not overlooked by American government assistance.”
USAID plans to work closely with the K of C and local faith and community leaders to deliver aid rapidly to persecuted communities, according to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed today. “Crucially,” the document states, “the support will flow directly to individuals and households most in need of help.”
To do that, USAID plans to rely on “the unique expertise and relationships of trust that organizations like K of C has forged with local and faith-based organizations in the region.”
USAID currently has over $195 million in planned and active assistance to support the recovery in Northern Iraq and is charged with implementing Vice President Mike Pence’s Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program in the Middle East. Partnerships with organizations like the K of C will be integral to implementing the plan, announced by Pence one year ago, according to the MOU.
For its part, Knights of Columbus has already committed more than $20 million in aid to the region since 2014 and has been a leading U.S. and international advocate on behalf of the persecuted minorities. It plans to donate $5 million over the next six months, bringing its total commitment to approximately $25 million. The Knights also submitted a report two years ago detailing ISIS atrocities in the region. That report has been instrumental in genocide designations by successive U.S. secretaries of state since 2016.
The agreement also notes that “both USAID and the K of C will leverage our respective strengths and enhance our collective response to vulnerable populations to help preserve and promote pluralism in the Middle East,” which seeks to assist Yazidis, Christians, Shi’a Muslims, and other ethnic and religious communities persecuted by ISIS.
“In the aftermath of ISIS’ campaign of genocide, Christian and Yazidi populations – and those of other religious minorities – in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the region are under extreme pressure,” said Anderson. “Our work with USAID is intended to help these populations survive and prosper in lands they have called home for centuries, and even millennia. We cannot allow ISIS to succeed in driving them out.”
The MOU 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.”
USAID has engaged with religious communities and organizations in carrying out its work since its establishment in the 1960s.