Maryland Knights take initiative to raise awareness and support for persecuted Christians
by William R. Newbrough
As a Knight of Columbus, I am continually amazed at the capacity of the Order to respond effectively to those in need. I see this especially in the Knights’ aid to persecuted communities through the Christian Refugee Relief Fund, which has already provided millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to Christians and other religious minorities targeted for genocide.
In addition to the work of the Supreme Council and the tireless advocacy of Supreme Knight Carl Anderson on behalf of Christians in the Middle East, there is much that we can do at the council, district and assembly level. Often, an effective response can begin with a single Knight. Frank Carroll, who joined St. Joseph Manyanet Council 5567 in Wheaton, Md., in 2012, happens to be a direct descendent of Charles Carroll — the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and a great defender of religious liberty.
In 2013, at Frank’s recommendation, our council began sponsoring the education of a Christian child through the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation. HCEF was founded by Rateb Rabie, a Palestinian Christian and a member of Rock Creek Council 2797 in Bethesda, who has dedicated his life to supporting the continued presence of Christians in the Holy Land.
A year after the K of C Christian Refugee Relief Fund was launched in 2014, the Supreme Council partnered with HCEF for the Solidarity Cross program. As chairman of the HCEF committee at the Shrine of St. Jude in Rockville, Frank was especially enthusiastic about this effort, which commissioned more than 100,000 olivewood crosses from Christian artisans in the Bethlehem area. Councils like ours began distributing the crosses, and proceeds from donations went to support the Christian Refugee Relief Fund.
In the spring of 2015, Council 5567 also sponsored a resolution at the Maryland State Convention, challenging each council in the jurisdiction to respond in some meaningful way to the genocidal persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
Numerous projects followed in support. In November 2015, for example, St. Elizabeth Council 12796 in Rockville hosted a prayer vigil and Mass, after which I gave a brief presentation on the Order’s efforts to support suffering Christians. The event provided the opportunity to pray and raise awareness, and a collection was taken up for the Christian Refugee Relief Fund, yielding more than $3,000. A similar prayer vigil, hosted by Council 5567 in May 2016, raised more than $3,500.
Over the past two years, councils across Maryland District #18 have collected donations for Solidarity Crosses at parish picnics, prayer vigils and after Masses. One recent event at St. Catherine Labouré Parish in Wheaton netted $1,600 in donations. At each event, Knights have distributed Columbia articles detailing relief efforts, information from the christiansatrisk.org website, and related resources.
In early 2017, following three years of successful efforts to support suffering Christians, the five councils of our district established the Christian Solidarity Action Committee. CSAC now operates under the state council to raise awareness and promote effective action that fosters greater solidarity with the persecuted Church. The committee offers practical, effective support to districts, councils and assemblies hosting programs that benefit Christians in the Middle East.
In April, CSAC presented a “kick off ” seminar hosted by Council 2797 in Bethesda. More than 70 Knights attended for a full report on the Order’s current efforts and presentations about ancient Christian communities.
By acting on the grassroots level, we can make a real difference in the lives of our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. May Our Lady guide and protect us in this worthy cause.
WILLIAM R. NEWBROUGH is a member of St. Joseph Manyanet Council 5567 in Wheaton, Md., and district warden of Maryland District #18.
SUPPORT THE KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS CHRISTIAN REFUGEE RELIEF FUND. VISIT CHRISTIANSATRISK.ORG