For years, nonprofits and foundations have been sending aid to refugees in the Middle East and Europe. After the photo of a drowned Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach went viral, these organizations aiding migrants saw donations soar. Save the Children, which had raised $200,000 for Syrian children in eight months, collected $800,000 in eight days after the tragic photo was released. At the United States Fund for UNICEF, donations increased 636 percent.
It is hard, however, for nonprofits to reach the persecuted minorities ISIS is systematically killing in Syria and Iraq, like the Christians, Yazidis, and Mandaeans. These minorities are reluctant to gather in refugee camps where extremists could find it even easier to attack and kidnap them and enslave the women among them. Instead, non-Muslim refugees are staying in churches, Christian homes, and the wilderness. Less than 3 percent of the residents of U.N. camps in the Middle East are non-Muslims—which leaves these minorities at a disadvantage because the camps are the primary way most countries, including the U.S., take in refugees.
Earlier this year when talking about the ISIS-traumatized regions, Pope Francis said “a form of genocide—and I stress the word ‘genocide’—is taking place, and it must end.” One organization that is focusing its efforts on these victims is the Knights of Columbus, who have given over $4 million in assistance to the Middle East. Last fall, the Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief fund raised $2.2 million specifically to help displaced Iraqi and Syrian Christians and other religious minorities. The money went towards building new homes in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, where the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil owns property. More recently, in September the Knights sent one month’s supply of food, costing $810,000 including transportation, to 13,500 refugees fleeing Mosul and the Nineveh Plains. Each family package contains staples like canned meat and fish, rice, sugar, cooking oil, tomato sauce, beans, cheese, wheat, tea, and pasta.
The Knights also produced a television commercial to increase awareness of this genocidal persecution. The one-minute spot features Father Douglas Bazi, an Iraqi priest who, after having been kidnapped and tortured by extremists himself, runs a refugee camp near Erbil. Father Bazi pleads to viewers to “pray for my people, help my people, and save my people.”
In November, the Knights gave $500,000 to help educate Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan. The money will expand 18 Jordanian Catholic schools to provide a safe place for children to learn and heal from the trauma.
Many other organizations are giving aid, promoting resettlement strategies, and advocating for the millions of disrupted refugees in the Middle East and Europe. To help inform philanthropists, Charity Navigator has created a list of the highly rated charities providing humanitarian aid and services to the region. The list includes Samaritan’s Purse, CARE, International Medical Corps, Lutheran World Relief, and the Child Foundation.