(CNS News) -- The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, are launching a new initiative to report on the religious persecution of Christians in Nigeria where, over the last two decades, an estimated 60,000 Christians have been killed.
“The effort is similar to what we have done in Iraq and is based in the hope that greater attention by American diplomacy and humanitarian aid can make a difference there,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson in an Aug. 6 press release.
According to the Knights, “last year, the British Government reported that the persecution of Christians around the world is ‘near genocide levels.’”
The group added that the Global Terrorism Index lists Nigeria as having the third largest terrorist domination, behind Afghanistan and Iraq. Nigeria is in the center-west of Africa, between Benin and Cameroon, with a coastline along the Atlantic Ocean.
Since 2014, the Knights of Columbus have spent more than $25 million in aid for people persecuted in the Middle East.
Anderson and the Knights were influential in helping provide evidence for the religious persecution in the Middle East, work that put pressure on the U.S. State Department to declare that genocide was taking place in both Iraq and Syria.
Anderson testified several times before Congress about the issue, and the Knights sent researchers to Iraq to report on the situation. From their work, a 300-page report was compiled and submitted to the State Department.
“Our efforts made a tremendous difference,” Anderson said of the Middle East initiative; the group hopes to build upon the successes of their previous initiative in their new one in Nigeria.
The Knights of Columbus are one of the world’s leading service organizations with 2 million members. Last year, the group donated more than 77 million service hours and $187 million to worthy causes in their communities.