First Arab Knights council created at Markham parish

By 
  • January 27, 2011
Knights of ColumbusMarkham, Ont. - The Knights of Columbus has more than 14,000 councils around the world but none quite like the one opened recently in a small Toronto-area parish.

The council that opened last May at Jesus Melkite Catholic Church in Markham, Ont., is, according to Grand Knight Hisham Marrow, the world’s first and only Christian Arab council in the 129-year history of the Knights. 

“Our mission is to help rebuild the churches in the Holy Land,” said Marrow, adding the council also helps the Christian Arab community and churches in Canada.

The council has 40 members, all parishioners. But Marrow hopes to extend membership to other Christian Arab parishes.

Along with collecting donations to rebuild churches in the Holy Land, the council will be raising money by selling homemade rosaries, said Marrow.

“We design them here and we send them to be made from the Holy Land’s olive trees and then they’ll be sold in Canada,” he said. “And the money will go to help the people and the churches of the Holy Land — Bethlehem in particular.”

Marrow said that while the Knights are worried about Christians in the Holy Land and the entire Middle East, the conflict facing Christians was not why the council was created. But they are involved with helping them, he said, through the Iraqi sponsorship program run by the archdiocese of Toronto.  

“We’re still working on getting refugees here, but we’re helping with their papers at this point and translation and making sure (the applications) go to the proper people.”

The council also offers year-long, free Arabic classes for students at their parish and runs a “computers-for-kids” program, where used computers are collected for new refugees.

“Once the new refugees arrive, we want them to feel welcome, not just comfortable.”

The council also takes part in a three-day long summer festival, run through Jesus Melkite Catholic Church, to help the community get to know each other, he said.

And all funds raised through the council are split, said Marrow.

“Our community here needs it, our church needs it and the churches in the Middle East need it.”

Arthur Peters, Ontario state deputy of the Knights of Columbus, said that Catholics of all nationalities are encouraged to join the Knights of Columbus.

“We are working to grow the order in Ontario and this is just another example that as an organization we are open to all cultures within the Catholic faith and want to encourage them to be part of our ranks.”

For information on the project to rebuild churches in the Holy Land, see www.churchesforjesus.org.

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