The executive producers of The Bible miniseries and the feature film Son of God have taken on a new global project: Raise $25 million for Christians and other minority refugees displaced by the terror group ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Husband-and-wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have launched The Cradle of Christianity Fund through the Institute for Global Engagement to “assist in the rescue, restoration and return of displaced and endangered Christian communities in the Middle East while also providing support for others members of the affected communities, both now and in the future.”
“This initial gift will be used exclusively to rescue those in immediate need while simultaneously beginning a process of restoration and healing through the documentation of both the atrocities inflicted upon their communities, and the stories of hope and courage found amidst such unspeakable tragedy,” says a description on the Fund’s website.
ISIS, also known as Islamic State or ISIL, started as an al-Qaeda splinter group and is known for killing dozens of people at a time and carrying out public executions, crucifixions and other acts. According to CNN, the group currently controls hundreds of square miles, ignoring international borders with a presence from Syria’s Mediterranean coast to south of Baghdad. ISIS has taken over hundreds of villages in Syria, hundreds of members of the Christian and Yazidi minorities in Iraq have also been killed, and tens of thousands of them have fled their homes.
“Nearly all of these men, women, and children have insufficient accommodations to survive the harsh Iraqi winter, as the aid community struggles to find solutions and resources,” the initiative notes. “For example, by the UN’s own account, if it operates at maximum efficiency in Northern Iraq, it will only be able to provide shelter and provisions for 40 percent of the IDPs [internally displaced people] in Iraqi Kurdistan alone, much less the other IDPs across the country.”
Christianity Today reported that Middle Eastern evangelicals are exchanging strategies on how to help endangered Christian communities, but this $25 million effort is the first of its scale.
“To lose the presence of Christians in the birthplace of Christianity is to accelerate instability, while losing precious insight about how best to work in the region,” wrote IGE director Chris Seiple in announcing the initiative. “With the region on the brink, a strategy to rescue, restore, and return fleeing Christians is not only the right thing to do, it is in everyone’s interest to do so.”