As details of genocide of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutu leaked out of Rwanda, the secular media and Hollywood jumped on story and dozens of films were made, including the award-winning “Hotel Rwanda.” But who is making a film documenting the “religious cleansing” of hundreds of thousands of Christians in the Middle East? Who is courageous enough to brave the possibility of being beheaded, burned alive or crucified, to bring the world the voices of those Christians whom Muslim extremists have been hunting off the face of the earth?
Enter intrepid Italian filmmaker Elisabetta Valgiusti who traveled to Erbil in Kurdistan, site of U.S. bombing against ISIS, in late 2014 to film an EWTN Original Documentary, “Voices of the Persecuted: Nineveh’s Christians in Exile.” The extraordinary program airs 10 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 1. If you want to know what is happening with Christians in the Middle East, you absolutely must watch this film.
“[Muslim extremists] are not just displacing, but uprooting the existence of Christianity in the Middle East,” said Bishop Yousif Habash of Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Diocese in the U.S. and Canada. The Bishop’s appearance on “EWTN Live,” at 8 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 1, will precede the documentary. “They want to exterminate Christians, and nobody is saying anything – not the U.N., organizations, universities.”
In the EWTN documentary “Voices of the Persecuted,” you will have the opportunity to see and hear about the plight of the quarter million Christians in Nineveh who miraculously escaped the invading ISIS terrorists on the night of August 6, 2014, with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Bishop Habash believes that the slaughter has left no more than 300,000 to 350,000 Christians in the entire Middle East. As Valgiusti discovered, most of them are, like her friends, living in terrible conditions in Erbil.
“There are no jobs for them,” the Bishop said. “They don’t speak the language. There are no visas for the Christians. Many organizations provide food only. But thousands of kids are without school. There are no universities. There are many engineers with nothing to do. Their morality, conscience, their belief, their hope, their joy – everything is dying inside. It’s good to have food, but [they ask], ‘Why am I here?’”
Filmmaker Valguisti was shocked to discover a family she had befriended in Nineveh — a couple with good jobs, a nice home, and five children aged 15 to 21 – packed into a schoolroom with 40 other people. She tried to have a somewhat normal conversation with her friends, but quickly realized that she was shaking. “They said to me, “Can you help us get out?’ She pauses, and then says in an anguished voice, “I don’t know how. How do I help them?”
It’s the same question every Christian is asking themselves. Bishop Habash has answers, but they come with a chilling warning and demonstrate both the challenge and the necessity of the world – especially fellow Christians – doing more than just donating money for food.
“Today, I am very clear with you: we have the same destiny. Don’t cry for me, cry for yourself. Pray for the conversion, the evangelization of this wonderful country of America. And not just America, but France and other countries. If you help us work for justice, you will have peace. When there is peace, everybody will enjoy the peace.”
Bishop Habash calls politics an “illusion” and says he and others are afraid of politicians and “political America.” However, they have great confidence in the American people. That’s why Bishop Habash says he is pushing U.S. bishops to speak to everyday Americans in the pews, who are always ready to donate to those less fortunate.
But he takes things a step further: “Companies,” he notes, “go to the edge of the world to bring someone in to make a difference in their production. Why do our churches not go in [to Erbil and the Middle East] to save these Christians for their [witness to the] faith and their heritage?”
Like the Early Christians, Nineveh’s Christians have given up their homes, their jobs, their clothes, their schools, and often, most horribly, their children, their spouses, and their own lives. Yet, remarkably, like Christians in the lions’ den, they have not apostatized.
“We will never deny our faith,” the Bishop said. “Our pride is to be Christians. Many could have converted to Islam very easily. But we are truly ready to even sacrifice our lives.”
What, wonders the Bishop, are the rest of us willing to sacrifice?
Note: For information on helping with the relief efforts on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, please visit: www.caritas.org and Aid to the Church in Need, www.churchinneed.org. To purchase your copy of “Voices of the Persecuted” to show to your friends, family, and Church groups, please go to http://bit.ly/1HsDCmS.