Christianity was birthed in persecution. Yet who could have imagined that the persecution of Christians in the twenty-first century would eclipse that of any other century. Or that ourgeneration would face mass genocide in the Levant—including Palestinewhere Christ was born; Antioch where the disciples were first calledChristians; Anatolia where the embryonic Christian church flourished; andDamascus where Paul experienced his dramatic conversion.
” Our mission is to teach the children of our world how to foster empathy, understanding and peace. “
In the December 2018 cover story of Harper’s magazine, “The Vanishing: The Plight of Christians in an Age of Intolerance,” Yale’s Janine di Giovanni rightly noted that “virtually all Christians in the northeast [of Syria] have left, taking with them a rich cultural tradition that dates to the earliest days of the faith.” And that tragically, this vanishing not only in Syria but throughout the Levant—indeed the world—remains squarely in the blind spot of the West. What has remained largely out of sight will be brought to the attention of the world in the international feature film and media outreach project In God’s Name—moderated by Dr. Norris J. Chumley and Jonathan Jackson, both EMMY award-winning filmmakers.
The daily reality for Christians throughout the Holy Land, Middle East and in twenty countries worldwide is vulnerability, repression, intimidation, persecution… and genocide. Not just now, but these almost unknown yet ongoing Christian holocausts have continued for millennia. While Americans enjoy the gifts of freedom and security in the practice of their faith, Christians from Istanbul to Izmir, from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, from Antioch to Aleppo, face humiliation and annihilation. Yet, this story has largely escaped the attention of westerners. Until now.
In God’s Name will vividly report and document the harrowing stories of Christian persecution and genocide from multiple perspectives engaged in a filmed dialogue between five adults: an historian, a religious scholar, a theologian/clergy member and one or two people who have personally experienced persecution– and five young people: ages 12-25. This moderated conversation will be richly illustrated by film footage, historical animations and three-dimensional collages, as if the participants and viewers are in the actual locations. The dialogue will be filmed with multiple cameras in 5K high-resolution utilizing green-screen technology, and in VR (Virtual Reality) for a totally immersive media experience. There will be elements of culture, geography and religion behind each moment of the story: music, art, poetry and prose. The film and VR program framework is being written by Hank Hanegraaf, known to millions of radio listeners and readers as “The Bible Answer Man,” and moderated by Dr. Norris J. Chumley and Jonathan Jackson, both EMMY award-winning filmmakers and presenters. In five short sections, In God’s Name will cover the history of the persecution and genocide of Christians, describe contemporary situations, and end with the young participant’s ideas of what can be done for future generations.
The persecution of Christians can be historically traced from the first century of the Christian era based on the biblical account of Jesus’ persecution and ultimate crucifixion, to contemporary times. Early Christians were persecuted for their faith at the hands of both Jews from whose religion Christianity arose and the Romans who controlled many of the lands where early Christianity spread. Christian missionaries as well as converts to Christianity have been the targets of persecution ever since the emergence of Christianity, often to the point of being martyred for their faith. The schisms of the Middle Ages and especially the Protestant Reformation often provoked severe conflicts between Christian denominations to the point of persecuting one another. In the 20th century, Christians have been persecuted by various groups, including the Islamic Ottoman Empire in the form of the Armenian Genocide, the Assyrian Genocide and the Greek Genocide, as well as atheistic states such as the Soviet Union and North Korea. During World War II members of some Christian churches were persecuted in Germany for resisting Nazi ideology. For seventeen centuries, despite the world-wide recognition of the status of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as the spiritual leader of all Orthodox Christians, the government of Turkey will give no legal standing and status, nor allow property ownership to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the historical Holy Center of Orthodox Christianity at the Phanar, in Istanbul, Turkey.
In more recent times, the Christian missionary organization Open Doors (UK and USA) estimates that approximately 215 million Christians face persecution, particularly in Middle Eastern countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, at the hands of ISIS and various Muslim extremists. There is active persecution of Christians in the United States to this day. Christian academics, students, social groups, churches and outspoken religious believers are regularly demeaned, debased and targeted. The persecution, forced migration, denial of legal status and extermination of Christians across the world is worse today “than at any time in history,” and Western governments are failing to stop it, a report from the Aid to the Church in Need organization states. The treatment of Christians has worsened substantially in the past two years compared with the two years prior, and has grown more violent than any other period in modern times. “Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution,” the report said. The last decade has had more than one-half of all persecutions, some 20 million believers according to Open Doors. The time is NOW to report the realities and to seek answers towards solutions.
Our goal in making this film is simple: teach the historic and current realities of religious persecution of Christians to children and youth, so that they can envision and actively create a new future. Learning history and the mistakes from the past provides a context from which to understand themselves and others. Historical critical context learning through real stories empowers young people to form their identity, improves decision making and judgment and provides models of good and responsible citizenship. The last one-quarter of the film will feature the ideas of the young people; their dreams and creative thoughts towards dialogue, understanding and peace.
We are designing the truth to be told utilizing all media: film, television, audio – and highly interactive websites, podcasts, and an app for iPhones and Androids. We will endeavor to tell the stories of many persecuted people, from multidisciplinary and multicultural perspectives from history, and 3-5 contemporary shared first-person accounts. An app-based video game will be the opposite of “shoot-em-up” games. The player earns points by not shooting and killing. Extra points for laying down their weapons. One wins the game by starting a conversation with an enemy and being empathic of their problems and life challenges.
In God’s Name will be a highly emotional, experiential journey through the past and present of persecution – revealing painful stories and horrific truths that absolutely must never happen again. Join us in creating a future of reconciliation, forgiveness and peaceful harmony. Help us tell the largely untold story that must be told.
After all, our children: their religious freedom and their safety ARE the future.