Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett: Persecuted Christians need protection like never before


The top US cardinal and the team behind the hit movies Son of God and The Bible Continues have called on Christians at Easter to reflect on the persecution and destruction of lives in the name of religion around the world.

Writing for CNN, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett make their plea in light of the massacre of Christian college students in Kenya and ongoing threats against Christians elsewhere.

They say: "We are calling upon Christians to also reflect upon the crucifixion, beheading, stoning, enforced slavery, sexual abuse, human trafficking, harassment, bombing and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Christians -- and others -- whose faith alone has made them a target of religious extremists."

They mention persecution in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria.

Downey and Burnett produced the 2014 movie Son of God and its sequel, AD: The Bible Continues which premiered on NBC on Easter Sunday this year.

Nearly every remaining church in Iraq has had a blast wall installed to protect it against church bombing, they write.

"This crisis escalated substantially last summer when ISIS swept like lightning through Iraq's Nineveh province, capturing the country's second-largest city, Mosul; a city that was until 2014 a home of a thriving Christian community, there centuries before Islam.

"Again and again the world did not respond as it might have, and now the inconceivable has happened: Iraq's Nineveh Plain has been emptied of its ancient Christianity community, which existed there for more than 1,500 years."

They continue: "Rarely since the first century has the church in the East faced persecution on this scale. Christian communities that took 2,000 years to build, and that were started by the apostles themselves, lie in ashes between the Tigris and the Euphrates. Survivors waste away as refugees, often in deplorable conditions, with no homes or churches to return to if the region eventually stabilises."

Christianity faces extinction in several parts of Iraq and Syria and is under growing threat in nations such as Nigeria.

"When history writes of our time will we be able to say that we tried everything in our power to cease this attempt to eliminate 2,000 years of Christianity from the Middle East and to stop this threat before it spreads to other nations?" they ask. "These communities need our love and support like never before, and they also need security and protection from the world like never before."