Faithkeepers: New Roma Downey Film Documents Christian Genocide in the Middle East
“We want to say ‘never again,’” said Paula Kweskin, film producer, of genocide, “but in the last two decades we’ve seen so many instances of it. Why haven’t we changed?” she asked during an interview with The Stream. Kweskin has just produced a new documentary that details the horror of genocide, kidnappings and rape in the Middle East.
Faithkeepers is a documentary of the Christian, Yadizi and other minorities genocide. Witnesses and victims of violence tell the story of how Christians and other minorities are literally being wiped out in the Middle East by ISIS and Muslim infighting. According to Kweskin, it’s a story that needed to be told.
Kweskin met Juliana Taimoorazy, an Assyrian-Christian activist, and learned of her harrowing story of escaping the Middle East. It was then that she decided to do the human rights project. Kweskin teamed up with Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel, among others) and Clarion Project to produce the film.
Protecting Those Who Bear Witness
But it wasn’t easy to get people to speak on camera. Some of those interviewed were glad to tell their story. Others were hesitant and wanted to be filmed in shadow. “It depend[ed] on how people responded to the trauma,” said Kweskin. Those interviewed saw beheadings of family members or experienced torture, kidnapping and rape. Others may have relatives still living in dangerous areas.
‘If I die, I die as a Christian’
It isn’t random violence. Christians, Yadizis and other faith minorities are tortured and killed because they won’t convert to Islam. Their churches and places of worship are destroyed. One woman described how she and her son watched his father be beheaded. Her son stopped talking. Another woman described how women drank rat poison to avoid the torture at ISIS’ hands. ISIS said they wouldn’t let the women die so easily. ISIS took them to the hospital where their stomachs were pumped. Another woman who was raped and tortured explained why she endured the horror. “My only wish was that if I die … I die as a Christian.”
But their stories were told in a creative way, rather than the typical Hollywood practice of interjecting blood and violence. The scenes were depicted through original black and white “cartoons.” Kweskin said she made the decision to reenact the scenes with the art. “I found that we’re overwhelmed with images,” she explained. “We’ve become numb to violent images.” She felt that viewers would be more connected to the story with the cartoons because the brain will “fill in the gaps.” “It was a way to bring [victims’ testimonies] to life in a creative way.”
‘Where is the Church?’
Kweskin hopes that the film will encourage people to be their brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. To feel concern and empathy for the persecuted. To connect the Church in the United States with their brothers and sisters in the Middle East. “The Church doesn’t know these stories very well,” she said. “The people we profiled are waiting on their brothers and sisters to help … wondering ‘Where is the Church?'”
Those who want to help can visit Faithkeepers‘ website. Screenings will also be held in churches nationwide beginning on May 23 for one month.