Good Evening Your Royal Highness Prince Ghazi and Esteemed Leaders,
September 3, 2013
Comments by Roma Burnett-Downey
WEA Ambassador, Co-Producer of 'The Bible'
On behalf of myself and my husband Mark Burnett, I would like to say It is a remarkable privilege for us to be at this most timely and important conference.My heart is full from everything I have heard today.
We want to thank our close friend King Abdullah for his vision and courage to call for a gathering focused on the challenges of Christians in the Middle East.
We also want to thank the King and the people of Jordan for their generosity, compassion and hospitality shown to the hundreds of thousands of refugees that now reside within the borders of this Kingdom.
We recognize that most of those gathered here are esteemed religious leaders who come with decades of experience in working to solve complex church issues.
We come to you today merely as TV producers and film makers willing and wanting to listen and learn but we are also aware of the enormous global reach and influence that our work has and through it, our responsibility to continue to spread Jesus Christ's message of love for the whole world.
We also want to let you know that we love the Middle East and love ALL of its people and we are deeply concerned by the violence being perpetrated against Arab Christians as well as the pressures and conflicts within the Christian church
In 2013 our Bible television series which tells the story of God's Love for all of us has already reached almost 200 million people around the world .
We are we here today representing The World Evangelical Alliance and humbly offer a few thoughts.
I grew up as a devout Roman Catholic during “the troubles” in Northern Ireland. I am still a practicing Catholic . My home town of DERRY, was a city divided by a river with Catholics living on one side and Protestants on the other
Derry was also the site of the British Army murders of Bloody Sunday.
I personally experienced firsthand the impact of sectarian violence and religious discrimination. Most of the Men in our area were arrested without trial and imprisoned for months during a period of time known as " internment" The shoe shop I worked in part time as a school girl was blown to pieces on a busy Saturday afternoon, and as a child one day ,while I was kneeling to pray at my mother's grave in the city cemetery, a snipers bullet passed through the hood of my coat.
My husband Mark is an English man, he was raised Protestant, served in the British army and did a tour of duty in Northern Ireland.
Our marriage is a living example of tolerance and healing and of not allowing old hurts and discrimination to live on. But instead to come together in the spirit of LOVE and LIGHT and KINDNESS.
I have personally seen the destructive nature of religious conflict and in particular inter-Christian strife.But I have also experienced and Lived the power of Christian Unity.
Northern Ireland is now governed by a power sharing union between Protestants and Catholics and just the summer I returned to Derry which has been named European city of culture. Where there were once bombed out buildings there are now new homes, and shops and public centers. It is a vibrant community . It is reborn .
I got to walk across a newly constructed PEACE BRIDGE that now connects the Protestant and Catholic communities. It touched my heart to see how far we have come. It left me feeling encouraged and very hopeful.
A few years ago God gave Mark and I a vision to produce a TV series on the Bible. We are not experts on the Bible but we share a deep love of Jesus and the scriptures. Our desire was for people to be able to experience the great stories of the Bible in new ways, with fresh eyes. We wanted to communicate the series asa narrative of God’s love for all humanity.
We wanted to touch their hearts with that love .
A key part of developing the series was to build a team of biblical experts from all the Christian traditions to advise us on the development and contents of the scripts.
While it was sometimes challenging to integrate the perspective of all the Christian communities we worked hard at seeking to honor each tradition.
When the series aired earlier this year it was seen by 100 million people in the United States alone. It is continuing to reach many millions more as it airs in country by country and we are deeply humbled by the response.
We believe that one of the key reasons it had record viewer ship was the support of all the Christian traditions, Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant and Orthodox.
Christians united together in their love for the Bible and its message of hope for a world that is crying for peace.
We have come to believe that Christian unity is a critical element in responding to the global challenges we face today, including the difficulties of Arab Christians in the Middle East.
We know there have been long-time historical divisions in the Church in this region. We admit we do not fully understand all the reasons for these conflicts.
However, if there was ever a time for Christians to be united in this part of the world surely this is the time.Remember Jesus said " be wise as serpents and harmless as doves " Staying silent is not being wise. We must speak up .
As Christians of all traditions face discrimination, persecution and threat, NOW is the time to link arms together in a unified love to respond to these challenges together.
Given our common love for the Bible and its powerful message of reconciliation, we should be living out this message to the entire world.
In Psalm 133 it says,
1. How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
2. It is like precious oil poured on the head running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard down on the collar of his robe.
3. It is as if the dew of Hermon. were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore."
I am reminded of the words of the Anglican minister and statesman John Stott.
"It is simply impossible, with any shred of Christian integrity, to go on proclaiming that Jesus by his cross has abolished the old divisions and created a new single humanity of love, while at the same time we are contradicting our message by tolerating racial or social or other barriers within our church "fellowship.
Stott goes on to say,
"I wonder if anything is more urgent today, for the honor of Christ than that the church should be, and should be seen to be, what by God’s purpose and Christ’s achievement it already is – a single new humanity, a model of human community, a family of reconciled brothers and sisters who love their Father and love each other, the evident dwelling place of God by his Spirit. Only then will the world believe in Christ as Peacemaker.
It is our hope and prayer that All Christians in the Middle East in spite of their differences will be united together in a common bond of God’s love.
As a reminder of all that we have in common, I want to show a brief clip from the Bible Series. As you view this montage of images remind yourself that Jesus unites all Christians with His message of love, compassion , tenderness ,sacrifice and redemption.
Even if you don't speak English , i know these images will touch your heart .
We love you and we will continue to pray with you and stand with you in this time of great challenge.
Thank you and may God Bless you all.