Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 29, 2009
St. Paul film created to counteract Islam's impact on Italy
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A new film about the life of St. Paul is aimed at reaching Italian youth and stopping the spread of Islam in Italy.
The Bible-based documentary drama, Damascus, is about the apostle's conversion. The release of the film coincides with the end of the Year of St. Paul.
The film, available in eight languages, is a project of Youth Arise International. It guides viewers through the book of Acts of the Apostles, showing first-century Syria and the life of Saul of Tarsus through to his conversion into the Apostle of the Gentiles.
Jack Klemke, an evangelical leader in Edmonton, provided $40,000 for the project. Judy Reinhart, from Lloydminster, has been another advocate for the film.
"The film shows Paul before his conversion, his conversion story, and his powerful message after his conversion of how Jesus and the Holy Spirit can work in your life," said Reinhart.
"Paul turned his life around, that was going in such an opposite direction. Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, wants everyone to have that same conversion of heart to follow him."
By using Paul's powerful testimony as an outlet for spreading the Gospel, those involved with the Damascus 2020 project hope to reverse the growth of Islam in Italy.
"There has been a lot spoken about Jesus. Of course, that's a very powerful evangelizing tool. This now is another avenue of evangelization.
"It gives a different perspective, and it's also a way to reach the Muslim world," said Reinhart.
The one million Muslims living in Italy represent almost two per cent of the country's population.
However, with the rapid growth of the religion in Italy, the projections are that Muslims will soon be the nation's leaders in business and politics.
"There are many European countries like Holland and France where there is so much growth of Muslims that if one were to see the statistics, one would soon realize that, for example, Italy is a dying nation but growing in Muslim migrants," said Henry Cappello, president of Youth Arise International, based out of Holy Redeemer College in Washington, D.C.
"This is a wave we need to reverse. This changes the equilibrium completely having Muslims lead these Western countries in what used to be called Christian nations."
Youth Arise International describes itself as a Catholic federation, offering leadership of vision, commitment and the willingness of service in the power of the Holy Spirit to the Church.
Cappello said Damascus is contemporary, faithful to the Scriptures and sensitive to cultures.
"It's humanitarian, it's drama and it's factual. There's nothing sensational, really.
"It is very historical, biblically correct and theologically correct. Everything is exact and precise," he said.
Adding to the film's appeal is the fact that it was shot on site in the Holy Land with many Syrian Muslim actors. Maisaa Salloum, a well-known Syrian TV newscaster, narrates the historic scenes in modern Damascus, in the actual buildings and rooms where the events occurred.
The film includes scenes on the stoning of St. Stephen, Paul blinded by Jesus for three days, Paul revisiting his sins and Paul retelling his story to King Agrippa.
Other important characters highlighted in the film include Judah, Ananias, Barnabas and Sergius Paulus.
The film ends with Paul's famous poem about love, found in 1 Corinthians 13.
The film premiered at the Vatican on May 16.
Cappello called it a "strategic premier" as the viewers were comprised of cardinals, Church leaders, and heads of Catholic organizations and Christian movements - essentially Vatican partners.
Through Paul's testimony shown in the Damascus film, the goal is to raise 250,000 "believing leaders" in Italy by the year 2020.
The first phase of the project, from July until December, is to distribute 500,000 DVDs and follow-up packets to 500 small faith groups in Italy.
The second phase, starting in 2010, is to distribute another 1.5 million DVD and follow-up packets for 1,500 faith groups.
Cappello said he hopes to promote the film in Canada through Salt + Light TV.