In response to the crisis in Syria and Iraq—the “biggest humanitarian emergency of our era”—Mark Burnett approached the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) to partner with him and his wife, Roma Downey, and launch The Cradle Fund (TCF). TCF helps rescue, restore, and return Middle Eastern Christians and other religious and ethnic groups to a home where they can live and practice their faith free from fear.

Established after an assessment trip to the Middle East in mid-October, TCF has thus far received contributions from over 1,000 donors and has already disbursed $1,075,000.000 dollars to six local NGOs and churches with humanitarian programs. The implementing partners, known as Cradle Council members, are using the funds to reach the most marginalized in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, impacting approximately 72,000 who have fled ISIS. Last month Dr. Chris Seiple, TCF Chief of Mission, traveled to the region, met with Cradle Council Members, and participated in some of the TCF’s distributions of food and supplies necessary to survive the winter.

In a region that is most complex, we have been blessed with an opportunity to rally support for those who are being persecuted and facing a humanitarian catastrophe. The vulnerable minorities of Syria and Iraq are fleeing ISIS—but cannot flee winter. “We count it a blessing to move at the speed with which we’ve been able to move, but we need to move faster still…winter is here,” Dr. Seiple remarked. In only a few months time, TCF has made a difference in the immediate humanitarian crisis, and has begun laying foundations for a long-term strategy to help restore and return Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities to a home where they can live their faith freely.

Toward this end, TCF works with the suffering Church in support of those of all faiths who have suffered. In addition to meeting detailed proposal, reporting, and accountability criteria, Cradle Council members are required to abide by the Fund’s Principles of Engagement. Some of the current Cradle Council members include: International Orthodox Christian Charities, Assyrian Aid Society, Canon White’s American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, Pre-Emptive Love Coalition, and the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq and Heart4Lebanon in Lebanon.

TCF’s organizing principle is this: every near-term decision impacts the long-term. We are building a diverse coalition around the need to help people survive in the near term, while at the same time building practical strategies and alliances for the long term. Already as a result of this approach, leaders and institutions in the region who normally have little contact or cooperation are breaking down barriers and working together. The TCF strategy has been presented to Pope Francis, King Abdullah II, Patriarch Moran Mor Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, Patriarch Theophilos III: Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, Patriarch John X (Yazigi): the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II Karim: the Patriarch of Antioch Syriac Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan: the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syrians for the Syriac Catholic Church, and Patriarch Mar Louis Raphaël I Sako: Head of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, as well as other government and NGO leaders worldwide. Additionally, TCF has garnered international attention and ensuing coverage and comment in news media and social media, both secular and religious.