Here in the US it’s safe to be an out Pagan. Religious freedom, taken for granted by many, is our gift to the world. Pagans in the Western World should be aware that a minority religion, however they define themselves, has been labeled ‘Pagan’ and ‘Satanist’. This allows extremists to attack them under the cover of Islam.
The Yazidi minority in Iraq is being subjected to a ‘religious cleansing’ level of persecution-
Tens of thousands of members of one of Iraq’s oldest minorities have been stranded on a mountain in the country’s north-west, facing slaughter at the hands of jihadists surrounding them below if they flee, or death by dehydration if they stay.
UN groups say at least 40,000 members of the Yazidi sect, many of them women and children, have taken refuge in nine locations on Mount Sinjar, a craggy, mile-high ridge identified in local legend as the final resting place of Noah’s ark.
Who are the Yazidis? This is from the Washington Post-
Despite its connections to Islam, the faith remains distinctly apart. It was one of the non-Abrahamic creeds left in the Middle East, drawing on various pre-Islamic and Persian traditions. Yazidis believe in a form of reincarnation and adhere to a strict caste system. Yazidism borrows from Zoroastrianism, which held sway in what’s now Iran and its environs before the advent of Islam, and even the mysteries of Mithraism, a quasi-monotheistic religion that was popular for centuries in the Roman Empire, particularly among soldiers. Not unlike the rituals of India’s Parsis — latter-day Zoroastrians — Yazidis light candles in religious ceremonies as a sign of the triumph of light over darkness.
Yazidis believe in one God who is represented by seven angels. According to Yazidi lore, one of the angels, Malak Tawous, was sent to Earth after refusing to bow to Adam, explains the Economist. Represented in peacock form, he is considered neither wholly good nor evil by Yazidis, but Muslim outsiders know him as “shaytan,” or Satan. The Islamic State has justified its slaughter of Yazidis on the basis of the long-standing slur that they are “devil-worshipers.”
Bobby Ghosh, former Time magazine Baghdad bureau chief, writes that his Sunni and Shiite colleagues referred to Yazidis as devil-worshipers “as a joke, even a term of endearment.” But the Islamic State “is taking the false claim of satanism far too seriously.”
Rescue efforts are failing in an international humanitarian crisis, reports KurdNet
Nearly all the displaced are members of the Yazidi sect, ethnic Kurdish adherents to a religion that combines Islam and ancient Persian pagan beliefs and is considered heresy by the radical Sunni Muslims who make up the Islamic State. Since Islamic State militants took control of Sinjar (Shingal) on Sunday, there have been widespread, though unconfirmed, reports that Yazidis who failed to escape the takeover have been executed, tortured and raped.
The United Nations said this week that at least 40,000 people, including 25,000 children, were in the Sinjar Mountains with no shelter, food, medical supplies and, most crucially, because of the brutal Iraqi summer heat, drinking water. While the mountains’ remoteness and barren terrain offers some protection from the Islamic State, the militants control all approaches to the area.
Local news outlets have reported that dozens of children and elderly already have died from dehydration and that thousands more could succumb if massive amounts of aid are not delivered. Efforts to confirm those accounts by dialing the cellphones of people believed to have fled into the mountains failed, most likely because after days without electricity the cellphones’ batteries have died.
There was no response to a request for comment made to the Iraqi Defense Ministry in Baghdad on the Iraqi government’s efforts to supply aid to the displaced. One official from a major humanitarian organization, speaking on background so as to not antagonize Iraqi officials, was dismissive of reports that a helicopter had dropped water on Tuesday. “If these deliveries happened at all, they were a drop in the bucket of what is desperately needed,” the official said. “At this stage we think the best hope for many of these people will be an American-led airlift.”
There is no doubt that the world looks to American when local efforts fail. And in the disaster that is Iraq, no world power or religion is innocent, but the ordinary people suffer no matter what side of a border they are born on.
Esoteric as all this Eastern religion may seem, it’s really about greed, power, young men with guns and bombs, and the necessity to hate those you persecute. It doesn’t require religion to start a war, but religion makes it easier to kill with a sense of righteousness. We’re all human, it’s a small world, this has happened in the West and could again.
The beautiful peacock image is from the British news, The Examiner which reported in 2009 that a minority religion in Britain, The Templars, was advocating for the rights of this Kurdish minority.
More on the religion and history here.