"We are being butchered under the banner of 'There is no God but Allah'"
It is impossible to hear the anguished wailing of this Iraqi MP and not be hauled to the depths of her misery and despair. You might shed a tear watching it, because it is harrowing. Her name is Vian Dakheel, of Iraq's Yazidi tribe (also Yezidi, Êzidî) - an ethno-religious group whose presence in the region pre-dates that of both Christians and Muslims. Ethnically, they are Kurdish; religiously, they practise a monotheistic syncretised fusion of Islam and Zoroastrianism. Beneath their one true god are seven deities - the Heptad - the most important of which is Tawsi Melek, which translates as 'Peacock Angel' or 'Peacock King'. Tracing their origins back to 600 BC, it is not unreasonable to say that they are the oldest religious community in what we now call Iraq.
Up until a week ago, there were around 800,000 of them living in the Nineveh province of northern region. But the Sunni-Salafist Islamic State have descended in their murderous droves, and the towns of Zumar and Sinjar have been cleansed of these devil-worshipers, for Tawsi Melek may also be rendered 'Shaytan', the Arabic word for 'devil' or 'demon'. And so they have suffered persecution at the hands of Muslims for centuries.
It is estimated that some 2,000 were murdered and as many as 40,000 have fled into the mountains to avoid the slaughter. The children are now dying of thirst. Exposed to the heat of Mount Sinjar, the elderly and vulnerable adults will soon follow.
This is genocide. The Yazidi are being systematically wiped off the face of the earth. Vian Dakheel demands that the Iraqi Parliament act to repel ISIS/Islamic State, which appears to have its advocates in the legislature. Another MP Haji Ghandour told reporters: "In our history, we have suffered 72 massacres. We are worried Sinjar could be a 73rd." And we read: “People were terrified,” said Ilias al-Hussani, 27, who had been trekking through the mountains for 10 hours. “They are savages. We’ve seen what they’ve done to people of their own faith. Imagine what they would do to us non-Muslims.”
This is another humanitarian tragedy. The appalling plight of the Yazidi has made the Independent, Mail, Guardian, Telegraph, Economist, Yahoo News UK, Al-Jazeera and the BBC.
You've probably guessed where this is going.
The Chaldean-Assyrian Christians, Maronites, Melkites and Copts are also being "butchered under the banner of 'There is no God but Allah'". They, too, are fleeing into the mountains for refuge, as Christ exhorted at the time of the end. They, too, are being reviled, persecuted, and their children murdered. But we're not hearing an awful lot about it.
Except via Canon Andrew White, who writes today:
The Massacre of all continues. We are now in Erbil supporting to various church leaders here. The Yazidis have now come under huge attack. This group is similar to the Zoroastrians and at the best of times they are a discriminated and despised minority. What we have heard from some of the Church leaders is more than horrendous. Just like last week a felt I could not show the pictures so today I fell I cannot tell the whole story especially about the children.Our neighbour is the one who has need. Our brother is the one who helps us to meet that need - in this instance, caring for the poor and the dying. Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, writes:
Now they head toward Erbil. This is supposed to be the one safe area in Iraq but yesterday evening the whole of Erbil went into total panic with news that ISIS was moving towards Erbil. It is not here yet but it may indeed be on its way. Meanwhile over a hundred people where killed in Baghdad last night.
There is one other person here doing what we are doing with his wife. Dr Plumb and his wife Peggy are both in their late 70's, they are Mormons have been here several months using all their own money. He is our closest friend here. All the time people say to me how can you work with a Mormon. Well he is the only other person here doing the work of Jesus caring for the poor and the dying and we love each other.
..speeches are good for nothing, so too declarations that rehash condemnations and indignation; the same can be said for protest marches. In addition, while appreciating the generosity of our donors, we would say that donations and fundraising too are not what will solve our problems. We have to demand a large-scale administrative [governmental] operation on an international level. There is in fact the need for awareness, in conscience, regarding this simple human principle: the demand for real actions and solidarity because we are before a crisis related to our very existence, facing the fact that "we will be or we will not be."There is the heartfelt plea: "..the need for awareness, in conscience, regarding this simple human principle: the demand for real actions and solidarity because we are before a crisis related to our very existence.."
This is an appeal from the bottom of the heart in the search for a solution that lies uniquely in the hands of the international community and above all with the great powers. We address ourselves profoundly to their consciences and that they should review their positions and to re-evaluate the impact of the situation of today.
These powers face a human and moral responsibility. It is no longer reasonable to take recourse to double standards. They are called to free themselves from their narrow interests and to unite themselves in a political and peacekeeping solution that puts an end to this conflict. These powers must vigorously exercise pressure on those who support financially and train militarily these factions and so cut short these sources of violence and radicalisation.
Concerning the Christians of Iraq, in our pastoral ministry towards them, we also call upon the international community: our Christians are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, as too they are in need of an efficient, true and permanent protection that reassures them that there is no end to their existence, whose origins are so deeply rooted in Iraq; this also concerns Christians in other regions of the Middle East that are burning and being torn apart.
We also appeal to our brothers and sisters around the world, that they too be truly with us in solidarity at this our time of suffering this terrible ordeal; that they live with us this feeling of solidarity as if belonging to the same family.
The Prime Minister has asked the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP to assume the Faith portfolio previously held by Baroness Warsi. There have already been strong objections, though, in fact, Mr Pickles always had ultimate responsibility for DCLG policy, which includes matters of faith and integration. But the Baroness was viewed by many (and known to be by a few) as something of a hurdle to progress in this area: she convened a committee on religion and belief, but her view of Islamist terrorism was never quite that of the Prime Minister or the Prince of Wales. Now gone, we can expect to see not only changes in tone, but policy.
Secretary of State, there is an urgent need for awareness. And then there must be real actions. We pray you will hear the weeping and wailing.