In the very heart of the Middle East is tucked away a community having distinct non-Islamic religious beliefs. Not many had heard about them, rarely they made any global headlines and its community members hardy made a big splash about their religion. They are the Yezidis. A community which has withstood 74 genocides in the last 1500 yrs and is still surviving with their culture and civilization intact. With a calender 6674 yrs old, the Yezidis are the oldest civilization from the Middle East. No one had heard about them before, until ISIS started executing the Yezidi men and sell the women and children as sex slaves. But what is in the Yezidi religion and beliefs that has helped this community to sustain storm after storm and 74 genocides so far.
One of the important facets of the Yezidi religion is their belief in Reincarnation. The concept of reincarnation is essentially a concept common to all Dharmic groups, which includes the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. Reincarnation essentially means that the soul is imperishable, is not destroyed and changes body after death. In Kurmanji, the Yezidi language, they call it Kiras Guhorin (changing of garments). Reincarnation is applicable to even the Gods and implies that one’s personal God is not greater but equal to others. That makes the Yezidis the most peaceful community in the middle east. The concept of reincarnation is spiritually intertwined into the Yezidis from an early age. Each Yezidi during his life undergoes a ritual wherein they become bonded spiritually to a brother and sister of their faith from a family different from the one they are born into.The spiritual sibling relationship is established to assist the Yezidi soul into next life. According to Yezidi beliefs, one’s heavenly brother and sister will be waiting to assist one’s soul when one departs from this world, and act as guide for the soul through their journey in the spiritual world.
The Yezidi religion also has a very distinct concept of hell and heaven compared to Christianity and Islam. They do not believe that non-believers will burn in hell. Instead they believe that Malak Taus, descended, saw the suffering and pain of the world, and cried. His tears, thousands of years’ worth, fell on the fires of hell, extinguishing them. With hell extinguished and together with reincarnation, the Yezidis believe that the soul is born again and again into perfection till it merges into heaven, based on a concept which is akin to Karma. Yezidis believe that bad Karma may result in expulsion from the Yezidi society too. Expulsion happens when one violates the regulative principles of the Yezidi faith. and is considered to be the gravest of all punishments by their chief God Malek Taus. This serves as internal checks within the society for ethical values of right and wrong.
Another important facet of the Yezidi faith is their belief in the oneness with nature. They worship the Sun God , three to five times each day. The Sun represents the source of energy or ultimate truth. Belief in reincarnation, belief in evolution of species and oneness with nature makes the Yezidi faith an ancient yet scientific religion. It is also these distinct beliefs that make this community vulnerable to indoctrinated religious ideologies who accuse them as devil worshipers as a political excuse to slaughter the Yezidis and wipe out the civilization itself. All the major ethnic groups in the region, the Turks, the Kurds and the Arab Sunnis have previous history of genocide against the Yezidis. In the present 74th genocide itself, their holy place mount Shingal (Sinjar) was attacked by the Islamic State or ISIL. 5000 people lost their lives and half a million became refugees. Many today are without winter-wear and the temperatures go freezing in northern Iraq. Also 7000 Yezidi women and children have been taken hostages so far. They are being raped many times a day and are being sold in the market. ISIS intends to revive a 21st century Slavery Project and Yezidis who do not belong to any organized religion seems to be their easiest target.
While the plight of the Yezidis has poured in, unexpected groups like the Hindus have joined in with all they have. His Holiness Guruji Sri Sri Ravi Shanker , one of the most important Hindu spiritual Gurus have collected 120 tons of relief materials, through his social service organization IAHV (International Association for Human Values) and have air dropped them in the Shingal mountains. IAHV is a sister organization of Art of Living and was founded in Geneva in 1997. Art of Living is present in 152 nations. International Dharmic charity groups like SEWA International USA have also given their unstinted support from the very beginning. Several Hindu organizations in US like Viswa Hindu Parishad America and HAF- Hindu American Foundation have also joined in. They have also helped to forge an activist coalition of Hindus, Jews and Christians against evil ideologies like ISIS. The Jewish organizations like Stand With US, AJC -Global Jewish Advocay, JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa have also extended their whole hearted support to the cause.
The drum of support for pro-Yezidi activism is specially evident in the Silicon Valley. According to one of the organizers, Somanjana Chatterjee “This is the third time a major pro-Yezidi meet will happen in the Silicon Valley. The first meeting was organized by Viswa Hindu Parishad America and Overseas Volunteers for a Better India, where for the first time in history the union of the Yezidis and the Hindus was publicly commemorated by lighting a Sanjak and with prayers by both Hindus and Yezidis together. This was followed by a press conference of the Yezidi leaders organized by IAHV. The third meeting on the 18th of December will focus on fund-raising for the Yezidi refugees. In the coming months, an immigration bill for the Yezidis is also been drawn up by the inter-faith activist coalition”
The fundraiser in the Silicon Valley is part of a series of fundraisers being organized by the Yezidis and a coalition of activists helping them. Recently the fundraiser in Chicago raised $8000 and will be soon followed by another one in Houston, Texas on December 14th, 4pm CSTat India House Houston
8888 W Bellfort St, Houston, Texas 77031. Several Hindu entrepreneurs and philanthropists like Mr. Vijay Pallod have thrown their weight behind the movement. Hindu activist Mr. Ravi Raghavan have conducted radio talk show to drum up support for the Yezidis and explain to the world who Yezidis are. According to one of the Hindu activists, Mr. Achalesh Amar, “The Yezidi crisis is a humanitarian crisis and helping the Yezidis is about preserving the Human values. It goes beyond religion”. Another Hindu activist Swadesh Katoch says, “Save the Yezidis is a today a global movement, one which asks for selfless sacrifice for a cause bigger than ourselves. One that promises to confine and eliminate the forces of hate and evil”.
Save the Yezidis have come out as an unique movement of a united broad coalition of inter-faith activists , taking a stand against evil forces of hate. It shows promise of a global movement one that humanity badly needs today, in the troubled times that we are in.