A religion thousands of year old is being systematically wiped out in Iraq and I dare you to guess which one it is.
Have you ever heard of Mandaeans? Well, take a minute to read about the approximately 70,000 followers of this ancient religious sect now spread across the globe away from their historic home.
During Saddam Hussein’s reign in Iraq, Mandaean places of worship, called Mendis, numbered 4,000 and now there are only four. Go figure but Mandaeans had a better life with the dictator in place. Yes, they did suffer like others under the tyrant but now the lawlessness, native power struggles and religious extremism rampant in Iraq has made the peaceful Mandaeans an endangered race.
“We are a pacifists and it all boils down to being human – we are flesh and blood and no different,” Nabil Farhan, a Mandaean now living in Canada, told me last year in an interview. “We are facing a genocide, a systematic elimination and the international community is lacking in their response.”
Approximately 80 per cent of Mandaeans are now displaced, living in Australia, Europe and North America. The Mandaean Union reports that every day hundreds of Mandaeans migrate to nearby countries like Syria, Jordan and Yemen to join other families in exile.
“These immigrants live in inhumane conditions, mostly on charity. Their children are forced to leave school. They fled to the unknown for fear of murder, robbery, looting and rape,” states the Mandaean Union.
Since Mandaeans do not follow the Muslim faith, they have become easy targets for extremists, both Shiite and Sunni, in Iraq. What gives them away? They do not go to local mosques to worship. Mandaean followers are given ultimatums, either convert to Islam or move. If they do not move, wishing to stay where their heritage is rooted, they are simply killed.
The Mandaean Associations Union recently denounced the murder of nine Mandaeans in Al-Kut City in Iraq on the March 26, 2008. The victims were women and children of two families residing in the city. Their crime? Being Mandaean.
Mandaeans around the world are now trying to pressure their local governments to help speed up the entry of fleeing Mandaeans. How sad that an ancient religion now must live divided, torn from its roots in order to survive.
The Mandaean religion is a proto-religion which believes Adam was the first Mandaean and that he received religious instructions directly from God, explained Mr. Farhan. The Mandaeans last great teacher and healer was John the Baptist.
The Mandaean believe only God can take a life and they have an elaborate baptism ritual system in which water is held in very high regard. When Portuguese monks observed this baptism ritual in 1555 and the monks heard the stories the Mandaeans spoke of John the Baptist, the monks called the Mandaeans ‘Christians of St. John’ or ‘Christian di San Giovanni’. The Mandaeans have no symbols, no idols, and no images that can be used to pray to.
For more information about Mandaeans and how to help visit www.mandaeanunion.org