Yazdis are a minority people in Iraq. Not part of the majority religion. Not belonging to a majority ethnic group. No one to represent them in the government. Isolated to a small area in Northern Iraq.
The terrorist group, Isis, has been persecuting them. Reports say that at least 500 Yazidis, including 40 children, have been killed in recent attacks. Extremist Muslims call the Yazidis “devil worshipers” and use that designation as justification for raping, brutalizing, and killing them, including their innocent little children.
Such brutality is not unusual in human history: the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide during which majority Hutus slaughtered the Tutsi, the Bosnian Genocide, and also the violence in our own nation against Native Americans, African-Americans, and other minority populations. World history is printed with blood red ink.
The Yazidis are neighbors of us all. They laugh and cry as we do. Bleed the same blood. Cry out for protection and deliverance. Care for their children. Dream great dreams. Create great works.
You could argue that the only differences we have are the food we eat, the religion we choose, music we tap our toe to, and the kind of government we elect. Aside from that we are the same. So to mistreat another human is like mistreating a loved one.
At a more local level, a mother who kills her child or a thug that breaks into a house to harm those inside is no different than a Hutu who drags a Tutsi out of her house or an extremist Iraqi who throws a stone at a his wife buried up to her waist in the public square. Violence is violence.
The way of peace in this war-torn world is risky. It is no better illustrated than by Mary Johnson who visited her son’s murderer, Oshea Israel, in Stillwater Prison, Minnesota, eventually coming to forgive him and adopting him as her spiritual son. The two, Mary and Oshea, now speak at national venues about the power of forgiveness.
Love is dangerous. Mary could have been harmed by her decision to trust, but had she listened to that fear or cynicism we would not have the wonderful story of a woman who courageously redeemed a young man from darkness and depravity.
The solution to the world’s ills is not easy, but it is obvious. Someone has to be willing to take the risk, offer grace, and refuse to retaliate. Otherwise the opposite motions of revenge keep the enormous flywheel of war, persecution, and genocide spinning with unstoppable energy.
The hate group, Westboro Baptist Church, Isis, the Klan and such cannot be farther from the truth concerning God. God’s intention is for a world where love prevails. Intentional, self-sacrificing, compassionate love. That cannot exist where one evil act begets another in retribution.
It is risky, but someone has to stop. Someone has to love. That is God’s message.