In Iraq, We Worked for Peace

IraqBlogBy Rosemarie Milazzo, MM

This summer, I attended a meeting of a New York group called Religion and Peace in Stony Point, NY. I met a young Iraqi mother who told me that all her life, her country has been at war. Now, her children are born into more violence and war.

I was in northern Iraq last year as part of a peace team made up of mostly Christians from all different denominations. Our group, whose newest member is a Muslim, is called Christian Peacemaker Teams. During our mission in Iraq, I attended a dance festival in Erbil, a city in northern Iraq where thousands of Christians have fled attacks by extremist Islamic forces.

Last year, there was peace in Erbil. Many ethnic groups performed dances reflecting their cultural traditions.  The Yazidi danced beautifully. They were stunning in their presentation. They danced with passion, with gentle rhythms, huge smiles, radiantly garbed in their traditional clothing.

As part of our peace-building mission in northern Iraq, we monitored Kurdish national elections to ensure fairness for all. We also served with Islamic women who advocated for an end to abusive practices they suffered in their society.

Later in the year, we had the opportunity to visit the northern Iraqi village of Duhok. That’s where many Iraqis who are members of the minority Yazidi have fled. In recent days and weeks, the Yazidi have been trapped by Islamic extremists who have overrun their homes, persecuting the Yazidi where they have lived for thousands of years.

Last year, they warmly welcomed us to their homes and we were fortunate that they were baptizing two babies that day. We were invited to share the celebration. Following the baptism, we were taken all around the village by Yazidi elder women. They have such endearing respect for the earth that we all walked barefoot.  No shoes were seen in the whole village.

There were many smiles and songs that day.

Now, there is no more dancing in that village. Military forces have entered and ravished the homes, temples, ritual centers and have killed many of the men and taken the women.  Some have taken shelter in the mountains in Sanjir, where the hostile heat and lack of water and food offer no hospitality. It seems that many of the people have already died and many are suffering without help.

There is no more dancing for the Yazidi people now.