World Vision Iraq Response Director Nicole Peter meeting a newly baptised Yazidi child in her purple dress and her special red and white checked head-scarf. Photo: Shwan Mohamed Amin

A lesson of unconditional love and faith, Interfaith dialogue at Lalish Temple in Iraq

The Yazidi temple at Lalish is a potent reminder of human faith’s ability to persevere. This ancient holy site is where all Yazidi people assemble to renew their community bonds and find strength in their faith: the same faith that has seen them victimised throughout history. In the interest of exploring our interfaith themes of hope and joy, 86 World Vision staff members experienced a small glimpse of Yazidism’s rich history on 21 October when WV Iraq held its Day of Prayer.

The Yazidi community in Iraq has experienced much suffering. This small, ethnoreligious group has been maligned throughout history, with widespread misunderstandings about their faith fuelling bigotry. In 2014, this intolerance resulted in a genocide[1] in Sinjar. Over 5,000 Yazidi people were murdered, and hundreds of thousands were forced into displacement camps across the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Thousands more remain missing and even more lie in unmarked mass graves dotted around northern Iraq.

The Yazidi community were happy to receive World Vision staff at their holy site. When we arrived, a young family had just baptised their little girl. Her joyful family shared their meagre bag of candy to celebrate. This act of acceptance and generosity set aside the fact that we were perfect strangers from different parts of the country and the world.

 The World Vision staff were formally welcomed by Karim Sulaiman, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, on behalf of the Prince of the Yazidi people, Hazim Tahseen Bek and Baba Chawish, the Yazidi spiritual leader at Lalish Temple. These two high-ranking Yazidi people took the opportunity to talk to us about their customs and religion so we might understand better what it means to be Yazidi and draw out our interfaith commonalities.

The most extraordinary moment came when Baba Chawish shared a Yazidi saying about doing good to our fellow man without preconditions:

“If a person in need asks you for help, give him what God has given you without asking him his religious beliefs. God will reward you for the hope and life you give.”

Baba Chawish’s words resonate with our mission. As staff of a Christian organisation, we help those in need based on their needs, irrespective of their faith or ethnicity. But while we help others and work with Iraq’s communities to ensure the well-being of the children here, we as individuals and an organisation also flourish in our faith.

For more information and resources on World Vision's interfaith engagement work, visit here