Thursday, November 18, 2010

Iraqi Mandaean Survival Endangered By Dispersion


One of the casualties of the war in Iraq has been the presence of the Mandaean community in Iraq. The Mandaeans are a gnostic, monotheistic religion that venerates John the Baptist and prohibits circumcision. They are completely pacifist and do not accept converts. The only way to become a Mandaean is to be born to two Mandaean parents.

Mandaean faith is not only individual and familial but communal. They require running water for their weekly baptism rituals and access to Mandaean clergy. In the course of the war in Iraq and because of persecution in Iran, 60,000 Mandaeans have fled Iran and Iraq in recent years. Lack of education in their faith has resulted in the decline of Mandaeanism in exile. The older generation that grew up in Iraq fears that they may be the last generation to practice the faith.

Getting one nation to accept a bloc of refugees from one ethnic group is difficult. quotesVincent Cochetel, who represents the UN High Commisioner for refugees explained the problem as follows.

"It makes sense to keep them together, but no one nation can provide them with effective protection," said Cochetel, who represents the U.S. and the Caribbean for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. "Nations also have to take into consideration affordable housing available. That's just the social reality."

That may well be the case, but Mandaeans seem to be very good low risk candidates to accept as refugees. They are pacifists, they do not proselytise and have an attitude of extending charity to Mandaean and non Mandaean alike.

The largest community of Mandaeans in the US is the greater Boston area with about 450 of them.It would be good for the various countries that have taken in Mandaeans to work with the Mandaean leadership to at least settle groups of Mandaeans in close enough proximity that they can easily maintain regular contact. The Mandaeans have endured terrible trauma as a community since the start of the war in Iraq. It is not hard to understand their desire to survive as a community. We should try to work with them on this issue.

Photo by Max Becherer Sphere: Related Content

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