Union College hosted an Interfaith Iraq Peacemaking and Memorial Service yesterday, September 28, that drew 300 people in remembrance of Yazidi people who have been killed and enslaved by the jihadist group ISIS, or ISIL.
The Yazidis are a group of Kurdish-speaking people who live mainly in the northern part of Iraq. There are about 500,000 Yazidis worldwide, and more than 1,000 have settled in Lincoln, Nebraska, where Union College is located. It is the largest concentration of Yazidis in the US.
Yesterday’s service, held outdoors on the grounds of the Union College campus, featured a Yazidi woman, Laila Khoudeida, who told harrowing stories of persecution and torture at the hands of ISIS.
In August, Khoudeida traveled with 80 other Yazidis to Washington, DC, to ask President Barack Obama to help 40,000 Yazidis trapped by ISIS in Iraq. Obama authorized food drops and airstrikes on their behalf.
The service at Union was jointly sponsored by the Union College Center for Interfaith Studies and Culture, the Good Neighbor Community Center and the Interfaith Peacemaking Coalition.
The organizers wanted to show support for their nieghbors, the Yazidi community; to inform people about what is happening in Iraq; and to encourage everyone to do whatever he or she can to be a peacemaker — wherever they are.
Doug Hardt, director of Union’s Center for Interfaith Studies and Culture, traveled to Iraq last summer, and what he saw and heard from the people there impacted him greatly.
Hardt told the Lincoln Journal Star:
“When I see people on the news that are getting shot, I see them as people I know, people I see on a daily basis. They cease to just be numbers to me.”
Chris Blake, chair of the Interfaith Peacemaking Coalition, spoke briefly at the service. His remarks included this:
The difference between being a peace lover and a peace maker is the difference between loving money and making money. Peacemaking is hard work, and it never ends. As Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He also declared, “Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”
Peacemaking calls for courage and resilience. Peacemakers state, “We will never submit to unrelenting evil. We will not allow fear and hatred to dominate us. We will live with defiant optimism. We will not let our loved ones die in vain. Instead, we will honor their memory by planting seeds of hope and healing. No matter what, no matter how many people ignore us, we resolve to continue playing the beautiful melody of selfless love.
Even if we don’t agree theologically, we can get along peacefully.
This information is extracted mainly from two excellent stories in the Lincoln Journal Star covering this event. Read Friday's story here and Monday's story here for greater detail about the event and Laila Khoudeida's story.
Images by Dan Carlson.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6287