Western-based Christian NGOs have been accused of exploiting the plight of northern Iraq’s indigenous Yazidi community by trying to proselytise Christianity to them, according to a report yesterday by Middle East Eye (MEE).
The religious minority had already suffered from forced conversions, mass killings and sexual slavery under the self-proclaimed caliphate of Daesh in the region of SInjar, which between 2014 and 2017 left roughly 10,000 Yazidis killed or enslaved. According to a UN investigation, the atrocities established “clear and convincing evidence” of genocide against the Yazidis.
The report by MEE, quoted one of the many Yazidi survivors at an informal camp for the internally displaced, “Sara” said “The Christians teach us English in the camp and take us to a Duhok church for two hours between classes”.
“We usually go in groups of between eight and 12. There’s no obligation to go to church but I go because I want to learn English and move abroad, and they are very good to us. They give us food and money.”
“They talk about God, peace, and humanity. They ask us what we want – I say I want to learn English and go abroad, but everyone says something different and they say things and make us repeat them,” she said.
“Some of my friends wear crosses in church but I don’t. Some wear the crosses all the time, but they haven’t converted.”
Yazidi religious leaders are weary of the Christian aid organisations, with one senior figure, Harman Mirza Bak, quoted as describing the development as being “like another genocide”.
“It’s like IS but actually its worse than IS. There’s no difference between someone who forces you to convert at gunpoint like IS and someone who uses your bad circumstances to pressurise you into converting,” he said.
One US-based organsiation, The Resotration, which recently signed an agreement with a local NGO to develop a year-long education project in Sinjar, was cited by several Yazidis as actively promoting the Christian faith, both in Sinjar and in camps, the report revealed.
“They work in a very smart way, teaching English, nursing, midwifery, and sewing,” a local activist explained. “They also hand out grants of between $800 and $2,000 to individuals and, during such activities, they talk about God and lead people towards a path of conversion.”
The claims have been denied by Christian NGOs, including The Restoration Act, however, last month a video clip went viral, after initially being posted on Instagram, showing Christian missionaries praying for the destruction of a Yazidi shrine, in order to “break the power of the Satanic curse that it places on people who enter Jesus”.
In response to the group’s Instagram post, independent Yazidi Press said in a Twitter post: “These individuals travel thousands of miles to exploit a genocide-torn people.” The community have long been accused of devil worship in wider Iraqi society, due to their veneration of Tawus Melek, which many believe is associated with Satan.