Views from a refugee camp: Who gets into heaven?
I have just returned to Vancouver Island from Greek refugee camps where I met a Yazidi man named Jason who told me about his escape from ISIS in Iraq.
His story begins on a desert road where a thunderstorm of black flagged pick-up trucks, machine guns grasped by hooded Muslim fanatics called ISIS, race toward Jason's village in a cloud of smoke and dust - like a forest fire.
Their immediate purpose is to loot the homes, kill the boys and men, and enslave and sell the women to the sex trade. But long-term, their purpose is to get into heaven, according to Jason. It sounds outrageous to me when I hear this.
Jason's large family, nine brothers and sisters and two elderly parents, have no car. They have no way to flee the coming horror of ISIS. Can any Canadian imagine such a moment?
Terrified, Jason gathered his family and phones his friend in the nearby city for help. And through the chaos of fleeing villagers and his fear of ISIS, the brave Muslim friend propelled his car upstream against a desperate current of panicked people, towards the oncoming invasion.
Yazidi villagers attempted to flee to the nearby city using any kind of transport, charging and choking that one narrow escape route. Even the Kurdish soldiers fled, Jason told me, so powerful was the ISIS reputation for cruelty.
Those who couldn't find a way to escape were told by their holy men to wear special scarves, so that God could identify and protect them. Some traditional Yazidi people took that flawed faith-based advice; but predictably, the scarves served to make it easier for ISIS to identify and kill them.
Fortunately, Jason's Muslim friend found the family alive, and they escaped down that road. However, many thousands were killed and Yazidi women are raped and sold by ISIS, who continue to hold them in captivity, even now.
Jason's Yazidi religion, he says, is more ancient than both Christianity and Islam, has been persecuted by Arab Muslims for centuries — comparable with the Christian persecution of Jews. Now re-located in France, his art portrays the ongoing genocide, killings justified by that question 'who gets into heaven'?
It's an absurd question because there are no facts to provide an answer. And into the vacuum of 'no facts', any action or inaction can be justified by any faith. Faith in the rules for entering heaven are more compelling to ISIS than the facts of human suffering.
One painting by Jason depicts a brutal beast inside humankind and an uncaring God, both indifferently watching a Yazidi woman's suffering. It's a dark and depressing reality.
When faith-based thinking replaces fact-based thinking, bad things can happen. An example of this in Canada is our federal government's effort to build more oil infrastructure based on faith in some political deal with Alberta, ignoring the basic facts of global warming.
Canada already suffers from droughts and storms related to climate change. But like the Yazidi holy men's faith in protective scarves, many of us continue with our unchanged lives, as if nothing really bad can happen.
Those who resist acting against climate change are guilty of destroying human lives. ISIS kills people, but then so does smoke from forest fires. So use this fact, then take urgent and meaningful action to drastically limit your use of fossil fuels.
Because unlike Jason, your family and mine have no escape route from tragedy.
Peter Nix, Cowichan Carbon Buster
Maple Bay, B.C.