Yasine prepared to celebrate the Yezidi New Year yesterday like he always has, with plastic bag in-hand, ready to collect candy from neighbors. But this year isn’t like every other year.
“I couldn’t find my friends,” the 9-year-old said over the phone to his uncle in the U.S “It’s not like before, Uncle. We don’t even have houses anymore.'”
Yasin and his family live in a refugee camp, as do 430,000 other Yezidis who have been displaced by threats and attacks from Daesh (also know as ISIS). And on April 15, faith leaders from around the San Francisco Bay Area gathered to call for an end to the violence and humanitarian aid to be sent to the Yezidis.
“I urge you, I beg you, I command you in the name of God, STOP the killing. Stop the murder of our brothers and sisters who are sacred dwelling places of God, ” said Rev. Steve Harms, member of Interfaith of San Ramon Valley, quoting Óscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador.
The press conference was sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, a United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circle, and Yezidis International in partnership with the Marin Interfaith Council, Silicon Valley Interreligious Council and Interfaith Center at the Presidio Cooperation Circles.
The 18 speakers came from a broad spectrum of faith traditions — Baha’i, various Christian denominations, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Yazidism.
“All of these instances [of genocide] in history are stopped at some point, but they’re stopped really through the raising of awareness, the education of people and the bringing in of humanitarian aid and we’re speaking out right now in the process of raising awareness,” said Terence Clark, President of the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County.
The word genocide has been on the lips of many recently. When Elias Kasem, president of Yezidis International, talks to his nephew Yasine, he usually teaches him how to say and spell very simple English words, such as “yes”, “no,” or “How are you?”
This week, it was something different.
“Uncle, I saw a word that’s being used everywhere,” Yasine said, “It is called ‘genocide.’ Can you teach me how to spell that?”
Kasem, who joined the press conference via Skype, reflected, “A 9-year-old boy is asking what genocide is and how to spell it, yet he is the one experiencing it.”
But it this group of faith leaders succeeds in their mission to raise awareness and aid for the Yezidis, he soon won’t be.
“Who will prove neighbor to these?,” asked Rev. Dr. Andrew Kille, chair of the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council. “Awareness is the first step…but it doesn’t matter what you know it matters what you do with what you know.”
The group is asking individuals and organizations to sign onto the petition they’ve created. Read more about that here. They will also be holding an organizing meeting on April 27. For more details, see the flyer below.
News of this event was also published in the Examiner. Read that report here.
This post was written by Sari Heidenreich, URI North America Regional Coordinator.