First Sign of Hope
Kurdistan (in northern Iraq) has been called the “Cradle of Civilization”. The Bible refers to this part of the world many times. Ancient Mesopotamia (the Greek word for “in the midst of the rivers”) is famous for the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which were the key to the development of civilization. The headwaters of the Tigris originate in eastern Turkey, also known as Turkish Kurdistan, and flow past Mosul (ancient Nineveh), Tikrit, Baghdad, Kut and Basra. The Euphrates also originates in Turkey and flows past Karbala, Hilah (ancient Babylon) and Nasiriyah.
Our modern culture also has its roots in Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurdistan is also known as Media and the Kurds are descendants of the Medes, and there are tens of thousands of archaeological sites in this celebrated land. Biblical connections to some of the discoveries in this area revolve around two time periods: the time of the Patriarchs – early Bronze Age to roughly the first part of the Middle Bronze Age, and the time of the Divided Monarchy – the Iron Age. Why does this matter? It matters because historical findings from ancient civilizations allow people living today to understand the past, their roots and how important preserving this history is to modern times.
Yet this is an area that still suffers from years of destruction, bombing, warring, killing and the persecution of its indigenous people. Ancient historical sites, including very holy and sacred places, artifacts, temples, statues, writings and many other things have been deliberately and completely destroyed by factions that are acting against the best interests of humanity. This is a place where Christians, Muslims, Yazidis, Jews and other minorities have been systematically forced to abandon their homes, lives, culture, and possessions because of fear and persecution.
Still, in the wake of these years of persecution, when most victims of this senseless war and all the killings have lost hope, we witness unforgettable moments that define our common humaity. With the recent liberation of Bashiqa (a word orignating from “Beit Ashiqan”, Arabic words which mean “The house of lovers”) by Kurdish forces – the Peshmerga, the world and locals alike watched, breathless, the finding and replacement of the cross above the local Christian church by these soldiers who understood reverence for symbols and its importance to life in the broad sense. The Kurdish people have longed for peaceful coexistence with all peoples, no matter their religious preference. They seek to rebuild their communities, lives and even their hope for a future to dwell where tolerance and acceptance reign strong. Because in the end humanity is richer for what is learned through dissimilar beliefs and richer for its understanding of our differences..
Not far from this newly liberated town of Bashiqa lies Alqosh a city currently protected by Peshmerga forces. The writings of the Jewish Prophet Nahum, meaning “comforter”, have been considered either prophetic or historical depending on the researcher. He seems to have written at the time of the downfall of Assyria (Nineveh) sometime around 615-612 BC. Prophet Nahum’s tomb is inside the synagogue in Alqosh, seen below..
The Prophet Nahum is venerated as a saint in Eastern Christianity as well. He was buried more than 2600 years ago. When considering this area, Mosul (Nineveh), the major city, which is under siege at present, has undergone enough destruction to last its lifetime. The Prophet Jonah is buried here, his tomb survived more than 2800 years until recently when it was totally destroyed by ISIS. ISIS has played a role in destroying historically important sites, cities where history was played out, civilizations were built and destroyed, prophets shared their wisdom and kings built and destroyed their cities. It seems there cannot be true destruction in this area, even when those in power are bent on creating rubble and pulverizing existing civilization. This area houses humanity, the very cradle of global civilization and development, and the Kurdish Peshmerga have done an outstanding job in protecting and regaining control over this important region.
From Kurdistan flows the start of life as we understand it. Some believe The Garden of Eden was in Mesopotamia, and while archaeologists were excavating a site located on Bradost Mountain, the remains of ten Neanderthals were discovered. These remains date from 35,000 to 65,000 years ago, and the site is known as the Shanidar Cave. In Jarmo, another archaeological site in Southern Kurdistan at the foothills of the Zagros Mountains just east of Kirkuk city, lies one of the oldest agricultural communities in the world, dating back to 7090 BCE.
Current archaeological data confirm that the civilizations that emerged around the Tigris and Euphrates, Mesopotamia in particular, were among the earliest known sedentary agrarian societies,. The civilizations of Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria existed there. This is where Abraham lived before he set out for the Promised Land. Abraham was the father of the three main monotheistic religions; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Despite conflicting accounts, Noah is also said to have been a key figure in this part of Mesopotamia. The cities of Kirkuk and Erbil are among the oldest in the world..
It is within this backdrop of civilization, history and religious significance that the Kurdish forces, the Peshmerga, strive to defeat ISIS. It is a question of protecting life and the very existence of civilization, looking to create a better, more vibrant future, providing freedoms and hope, not just for the indigenous people but for all people regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds. This is OUR WORLD, our beginnings, our history, our life. We all have a stake in helping people survive and thrive. Each life we save, each place we preserve, each small act reflects back on us, referring us to our history, our religion, our people. Sacrifices made for others only strengthen the whole.
This area has immediate and emerging challenges, the displacement of millions of people has swelled the Kurdish population from five million to more than seven million and another million or more people are expected to arrive as a result of the Mosul offensive. These are ethnically and religiously diverse populations living side by side in military conditions, but peaceful in their resolve to endure, be free and live stronger and healthier lives in the future. Basic humanitarian aid is essential and the need is urgent. Winter is upon this area of OUR world, in today’s circumstances not one single individual should die because of cold. Sadly, last year we were not able to effectively provide enough aid soon enough for the refugee children, and some of them froze to death during the winter, which is harsh in this area.
Western thinking has focused on providing refugee placement within its own territories, Bring Hope Humanitarian Foundation values this help, but our concern focuses on help at the source, on the ground, at the very root of the problems that these people experience daily, even on an hourly basis. This more urgent help concerns things essential for existence, not just for some but for us all. We have provided historical perspective about this area to show how this region relates to everyone personally. Bring hope and help life, for as the saying goes: “Whoever saves one life, saves the entire world.”