Monday, February 12, 2007

Perspective: War and mixed marriages threaten ancient faith

A Mandaean baptism

TRENTON, N.J. -- Among the casualties of the Iraq war is a little-known religious faith called Mandaeanism that has survived roughly two millenniums and whose adherents believe that John the Baptist was their great teacher.

More than 60,000 Mandaeans were in Iraq in the early 1990s, but only about 5,000 to 7,000 remain. Many have fled amid targeted killings, rapes, forced conversions and property confiscation by Islamic extremists, according to a report released last week by the New Jersey-based Mandaean Society of America.

Among the roughly 1,500 U.S. Mandaeans, there have been continual phone calls with endangered friends and relatives, collections of money and unsuccessful lobbying efforts in Washington to get Mandaeans out of Iraq, as well as neighboring Jordan and Syria.

"Unfortunately, we're not big in numbers, and numbers talk," said Suhaib Nashi, a pediatrician who helps run the Mandaean Society of America out of his Morristown, N.J., home.

Read the rest at the Chicago Tribune