Gerard Russell on religious minorities in the Middle East

90 minuten

This programme will be in English Video-On-Demand coming up via De Balie TV and De Balie Vimeo. With the advancing forces of the Islamic State (IS) and its targeted campaign against minority groups by killing those unwilling to convert to Islam many minority faiths have become endangered such as the Shabaks, Yazidis, the Turkmens and the Assyrian Christians. There are very few experts who can provide clarification about the current position of these minority faiths. One of the few who can do so is Gerard Russell, a former British diplomat who had widely traveled in Iraq and other regions in the Middle East and writer of the book Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms. De Balie director Yoeri Albrecht speaks with him about his book. Afterwards, Petra Sijpesteijn – professor of Arabic Language and Culture at Leiden University – joins the conversation.  The Middle East has long sheltered many distinctive and strange faiths: one regards the Greek prophets as incarnations of God, another reveres Lucifer in the form of a peacock, and yet another believes that their followers are reincarnated beings who have existed in various forms for thousands of years. These religions represent the last vestiges of the magnificent civilizations in ancient history: Persia, Babylon, Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs. Their followers have learned how to survive foreign attacks and the perils of assimilation. But today, with the Middle East in turmoil, they face greater challenges than ever before. Since the early 20th century we witnessed the rise of militant, extremist Islamic sects. This development, along with the rippling effects of Western invasion, now pose existential threats to these minority faiths. And as more and more of their youth flee to the West in search of greater freedoms and job prospects, these religions face the dire possibility of extinction. About Gerard Russell
Gerard Russell worked for 14 years as a British and United Nations diplomat, and has lived in Cairo, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Kabul, and Jeddah. He also pioneered work by the British government to address Middle Eastern audiences in Arabic, in 2001 to 2003. He was awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for this work in 2002. He is a graduate of Oxford University, has an M.A. in philosophy from London University, and was a Research Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at the Harvard Kennedy School from 2010 to 2011. He is a Senior Fellow with the New America Foundation’s International Security Program as well as a Senior Associate of the Foreign Policy Centre in London. Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms is his first book, and took him four and a half years to write, including journeys to eight different countries.
Photo: Yazidi women escaping from ISIS. Source: Flickr Creative Commons         Aanbevolen literatuur:
Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms
auteur: Gerard Russell

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