Sects in the Cities: meet 10 minority religions in the Middle East
Bring up faith in the Middle East, and three Abrahamic religions will dominate the convo. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism form the triad of True Faith, but other native-born belief systems have also shaped the face of our region, providing identity and moral guidance for people here and across the world.
The Middle East is rich in religious history, and where strong faiths collide and compete for dominance, persecution and war inevitably follow.
The rights and religious freedom of the Zoroastrians - perhaps the planet’s oldest organized faith - were first trampled by Alexander the Great and continued to be abused by the religious fervor that swept across Iran in the 1979 revolution. Continue reading below »
Mandeans were all but voiceless under Saddam Hussein, yet since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the Sabean-Mandeans have struggled for survival against contemporary sectarian conflict and religious extremism.
And most recently, the fate of the Yazidis played out on the world’s television screens, first stranded on Mount Sinjar, then tales of atrocities and forced conversion, and stories of women captured for use as sex slaves.
The millions who turn to the Quran, Old and New Testaments will keep the teachings of their prophets protected, but the raft of smaller faith systems is sinking in the wake of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and al-Nusra chaos. Our ancient religions have become some of the biggest casualties of war. Some of them are nearing extinction.
Here, we fill in a few gaps around the three big boys of belief with a quick snapshot of the makeup of the Middle East’s minority religions. Warning: There may lie some fogginess around the classification of these smaller groupings into strict religious categories (Muslim, Christian, Jewish); and that confusion remains given that some of these sects fall through the cracks.
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