The idea that a seemingly small gesture has the power to grow into something amazing is one of the core beliefs of Carry the Future. One of our volunteers, Aline Lindemann, a professor, writer, and scholar, has created a life-changing movement inspired by the Yazidi refugees she met while on a Carry the Future distribution trip
In October of 2016, feeling frustrated and helpless, Aline Lindemann felt the urge to do something to help refugees during the Syrian crisis. Through a friend, she found Carry the Future and signed on for a distribution trip. This distribution trip became the impetus for a project, Yazidi Journeys, that “seeks to celebrate the strength of Yazidi people, share the beauty of their traditions, honor the history that led to Yazidism in the present, and document a religion undergoing rapid change across multiple continents.”
A religion that predates Christianity and Judaism, Yazidism should need no introduction, but many people do not know much about the religion or that it even exists. At the core of Yazidism is the intersection of spirituality and nature. Believers recognize the divinity and sacredness in all and have respect for beliefs beyond their own. However, this religion is also often misunderstood, which has led to persecution of its believers.
On August 3, 2014—now an important day of commemoration for Yazidis—ISIS invaded Northern Iraq, killing Yazidi men and forcing Yazidi women and girls into sexual slavery. Some Yazidis fled into the mountains, while others were able to escape. Forced into exile, Yazidis around the globe have worked to keep their culture and beliefs alive. Keeping a connection to their culture is important to every refugee; for Yazidi refugees, however, it is paramount. Unique to Yazidism is that a person is born into this religion—you cannot convert to it; therefore, if the people die out, the religion dies out as well.
In Northern Greece in October 2016, a blisteringly cold winter was beginning. Kicking off the baby bed program, the trip was rigorous. The team worked for ten days visiting at least eleven camps. In spite of the cold, refugees were living in tents. Aline did her best to not let anyone see her teeth chattering, knowing that she would not be sleeping on the ground that night as the refugees would.
With the help of an interpreter, Aline heard first-hand accounts from the refugees. Eager to share their stories, many of the refugees used cellphones to show footage from their journey over perilous waters. Listening to their description of the dangerous journey and seeing the horrid conditions of the camp, Aline began to get angry knowing that very little was being done to help. As she grew angrier, one of the elders grabbed the interpreter’s arm and asked him to translate: “Do not be angry—we are grateful to God to be together.”
Those words highlight the trust and warmth Aline felt from the Yazidis during the distribution trip. While they did not enjoy sleeping on the ground in tents, they were more focused on the fact that they were alive. They were grateful to be with each other and more than relieved to have escaped ISIS. It is this spirit of resilience that has helped the Yazidis survive.
After the distribution trip, Aline began to work in earnest to inform the public of the Yazidis. Inspired by the elder’s words, instead of focusing on the crisis itself, her work revolves around the diaspora that has been created.
A diaspora is “a community of people who live outside their shared country of origin or ancestry but maintain active connections with it.” With the inability to return to their homeland, Yazidis have worked to keep their connection to home alive. In Lincoln, NE, the Yazidi Cultural Center has become a place for over 3,000 Yazidi refugees to connect with their culture, keep their customs alive, and acclimate to life in a new country.
This is the story that Aline aims to tell: a story of humanity and its ability to overcome. In order to gather information from around the globe, she created a facebook page, Yazidi Journeys. To tell the story of Yazidism, Aline will focus on sharing its people’s stories. A culture with an important oral tradition, Aline plans to create a collection of Yazidi poetry and short stories. Eventually, she wants to build a poetry-writing curriculum that will give Yazidi people agency over their story. Through poetry and story-telling, Aline hopes the world will learn the beautiful and peaceful nature of Yazidism.
While Aline has worked with various NGOs, such as Lifting Hands International and Yazda, and will continue to work with others, she is grateful for the opportunity that Carry the Future gave her. Without the work of Carry the Future, Yazidi Journeys may never have been born.
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Continue to follow Aline’s work with Yazidi Journeys! More updates will be coming!