Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Living water for Yezidis

Roland Clarke

It has been three years since I began befriending a number of Yezidis who escaped from recent genocidal attacks by ISIS not long before I met them. Some readers may not be familiar with the religious beliefs of the Yezidi people who number under one million worldwide. Historically they are an off-shoot from Islam.1 They believe as do Christians and Muslims in one God who created everything, however, they have a number of beliefs and traditions unique to them. It has been a blessing to see God opening doors among these people now that they are living in relative safety. After much prayer, patience and perseverance, several coworkers and I are seeing amazing opportunities unfold to share the Good News using The Action Bible.

Three months ago marked a turning point as we arranged to hold a picnic in the park attended by several dozen Yezidi friends. Subsequently we established some 'in-person' conversation circles in order to help them learn English (mainly speaking and listening). The Covid lock-down measures were necessitating virtual learning which proved to be extremely difficult, so much so, that a number of them were no longer attending online classes.

A few weeks ago four adults involved in a conversation circle welcomed a suggestion to add children's pictorial Bible stories from The Action Bible as a regular feature of our weekly sessions. Although language limitations have seriously impeded our progress, we are fortunate that one of them understands English considerably better than the others. She is willing and usually able to translate, although sometimes we have to resort to using 'google-translate'.

Meanwhile ten weeks ago the Lord opened an unexpected door to meet a new Yezidi family who urgently needed prayer for their son, a teenager afflicted with severe mental health issues. Interestingly, we were put in touch with this family by a converted Yezidi couple living in another city who have known them for many years. God answered our prayers for this young man in a dramatic way. Ever since, this family has been attending church. They have been embraced by the family of God and feel deeply blessed!

In addition we have been able to visit them regularly in their home. We began reading from John four which tells how the Samaritans in Sychar discovered the gift of living water, that is, salvation through God's Messiah. Our plan, going forward is to continue reading and discussing simple stories of Jesus, geared to the language level of a 6-11 year old child as some family members have only attained level two English.

One one occasion while visiting the Suleiman family a phone call came from a close friend Hasan who lives far away. They introduced me to Hasan and let me speak with him. What a joy it was for me to discover yet another Yezidi who loves Jesus having accepted Christ eight years ago. He began sharing his love of singing and sang “How great thou art” in English over the speaker phone. We then asked him to sing a song in Kurmanji, their heart language, which he did enthusiastically. Having witnessed first-hand how much the Suleiman family appreciated hearing Christian songs, we hope to soon introduce simple choruses and songs to our weekly Bible stories.

The church where this family now attends has agreed to let us hold a gathering in a large room suitable for up to 20 keeping Covid restrictions in mind. Meanwhile a local Yezidi family who are close friends of the Suleimans also seem interested to learn more about Jesus!

At the same time these events were unfolding we received an email with a Kurmanji recording of the wise saying by Solomon, “God has planted eternity in the human heart, yet even so people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) This verse connects perfectly with the story of the Samaritan woman in John chapter four who was thirsty for 'living water,' that is, eternal life.

Another story highlighting the theme of eternal life is the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter ten. Jesus was prompted to tell this story when a Jewish religious leader asked him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” We expect to continue exploring this theme when we visit these families.

In general, Yezidis agree with Solomon's observation about humans having a heart-felt longing for eternity. However, we must be careful not to assume that it is easy for Yezidis to be curious about reading Scripture and embarking on a journey to discover the long awaited Messiah as foretold by the prophets. Usually it is necessary to persevere at showing hospitality and kindness while also praying for opportunities to sow seeds.

Longing for eternity, heartache and comfort

Let me invite you to think about another topic that our Yezidi friends are all too familiar with: mourning and tears. In Ecclesiastes chapter seven Solomon writes,

A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born. Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies — so the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time. Better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool. (Ecclesiastes 7:1-5)

Six years ago many Yezidis in Iraq and Syria experienced intense persecution, indeed, they were nearly annihilated. This massacre resulted in many Yezidis families losing husbands, fathers and sons. In light of these painful memories Ecclesiastes chapter seven is profoundly relevant.

The sorrowful shadow still lingering over Yezidi people calls to mind similar imagery in Isaiah 25 where God promises he will destroy the shroud of death that hangs so tragically over mankind. In fact, the LORD “will wipe away the tears from all faces” replacing them with rejoicing and gladness. (v. 6-9) In due course, we intend to explore with our dear friends how sadness and sorrow actually help us comprehend the proverbial saying, “the day you die is better than the day you are born.” (cf. Philippians 1:21)

The bottom line is: “Jesus destroyed death and has brought life and immortality [eternity] to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10) As we walk along this path hand in hand with our still grieving Yezidi friends we need to be empathetic and compassionate. It is quite likely that the apostle Paul had in mind Christ's experience of weeping at the graveside of Lazarus when he instructed believers to “weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15 cf. John 11:35)

While we need to show empathetic compassion for others let us also acknowledge the courageous and powerful kind of love Jesus displayed when he confronted the evil that underlies death. First Corinthians 15:26 uses battle imagery saying that the “last enemy” Christ destroys is death. This imagery is reinforced in John 11:33 where Christ displays strong hatred against evil, “When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.” (NLT, bold added) Moments later, Jesus broke death's grip over Lazarus, raising him from the grave!


Those of us ministering in the vast harvest field of newcomers and refugees need a helping hand from 'ordinary' Christians to come alongside us, showing simple friendship to these lonely, traumatized and needy people. Another way of lending practical support is by participating in informal conversation circles. If God's Spirit is prompting you to get involved don't hesitate to contact us. We are connected with a wide network of God's people who are reaching out to refugees, especially the Yezidi diaspora.

You may be interested to read some articles that explore these themes in more detail:

Is death the end?
God of Comfort
Timeless Truth Encrypted in Ancient Wisdom
Journey to Jesus: Storying the Bible
What Every Christian Needs to Know about Sharing the Gospel with Muslims

All Bible quotations are taken from the New Living Translation unless otherwise noted.

If you wish to correspond or ask questions feel free to contact me here.


1. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “The origins of the Yazīdī faith can be traced to areas of the Kurdish mountains of northern Iraq where pockets of devotion to the fallen Umayyad dynasty persisted long after the death of the last Umayyad caliph, the half-Kurdish Marwan II, in 750. Some descendants of the dynasty settled in the area, further encouraging the development of mystical traditions in which the Umayyad lineage figured prominently. In the early 12th century, Sheikh ʿAdī ibn Musāfir, a Sufi and a descendant of the Umayyads, settled in Lālish, north of Mosul, and began a Sufi order known as the ʿAdwiyyah. Although his own teachings were strictly orthodox, the beliefs of his followers soon blended with local traditions.”

End Notes

Springboard for Chronological Bible storying

Mankind's heart longing for eternity coupled with our inability to “see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end” paves the way to reconsider Adam and Eve's story, noting how they felt heartache and grief when they disobeyed God and suffered banishment from his presence (including physical and spiritual death). Starting in Genesis enables us to gain a better understanding of the “whole scope of God's work.” Thereafter, we need to continue exploring the unfolding story of mankind's quest for immortality and the healing of our ruptured relationship with our creator; see Homeward Bound.