In the wake of World War I, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire meant a proverbially “blank slate” in the Middle East and Southwest Asia—blank, at least, in the eyes of the Allied West. Much of the boundary lines now defining modern nation-states were created in the aftermath of the two World Wars which so powerfully defined the twentieth century.
The nameless, faceless and ever-stateless Kurds were given no territory, and were thus forced to redefine their nomadic lifestyle once free in the Ottoman territories. Many nations, particularly Turkey, turned their post-war angst and swords on the Kurds, who were at that stage left largely defenseless. They were, and are, unfortunately easily forgotten—yet this did not surprise the Kurdish people, who for generations have carried a proverb to define their experiences: “The Kurds have no friends but the mountains.”
No friends but the mountains.
Now, after the demonic blitzkrieg which so brutally tore through a traumatized Iraq and Levant in 2014 by the Islamic State, the Kurds have fled even further into their mountainous fortress—a landscape so unforgiving, even Saddam Hussein could not penetrate the region. His tanks remain littered on the outskirts of a modern outpost in northern Iraqi Kurdistan. Certainly, the Kurds are not confined to northern Iraq. Many reside throughout Turkey, Iran and Syria (though the long-standing Syrian Civil War has changed much of the demographic landscape)—none of which are particularly hospitable territories; there as well, “the Kurds have no friends but the mountains.”
It is devastating to see entire people groups leave their homes and histories to literally flee for the mountains from tormentors. It is fundamentally more devastating to see entire people groups leave their homes and histories to literally flee from tormentors into the mountains—without a witness of the Man Christ Jesus. Many have still never heard His Name. In an age of hashtags, airplanes and search engines, there is very little we cannot see or know. We know they are without a witness. We know they are fleeing from tormentors. We know they are alone, save for the mountains.
This is our opportunity—and no one has had it quite like we have it now.
We can provide the witness. We can meet them in their flight. We can be better friends.
We can put the mountains to shame.