While you may not meet Kurds at the school gate, you might find a Kurdish ‘Traditional Turkish Barber’ on the UK high street who will set fire to your ears to remove unwanted hair for a princely sum! £14 a cut sounds a lot in recession-hit Iraq and tens of thousands are risking a perilous journey for these economic opportunities in the UK. Rob* asks: how do we connect with these people?
British Christians are adept at using British festivals to proclaim the gospel, but we are far less savvy at engaging with minorities’ festivals. And yet, Newroz (21st March), celebrated by Kurds, Iranians and Afghans, tells a salvation story that bears striking resemblance to the redemption Jesus won on the cross.
Newroz is a time for family get togethers – the Spring Equinox in Iraqi Kurdistan is marked by three days of national holiday – and we would picnic high on the hills to celebrate this ‘Persian New Year’.
It was always the most exciting week; dressing in baggy trousers, enormous cummerbunds and bright sequined dresses, and driving out to the fresh streams and luscious green hills, speckled with spring flowers.
We built deep friendships with Kurdish families on these picnics (“mountain banquets” would be more apt!) We had BBQs, danced, flew kites, and played volleyball, frisbee and backgammon.
We built deep friendships with Kurdish families on these picnics. We had BBQs, danced, flew kites, and played volleyball, frisbee and backgammon.
Perhaps UK Christians can serve asylum seekers by introducing them to some of Britain’s beauty spots, though it is unlikely to be the weather for mountain banquets in late March!
Festivals, legends and epics
Kurds, whose homeland straddles parts of Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria, have used Newroz as a proclamation of their ethnic identity and desire for independence.
They adapted an ancient Persian legend from the epic Shahname, and hail Kawa the Blacksmith as a liberator and founder of the Kurdish nation.
The story goes that Zahhak the tyrant, who had snakes growing out of his shoulders, used to feed them with the brains of two young men each day. Kawa the blacksmith thwarted him by substituting a sheep for one of the young men and releasing the redeemed into a new life in the mountains. He then killed Zahhak and lit fires on the mountains to signify the deliverance of his people.
Kawa the blacksmith thwarted him by substituting a sheep for one of the young men and releasing the redeemed into a new life in the mountains
This is a great bridge into explaining that Christ (Îsa Mesîḧ) is a rescuer. I made a postcard* for my Kurdish neighbours with this verse in two dialects of Kurdish and in English: God himself has come “to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” (Luke 1:74-75)
The legendary figure, Kawa, is a shadow of the true hero – the lowly Nazarene carpenter who came “to destroy the devil’s work”. He is our sacrificial lamb, who won deliverance by his blood for persons from “every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)
Now based in the UK, we are sharing the Good News with Kurdish people, and seeking to train and resource the Church worldwide to better serve them.
If you are interested in giving postcards with these culturally relevant messages to Kurdish neighbours, please contact the UFM main office.
Rob* and Rosina* serve in bi-vocational minstry in the UK and the Middle East
* Names changed for security reasons