- Middle East -

Mandaeism is a monotheistic religion – and the oldest existing Gnostic religion. Worldwide, there are about 100,000 people who belong to this religious community. Their houses of worship are built near flowing waters, symbolizing both God and life. Baptism is the most important religious ritual. Mandaeans are baptized more than once in their lives – also on occasion of their wedding, for example.

Although they are recognized by Islam as followers of a book religion, they are discriminated against. From the viewpoint of Islamist extremists, Mandaeans are unbelievers – which is why they are even hunted down, abducted, raped, and robbed. Due to these threats, many Mandaeans are so desperate and frightened that they convert to Islam or decide to flee.

In Iraq, smaller religious communities like the Mandaeans, who were already discriminated against and threatened under the regime of Saddam Hussein, are still not safe from persecution – even after his fall. The fact that some Muslim groups have become more radical has even led to an increase in attacks against the Mandaeans, who are considered as “unclean”. Their cultural centers were destroyed and their homes were taken – in places where they had been living since the 5th century. The survivors fled to the larger cities in Iraq, such as Baghdad.

Today, the Mandaeans are scattered from Iraq to Australia, with communities in Iran, USA, Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany.

Further information about the Mandaeans

Header photo: University of Exeter via Flickr