The Fall of a Syrian Pagan

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 21, 2013 — 86 Comments

Earlier this week I pointed to the fact that modern Paganism is now a global phenomenon. That we aren’t simply a small religious movement isolated to North America and the UK, and that we will increasingly be affected by issues we thought relegated to “over there.” Things that “aren’t our problem.” When I wrote that piece I knew that “Yana,” a Syrian Pagan, and friend of Pagan Newswire Collective Managing Editor Cara Schulz, had been killed, but it wasn’t my story to tell, my obituary to write. Today, at PNC-Minnesota, Cara tells the story of her death, learned through another Middle Eastern source that she considers reliable.

Syria in ruins.

Syria in ruins.

“What happened to her is so ugly I’m struggling to … I can’t even finish that sentence.  I’ll just tell you what I have learned, and although I trust this source, there is no way for me to independently confirm this.  Some time in late June, Yana’s brother, who had become radicalized, informed the rebels that his sister was a Pagan.  They took her, tortured her, then her brother publicly denounced her as a whore and a witch.  After that, she was drug out onto the street, raped, and killed.

What I remember about Yana is she was always joking, always smiling.  She injected joy into everything she did, from talking about the Gods she honored to showing off her latest hair style.  She had more hair combs than anyone I’ve ever known.  She wanted to come to America and eat bacon.  She was fascinated and repelled by the thought of bacon so I would tell her about putting it in chocolate and on maple ice cream.  She was nervous about getting married.  Her father doted on her and she worried a husband might not be so kind or forgiving of her free spirit.  She told me younger men like to show how manly they are so she thought about telling her parents to find an older man for her to marry.  It was hard to see her become less exuberant as the fighting started, and then drew closer.  To see fear creep in and hear from her less often.   How sad she was that she never left her home anymore because it wasn’t safe.”

In January, Schulz wrote about how the small and isolated number of modern Pagans in places like Syria and Egypt were falling silent as fighting and political turmoil reached new heights.

Yana's last communication to Cara Schulz.

Yana’s last communication to Cara Schulz.

“The situation in Syria appears to be more grave, according to the last messages I received from the five Pagans I chat with regularly. They spoke of the fighting and how places looked like Beirut, buildings just shells of themselves, rubble blocking the streets. They detailed neighbors going missing. Islamic fundamentalist patrols that monitor behavior and took violent action against people who violated rules and customs. They debated fleeing, worried about being outed as a Pagan, and started destroying or burying altars. Three began attending local mosques to show their devotion to Islam.

Yana dropped off first.  I last heard from her in June of 2012.  Bayan, another Syrian Pagan, also hadn’t heard from her but said fighting in her area was intense.  He said he had seen patrols targeting young women and men, beating them and he said it was rumored they were raping them.  He thought perhaps she fled to a safer area or was silent to avoid detection.”

These aren’t Christians or Muslims accused of sorcery, these aren’t dissidents accused of heresy, these are our people. These are modern Pagans, people interested in reviving their own culture’s pre-Christian past, people who were, and are, deeply curious about what their Western cousins were doing, what we were thinking. These were our people killed in this conflict “over there.” Our people in hiding, on the run, pretending to be (the right kind of) Muslims, trying to survive. The situation brings to mind a classic chant often used as public Pagan rituals by Morning Feather and Will Shepardson.

“We are an old people, we are a new people, we are the same people, stronger than before.”

To my mind, the chant was about continuity, about solidarity. That modern Pagans were diverse, that we came from different sources, but that we were a movement who were now coming together to be stronger, to declare ourselves to the world. It’s time that our movement claimed the full responsibility for our success. We have been working a global spell for the last fifty years, telling everyone that the Witches, the Pagans, the Heathens, the old ways, were back, that everyone who felt that connection should embrace it, should return to the old gods, should join us in becoming a movement of people who were stronger than when we fell before. The spell has worked, now we must embrace what it has brought us, however imperfect, or inconvenient, or painful some of it may be. When you try to change the dominant religious paradigms of the world, people will die, they will be placed in danger by mobs who want power, who fear change, who want to establish never-ending towers of dominance. This is not hyperbole, because far from the (relative) privilege and safety of the West, there are people who heard our chants, our calls, and are now hiding and dying as a result.

What can we do? What should we do? We start by engaging with the world, by re-doubling our interfaith efforts, by supporting the organizations that are sending people to speak for us. Beyond that, we can support Doctors Without Borders, who have a long and positive track-record of helping people in war-stricken lands (there’s an option to earmark for Syria), and we can educate ourselves on all those issues “over there.” This self-education doesn’t mean we all have to agree on how we should respond, but we can at least start from a place of awareness when we do have these conversations. Finally, we can pray, do magic, and do ritual, for all Pagans across the world endangered because of who they are, because of where they are, realizing that such workings are the prelude, not the end-point, of action.

ADDENDUM: For those of you wanting to donate to Doctors WIthout Borders in Yana’s name, Cara Schulz has set up a special page at their website for that purpose, and hopes to raise $1000 for relief efforts.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://www.facebook.com/quedarkrose11062009 Amanda Williams

    This is so sad. May the blessings of the Gods be with them all.

  • Nick Ritter

    I read the obituary at PNC Minnesota, and I thought: “What kind of a man could betray his sister in such a way?” My feelings on the matter are my own, and not important in the larger scheme of things; but I strongly feel that such a man deserves death for the betrayal of his family. And then it occurs to me that their parents, including her doting father, will have lost two children over this; and I am torn.

    For those who tortured, raped and killed her, though, there should be no mercy, and no qualms.

    I know that this sort of thing has been happening for many years, and that is horrifying enough; to have it happen to a friend’s friend brings that horror out of abstraction into clear focus. These words are worth little. I am helpless to right this.

    • William Hood

      You are absolutely right.

    • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

      A kinslayer should receive no mercy, nor remorse. Blood should be thicker than water, and stronger than steel.

      • Snail

        Meanwhile, in the real world, blood is all too frequently neither, and bloody retribution is a poor substitute for justice.

        • Nick Ritter

          You may think that “bloody retribution is a poor substitute for justice,” but I do not recognize the distinction. In point of fact, I think that the anemic moral codes of the modern world all-too-often are an escape from responsibility, from involving people in their own fate. If someone were to kill my sister (may it never happen), a long-drawn-out, theoretically impartial (but in reality, inhumanely clinical and potentially corrupt) legal wrangle would never satisfy me: only hot blood on my hands from the killer could do that.

          The instinct for vengeance is not the opposite of justice; it is the root of justice.

          • Snail

            Very droll. Perhaps you were a Klingon in a previous life.

          • Nick Ritter

            You are clearly a troll in this one.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

    How anyone could believe any god would demand such depravity is beyond me. I guess it’s just indicative of their own mental state. I pray she has found peace in death from the constant fear and violence. I also pray for the safety of the family still living that did not betray her.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      There are some rather unpleasant gods out there, though.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

        Perhaps. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but as a Roman polytheist, the basic worldview is that deities are inherently good, even if they aren’t all sparkles and rainbows. But, as I said, I don’t have all the answers.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          That is fair. I will quickly point you to the Thuggee cult of India. Essentially they were organised gangs of assassins devoted to the Hindu goddess, Kali.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1066316113 Jocelyne Berengaria Houghton

            While the term ‘thug’ does derive from the Thugee cult, I believe that Thugee-as-cult-of-Kali has been debunked as British Raj propaganda. I am a devotee of Ma Kali, and don’t deny that She is fierce and terrible – but She is also loving and beneficent. The world in all its horror and glory is Her lila, her Divine Play. Jai Maa.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I thought that it was still up for debate. I should point out that the concept is that the Thuggees may have mostly (but, perhaps, not universally) Kali devotees, but not all worshippers of Kali were/are Thuggees.

            I don’t knock her for this. Destruction is a vital part of the universe.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1066316113 Jocelyne Berengaria Houghton

            Perhaps debunked is too strong a word. I’ve only read one book on the subject, Kevin Rushby’s Children of Kali: Through India in Search of Bandits, the Thug Cult, and the British Raj.
            http://www.kevinrushby.com/kali.php

            “His investigation leads him to the conclusion that the thugs were not a hereditary religious cult of human sacrificers but most likely a legend created on basis of European prejudices of that time, started by the `thug-hunter’ Sleeman and propagated by fellow Victorians.” (from an Amazon.co.uk review, as I have a poor memory, heh.)

            I will have to do more research.

            Here’s the Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thuggee

            We are agreed on your larger point, that destruction is vital part of the universe.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            From the Wiki:
            “[Thuggees] were devoted to Kali, a Hindu goddess associated with violence and sexuality. They were first mentioned in the Ẓiyāʾ-ud-Dīn Baranī (English: History of Fīrūz Shāh) dated around 1356.”

            There is also a section on the dispute between scholars over the 21st century revisionism of Thuggee as religious (or not).

  • Nia

    I feel that now is the time for any of us who are still in the broom closet to come out. We must stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who live in fear. The more of us who are public about our beliefs, the more of us will be counted. The more of us there are to be counted, the easier it will be to shine a light on the need for awareness, sensitivity, and protection for those Pagans living in less tolerant parts of the world. For those who cannot safely come out publicly, I think we need to find a way to gather their voices, anonymously and safely, online where we can really bring global awareness to the grave danger these dear souls face. I’m glad to be outside of organized religion but because we aren’t an organized religion, we have to find more grassroots ways of being our own PR, as it were, in order to gain wider acceptance and thus safety.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven

    An important story, thank you for bringing it to our attention. I will be sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Carron/100001353268347 David Carron

    My usual response of “condolences on the family” does not exactly cut it here. This was a sick and depraved act.

  • Franklin Evans

    In partial answer to Nick, whose sentiments I share competely…
    My family history includes the Yugoslav civil war. My mother was a teenager in Zagreb, my father an officer in the army, when Tito started the communist uprising and subsequent campaigns. Remember, please, that this was (and again is) a region rife with intense hatreds along religious lines.
    My mother told the story of a young man she knew who was courting her. He met her one day to proudly declare that he had “turned in” his own parents as enemies of the communist revolution, as if that would endear him to her. Perhaps he didn’t know or forgot that hers was a Jewish family, and the shoah was already sending waves through their lives.
    My father told the story of his father (this must be labeled apocryphal, but is nonetheless plausible) sitting in prison awaiting execution. He asked his communist keepers about his sons, who returned a few days later with the heads of his two eldest sons as an answer.
    I don’t have an answer for you, Nick. I see insane individuals second-hand and in-person, and I watch our society deal with them as individuals with attempts at healing (and sometimes with punishment, it must be added). I then look at current and historical examples of mass insanity, with no one around or capable of dealing with it with punishment, let alone healing. In our helplessness, with our vain words, all we can do is offer our tears and hope the gods give their victims peace.

  • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

    I did not know her. We had different paths. Different philosophies. Wholly different lives.

    Yet she is my sister.

    She will take her place with my Honored, Beloved and Ancestral Dead. She will stand tall with my Heroes and the martyrs of my faith.

    I will not forget her.

    Ever.

    • Cat C-B

      Yes.

      I wish I had a photograph, to take its place on my ancestor altar until Samhain. I will lay a place for her at the Ancestor Feast, photo or no…

      It is a good reminder to cherish the international contacts I do have, and to be willing to go the extra mile, translating, listening, explaining. We need to care for one another.

      So sad.

  • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

    I’m struggling to find words for this. I’m torn between a back-breaking level of depression that things like this will continue to happen as pagans of every stripe become more common, before we reach the “acceptance” side and a rage that calls for revenge of some sort. That there is nothing I can do about that kills me. Sure, the beneficial things mentioned here, but I guess I mean on a simple, hands on visceral level, I can’t do anything.

    I know some of my religious cousins conform to pacifist principles. I think that is honorable. But events like this remind me why I don’t keep those same principles. Though the urge to strike out is wild and incoherent and must be controlled, things like this, combined with the much less dangerous but more regular incidents in the US, make me think that there must be some of us willing to push back. I think that saddens me more than anything, that such a thought should be necessary.

    As for the brother himself, traitor to blood and home…may the Gods curse him to the cowards death he deserves for this. May Dian Cécht leave his wounds to fester, may Lugh weaken his hand, and may an Mórrígan never leave his side nor give him a nights rest.

    • Nia

      You have a warrior’s heart, my friend. I, for one, am glad that there are many among us who have your fire. It is good to see such strength and spirit. We must all find useful applications for our passion. Each of us must, in our own way, stand in support of our brothers and sisters. We are part of a growing global tribe. In any tribe, there will always be room for both the *noble* warrior and for the pacifist. Each has their time, place, and role. Thank you for your willingness to “push back.” As a fellow daughter of Morrigan, I have no doubt that she will give this man no peace so long as he embraces this path of cruelty, betrayal, and bloodshed.

    • MertvayaRuka

      I’m pretty much on the same page with you. While I recognize and I respect those who are pacifists and I do not believe in revenge, I do not agree that passive non-violence is the solution to every conflict. What worked during the Salt March does not work when there is no one to be outraged at your plight and no society that prides itself on “fair play” behind those attacking you. What worked in Birmingham, Alabama does not work when there are no TV cameras or sympathetic audience observing.

      People can be warriors without being thugs or conquerors. As Nia said, there’s room for both the warrior and the pacifist in this tribe.

  • FannyFae

    May Sekhmet, who was also worshiped in Syria, restore Ma’at and may those responsible be held to that. Most importantly, however, may Yana find peace in the Beautiful West.

    • M

      mhm. :)

  • Cara Schulz

    We’ve started a Tribute page for Yana at Doctors Without Borders “Pagans Donating to Syrian Relief – In Yana’s Name. The scope of the war there is unbelievable. Syrai was a modern country with good roads, a solid electrical grid, and modern hospitals. In many parts, that’s all gone and people are hungry, sick, cold, and can’t travel or reach medical care. They are enduring mass fighting and attacks.

    We’ll keep the page open for 1 week. Thank you.

    http://events.doctorswithoutborders.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.personalCampaign&participantID=1250

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1066316113 Jocelyne Berengaria Houghton

      Thank you for this, Cara – I will post the info about your Doctors Without Borders fundraising page on the Pagans Without Borders (see what we did there?) fb page this evening.

      This news is so heartbreaking; it’s been haunting me all day. I send my condolences to you as Yana’s friend, and now her voice in this world. I wonder, are you able to share any details about her Pagan practice – her tradition, her tutelary deity(s) – with which we can honour her in ritual or meditation?

      Waes hal,
      Jocelyne, Lady Jake

    • Hecate_Demetersdatter

      Cara, That’s a lovely idea. Thank you.

    • cernowain greenman

      Even with this, I still feel very helpless knowing there’s nothing I can do to stop the violence against Pagans in the Middle East.

    • Cat C-B

      Thank you for giving us a way to show our respect, Cara. It is a real kindness to us, her unknown community.

      Blessings.

  • triaugeyenotorI

    that made me cry.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Jason proposes a terrible responsibilty for the Western Pagan community, if indeed our three generations of open search for pre-Christian roots inspired like action in places where it isn’t safe, or where it used to be safe because a tyrant repressed religious extremists but now the tyrant is gone and chaos rules. I concur with the above list of things we should do, not just because the victims are “our people” but because we have some responsibility.

  • lyradora

    This is just … ugh.

  • Arjil

    So, apart from being distraught and disturbed for all the obvious reasons, I’m torn on the subject of what to do about it. True, interfaith understanding and increased respect and awareness are essential things for a rational, peaceful world. But the pagan community- we have the tools at our disposal to actively Do Something About This. Namely we have Magick. Why, then, aren’t there large community workings to prevent this sort of thing- To blind the eyes of those who name themselves our enemy, To deafen their ears, bind their hands, and to shield and hide our fellows who walk in dangerous places? There are darker things on my mind as well- Lessons that could be called down, but I know many in the community are uncomfortable with such notions. As a community, the protections at least, we Could reliably set about doing. We have Magick. We should Use it.

    • Charles Cosimano

      Well, if you want to call down fire from heaven on them, there are folks right across the border of Syria who are certainly capable of doing it with the proper magickal prodding.

      • Nick Ritter

        And will this fire miss the innocent, or will they be burned, too?

        • Rhoanna

          Does it ever entirely miss the innocent? Is that even the right question to ask, when considering doing something to oppose actions where many innocents are killed?

          • Arjil

            Why use the people across the border, why resort to conventional means? It’s Magick. Throw down on the perpetrators of these evil acts directly, and creatively, not by proxy- done correctly, why would there be innocents harmed? It would be irresponsible to unleash such curses willy-nilly, of Course you’d craft it to avoid unintended casualty. I mean nightmares, wrecked luck, and undeniably Weird personal calamity- all with the aim of reminding them and those who think like them that there’s a reason all the old stories tell you not to cross a witch. As a community we could call that down. But as I said, Guarding, Shielding, and Hiding ARE something the community at large could do, with no ill reprocussions and nobody has to sully their karma in the process.

          • http://www.walkofthefallen.com Labrys

            I don’t believe acting for justice hurts my karma. And if I am wrong? I’ll happily take the hit…I already spent yesterday afternoon in spellwork to seek and destroy her betrayers and her killers. They don’t deserve less.

          • Arjil

            Right there with you. And we’re not the only ones.

          • Nick Ritter

            I think it is always worth considering the consequences of any action to their fullest extent.

            Here’s the issue, as I see it (also with the caveat that I would rather not have the attention be shifted from Yana’s death to military action in Syria): it seems to me that wherever a power-vacuum occurs in the Muslim world, it is quickly filled by Islamic militants. They are poised to benefit from instability, and they are popular enough to convince enough of the populace that they’re better than whoever is in power now.

            I don’t know what to do about any of this; funding the Islamic militants who do things like torture, rape, and murder women for being Pagan is clearly morally culpable, and against the interests of Paganism. I am not convinced that direct military action in Syria would serve the interests of Paganism in the long run, either.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          The innocents are burning already, are they not?

          • Nick Ritter

            Some are, yes. Do you think that war on Syria will help Pagans in Syria? In the long run, even?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            No. I think that respect of borders and non funding of either side in civil conflicts is the far more appropriate course of action.

          • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

            I’m sorry, because we generally agree. But from an international relations/foreign policy perspective your wish is amazingly naive. No one will stand aside, if our respective countries do, it simply means someone else will fill the vacuum. Potentially someone worse. The doctrine of non-intervention in domestic affairs has been pushed pretty heavily by Russia and China, and I think it’s fairly obvious why.

            Conflicts like this are so messy because basically ever action has negative consequences, and deciding which has the least requires hindsight we don’t have.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I don’t wish.

            I follow the doctrine of non-intervention because I don’t want to think that, some day, unwanted intervention will happen in my own area.

            Also, I am very much not a globalist. (Probably the political ideal I oppose the strongest.)

          • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

            I’ve seen non-intervention abused too many times to have any faith in it as a practical policy.

            Theoretically? It’s great. In practice? I’ve never seen it be anything but a cover for rights abusers.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Work both ways, though. Look at recent ‘interventions’. Essentially exploitation of discord in order to gain resources.

      • Illisse

        I think it depends on what kind of fire from heaven – I wouldn’t mind if the brother (let’s use that term loosely) gets a bad case of the clap.

  • http://twitter.com/loptruna Elizabeth Vongvisith

    This is terrible. I hope she is at rest with her ancestors, and that her gods have received her with honor. And I hope that we can do something to prevent future deaths like hers.

  • Raksha38

    This is disgusting and horrifying. I’ve been sitting here just gaping at the screen, trying to come up with something to say. I’ve got nothing. Poor Yana. And poor Syria, for no longer having such a person as her in it.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    In the vastness of this struggle, my words are essentially meaningless, but I apologise.

    I apologise for the fact that my taxes are being used to aid the Syrian rebels.

    I apologise for my inability to influence my own government in this matter.

    I apologise for all the actions and inactions of my government that have allowed this to happen without so much as a murmur in our media reporting of the conflict.

    More than this, though, I offer not only my condolences for those bereaved, but also my condemnation for those guilty.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

      Ita est.

  • http://profiles.google.com/thorncoyle T Thorn Coyle

    Jason and Cara, thank you for reporting on this.

    “Standing as Pagans, in Yana’s Name” my thoughts from yesterday:

    We don’t know the effect our actions will have on the world. With every honest encounter we risk having, we set some wheels in motion, we loosen a knot, or turn on a light. Someday, these actions just might save a life…

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2013/03/standing-as-pagans-in-yanas-name/

  • Cat C-B

    I am deeply saddened by this loss of a sister I never even knew I had. Just… grief.

  • BlackCat

    May the Erinyes search unceasingly for the ones responsible for Yana’s death, and may they crack their whips and shake their yew-torches until Justice claims them.

  • Raksha38

    I’ve figured out why I can’t stop thinking about this story and why it’s hit me so hard. I’ve lived for so many years in Wyoming and northern Idaho and I can easily see a Christian version of this situation happening here, with only a very little shift in the political climate. And even worse, there are large parts of my family who would absolutely inform on me like this, including my own step-brother and -sister.

    In fact, the reason I’m still mostly in the broom closet is that I honestly fear for my physical safety around parts of my family and in certain parts of the country, if people even suspect I’m Pagan.

    Remember, guys: progress is not a straight line and can be taken away from us at any time. We are not as safe as we think we are. Constant vigilance!

    • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

      When you confront people, including some pagans, how small of a shift it takes to legitimize violence against a minority like us, some just can’t believe it. I understand them, most of us grew up in the “West” with all the ideals and stuff all around us. It’s hard to take a look at the dirt underneath.

      I’ve often wondered how we can protect each other when we are spaced out so far. There are no pagan towns, very few areas with small dedicated communities living together. Maybe it’s time we start looking in that direction. We could better protect each other, and maybe start to throw off some of the ingrained Christian culture and mannerisms many of us remain under the yoke of. Create our own distinct pagan subculture, not just the internet boards and things but a living subculture.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        You evoke a favorite topic of mine, the regrettable lack of Pagan neighborhoods. I don’t mean “Paganastan” cities with a higher than average density of Pagans, but Pagan Castros with shops and a PTA and a neighborhood association.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        It could be worth looking at the ‘eco-village’ model for inspiration.

        Of course, you can also see how easy it is for such a thing to become isolationist and, perhaps, even resentful of outside ‘interference’ (State/National laws and taxes.)

        • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

          I like the eco-village models. The problem being is those usually require pretty high capital up front. It’s enough of an uphill climb to imagine creating a community, let alone one using new and expensive technologies.

          I wouldn’t be too worried about that honestly. We’re all used to living under those laws. A cultural community and a legally distinct one are can be separate. Jewish communities in some cities have always seemed to me to be a good example (as well as one of reviving a nearly dead language to daily use and trying to balance ancient traditions with modern life).

          I’d be more worried about some megachurch pastor seeing an opportunity and trying to stop it legally or through violence, like has been done with mosques in the US.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I wasn’t on about the actual building of the community buildings as much as seeing how they got the people for those communities in the first place.

      • Raksha38

        I would totally sign up for a Pagan town (or just a Castro-type neighborhood, like Baruch said)! I think a lot of Pagans would, honestly. I really think the longing for a space and communities of our own is a big reason so many Pagans love the original ‘The Wicker Man.’

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          “Build it and they will come.”

        • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

          I’ve always forseen issues though. Beyond the practical (Where? How to raise capital? How to deal with potential legal challenges from angry Christians, etc) I’ve always thought that might really expose the diversity in the pagan community.

          Just take this example. You have a group of Wiccans. Ones that lean towards the pseudo-monotheist everything is a reflection of one unity, or the dualtheist types. That describes a lot of people. But Wicca doesn’t carry the same community ideas that some of the reconstructionist faiths do, and I’ve seen the debate between hard and soft polytheists get heated as it is. So you have one (or likely more than one) group of Reconstructionists working to build a certain community and lifestyle, and then you have others that usually reject that sort of effort as irrelevant to their faith. Seems problematic to me.

          I mean, I’m not saying we’d start punching each other, but I think part of what has kept the “pagan” umbrella together so long is the distance.

          That said it still floats through my head every know and then and I’ll sketch up what I think would be an interesting way to lay out a small town centre or look at empty land and think “we could build something there”.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You may be overestimating the extent to which intrafaith yelling in the blogosphere translates into actual hostility on the ground if the people involved are physical neighbors. I’ve seen different, theoretically hostile flavors of Christianity and Judaism get along fine in Midwestern suburbia.
            I mentioned shops and a PTA and a neighborhood association. The latter is a place where rough edges between traditions might be smoothed out. (It helps if the officers include different trads.) It’s also a neighborhood interface with City Hall; they might not like you but they can’t ignore you. (Can you tell I was a neighborhood activist?)

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            What you may call intrafaith, others would just as readily call interfaith.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            For a community to really work, I think there need to be more ‘concrete’ of deals shared that opinions on divinity.

            What shape would the community take, for example? A hard-line reconstructionist may well favour a more ‘low impact’ way of life than your average techno-Pagan would be happy with.

          • Nick Ritter

            I think that the best way to start is to start simply: have like-minded people who practice their religion together living in the same neighborhood. Depending on the needs of that particular community, that can then develop in a number of different ways, including possibly a low-impact intentional community sort of thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/morninglight2 Dawn Byrnes

    …That son of a… May Hela prepare a table for him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alinefob Aline Brum

    To be honest, for me “our people” are all people around the world, all peoples, in fact, independing on their religion, if it’s dominant or not. The situation in Syria and Egypt is very very dificult, and it’s not wise to tell your family, friend and people that you’re pagan if your live in a country like that, specially in the situations that are happening nowadays. I’m trully sad for this girl as I’m sad for all of those people who are dying in Syrian war. But, correct me if I’m wrong, you don’t want to be dominated by those religions, but you want your religion to be the the one to dominate?
    Kisses and peace.

    • Nick Ritter

      I’m happy to correct you: you are wrong.

  • Nemesis

    As bad as the Assad regime may seem, it has always been a secular regime. However, many of the people who want to overthrow his government are of the same stripe as those who brutally murdered Yana. And to think the Obama administration and some European powers are seriously considering giving them arms.

    • Nemesis

      Not picking on Obama-many in Congress are encouraging him to arm the Syrian rebels.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Actually the Administration is quite leery of arming the Syriam rebels, for exactly the reason you cite: Those weapons would fall into the hands of militant Islamists.
      A worse headache is the prospect of victorious rebels gaining control of Syria’s chemical weapons and elements of the winning side selling them to terrorists with motive to attack the United States. This is the same concern that drove the invastion of Iraq, with the difference that the Syrian WMDs are real.

    • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

      The problem is we really aren’t sure exactly who is who. Jubhat al-Nursa has been listed as a terrorist organization, but there are a dozen other small “brigades” that use Salafi imagery, as well as plenty that use religious imagery but are mostly made up of moderate Sunni. At the same time there are plenty of secular rebels (some analysts tend to see any guy with a beard in a brigade with religious imagery as an Islamist). Our problem is the Islamist groups have been getting weapons while we have been sitting on our thumbs, raising their profile and power within Syria.

      But the government can’t, in any sense, be looked at as better. Sure Baathists were secular, overall. But that just meant whenever they were challenged by religious folks, they killed them. It didn’t mean they pushed for any sort of secular religious equality. Most of them are Alawi, and most of the rebels are Sunni. So they essentially HAD to be against the majority religion, as even some moderate Sunni don’t consider Alawi to really be Muslims (they’re classified as a division of Shi’ite Muslims these days, but for a long time they were considered distinct, sort of like the Druze).

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        We don’t know the players, and no-one is selling scorecards. Even if we took the chance and provided arms to the “right” rebels we have no way of knowing they won’t eventually come into the possession of militant Islamists.
        If we have to hit the ground there to protect Syria’s chemical weapons we will need logistics. I hope that came up in Obama’s chat with Jordan’s Abdullah II.

        • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

          Well honestly by that start we can’t know if ANY of the arms we provide will end up in militants hands. I have no doubt some of what we provide the Gulf states is being funneled there. The Gulf autocracies are all trying to get influence in the region, as well as pull apart the “Shia crescent” which they all fear. The Saudis are trying to spread Wahhabist doctrines as well, which is how they maintain their influence.

          But we do know the players. The problem is if they manage to stick around in the long term, or get pushed out. Some people have argued, including some Syrians, that by sitting on the sidelines so long we LET the militants come in and gain influence, when if we had been decisive early on we might have bolstered our influence. Syrians feel abandoned, it’s all over every interview in English and Arabic (and it’s much worse in Arabic).

          Sorry, foreign policy/international affairs is one of my areas of study, and the Middle East is an area I know better than most (I’ve had good professors) so I tend to get a little long winded.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Maybe we should just stop supplying arms?

          • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

            Then someone else does, and we just lose influence.

            Also, last I checked the US isn’t providing any arms. France and GB want to, but have not yet been able to. The only people directly providing arms are the Gulf States for the rebels and Iran for the government. There are accusations that Russia and China are supporting the government, but they haven’t been proven. Russia at least, has backed away from their direct support of Assad.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I am GB based, but I meant ‘everyone’ when I said ‘we’.

            There’d be a lot less wars without so many weapons being supplied. Think of it as a utopian ideal.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I see on the evening news that the US is training some rebel groups with the idea that they not allow Islamists to capture the rebellion. So we must have some idea of who the militias on the ground are (that’s what I meant by not knowing the players). But no guns provided so far (that we’re admitting to). Thanks for the background on who’s jockeying for influence.

  • Tim

    May the gods curse all those who participated in this horrid crime. I hope justice finds those monsters swiftly and makes them suffer long and painfully for what they did to poor Yana.