Despite its reputation for religious intolerance, the Middle East has long sheltered many distinctive and strange faiths. These religions represent the last vestiges of the magnificent civilizations in ancient history: Persia, Babylon, and Egypt in the time of the pharaohs. Their followers have learned how to survive foreign attacks and the perils of assimilation. But today, with the Middle East in turmoil, they face greater challenges than ever before.
In Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms, former diplomat Gerard Russell ventures to the distant, nearly impassable regions where these mysterious religions still cling to survival. He lives alongside the Mandaeans and Ezidis of Iraq, the Zoroastrians of Iran, the Copts of Egypt, and others. He learns their histories, participates in their rituals, and comes to understand the threats to their communities. Historically a tolerant faith, since the early twentieth century, Islam has witnessed the rise of militant, extremist sects. This development poses existential threats to these minority faiths. And as more and more of their youth flee to the West in search of greater freedoms and job prospects, these religions face the dire possibility of extinction.