One of the more troublesome “what if” questions of contemporary world history is whether the Kurds would have their own nation-state if they were somehow more unified. Somehow, in the falling apart of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900’s, someone forgot to create a nation-state for the Kurds, and in the decades since then, different imperial experiences as well as different religious and political pressures have pulled the ethnic unity of the Kurds apart, leaving a large amount of squabbling groups with little unity except for a shared desire for greater autonomy from the nations that govern them: Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. As at least a couple of those nations are in an advanced state of disunity themselves, the Kurds could theoretically have a strong chance for greater autonomy and a process towards statehood if they could simply stop fighting each other long enough to unite against their common oppressors.
When I was a student at the Ambassador Bible Center, I had the opportunity one evening to travel with a small group of similarly inclined foreign-affairs minded people to visit a talk at the Foreign Affairs Council in Cincinnati, Ohio. There were a couple of speakers there, and one of them was a Kurdish young woman who had survived some very horrifying experiences under Saddam Hussein’s regime. She happened to be a bit surprised, and perhaps taken aback, when I noticed that she was left-handed, as left-handedness is typically viewed as a curse or at least a disgrace among many peoples in the Middle East and Africa. At any rate, I have at least paid some attention to the Kurdish problem at least since I was a college student, as it happens to fit well among my concern for peoples without a nation   .
As it happens, the Kurds have opened up a massive conference including about 40 Kurdish political parties that are all seeking Kurdish autonomy in Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey in order to try to gain some unity in a chaotic situation in the Middle East with rising tensions in Iraq and a massive and deadly civil war in Syria that has led to even further disagreements between some parts of the Kurdish nation. The Kurds are deeply divided by politics, with a very stark divide between a Marxist-influenced left wing that is largely egalitarian when it comes to women’s rights and a very reactionary right-wing that includes a great deal of Islamist fundamentalists, some of whom are participating in the Syrian Civil War on the side of the rebels who are fighting their own cousins whose tacit agreement with the Assad family has given them a state of local autonomy in the north . Some Kurds identify more strongly with their own little party, despite their general lack of influence and authority, than for the larger group of which they are apart. Most of the times, the Kurds can only agree that they want autonomy, but they are so fractious and combative that their intramural conflicts prevent even that laudable goal.
Of course, one cannot be too hard on the Kurds. I come from a religious tradition in the Church of God that is even more divided than the Kurds, whose disunity has had such tragic results. Why is unity such a hard matter? In large part the question of trust is a key one. A support for unity is often seen as a desire to increase one’s own control in an atmosphere there is no desire to place oneself under the control of any of the would-be prophets who want large fellowships and a great deal of control, and even those of us (myself included) who greatly and earnestly desire unity with others, even on a ground less than full association  struggle with questions of respect and cooperation, given the many political differences between us, and the rather ferocious nature of our own intramural conflicts.
Given how much easier division is than unity, given the proliferation of different mindsets and worldviews and philosophies and political loyalties and the difficulties we have in trusting, respecting, and showing concern for those who we think should be exactly like us, we ought to celebrate unity where it may be found, and see if we too can manage our own difficulties. While it is too much to expect for us to adopt the worldviews of our rivals, or expect them to adopt ours, at the very least by treating others with respect and outgoing concern, we can make sure that other people have sufficient reason to like us as people even if they are far different from us in terms of the way that they think. By developing a habit of respect and seeking to understand why people see the world as they do, perhaps we may at least begin to overcome the many divisions in our world. If we cannot solve the problem of disunity within our own peoples, at least let us set a good example for how to overcome any enmity that results from the disunity that now exists, so that it may at least do us less harm.