Volume V Issue 13
Yaar 17 6749 May 17, 1999
ZENDA READERS ON CENSUS 2000
In response to last week's articles on the subject of the modification of the "Assyrian" category in the U.S. Census 2000 to "Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac" our office has received over one hundred emails and faxes. According to Atour.Com, the Assyrian American National Federation, and the Census Bureau office in Washington D.C., by the middle of last week, over 800 emails and faxes were submitted to the Bureau Office. Due to the urgency of this matter and the amount of space we allow for each issue ZENDA is digressing from its weekly format and only publish its readers' letters on the subject of Census 2000- only those authorized for publication. We will be back with our regular weekly sections next week. All other letters written on non-Census 2000-related topics will be addressed in our next issue.
The divisions which mark our nation have reared their ugly head yet again over the census classification issue. Without labeling any organization or individual as Jacobite, Chaldean, Nestorian, Assyrian, or racist, extremist, or exclusivist; I think it is time to realize that the divisions that exist have been fostered for hundreds of years; and however much we all hope for the eventual unification of our people, it will not come overnight. Given the Assyrian predilection to religious life, the respective Assyrian churches are not making much head way to help. This, in my opinion, is a self-preservation mechanism for our churches. Imagine our people, as devoted and hardworking as they are, moving away from their religious identities towards their ethnic identity. What would happen to the churches? What would happen to their (the churches') sphere of influence? The future would look rather bleak. The churches are already feeling the pinch of this 'secular' age, in the lack of young men and women willing to take the religious life. Yet, just as any institution, state, or corporation; the instinct of the church is to preserve itself by maintaining a body of members; hence we see the lack of aggressive attempts towards the socialization of a united Assyrian nation. The key word being "socialization", for all the talk and issued decrees of the Churches that have attempted to reach understanding, they have done little in educating and socializing people to the idea. Perhaps one reason (among many) would be that the churches would have to look beyond the history of their respective churches (e.g. the pre-Christian Assyrian history) to pursue unification. What would that tell you of the Christian era of Assyrian history? That perhaps, it led to the division of our people?
Regardless of the hand that history has dealt us, we owe it to ourselves and to future generations that will carry our name to assess our current situation, and soberly evaluate, negotiate, and compromise to bridge the divisions. The Census 2000 compromise is just one such issue, where for all the controversy, we have made head way towards understanding.
The Zenda Heading "No Compromise" left little doubt to the stand which Zenda ascribes to. The arguments presented ranged in view and I would like to address some of them. First, a very important argument that has farreaching consequences was the issue of who, if anyone, was appropriated the right to represent the different Assyrian interests. The implicit answer being noone, considering that we do not have a recognized leadership that represents every facet of our society. In that case, noone not even an organization like the Assyrian American National Federation (which is barely representative of Eastern Assyrian interests)would have the right to negotiate this issue. On a finer note, the fact that it was a group of individuals that come from markedly different backgrounds, not necessarily associated with any group that seemed to have further exacerbated the validity of the compromise over the census classification.
I think it is time to give credit to these individuals for their initiative and hardwork. They saw an opportunity to affect the external perception of our people and made strides toward its realization. In truth, noone has the right to stand as the sole Assyrian voice. In reality, that truth can leave us mute to the interests and aspirations that we are trying to reach. We must stop being so narrow-minded and make greater effort to be sober in our perception of ourselves and our future. This initiative on the census classification only confirmed the deep commitments some Assyrians have to the unification of our people and the strategic compromise with which they are seeking to accomplish our national aspirations. However much, the name "Assyrian" holds validity and primary identity for many of us, this is not a battle! Many ethnic Assyrians still choose to identify themselves by their religious association. This is our legacy; and this is our reality! I would be interested to know if the participants in the discussion which lead to the new census designation were of the "old guard" or among the more progressive members in our society; my instinct (and personal knowledge) tells me that they are of the latter. Let this be the beginning of a rejuvenation of our nationalist hopes.
And for those that believe that this compromise flies in the face of the martyrs which were sacrificed for their Assyrian identity, again, it seems rather short sighted. The bottom line is that, without further consolidation of our efforts as a people, there will be NO ONE LEFT TO VENERATE AND HONOR THOSE MARTYRS! Our greatest enemy at this point of our history is time. And that time is being wasted over useless debaates and arguments over "what is our name?" Call me Chaldean, Nestorian, Jacobite, Assyrian, Suretha, but just recognize me as your sister. And conversely, I do not care if you are Chaldean, Nestorian, Jacobite, Protestant, Atheist as long as you know that we are of one Assyrian heritage.
Furthermore, this move on the part of the Assyrian residents of the United States will not negate the claims of our people in the homeland. In actuality, it will strengthen it. First, it will not negate our people's claims to their homeland, because in the end the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac people are the indigenous people of that land. And to register as an Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac on the census, will not "automatically declare that the Assyrian identity is questionable" as some of us fear. In fact, it gives validity to the claim that "we are all one". The governments and factions within the homeland will know that if they are committing atrocities against our Jacobites, that the other members of our society will feel the need to act. Take for example, the gross human rights violations of our people in Turkey. Considering the huge population of Assyrians in the states of Illinois and Michigan, can you imagine what types of pressure we can put on our elected representatives to stop Turkish abuses on our people? This same process can be taken in defense of our people in every part of the world.
Imagine being a Jacobite Assyrian and sitting down to fill out the census survey. Even if the issue of questioning your identity has never come up, or if you have bitterly refused the designation "Assyrian", the category of "Assyiran/Chaldean/Syriac" will be palatable and in the least will reinitiate the debate over your Jacobite identity. This will occur in Assyrian homes and Chaldean homes and hopefully, this will engage people to talk with one another and actually address this issue more thoroughly. Realistically, I would love to see everybody who is of Assyrian descent and of Syriac speaking heritage to register under "Assyrian". But our nation is not there yet. We are still in the preliminary stages of reawakening our universal Assyrian consciousness. The few Assyrians that took the steps to alter the census classification should not be marginalized for their deep commitment to the Assyrian cause. Perhaps we must reconsider how important the perpetuation of our culture is to us? Are we willing to compromise so that our nation can continue to exist? Or are we going to live in seclusion as we did for the most part of our recent history, ignorant and resentful of the diversity that has found its way into our culture and language.
I am writing you this letter regarding the verbal request that I made on behalf of the Assyrian American National Federation regarding the postponement of the implementation of your decision regarding the change of the Assyrian category for census 2000.
The reason for the request is that certain persons claiming to represent the Assyrian community are not authorized to act as such. They are merely individuals that do not have the right to act on their own to make any changes to the Assyrian category. Our Assyrian community feels that this decision has been imposed on us and we believe that we are being steered into this decision although we are living in a land of freedom and democracy where many voices should be heard before a decision such as this can be made. Based on these important facts I am requesting you to delay the implementation of this process until we have made our decision at our emergency assembly on May 29 & 30, 1999 at our State Convention in Modesto, California.
To conclude, I would like to remind you again that we are here to unite our people not to divide them.
Carlo K Ganjeh
Assyrian American National Federation
Census 2000 Committee
First of all, Assyrians belonging to the Church of the East, such as myself, are deeply offended by this foreign name of "Nestorian." It is not a name that we chose for ourselves, nor is it one that our church clergy use. We have always referred to ourselves as "Sooraye min eeta d'Madinkha" -- Assyrians belonging to the Church of the East. Mr. Hajjar then goes on to lodge various accusations against the Assyrians belonging to this church, one of which is that Assyrian organizations are dominated by "Nestorians." This is absolutely false.
Our organizations are filled with Assyrians from various religious denominations. Personally, I and many other Assyrians that I know of, do not place ANY borders along religious lines. I have NEVER questioned someone's Assyrian identity based on their church affiliation and resent having mine questioned. I also question this accusation that Assyrians from the Church of the East have monopolized this name and are somehow being selfish with it. I have no idea where this paranoia stems from but let me assure Mr. Hajjar and all our Chaldean and Syrian Orthodox family that they are more than welcomed to use our beautiful Assyrian name!!! My goodness, what made you believe that permission must be granted, or that this would offend anyone?! The more people that use this name, the better. I have NEVER heard of any Assyrian telling another that they should not use the term Assyrian. If anything, I've only heard disappointment among many Assyrians that those within the Chaldean and Syrian Orthodox faith will use any term EXCEPT Assyrian or anything related to it (the Census 2000 is a good example of this where the religious term Chaldean is introduced in order for many within this faith to avoid marking "Assyrian" as their ethnic identity.)
Mr. Hajjar then accuses "Nestorian" Assyrians of questioning the Assyrianism of Assyrians from the Chaldean and Syrian Orthodox Church. If any questioning has taken place, as Mr. Hajjar states, it may be for two reasons: (1) the insistence of many (of course, not all) Assyrians within these religious denominations to identify themselves as anything but Assyrian, for example "Aramaean," "Maslawi" or "Arab Christian." Also, the trend for many of these Assyrians belonging to the Chaldean or Syrian Orthodox faith to adopt languages other than the Syriac language. Example: my husband is a proud Assyrian from the Syrian Orthodox Church. Although he speaks Syriac (both Eastern and Western dialects) all other members of his family and his circle of friends speak Arabic only. I myself had the pleasure of attending the Syrian Orthodox Church convention in Los Angeles in 1997. Other than the Lord's Prayer, which His Holiness Mar Zakka recited in Syriac, everything else was spoken in Arabic. When I asked why it was that no one spoke their beautiful language of Syriac (in the Western dialect that many call "Leeshana Teeqa") it was just blown off as something unimportant.
Asking Assyrians of the Church of the East to drop their beautiful ethnic name from their church would be like asking each member of this ancient church to slice off their arm. Dare I say that many Assyrians relate more to this name then to the name of their respective church. I have always counted the Assyrians of the Chaldean and Syrian Orthodox faith as my brothers and sisters. I take pride in their achievements as if they were mine, and endure great pain when they suffer as I would with any member of my family. It hurts me greatly to see that this nationalistic love is not returned. I am happy to see that many Assyrians from both the Chaldean and Syrian Orthodox communities are in the midst of a nationalistic awakening and applaud the efforts of their national and religious leaders along this path. But please do not ask that we Assyrians from the Church of the East, or any other demonination, take a step backwards in order to meet you halfway.
It's a shame that "S. Shabo" sent and Zenda published a letter wrongfully accusing hard-working Assyrian scholars/individuals, based on erroneous information. If "S. Shabo" wishes to blame someone, why doesn't he blame the people responsible for the initial campaign for a seperate Census category, or the Census Bureau for not being more understanding of our tattered nation's dilemma, and not the Assyrian individuals who worked honestly and with compromise and unity always in mind.
Mister Hanna states: "Just remember neither you nor any organization have the right to impose its preferred name on other communities of our nation (something that the extremists members of the Assyrian community are yet to face in reality)". This is a hypocritical and disingenuous statement. By the same token, what gives Mister Hanna and the census "committee" members their right to choose a name for our nation? As the same issue of Zenda reported, an official meeting was held on March 25th, 1999, at the Mesopotamia Museum of Chicago, with three representatives from the Census Bureau and the following Assyrian political parties and organizations:
- Assyrian Universal Alliance;
- Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa);
- Assyrian Democratic Organization (Mtakasta);
- Assyrian Liberation Movement (Zowaa d Khoorara);
- AUA Political Arm;
- AUA Foundation;
- Assyrian American National Federation;
- Assyrian National Council Of IL;
- Assyrian Academic Society;
- Mesopotamia Museum;
- North Brook Institute For Syriac Studies;
- Assyrian Aid Society; and many individual Assyrians.
and "All representatives of the above parties and organizations unanimously voted on leaving the Assyrian Ancestry category to stand as it was in the 1990 Census -- meaning 'Assyrian' without any slashes. Everyone present at the meeting left quite satisfied with the decision reached" (Zenda, Volume V, Issue 12). I can confirm this fact because I myself was at the meeting. How can Mister Hanna and the other five individuals belonging to the Census 2000 "committee" go against the unanimous wishes of Assyrians. Apparently Mister Hanna thinks he and the "committee" have the right to impose whatever name they wish on the Assyrian nation, but the nation doesn't have the right to assert its identity. Mister Hanna states: "Our historical decision on April 26, 1999 was made after we were faced with the option of either allowing the Census Bureau to tabulate the Chaldeans as a separate ethnic category (which I am sure the Assyrian extremists, Baathy government and the Kurds would love to see) or go for the compromise of the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac category with its powerful implications that we are one nation, one ethnic group, one code, and one total."
I object in the strongest terms to the words "Assyrian extremists" (used several times in his article) and to the juxtaposition of "Assyrian extremists" with "Baathy government" and "Kurds". How dare Mister Hanna even put these together in the same sentence? When have "Assyrian extremists" worked, as the Baathy governments and the Kurds have, against the Assyrian nation? When have "Assyrian extremists" killed Assyrians? When have "Assyrian extremists" kidnapped Assyrian maidens? When have "Assyrian extremists" imposed the Arabic/Kurdish culture and the Arabic/Kurdish language on Assyrians? I think it is, at best, incredibly insensitive of Mister Hanna to write such a thing, and, at worst, revealing of his true beliefs and loyalties. Furthermore, since the Assyrian organizations who met on March 25th unanimously rejected the idea of changing the name, this means that they and their members and constituents are all "Assyrian extremists".
I think it is Mister Hanna who is the extremist, as evidenced by his complete disregard of the wishes of the Assyrian community. If by "extremist" Mister Hanna means those that call themselves Assyrians, which is the implication of his statement, then that means ALL Assyrians are extremists. But "Assyrian extremists" has a very negative connotation, and in one stroke Mister Hanna has managed to marginalize all those who call themselves Assyrians. I am one of those people who object to this name change, and I, like most people who agree with my position, strongly resent this kind of offensive and manipulative language. People who do not wish the name to change are people who DO believe that we are one nation, yet they see the price of this transparent, short-sighted and quick-fix approach to achieving real unity within our nation as too high. You cannot bend the truth of our Assyrian identity for a short term and ill-considered gain. Real unity must come when the "Chaldeans" and "Jacobites" ("Syriacs") have the courage to accept the truth of their Assyrian identity.
Mister Hanna states: "Most of all, our decision is based on a mutual agreement that we'll be forming a "National Name Committee" compromising of scholars and religious members of the different communities of our nation. That committee will meet and agree CONSCIOUSLY on an acceptable name that will be the official name our nation will be called by". Our name is not to be decided by "committee", our name is an axiomatic, foundational, self-evident truth. Our Assyrian name is, and that is all. Our Assyrian name is the beginning and the end, the end and the beginning. Our Assyrian name is not negotiable. This notion of a committee to decide on our name is ludicrous. Shall we also form a committee to decide whether Jesus Christ is really the Son of God? Furthremore, this idea to "agree CONSCIOUSLY on an acceptable name" implies that our name was forced on us in our sleep. I would like to point out to Mister Hanna that Assyrians have died for this name, and have died while fully awake and aware of their actions and their consequences. Mister Hanna states: "The task of the committee is to conclude prior to Census 2010 so we can go back again to the Census Bureau and submit our SINGLE, AGREED BY ALL, name". If this "committee" decided on "Chaldean" (since they are the majority), the Assyrian name would be completely removed in the 2010 Census. How is this not imposing the "Chaldean" name on the Assyrians? What is the difference? In this case, a lie ("Chaldean" ancestry) would be substituted for the truth (Assyrian ancestry).
Through out Mister Hanna's article one finds references to "Assyrian extremists", "your agenda", and other instances of divisive language. I find it hard to accept Mister Hanna's sincerity regarding the unity of our nation when his own words betray his beliefs on this issue.
The general tone of his article indicates to me that he is coming not from a genuine motive of unification, but from an adversarial perspective. Real unity can only come by the steadfast defense of our Assyrian identity. To compromise our sacred name would only weaken its powerful unifying force. There is no one who is congnizant of our nation's history who disagrees that the "Nestorians", "Chealdeans" and "Jacobites" are one nation -- Assyrian. The job of the people who desire unity is to teach the members of the community this truth, and this must not be done in any way that lessens the sanctity of our Assyrian name and heritage. This is much harder to do than the "quick-fix" approach of this census "committee", but its effect would be permanent. Real unity can only come from real change within the unenlightened segments of our nation.
Peter Pnuel BetBasoo
We, the members of the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock, residing in the cities of Turlock, Ceres and Modesto in California, have been cautiously following up on the very disturbing news regarding the attempts being pursued to change our ethnic name, Assyrian, in the year 2000 census to a composite of national, religious and at other times linguistic name.
It is a very well proven historic fact that the Chaldean name is a religious denomination of the Assyrian Church, and that Syrians was the Greek word for identifying all the Christians living in the regions of the Near East and Asia Minor and that the word Syriac is the language of this nation, mixing all these terminology's in order to identify the Assyrian nation by is of great grievance and unforgiving distortion to our identity.
We are proud Assyrian Americans from different denominations and we refuse to be categorized under any other ethnic group except Assyrian, our rightful ethnic name.
On behalf of the 1500 Assyrian American members of our organization, I feel that any attempt for such an important change need to be approved by the majority of the Assyrians through their respective organization
Ramin Odisho, President
Assyrian American Civic Club ofTurlock
P.O. Box 192
Turlock, CA 95381-0192
According to information from Mr. Firas Chato of Nineveh newspaper, this issue has been brought to the attention of the masses via Toronto based Nineveh Newspaper and other media. It was treated with indifference by most, while a few Assyrian individuals from the the different churches of the Assyrian nation formed a committee, that managed to block the attempts to have the Assyrians of the Chaldean Church, from being classified as a seperate ethnic entity in the Census 2000.
The classification "Assyrian/Chaldean/Siryans", to my understanding does not change the name of our nation, but it strengthens the truth, and that being "Chaldean, Siryan and Assyrian are names given to members of one nation, one ethnic group".
A few Assyrians who do not belong to any of the three main Churches, Assyrian, Chaldean or Siryan, are promoting opposition to this classification, through internet websites and Assyrian Links, while stating publicly "if the Chaldeans wish to be known as a nation under the name Chaldean, so be it ".
It is this type of dangerous thinking that has divided us in the past, and continues to create confusion and divisions in our nation. These individuals in the past have labelled our Political Organizations as useless. All of a sudden the same individuals are relying on AUA, AANF and other Assyrian organizations opposition to this decision, to strengthen their point of view, which is creating division and chaos, while strengthening the past divisions in our nation.
In your editorial in the May 10th issue you state "ZENDA believes that the term Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac will be the bane of the Assyrian identity in Diaspora. The introduction of these deadly "dashes and slashes" will catalyze the complete transformation of the term "Assyrian" to something we feel will be denuded of any historical truth." others have made similar comments. What you and the others have failed or ignored to do, is to substantiate your claims with reasoning based on facts, present and past. For exmple, how will the classification "Assyrian/Chaldean/Siryan" be the bane of the Assyrian identity in Diaspora?. And, how will the new classification catalyse the complete transformation of the term Assyrian to something that you feel, will be denuded of any historical truth?. What is the hitorical truth that you speak of?
The other question that seems to boggle the minds of many Assyrians all of a sudden, as the census 2000 issue came to light, is "Who gave a ceratin group of individuals the right to speak on behalf of the Assyrian nation?". The answer is very clear. A nation without a leadership gives these individuals, or groups, the right to do so. As simple as it may sound, it is the sad reality.
Without a national leadership, elected by the people, anyone or any group can speak for the nation.
Many organization representatives, are acting and reacting based on the voices of the outspoken minority to protect themselves in the future. They, most likely will, in the event that this step works for the benefit of uniting the different segments of this nation, try to take credit as being the ones behind the scenes, promoting this action. AUA, when they joined up the Assyrian Nation as a member of NPO or whatever it was called, many criticised this move, yet AUA menbers and supporters couldn't care less about the voices of those who said why should an organization speak or act on behalf of the Assyrian nation. ZOWAA is constantly being criticised for its acceptance of Assyrian homelands to be called Kurdistan, yet they ignore the protests against this action, referring to the Ancestral lands of the Assyrian Nation as Kurdistan, in their official publication.
Dr. Sargon Dadeeshoo has made many declarations on behalf of the Assyrian nation through "The Assyrian National Congress" and he did not bother to consult with the nation. I can go on and on, as far as the actions taken by certain individuals and groups in dealing with matters of importance as far as the destiny of the Assyrian Nation is concerened, but there is no nead as most of the readers are aware of them.
In the meeting the following organizations were present and they expressed their opposition:
· Assyrian Universal Alliance;
· Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa);
· Assyrian Democratic Organization (Mtakasta);
· Assyrian Liberation Movement (Zowaa d Khoorara);
· AUA Political Arm;
· AUA Foundation;
· Assyrian American National Federation;
· Assyrian National Council Of IL;
· Assyrian Academic Society;
· Mesopotamia Museum;
· North Brook Institute For Syriac Studies;
· Assyrian Aid Society; and many individual Assyrians.
Well, chebo to the few individuals who undermined the wishes of the most recognised political and cultural organizations of the Assyrian nation, and thank God for that, in this instance. Perhaps this is a clear message to the Assyrian National Front, that as long as they are ignoring the necessity of the formation of AN ASSYRIAN NATIONAL LEADERSHIP, they lack strength, as they can be undermined anytime, as well as be used seperately against each other.
ASSYRIA FOR ASSYRIANS/CHALDEANS/SIRYANS
I am also quite perplexed that the "Assyrian" side is just starting discussing a 2-years issue. I know the "Chaldeans" have been holding meetings with their community for the past one full year. Mar Orahem came to Turlock and talked about it many times on TV (where were you guys??). I don't believe its a problem with only the leadership of the "Assyrian" community but rather with the current existing mentality among the followers of the Church of the East. That is, they attended meetings (and listened to Mar Orahem), however, they always declared the "purity" of their position against the "contaminated" (Chaldeans). Concluding that, they went home happy that everything is honkey donkey.
On April 26, 1999 some woke up and realized that "the other side did not buy their argument". Now what shall they do? Call me and other Committee members "traitors" or should they blame themselves for falling in the trap of the "self righteous" and refusing to deal with the Chaldeans and Syriacs as the latter see themselves and not as how those "puritans" see them and define their name?
As a member of the committee who was closely involved with the decision making process and in close contact with all concerned parties, I am hereby, and once again, making it clear what's at stake for our nation: The question that seems to be missing from Zenda "piece" of "no compromise" (and those who subscribe to its line of thinking) is NOBODY seems to ask and answer the question: DO YOU WANT TO BE TABULATED DIFFERENTLY THAN THE CHALDEANS? i.e. WILL YOU (FOR THE SAKE OF KEEPING THE PURITY OF YOUR NAME and all your other "emotional needs") RATHER TELL THE WORLD THAT THE CHALDEANS ARE NOT OF THE SAME ETHNIC GROUP AS YOU (the glorified Assyrian)? That is the $1 million question that neither "Zenda's piece" nor any of you seems are willing to answer. In other words your options are: A- Keep the Assyrian category strictly for Assyrians, while the Chaldeans will go their separate ethnic identity.
B- Go for the compromise of Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac with its clear message that WE ARE ONE NATION WITH THE REALITY OF DIFFERENT NAMES. In addition to the many other positive consequences that follow from this MUTUAL-RESPECT for each other needs and peculiarities. You CAN NOT solve any problem if you come to the table believing the other side has to change his/her name because YOU believe it's wrong. In other words, YOU HAVE TO respect the Chaldeans and Syriacs CHOICE and LOVE for THEIR name if you want to deal with them (i.e. they know about "your argument". They just don't buy it!!). Only with mutual respect we can open the doors to solving our nation's problems.
Please, do not answer me with answer number C (i.e. keep the category as 1990). Answer C DOES NOT EXIST. IT'S NOT ON THE TABLE. PERIOD. Remember the Census Bureau MADE A FINAL DECISION giving the Chaldeans a SEPARATE ETHNIC category. Remember also, the Chaldeans (after making the compromise) REJECTED (again REJECTED) the decision of the Census Bureau (thanks to my efforts and those great nationalists on the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Census 2000 committee).
Once you clearly and thoughtfully think of the consequences, I am sure you'll come back with one of the two choices; either you go your separate way than the Chaldeans and Syriacs (and with that you show us your true "nationalist" color or more acurately proving to all that "Assyrian means Church of the East members only") or you'll join me and celebrate our great achievement of April 26, 1999. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY.
Finally, to those who are invoking the memory of our martyrs, I say, please, stop insulting them by claiming that they died for the sake of the "name" and not for sake of "their nation". I also hope that some of those "Assyrians only" remember that the delegation under the leadership of Agha Putros went to the League of Nations to ask for the rights of the "Assyro-Chaldean" people and not for "Assyrians only". Are you MORE nationalist than Agha Putros?
The UNITY of our nation is always MORE important than the PURITY of the name. Thank you.
In his typically surrealist style of expressing his views, Ghassan committed his Freudian slip (a typo perhaps?) when he wrote, and I quote, "Our signal is clear to the Kurds and Baath government and its opposition that Chaldeans (who compromise 75% of our nation there), Assyrians, and Syriacs are ONE NATION." In Ghassan Hanna's own words, 75% of our (no-name) nation has been COMPROMISED by the Chaldeans, and that Assyrians and Syriacs are ONE NATION. Simply put (whether he meant what he babbled or not), Ghassan has divulged his true inner feelings and convictions regarding the reality (which hurts) of his Chaldean clan. You see, had it not been to Freud's very fitting theory, Ghassan's use (slip) of the word COMPROMISE would have been accepted by a reader like myself as nothing but a typo. Besides, could the clear signals, this man is sending to the Kurds and the Baath Arabs be about a Mission (to render a nation nameless and fragmented) that is About to be Accomplished by his group of unwanted Lepers?
In case you did not know it, both Ghassan and Hajjar are about to introduce (very accidentally) to the science of politics and polemics a brand new theory which, for now I will call "Religious Nationalism". Obviously, with the Marxist Internationalism (not the Assyrian Nationalism) Ghassan and his kind fervently pursued while in Iraq ending in the garbage bins of our contemporary history, what easier targets than the Assyrian national identity and the Assyrian Church of the East for such Chameleons to prey on. Hence, this pseudo religious crusade, by non other than Ghassan's Roman Catholic bishop, Ibrahim Ibrahim. Spearheading his unholy campaign, Ibrahim Ibrahim's aim is to wipe out our Assyrian name, and to coin a new (Denominational) name that will alter our identity as a nation and undermine all the good efforts exerted so far by our political and religious groups for the preservation of the name Assyrian.
Meanwhile, and according to Ghassan and his lakeys' agenda, (until the year 2010) our people will function under a hyphenated ( fit only for car license plates ) name that is yet to be christened and blessed by the bureaucrats of the American Census Bureau. And if, for any reason the bureau would not fancy the names which will be suggested, then Ghassan and his lackeys will wait until the year 2020 or until the cows come home, whichever comes first. This is history repeating itself. It smells and looks like a replay of the Absurd Drama that unfolded in 1972 when the Iraqi Baath government promulgated its infamous law that granted cultural (not human and national) rights to a Species they termed as the Minorities Who Speak the Syriac Language, Comprising the Assyrians, the Chaldeans and the Syriacs.
Whether the likes of Ghassan had succeeded then in creating this division or not, with minimum effort they can now successfully convince a few ignorant officials of the US Census bureau and cause the name to stick. In other words, in America, Ghassan and company do not have to kiss butts and dirty their noses the way they were made to do in Iraq. Furthermore, this question begs some logical answer: Is Ghassan trying to sell this new identity to his Roman Catholic brethren? If yes, Isn't he fully aware of the Bitter Reality (with his own admission) that 75% of our nation have sold out to the same Arabs, he claims he is challenging? Does he really and truly believe that he can change their firmly held beliefs about their Arab affiliation and adopt a silly and hyphenated name that happens to include the name Assyrian, which they hate the most? As for the small and decent minority of the followers of the Roman Catholic Church who have no problem calling themselves Assyrian, Ghassan will only prove himself to be nothing but a genuine fool if he tried to sell them this nonsense of a calling. The majority of the so called Chaldeans, and I defy Ghassan to prove me wrong on this one, would rather be called Arabs than Assyrians. And thanks to the efforts of bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim in reinforcing the denominational divisions at the expense our national identity, his genius son Ghassan along with his cousin west of river Tigris, Mr. Hajjar have entered the 21st century as the co-founders of the "Religious Nationalism" theory that is meant to confuse not only their own people but also the mankind as a whole.
As to Mr. Hajjar, I will simply say this: Other than your openly rude malice towards the followers of the Church of the East whom you so shamelessly branded as Nestorians, your lengthy and boring dissertation succeeded only in reflecting your demented and shallow mind. In your own twisted way, you have so desperately attempted to blemish all those who proudly identify themselves as Assyrians as simply Nestorians.
If you had done your homework properly, to your great surprise, you would have found that those who call themselves Assyrians are not solely followers of the Church of the East. Amongst the Assyrians, if you care to know, there are those who are Roman Catholics, Prysbetarians, followers of both the Greek and Jacobite Orthodox churches, as well as Evangelists, Mormons and Jehova Witnesses, as well as non believers. Besides, your call upon the Church of the East to abandon the word Assyrian from their title, is not only crude and naive but also outrageously silly. Just because your church, holding the same values and convictions you seem to have, has decided to do away with the name Assyrian does not mean other proudly Assyrian denominations would have to follow suit. Instead of requesting the Church of the East to take the name Assyrian out, why don't you and the Chaldeans (out of pride and desire to preserve this sacred national identifier) adopt it and proudly display it for the world to see.
Would it be a crime if all the religious denominations unanimously decided to include their national name "Assyrian" in their titles just like the Assyrian Church of the East has so wisely done?. Come to think of it, why let the Church of the East (your arch enemy Nestorians) have the monopoly over the name Assyrian? Who said the Nestorians are the only Assyrians left on this planet? See, whether you Believe it or Not, we are all Assyrians, and the smart thing to do is to simply and openly declare yourself to be proud Jacobite Assyrians. And if your clergy have a problem with that, simply copy the lines of the motto that says, "Starve the Mosquitoes and donate blood". You can "Starve Your Clergy and Declare Youself as ASSYRIANS". I can bet you anything, the clergy will not last long, they will come back and beg for aid.
Since I do not live in the USA many may ask that why am I writing this message? Well, first of all, because I still am an Assyrian and because as a student of Politicalsince and Ethnology, I have been studying about Assyrians and their political development.
During my studies, I developed the following theory about "Assyrians and their "Name problem": as a political union they should use ONE NAME and since the earlier generations at the beginning of the 20th century agreed on "ASSYRIAN" as their political name, I don't see the necessity of changing it in any other way. BUT IF SOMEDAY, THERE WOULD BE A VOTING ON THIS SUBJECT AMONG THE PEOPLE AND THE MAJORITY WOULD AGREE ON ANY OTHER NAME, THEY SHOULD AND WILL ACCEPT IT!! However, I think at this stage, where there is no official representative organization for the Assyrians in the world to make such decision and since they are all known in the world political offices and systems with their "Assyrian" name, it would be better, if they still use their "old" name as their NATIONAL NAME. AS MENTIONED, WE SHOULD ACCEPT ANOTHER NAME, IF AND ONLY IF IT WOULD BE A DECISION OF THE WHOLE NATION AND NOT OF SOME INDIVIDUALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Like any other Nation in this world, we Assyrians of course have ethnic groups like Chaldeans, Arameans, Syrianis, Syryoyo, Nestorians... Of course, there is a difference in deffinition of ethnic groups in Anglo-saxon countries and Germany, but look at Germans: you would not meet a Baverian who will agree to be called a Preussen and the other way around; but at the same time they both are Germans!!
One may also talk about the American population, which is only based on different ethnic groups like British, Italian... and ASSYRIANS, but as soon as one obtains American citizenship, he or she is known in the world political system as an American. Of course our problem is that we don't have a country and no "Assyrian" citizenship. We live in the whole world as a national minority, but that doesn't mean we are not allowed to have a national identity!!!!!!!!
- Assyrian Universal Alliance;
- Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa);
- Assyrian Democratic Organization (Mtakasta);
- Assyrian Liberation Movement (Zowaa d Khoorara);
- AUA Political Arm;
- AUA Foundation;
- Assyrian American National Federation;
- Assyrian National Council Of IL;
- Assyrian Academic Society;
- Mesopotamia Museum;
- North Brook Institute For Syriac Studies;
- Assyrian Aid Society; and many individual Assyrians.
and "All representatives of the above parties and organizations unanimously voted on leaving the Assyrian Ancestry category to stand as it was in the 1990 Census -- meaning 'Assyrian' without any slashes. Everyone present at the meeting left quite satisfied with the decision reached" (Zenda, Volume V, Issue 12).
I can confirm this fact because I myself was at the meeting. My question is, if such a broad body of Assyrian organizations, represesting "Nestorians", "Chaldeans" and "Jacobites", unanimously agreed against changing the Census category, then who are these "Assyrian extremists" that Mister Hanna keeps referring to? It seems that "Assyrian extremists", by his use own definition (those who do not wish the category name change), are precisely those people who call themselves Assyrians (100% of the "Nestorians", 50% of the "Jacobites" and 20% of the "Chaldeans"). What Mister Hanna has done is to marginalize the entire Assyrian community in one swift stroke.
For those people who are Assyrians and who have never known otherwise, suddenly they are branded as "Assyrian extremists". Clearly this branding is negative, and it suddenly becomes a bad thing to be an Assyrian.
Peter Pnuel BetBasoo
Servant of Assyria
I was born in Beirut in the Assyrian quarter. We had a number of missionaries, Catholic, Orthodox and protestant, each one was trying to grab as many Assyrians to its church. My family of 4 brothers and 3 sisters were among the poor of the poor and we had the opportunity to be close to the Syriac Catholic Church and we attended the Franciscan school, to be honest the Catholic church helped us a great deal. My mother worked for the French nuns and they loved my family. My father never changed his church because he always believed in one Christ and one church, also that the prayers in the Catholic church were conducted in Arabic, my father found it ridiculous.
We all took our first communion in the Catholic Church and we used to attend church twice a week for years. The church helped us just enough to get by. When the French nuns began to leave Lebanon in the early '70, the Assyrians Syriac Catholics expelled us from school because my father wouldn't officially claims to be a Syriac Catholic.
We somehow managed to continue our life and education, with a great deal of respect and love to the Catholic Church that still remain until now. The Assyrian Church had a little tiny room on a rooftop of an old deteriorated building, this was what we called "Beth Khanenya Church", with 20 worshipers it would get crowded. The Syriac Catholic, the Chaldean and the Syriac Orthodox had huge monumental churches built from limestone and marble floor and their members had schools and jobs provided by their churches.
Despite all this I always considered myself a member of the Assyrian Church of the East, because this was the only church who gave me a sense of belonging and the only church who stood up boldly to say we are Assyrians, all other denominations had lost their identity as a people and it wasn't a coincidence to have big churches, schools and immunity supported by the Western churches and the Sympathy of the Arab regimes because they were known as Christians Arabs, and Tariq Aziz have stated this many times. "We don't have minorities in Iraq, those are Arab Christians." The same thing goes to other faiths in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Another word, those groups who split away from the Assyrian church have sold their country and betrayed their people.
I am not talking about their faith because I believe all churches are the same, in fact all religions are the same to me. For example, I frequently read the "Holy Koran" and I don't find it much different from my Christian faith if you look beyond the skin into the essence. Believe me the book of "Mary" in the Koran is better than any Christian have written about "The Virgin".
The Koran glorifies Mary and calls her "Mother of the World." My point is, anyone's religion doesn't concern me; it's between you and God. Believe me it was much easier to those converted Assyrians to tell them "you are a devil worshipper" than telling him "you are an Assyrian", they found that to be outrageous and offensive. I don't want to broad generalize here, but the majority felt that way. This betrayal have caused more harm and damage to the Assyrians than all their enemies combined.
To Mr. Ghassan Hanna who found unity in adding the three names for the Census, I tell him that he's confused between his faith and his nationality. And to Mr. Hanna Hajjar who suggested to drop the name Assyrian from the church of the East, I tell him that the name was added in an attempt to protect it and preserve it. And if the name offends the two gentlemen, why don't you remain Arab Christian. And instead of dropping the name Assyrian from the Church of the East, why don't you add the name Assyrian to all churches, just like the Armenians.
Assyrian Catholic Church
Assyrian Orthodox Church
Assyrian Maronite Church
Assyrian Jacobites Church
Assyrian Protestant Church
Assyrian "Muslim Church"
Assyrian "Devil worshipers Church" (who cares about your faith)
This whole thing reminds me of Christ's story about the son who took his share from his father's wealth and left him. After he lost everything, he came back to his father. The truth is, that the changes around the world, the unification of the churches, and the close ties now between the Catholic Church of Rome and the Assyrian Church is driving the converted Assyrians out of business and causing them a tremendous identity crisis. Now, after you spend your share you show up at your father's house asking for your brothers' share. If you expect from your country to clothes you with best clothes, and slaughter the fattest cow to make you a feast, you should at least carry your country's flag in your hearts, not be offended nor ashamed of your people and your country will reward you and love you, because you were lost and your country found you and you were dead and now you are alive. I truly didn't mean to offend anybody, I just found this as an interesting and crucial debate to determine whom we are and I had to voice my opinion.
(aka Paul D. Newey)
FOR SALE - VIDEO TAPE OF THE CHICAGO CENSUS MEETING
Ishou Balou, the cameraman who video taped the recent Census meeting in Chicago, between three U.S. Census Bureau representatives and several Assyrian Organizations, is selling the video tape for $20 U.S. (including shipping in the U.S.). Call (773) 206-9851.
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The Directory of ZENDA News Sources
ZNAA (Assyrian Academic Society-Chicago)
ZNAD (Assyrian Democratic Organization)
ZNAF (Agence France-Presse)
ZNAH (Al-Ahram Newspaper, London)
ZNAL (Al-Hayat, London)
ZNAI (Assyrian International News Agency)
ZNAK (American Kurdish
ZNAM (Archeology Magazine)
ZNAP (Associated Press International)
ZNBN (Bet-Nahrain Inc/ KBSV-TV "AssyriaVision")
ZNCS (Conservative News Service)
ZNIF (Iraq Foundation)
ZNDA (Zenda: firstname.lastname@example.org)
ZNIN (Iraqi National Congress)
ZNLT (Los Angeles Times)
ZNMN (San Jose Mercury News)
ZNMS (Mar Shimun Magazine-Canada)
ZNMW (Mideast Newswire)
ZNNQ (Nabu Quarterly)
ZNNV (Nineveh Magazine)
ZNNY: New York Times
ZNPR: Palestinian Review
ZNQA (Qala Atouraya- Moscow)
ZNRF (Radio Free Iraq)
ZNSH (Shotapouta Newsletter)
ZNSJ (San Jose Mercury News)
ZNSM (Shufimafi Lebanese News)
ZNSO (Syrian Orthodox News "SOCNews")
ZNTD (Turkish Daily News)
ZNTM (Time Magazine)
ZNUP (United Press International)
ZNUS (US News & World Report)
ZNCW: Catholic World News