Shvadt 29, 6749 February 29, 2000
|The Lighthouse||The Forgotten Part of My Homeland|
|Good Morning Bet-Nahrain||Mild Earthquakes Shake Northern Iraq & Urmia|
|News Digest||Pope Celebrates Mass in Egypt, Syriac Prayers Heard
Culinary Event to Raise $100,000 for Assyrians
|Surfs Up||"God bless you and give your strength"|
|Surfers Corner||Premier Robert Carr Toasts Assyrians of Australia|
|Assyrian Surfing Posts||TV News Clip about Assyrian on the Internet - Australia
Church of the East in Australia Responds to Census 2000
Yahoo Assyrian Online Club
The Assyrian Gilgamesh Dance Group
|Literatus||Shall This Nation Die?|
|Bravo||Trailblazer Award Goes to Chaldean Council|
|Milestones||Mary Adam Warner|
|Pump Up the Volume||Village & Villager|
|Back to the Future||The People of the Flood & Oppenheim's Discoveries|
|This Week in History||An Assyrian Missionary in Siberia|
|Calendar of Events||February 2000|
All blue links throughout this issue are hyperlinks to other sections on this page or featured websites.
THE FORGOTTEN PART OF MY HOMELAND
The following article was printed in the Renyo Hiro Magazine (Vol.4, No. 21, 1999 - 6749) - an Assyrian-Suryoyo publication from Belgium. I found it interesting from several perspectives. It demonstrates the impressions of an Assyrian activist from Turkey on the current situation of our Assyrian-Suryoyo communities in Lebanon. It also alludes to the emergence of a new Syriac cultural movement among the Maronites community. This movement cannot be neglected by the Assyrian national movement. It can help create a cultural and literary stronghold in Lebanon for Assyrians of all communities. The Maronites and Assyrians are historically, linguistically, and religiously related and the strength of one community can be beneficial to the other.
For us at Bahro Production, to visit many areas of Bethnahrin and not Lebanon would have been a big loss. From the first day of our arrival in Lebanon, the Assyrian-Suryoye displayed the love they have for Lebanon and that made us aware that this land is the most beautiful part of our homeland.
Lebanon - the country of war and peace, a country of beauty and ruins, a country of sea and mountains. Lebanon - where the Suryoye-Maronuyo (Maronites) share a long history and together built this nation to become the most developed state in the Middle East. In Lebanon we have 1.5 million Maronites and half-million Assyrian-Suryoye from the other denominations including the Chaldeans, Church of the East, Melkites, Syrian Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, etc.
In Beirut where the Christians have their churches and the Muslims their mosques and spend their days together, the post civil war Lebanon is being re-built. In fact, the word Lebanon has its meaning in the Syriac language: Leb (heart) and (a)non (God) or "the Heart of God". That the word Lebanon is a Syriac word was something new for us. Soon we learned that not only this word but many other villages and cities have Syriac names. Not only of the modern language that we know of today, but such names also come to us from the cuneiform writings of the Assyrian-Suryoyo kings etched on the stones in the area of the "Amoro Sea" or the modern-day Mediterranean Sea.
"The organizations in Europe and the USA often forget that Lebanon is also their homeland" told us an Assyrian-Suryoyo student at the University of Beirut. Many other individuals that we met expressed the same sentiment. "This is also your homeland " said Dr. Imad Chamoun. "Come and support us to build Lebanon for all of us" said Bishop Theofilos George Saliba, the most important leader of the Syrian-Orthodox community in Lebanon.
The Maronite community in Lebanon has a long and interesting history. The Maronite church with its head, His Holiness Mar Betrous Safer, is influential in the politics of Lebanon. The history of the Suryoye-Marunoye church begins in the 7th century when Mor Maron decided to leave north Bethnahrin and settle in Lebanon together with a number of followers from the Assyrian-Suryoye churches. His followers then called themselves Maronoye. Until the end of the 17th century the West-Syriac language was the spoken language of the Maronite church.
Dr. Imad Chamoun, Head of the Syriac Cultural Front
After the 17th century the Maronites switched to Arabic. Today, only the church liturgy and prayers are conducted in Syriac. The Maronoye, in general, do not know that they are Assyrian-Suryoye and furthermore do not know that some prayers are read in Syriac. When we asked a 27-year-old woman, studying at the university, about those particular prayers of the Maronite Church, she replied: "I think they are in Hebrew". Similar responses indicated to us that a large group of the Suryoye-Marunoye are ignorant of their own history. On this matter Dr. Imad Chamoun and his organization the "Syriac Cultural Front of Lebanon" are working to alter this dilemma. They organize educational activities for the Maronoye to make them aware of their history. "For this we need support and full understanding from the Assyrian-Suryoye political organizations" said Dr. Imad Chamoun. We believe that in the word "Suryoyo " lies the Unity. All the groups can use the Suryoye name because this is the oldest term used since Christianity and therefore the most logical word that will help unite this nation. We do not need all the names we simply could place it in the following manner: "Suryoye-Assyrians, Suryoye-Maronoye, Suryoye-Chaldoye,..."
The social and cultural life of the Suryoye-Marunoye is in full progress. In the Assyrian Cultural Association where we met Mr. Shoukri Mourad, members meet every Sunday and carry every type of conversation. On Sundays, nearly 50 young boys and girls visit the ACA which happens to be one of the oldest organizations in Lebanon.
Mar Yakuob Church runs the music and dance group called "Rama" (High) that practices every evening. The Rama members from Maalula call themselves Aramiac, others call themselves Malkoye, some Assyrian, Suryoye and soon the group will have its first Maronoyo. The instructor, Abud Sehdo-Gallo says: "Unity does not come about by talking about it, rather by working together. Neither does it happen through politics but in the daily activities like dancing and making music together. In this group there are no differences and discrimination; we dance to our cultural music and songs. All of us enjoy it and feel that it is belongs to all of us."
Robert Gabriel of the Kneshto d' Rohmay Leshono Suryoyo (Syriac Cultural Front) welcomed us in Syriac at their new facility. Each year SCF will be offering Syriac language lessons for students from Lebanon and around the world. Robert Gabriel explained that: "Every person who says that he or she loves this language can come for only two months and receive an intensive training in the Syriac language. He or she will then leave Lebanon speaking and writing in Syriac". Father Elyas comments that "No one can claim that he/she cannot speak or write in Syriac any longer; it will only cost you two months of your life." I guess that he meant that we too should consider coming to Lebanon and learn to read and write Syriac. The Kneshto d'Rohmay Leshono Suryoyo is working on the production of a Syriac-English dictionary. Soon we will be able to order a copy from Lebanon.
The Taw-Meem-Simkat School (Assyrian Orphanage and National School) recently celebrated its 100th anniversary in Beirut. One of its famous members was the great Malfono Naoum Faik. We closely witnessed the financial challenges of teaching their Assyrian-Suryoye children. There are many parents who are unable to pay the tuition. Yet the school continues to teach their children simply because they are Assyrian-Suryoye. One morning we went to the school and visited a class. The children stood up and said; "Brikh Safro" to us. The Syriac teacher Gabriel Aydin told us that these children are practicing the Syriac they learn in their every day lives. "We start by simple words like shlomo", told us Gabriel Aydin.
In most of the households Syriac is no longer spoken. This is very painful. The "Taw-Meem-Simkat" school needs financial support from the USA and the European Community, according to the school principle, Mr. Shabo Sawma. "For every Suryoye-Assyrian it would not be too difficult to make a monthly donation of 20 U.S. dollars to provide an Assyrian-Suryoye pupil a good education in Lebanon. We hope that people are prepared to make such donations", said Mr. Shabo Sawma. The Assyrian-Suryoye schools, churches and cultural associations face similar financial problems and still continue to support the people and organize many activities. The youth members are trying very hard to learn the Syriac language and their history.
The economic condition in lebanon is worsening. The country is working to re-build everything with its own resources. This is one of the factors contributing to the rise in living costs. The Lebanese pay in dollars but they receive in Lebanese lira. Lebanon needs more improved and open economic ties with other countries. The possibilities are endless.
I believe that there is much work to be done in Lebanon and the Assyrians-Suryoye-Maronoye in the Diaspora must shoulder some of the burden. If we do not begin to pay attention now, a large number of our population will leave Lebanon - - something we must prevent at all cost.
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MILD EARTHQUAKES SHAKE NORTHERN IRAQ & URMIA
(ZNRU: Istanbul) On Saturday three tremors ranging up to 5.0 on the Richter scale shook the Turkish-Iraqi border region. "These are not of the scale that would cause any damage,'' a spokesman for the Kandilli observatory in Istanbul told Reuters.
The first tremor of magnitude 5.0 struck at 10:18 a.m. local time (3:18 a.m. EST). It was followed by a 4.0 tremor at 11:29 (4:29 a.m. EST) and another of 3.8 at 11:35 (4:35 a.m. EST).
Two devastating earthquakes hit Turkey in August and November last year, killing at least 18,500 people and wreaking widespread damage in the industrialized northwest.
In Iran, an earthquake measuring five on the richter scale hit the city of Urmia at 11:48 hours local time (08:18 GMT) Saturday, causing panic among citizens. The epicenter of the tremor, the second hitting the city in one day, was registered at 30 kilometers west of Urmia, by the East Azarbaijan seismological network affiliated to the Tehran university geophysics center.
Another 4-degree quake had already shook
the city at 04:13 hours local time (00:43 GMT) Saturday morning. No reports
have yet been received at Zinda presstime as to possible damage or casualty
as a result of the two tremors.
POPE CELEBRATES MASS IN EGYPT, SYRIAC LANGUAGE HEARD
(ZNZT: Vatican) Last Friday, 20,000 Christians in Egypt from several orthodox churches attended a Mass celebrated by John Paul II on his second day in Egypt. For the first time in the land of the Pharaohs, a large-scale Mass was celebrated outside a church in a public place. The huge Sports Palace was made available, free of charge, by the Egyptian government. The liturgy was that of the Holy Family.
The Pope spoke about the unity of Christians. He said that dialogue and closeness would contribute to find solutions to the problems that today continue to place obstacles to full communion. "In order to do this common work, which should bring together all the members of the same nation, it is right that everyone, Christians and Muslims, while respecting different religious views, should place their skills at the service of the nation, at every level of society," the Holy Father emphasized.
The liturgy was extremely varied and festive. It included the Syriac prayers in addition to the Coptic, Greek, Armenian, and Latin. Egyptians offered dates, cotton, sugar cane, and doves as a sign of peace; the Sudanese refugees offered a cup, in sign of communion, and an ostrich egg, symbol of fertility.
CULINARY EVENT TO RAISE $100,000 FOR ASSYRIANS
Courtesy of The Tree of Life Quarterly
On Friday, 28 April 2000, the AAS is planning a banquet in the elegant Garden Court of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. The goal is to raise $100,000 to be used for specific named projects in north Iraq.
The menu will be prepared by five or six Middle Eastern chefs and will be an exceptional showcase for their talents. Additionally, the Palace Hotel is attempting to bring in one of the Starwood Hotel chefs from the Middle East. Some of the finest of all California wines will be served.
George Zaia of Babylon Printing in Milpitas, California will be the dinner chairperson. Babylon Printing has been donating the AAS printouts, the quarterly Tree of Life, and this year's full color Christmas cards.
Dinner tickets will be available for $200.00 per person. For more information write to:
“Just a note of thank you for your hard work and dedication in bringing us Zinda on a regular basis. God bless you and give you strength to continue for many years to come, well into the new turning point of our nation where once again we can have a choice to return to.”
PREMIER ROBERT CARR TOASTS ASSYRIANS OF AUSTRALIA
The Honorable Robert John Carr, M.P. is the New South Wales (Australia) Labor Premier who has led his party fo over a decade. He is also the Minister for the Arts and Minister for Citizenship in the New South Wales Parliament. The following is a speech given last year by the Honorable Robert John Carr at the Fourth Annual The Assyrian Australian Academic Society Ball:
My parliamentary colleagues here tonight, Janice Crosio of the federal parliament, Carl Scully the minister for transport in N.S.W., John Hatsistougis member of the state Upper House, Joe Tripodi of course, His Grace the Bishop, Chris Bowen the mayor of Fairfield, Councilor Anwar Khoshaba, Stepan Kerkyasharian the chair of the ethnic affairs commission of N.S.W., Mr. Anwar Atto, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here tonight and to affirm my association with this wonderful community. I was first introduced to the community by Janice Crosio in 1988 at a great celebration at the Nineveh Club.
Carl Scully was there, not yet a member of parliament but a councilor himself, but now he's here tonight with you as minister for transport, but only there because you've been generous enough to support him in elections and I know that he's grateful for the opportunity you've given him.
That was a very memorable night for me at the Nineveh club, my first meeting as party leader with the Assyrian community. Carl and Anwar and Janice might remember that we were mobilised onto the floor to do a dance. And we were in a line, I thought we danced very, very well, and there was a photo of it which I was very proud of and I stuck it up in my office.
But then I was honoured to be taken on an inspection with the Bishop, with Anwar, of your Cathedral while it was under construction. Then I remember vividly in late 1990, I remember the day, I think it was the first or second weekend in December 1990, being there with your Patriarch from the United States at the dedication of the Cathedral. It's vivid in my memory.
So I've got some rich associations with your community, but I think it's important that you know that the Premier of New South Wales knows your community, feels warmly about your community and cares for its welfare. And I'm proud of it.
Now, I knew a little of the history but not the extent of the history of Assyrians. Recently Helena and I were in Paris. We had an hour or so spare to go to the Louvre. Some friends of ours said, "What part of this great museum would you like to see?" I said "I'm going to leave it to you." And they said "We must see the Mesopotamian rooms in the museum."
So we went there and I was dazzled by the, room after room, testifying to the riches of the civilisation created between the Tigris and Euphrates. There indeed were the first, they'd be the first, cuneiform scripts. And there in ancient language told on stone was the story of a king who had been found as a baby among the bulrushes and adopted by a family.
There was the story of an administration that got out of touch with its people, faced a revolt by a peasant leader and a government that introduced wide-ranging and popular reforms as a start, thousands of years before the birth of Christ. It's all told there. And there, on another stone, was the first Crimes Acts, setting out all the crimes, all the breaches.
Now these are very, very important because theirs are reminders of the origin of civilisation. Because the ideas and the notions developed between the Tigris and Euphrates took hold in Persia, and took hold in India and took hold in ancient Greece. And I know that is what our young people are studying when they pursue that new ancient history syllabus for the HSC, which is now on offer in our schools.
But it's very interesting to see in the Louvre, the great artwork, the great reliefs, the great sculptural reliefs on the walls of cities and to be reminded of what existed of Babylon, the great structures of Babylon that made it indeed a wonder of the world.
But yours is, of course, a Christian civilisation and Aramaic is the language of Christ. I don't think, there are no other people who can boast that theirs is the language of Christ.
Now I, as a Premier with a keen interest in education. I want to applaud your community for its focus on education, like a lot of migrant communities, but more than any I can think of. You're intent on seeing that these wonderful young people, in the choirs we've listened to tonight, can go on to play a full role in our society and they can only do it if they've got a sound education.
The American writer Sorbello said, "Words are the poor boy's best friend" and we see that the boys and girls have got a sound education. There is no limit to what they can contribute in our democratic and multi-cultural society.
That's why I applaud your focus on education then, and I applaud your determination to see that your language, your culture, your history, continues to live here in Australia. Australia's a richer country because you assert that Assyrian is a live culture and the language is alive and your young people should know about these things. I congratulate you on all of that.
Now you've got a great friend and a champion, not only in Tripodi and Scully, Crosio, Hatsistougis a new member of parliament, but in this man, the first Assyrian elected to Fairfield council. He's a wonderful man; he's a friend to us all. I think we're united in saying that Anwar's a friend of ours, a good advisor.
Last Sunday, when I went to Cabramatta to open a Lao-Chinese community centre, there's Anwar! I said, "you're not Laotian and you're not Chinese!" But he's playing his role as his mayor, Chris Bowen would expect him to do in seeing that we're a Multi-cultural society, seeing that we work as a multi-cultural society, that we all work together in this diverse society building a greater and a better Australia.
So I congratulate Anwar Khoshaba for being the first Australian-Assyrian to be elected to public office as mayor of Fairfield City and I know he's an inspiration to you young people who surely aspire to playing a full role in our democracy, in the Australian democracy.
And Fairfield is of course one of the most culturally diverse municipalities of Australia. And do you know what? Australian multi-culturalism works, it works well, because we've developed the art of getting along with one another and assisting one another and being co-operative, of having an over-arching loyalty to Australia but at the same time being able to be proud of all the cultural backgrounds that we represent. And that's the marvelous thing about Australia and that's why we're united in our dedication to see that this Australia goes from strength to strength.
I congratulate the Assyrian Australian Academic Society for organising this event. I wish you all an enjoyable evening and I look forward to having a long association with you as I've had a long history of association with you, representatives of a wonderful community and a great part of Australia.
October 1999 - Volume 5 No. 1
Purely Academic is the quarterly magazine produced by
the Publications Sub-Committee of the Assyrian-Australian Academic Society.
For more information click
Mary Adam Warner
71, passed away on January 10 in San Francisco. Mary was the daughter of Jack and Almas Lazar and sister of William Lazar. Mary was the president of the Luxor Cab Company. She is survived by her son David, daughter-ini-law Jennifer, and their four children; and by her nehews Bill, John, and Dennis Lazar. Her funeral was held at Mar Narsai Parish and attended by 300 friends and family members.
From the book "Shall This Nation Die"
By: Rev. Joseph Naayem
An Historical Essay On The Assyro-Chaldean Christians
By: Rev. Gabriel Oussani
St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, New York
1 October 1920
The Rev. J. Naayem, the author of this work (Shall This Nation Die), and an eye-witness of most of the horrible scenes of massacres herein described, has requested me to write an introduction to this English version of his book for the benefit of the American public, which is perhaps not so well acquainted with the history, geography and religion of the Assyro-Chaldean Christians who suffered during and after the great war (1915-1920) at the hands of the unscrupulous Turks, indescribable torture, and who lost through murder and famine 250,000 of their membership.
Having the interest and the welfare of this unfortunate nation at heart, being myself a native of that unhappy land, and having already known of these things through direct correspondence with bishops, priests, merchants, friends and relatives in Mesopotamia, I gladly accede to his request, hopeful of awakening in the loving hearts of the American people a genuine sympathy and commiseration for this martyred race, one of the most ancient and glorious nations; but, alas, decimated and reduced to ruin. Never in the past have the American people had such opportunity of extending a helping hand to oppressed Christian nations as they have at the present time in Upper Mesopotamia.
The sufferings of the Belgian, French, Polish, Serbian and Austrian peoples during the great war completely fade away by comparison with what the helpless countries of the Near East suffered and endured, and are still enduring, from the Turkish and Kurdish ravages and cruelties. The excellent work done by the Near East Relief Committee has accomplished much; but a great deal more must be done, and done quickly, if the Christianity of the Near East, and specially of Mesopotamia and Persia, is to be rescued from immediate and total destruction. The well-merited relief so generously extended to the suffering Armenians has in a way so completely focused the attention and the generosity of the American people on this unfortunate race, that the other, -- smaller, but just as unfortunate, -- races of the Near East have been to a great extent lost sight of. These smaller Christian nations, and particularly the Assyro-Chaldeans, suffered as much at the hands of the Turks as the Armenians, and proportionately more, and thus deserve as much sympathy and help.
Ethnographically, the modern Assyro-Chaldeans are the descendants of the Ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and Arameans, who for many millenniums inhabited and ruled over the Tigris - Euphrates valley, Upper Mesopotamia and Syria, and who were the political masters of the Near East for many centuries before the Christian era.
With the downfall of the Kingdoms of Assyria and Babylonia (7th and 6th centuries B. C., respectively) and the political ascendancy of the Medians, Parthians, and Persians (from circa 6th century B. C. to 6th century A. D. especially during the reign of the Sassanide dynasty), they suffered many political and later on religious persecutions, but stood the test heroically. Incidentally, their very ethnographic identity and their national spirit of independence were completely crushed. They were, so to say, engulfed in the many religious, racial and political whirlpools and currents which swept over their country for more than ten full centuries.
Under the Arab domination (from the 7th to the 13th century A. D.) they once more prospered, and developed the greatest and most extensive Christian Church of the Near East, enjoying vast political and religious privileges, marred at times by occasional and local adversities. From the 13th century on and until our own day, however, this heroic Christian nation suffered such untold misery and persecutions at the hands of the cruel Tartars, Mongols and Mohammedan Turks that at the beginning of the 20th century this once great and fertile country, this glorious and powerful nation, was reduced to less than one-tenth of its former size. The Assyro-Chaldean nation embraced Christianity, if not during the first, certainly during the middle of the second century. Setting aside the controversy as to the early evangelization of Edessa in Upper Mesopotamia during the reign of King Abgar (circa 35 A. D.) and the traditional propagation of the Gospel throughout Mesopotamia by the Apostles Thomas, Addai and Mari, it is unanimously agreed by all scholars that towards the end of the second century the Christian religion had penetrated into the whole country inhabited by the Assyro-Chaldeans. In the 3rd and 4th centuries, they already possessed a highly developed and well organized hierarchy, with numerous dioceses and churches, a Patriarchal See, stationed at Seleucia-Ctesiphon on the lower Tigris and a Christian population exercising, at times, a far-reaching political and religious influence over the Sassanian dynasty of Persia and the Arabian dynasty of Hira. During the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries, the Assyro-Chaldean Church became so extensive and powerful that it excited the fear and the hatred of the Sassanian kings of Persia, who determined to exterminate it with a series of almost uninterrupted persecutions and unheard-of cruelties. Hundreds of thousands of martyrs gave their lives willingly for the faith of Christ. Patriarchs, bishops, priests, virgins, widows, children and adults, noble and poor, vied one with the other in their faith and love for Christ, and were massacred with tortures the like of which was not even dreamed of by the most cruel of Roman Emperors. And if the number of martyrs in the Roman Empire during the first three or four centuries, according to a generous estimate, may have reached the grand total of 200,000, that of the Assyro-Chaldean martyrs in the Persian Empire, form the 3rd to the 7th century, must have reached the half million mark and perhaps twice that number. Entire cities and whole districts were destroyed and their Christian inhabitants slaughtered.
Monasticism also penetrated and flourished early among the Assyro-Chaldean Christians. The mountains of Assyria and Kurdistan teemed with hundreds of their monastic institutions, and their inmates equaled and often surpassed the most austere and absurd asceticism of the early Egyptian and Syrian monks and anchorites. Great schools of theology and philosophy also flourished within this great church, and it is well known fact that Arabian philosophy, mathematics, medicine, the arts and science of the Middle Ages, though to a great extent of Greek origin, penetrated the Abbaside Empire through the influence of the numerous Nestorian and Jacobite scholars and schools of learning; and thus preserved Western culture from utter destruction and made possible its reintroduction into Europe through Spain at the hands of the Mohammedan Arabs.
Up to about the middle of the 5th Christian century, the Assyro-Chaldean Christians professed the same Orthodox Christian Faith. In 429, Nestorius, a native of Syria and Patriarch of Constantinople, began to preach his doctrine that in Christ there were two distinct persons (the human and the divine) just as there were in Him two distinct corresponding natures, and thus denying the Divine Maternity of the Virgin Mary, condemned by the Council of Ephesus (431) and repudiated by the whole Church of the West, and finding no outlet for his doctrine in the Roman Empire, Nestorius, or rather his Syrian followers and admirers, bishops, priests and monks, found in Mesopotamia and Persia a fertile field for their teaching. Aided by the Sassanian kings of Persia, the inveterate enemies of the Roman Empire and of the Western Christianity, they succeeded in propagating Nestorianism throughout the length and breadth of the Persian Empire, with the result that within a few decades the vast and powerful Christian Church of Persia embraced the Nestorian doctrine and thus separated itself from the Christianity of the West, becoming an autonomous church.
Hardly had this been accomplished when a new christological heresy appeared on the horizon,--that of Eutyches, another Syrian monk, and Abbot of Constantinople. In his opposition to Nestorianism, Eutyches ended by maintaining that as in Christ there was but one person, so also His two natures became so thoroughly united or unmixed as to form but one composite nature. He was deposed and his doctrine condemned by the Council of Constantinople (448) and of Chalcedon (451).
Finding again no outlet in the West, this new teaching began to spread in Syria, Egypt, Armenia, Mesopotamia and throughout the Persian Empire, rivaling in its rapid spread Nestorianism itself; with the result that throughout all the following centuries and till our own days, Assyro-Chaldean Christianity, which in the 10th and 11th centuries boasted of not less than 500 dioceses, thousands of churches and millions of adherents, reaching in its extension from Central Asia, China, Tartary, Mongolia, India (Malabar), Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Cyprus and as far as Egypt, became divided into two great rival Churches, viz., the Nestorian Church, and the Eutychian or Jacobite Church.
From the 14th century, however, and as late as our own day, missionaries from religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church centered their activities on converting these people, with the result that ever since, and for the last six centuries hundreds of thousands of these Assyro-Chaldean Nestorians and Jacobites entered the Roman Catholic Church, preserving, however, their own national and ecclesiastical language, liturgy, church discipline and customs. At present, therefore, the Assyro-Chaldean Christians are divided into four big sects or churches, with their own corresponding hierarchy and distinct church organization and government, differing but slightly in their faith, in their liturgy and liturgical language (rather dialects of the same language), church discipline and ecclesiastical customs.
At the beginning of the great war, according to more or less reliable statistics, the total numbers of the Assyro-Chaldean Christians in Turkey and Persia was about was about 700,000 - 800,000, scattered over the plains of Babylonia, Mesopotamia, Upper Syria and the mountains of Assyria, Kurdistan and Persia, whereas at the present time, having lost more than 250,000 souls at the hands of the tyrannical Turks, Kurds and Persians, they hardly number 500,000, many of whom had to abandon their country and homes and flee into Russia, Syria and Lower Mesopotamia.
They are the following:
1. The Nestorian Assyro-Chaldean -- commonly called Nestorians (before the war #ed circa 250,000).
2. The Catholic Assyro-Chaldeans -- commonly called Chaldeans (before the war #ed circa 150,000).
3. The Eutychian Assyro-Chaldeans -- commonly called Jacobites (before the war #ed circa 250,000).
4. The Syrian Catholic Assyro-Chaldeans
-- commonly called Catholic Syrians (before the war #ed circa 50,000) Owing
to the staggering losses, it is almost impossible to give accurate statistics
of the Assyro-Chaldean Christians at the present time. When the whole tale
of destruction is told and the condition of the country becomes normal
(keeping in mind the horrible slaughter of 250,000 souls, the total destruction
of the churches, the burning of thousands of homes, the killing of a dozen
or more bishops and hundreds of priests, the plunder and spoliation of
public, private and church properties, the ravages of hunger, starvation,
violence, disease, poverty, deportation, tortures, amputation and mutilation
of thousands still alive and rendered helpless and in a state of abject
poverty, ridicule and shame), then, and onlt then, will the American people
be enabled to form an adequate estimate of the terrific losses in property
and human life, in domestic and personal happiness, in religion and education
among the unfortunate Assyro-Chaldean Christians. For this reason Father
Naayem’s book is of timely interest, as it will give the American public
an accurate, though meager pen picture of the horrible sufferings of but
a small portion of the Assyro-Chaldean Christians. America and American
principles of justice and liberty, American love for suffering humanity
and American charity are the only hope of stricken Eastern Christianity,
and the one bright star in the once brilliant, but, alas, now darkened
Eastern sky !
(page xv - xxvi)
About the same time when visiting Mr. Antoun Roumi at Aleppo, I met Wahida, a little Chaldean girl of Diarbekir, aged twelve, who was related to Madame Roumi. Her mother, a survivor of the massacres (the Turkish massacres of 1918), had been unable to support her, her father having been killed by the Turks and her home plundered. I asked her to tell me what she had seen and she gave me the following details; My father, Naoum Abid, was a Municipal Commissioner, who in fear of being killed concealed himself during the arrests. One day the patrol came to our house, and, under pretense of buying brandy, which we sold, induced us to open the door. They entered, and, after searching every hole and corner of the house, found my father and carried him away to prison. Mother and I began to cry.
Some days later a warder came to tell me that my father wanted to see me. I went to him immediately. Father kissed me fondly and cried, asking me how mother and my little brothers, Michael and Suleiman, were, and how they were bearing up. He cried again and I did what I could to console him. When I had been three hours with him, a policeman took me away from him upstairs to a room in an upper story which overlooked that in which my father was kept. Through a window I saw policemen go into his cell, executioners, armed with clubs, and soldiers who used the butts of their rifles, struck my father terrible blows. They hit him many blows with their daggers. They put out his eyes with a knife which had a sharp point, and cut his stomach open. I wept and cried for a time and then I opened the door and ran away.
I rushed home, crying, and told my mother what had happened. She became hysterical and began to tear out her hair. My little brother ran to tell all our relatives the terrible news, and all began to mourn. Mother, foreseeing what would be in store for us, soon made plans for us to flee. Like a brave woman, she gathered all her children together, and by crossing from one terrace roof to another we finally found a safe place in which to shelter. In this way she saved us from death. When the storm had passed we returned home and found that all our furniture had been stolen.
Not being able to live in an empty house, and having no money or other resources, my mother had to take service in Turkish families at Diarbekir in order to support us. But not earning enough to feed us, she was obliged to send some of us to my uncle Petioun, at Aleppo. (page 195)
What Happened at Kharput
At the end of 1918, I met, at Constantinople, Djordjis Toumas Keshishe, a business man of Kharput, who had been an eye witness of the massacres which took place in that town. I wrote down the following account, word for word, at his dictation, and, the better to authenticate the details of his narrative, obtained his signature to my notes.
The Turks commenced by arresting certain men of note, in particular the schoolmasters. Among others, they seized Oshous Yussef, Professor at the American college and editor of the “Murched,” (Monitor) the Assyro-Chaldean organ of the town. If I remember rightly, this was at the beginning of May, 1915. Those arrested were imprisoned for a fortnight. Their houses were searched, but happily nothing of a compromising nature was discovered. The dwellings of the Assyro-Chaldeans or Jacobites were also subjected to the same measure.
Meanwhile, Sabit Bey, Governor of the town, betook himself to Erzerum, where, on a pretext that there was an epidemic of Typhus, he closed all the schools. From Erzerum he returned as far as Mezre on a Friday some days later.
Taking up his quarters at the Seraglio (Government House), he held a council which lasted for over an hour, during which time Christians were forbidden to enter the building. I happened to be with friends in the courtyard of the church, where I noticed armed soldiers making their rounds. Towards nine o'clock I saw them leading off an Armenian whom they had arrested. In the evening my little brother Yohanna, a boy seven years of age, came to see me at the church, saying that my father was asking for me.
Leaving the church, I discovered to my surprise that all the Christians I met were in great alarm. I arrived home to find my aunt and other relatives weeping, and learned that my uncle Barsom Keshishe, a tradesman, had been arrested. My father, white as a sheet, and very much upset and worried, was speechless in a corner. Not until an hour later did he break silence. “ I was in the market place,” he told us, “when the Governor came with the Commandant to Government House. There they had a long discussion. A quarter of an hour later the market place was surrounded by the militia, who picked out all Christians over fourteen years of age, arrested them and put them in prison ; among them my poor brother Barsom. I managed to save myself with great difficulty, thanks to Kevork Agha, who foreseeing that a general arrest was imminent, advised me to flee. A few minutes later he himself was arrested, savagely knocked about and taken to prison. From a distance I witnessed also the arrest of two brothers, Boghos and Marderos Chatalbashe, Abraham Tasho and many others. I myself was twice arrested in the street, but Providence willed that I should be let set at liberty.”
Next day about eight o'clock a public crier announced from the top of the citadel: “Christians, know that he who does not open his shop as usual will be court-martialed and condemned to death. Why are you afraid ? You run no risk. Take courage !” My father having little confidence in the words of the public crier feared to open his shop. I thought of going myself, but changed my mind, and my uncle, taking the keys, went to open the premises.
Before many hours had passed we learnt that all tradesmen in the market place had been arrested. During the day police agents and soldiers came to our house with a list of names on which figured that of my father whom they intended to apprehend. My mother went to the door and declared that all the men were out. As a matter of fact we had all fled by the roofs to the Bishop's residence, were we found Bishop Mansour in his room, praying. Since our presence might cause his arrest, we left his house, my father taking refuge with Minasse Agha Chatalbashe, and my cousin and I concealing ourselves in the house of Ashour Effendi.
Some time later my mother arrived in tears to say that the soldiers were coming every few minutes to worry her, declaring that at all costs they must have her husband and her sons. They said that they wished to take my father to Government House to ask him a few questions, after which he would be released. Fearing that the savages would harm his wife and family, my father bravely decided to return to the house. There he met the soldiers who were waiting to take him. He begged them to allow him to change his clothing and to embrace his children before he left. One of my aunts appeared with her baby in her arms. In her exasperation she said to the soldiers:
“You cowards, you have snatched my husband from his home to take him to Mezre! Now you want to take my brother-in-law! Are you not afraid of the anger of God ? What have these innocent people done that you should treat them in this way ?”
“Do not be anxious!” hypocritically answered the soldiers. Your men will soon be back home.”
Meanwhile the populous Christian quarters were emptied, only a few young people remaining. Almost all the men were taken to Mezre, where they were shut up to the number of fifteen hundred in a large building called “Kirmisi Konak.” (The Red Palace) No one was allowed to speak to them, but their relatives were permitted to bring them food.
As the Turks said that they only required the Armenians, the Bishop (of the Assyro-Chaldean), with two prominent members of his congregation, Elia Effendi Tasho and Bedik Zade Arakel, went to see the Governor, the Commandant and the Deputy, and begged them to spare his flock since they were not Armenians and belonged to no political party. Bedik Zade, a very influential Moslem, who was present, asked the Governor with tears in his eyes: “Why do you treat this unhappy people in this way ? They are absolutely guiltless!”
The Governor and his friends then promised to refer the matter to Constantinople, and obtain pardon for the Assyro-Chaldean community. Some days later a favourable reply did come from the central authorities and thus the Assyro-Chaldeans were spared. In spite of the order, however, the Governor failed to release the fifteen hundred of our co-religionists who had already been apprehended with the Armenians and taken to Mezre. All, without distinction, were put to death outside the town. Happily my father was still in prison at Kharput.
After these events the public crier announced that the Christian inhabitants of each quarter were to quit the town in turn and take the road to Urfa. The Assyro-Chaldeans were to leave on Wednesday. As my father was “Moukhtar,” (something like an Alderman) he was released from prison to assist in the census of our quarter. On its completion, not withstanding the order that the Assyro-Chaldeans should be spared, he was reincarcerated.
The public crier repeated the order for the deportations, and the five hundred and fifty-six Armenians and Assyro-Chaldeans in prison were released to accompany their families into exile. By good fortune the public crier announced one day that the Chaldeans could remain behind. The happiness of our community can be imagined. There were rejoicing everywhere, and our leaders visited the Governor and made him a present of L. T. 500 in gold. At the same time they begged him to transmit the order of the central authorities for the sparing of the Assyro-Chaldeans to the suburbs in which a great many of them lived.
We next went to see the “Mudir” (Mayor) of one of those suburbs, who had come to town and asked him in view of the order to spare the Assyro-Chaldean villages. Hoping to gain his favor, we made him presents. He promised to do so, but on returning to his village the barbarian put everyone of them to death, even to the women and children. In the little town of Adyaman, hardly a trace of the Christians remained, all of them having been hacked to death with axes and thrown into the river which watered the locality. The priests in particular had been tortured with indescribable savagery. The following are the names of some of the places inhabited by the Assyro-Chaldeans: the town of Malatia and the villages of Chiro, Aiwtos and Guarguar.
Three months after the tragedy just recounted, the Governor being absent, all the Assyro-Chaldeans were re-arrested one night and sent to the Kirmisi Konak. A knock came to our door. It was Abdennour, a fellow Christian who wished my father to come to his house. This he did, and on his return he told us that a Turk had been to Abdennour making inquiries for him. It was a tradesman with whom my father had some dealings, and to whom he owed some money. This the creditor was hastening to claim as he had learnt that all the Assyro-Chaldeans were to be arrested next day. My father’s words terrified us, and we felt that this time all was over. At dawn my father, my cousin David and I fled and hid at the bottom of a well, requesting our relatives to dig a hole and bury all our valuables and merchandise in a corner of the garden. Every moment we expected the arrival of the wretches who were to lead us to our deaths. At length towards mid-day a relation who was in the secret of our hiding place called down to us from the opening of the well:
“Come out. There is nothing to fear. The massacre of the Assyrians has been stopped.”
During the massacres of Kharput I lost my uncles, Barsom Keshishe, Boghos and Mardiros ; my cousins Nouri and Ohannes, and also Ashour Youssouf, Donabet and Kework Kerbez, who were otherwise related to me.” (pages 207-215)
Prepared by Fred Aprim
TRAILBLAZER AWARD GOES TO CHALDEAN COUNCIL
Last week in Lathrup Village, Michigan, the Arab American
and Chaldean Council was honored by
Ameritech-Michigan for its efforts in bringing about progressive change in the Metro Detroit area and across the state. The council received the Robert L. Hurst Trailblazer Award at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
The period between 2900 and 2700 B.C. in southern Bet-Nahrain (Mesopotamia) is referred to as the Early Dynastic I or the Golden Age. During this time a natural catastrophe may have ensued similar to the Flood described in the Bible. The Sumerian word for "flood" is "marru", a word later used in describing the "people from the west" or the "Amorites"- the people of the Flood.
The Ancient Near East, Hallo & Simpson
Baron Max von Oppenheim, A German diplomat who had traveled widely in the Arab countries and acquired an intimage knowledge of the locals, was commissioned to reconnoiter the line of a projected railroad to be built by German engineers from Istanbul to Baghdad. Oppenheim later occupied his time excavating the archeological site of Tel Halaf where he found some of the finest pre-historic artifacts in Mesopotamia..
The Rise of Civilization, Oates & Oates
March 1, 1898: The body of the Assyrian missionary, Rev. Yacoub Yalqu d'Qarajalu, is buried in a village located in eastern Siberia, north of Manchuria, China.
LONDON CENTRE FOR THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST LECTURE
"Reading and writing cuneiform past and present"
LONDON CENTRE FOR THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST LECTURE
"Egypt through the Assyrian annals"
INTERNATIONAL CULINARY EVENT
Sponsored by the Assyrian Aid Society
Dinner prepared by famous Middle
Garden Court of the Palace Hotel
For more information contact:
350 Berkeley Park Boulevard
Kensington, CA 94707
FIRST ASSYRIAN MIDI COMPOSERS CONFERENCE
EIGHT ANNUAL CONGRESS FOR SYRIAC STUDIES
Department of Semitic Studies
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