Adaar 7, 6749 March 7, 2000
|The Lighthouse||Mor Habib|
|Good Morning Bet-Nahrain||The Controversial Ilisu Dam Project|
|News Digest||Syrian Orthodox Church on Census 2000
Ancient Castle Found in Southern Bet-Nahrain
|Surfs Up||"misconception actively spread by the Roman Cath. Church"|
|Surfers Corner||The Assyrian Genocide Seminar in Chicago
1999 Mid Eastern Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
|Assyrian Surfing Posts||The Ilisu Dam Project in Yurquie
Talking Assyrian Alphabet
A History of the British in Iraq
|Literatus||Ancient Mesopotamian Pregnancy Test|
|Pump Up the Volume||Exchange & Convert|
|Back to the Future||Dog's Tongue & Paul Émile Botta|
|This Week in History||First Assyrian School for Girls|
|Calendar of Events||Hannibal Alkhas Exhibition in Holland|
All blue links throughout this issue are hyperlinks to other sections on this page or featured websites.
Egyptian Missionary in Mesopotamia
Mt Izlla is located in present day Turkey near the Syrian border. It is a few kilometers north of Nisibis, the town famous at the end of the fourth century for its Christian University. Persian and Roman armies moved back and forth within view of Mt. Izlo for several centuries. The Roman general, Julian the Apostate, lost to an inferior Persian army on the Syrian plains below Mt. lzla. In the next millennium, Marco Polo, the Italian explorer, passed by the base of the mountain on his way to China, traveling on the famed Silk Road.
When monasticism emerged in the fourth century in Mesopotamia, Mt. Izlo was a natural location for monasteries.1 It was near a strategic military and cultural nexus, yet remote enough to satisfy the needs of solitude. It was close enough to Nisibis, an important Christian population to provide financial support, yet far enough away to allow monks to conduct prayer in relative peace. Mt. Izla was on the Persian/Roman military border which made it an important region for Emperors to court the loyalty of the monks. Monasteries often financially benefited from generous gifts and building programs.
Location of the Literary Source of the Story
Traditions of the region suggest that monasticism was founded by St. Awgin and his seventy two disciples from Egypt who came to the region in the first half of the fourth century. Although a native monastic tradition existed in the region, St. Awgin is credited with initiating the birth of many monasteries and churches in the region. The spiritual center of this religious phenomenon was on Mt. Izla.2
We know of at least seven main monasteries that were built on Mt. Izla. The chief of the monasteries was St. Awgin where the Saint was buried. The other six monasteries were Deir Mor Abraham of Kashkar, Deir Mor Yohanon Tayoyo, Deir Mor Melke, Dier Mor Khudahwi, Deir Mor Yareth, and Deir Mor Sallara.
Four major Christian villages grew up in support of the monasteries. Beth Arabaye: a village where Eulogius lived in this village for two years, Beth Mar Fafa: a village near Mt. Izlo below Deir Yohanon, Kfar Zamara: a village near Mt. Izlo, and the main village M'arre which was the main support for the monasteries for fifteen hundred years and bears archeological evidence of its rich Christian past.3
We are told in the story of St. Habib that he came with the original Egyptian troop of monks led by St. Awgin. He helped in the construction of what became the monastery of St. Awgin. Eventually the monks spread out across the region evangelizing the pagan populations who practiced a syncretistic but essentially Mithrian religion. St. Habib is credited in the story with evangelizing a region in what is today northern Iraq in the vicinity of the Kardu mountains.
We learn from the story that he returned to Mt. Izla after his first journey instigated by the prompting of St. Awgin. The return to Mt. Izla seems to indicate that the mountain was the spiritual heart of the missionary enterprise. Local Christian residents today believe that St. Habib is buried at the site of the monastery of St. Awgin. Our story suggests that he is buried at a monastery that bore his name near the Tigris river, perhaps in the vicinity of the town of Shigar in northern Iraq.
Date of the Literary Origin of the Story
We have an excellent linguistic marker in the text to suggest the time of the writing of the story of St. Habib. The story uses several Greek loan words. The word 'theoria' first appears in the Greek writings of Evagrius. His writings became popular among Syrian monastic writers, especially in Isaac of Nineveh , Babai, and Gregory of Cyprus, all of whom write in the seventh century. The term became especially popular among contemporaries of Isaac of Nineveh such as Shem'on d-Taybuteh and Dadisho.
Gregory of Cyprus defined the word as meaning 'divine vision' and Dadisho defined it as 'purity of intellect', and Isaac of Nineveh describes it as 'spiritual vision' or 'vision of the soul'. Not only do we have this single word, but we have it in a specific configuration. Professor Sebastian Brock, the noted Syriac orientalist, lists adjectives associated with this Greek loan-word throughout Syriac literature. In our story a variant of the adjective 'alahayta' modifies the Greek load word. Brock says that this phrase is of Dionysian origin. Dionysius the Areopagite was translated from Greek to Syriac by Sergius of Resh'aina. It occurs in Syriac writers such as Philoxenus, Babai, Gregory of Cyprus and Shemoun d-Taybuteh.4
We can conclude that the source of this story maybe as early as the seventh century, three hundred years after the arrival of St. Habib on Mt. Izla. But more than likely the source of the story was written no earlier than the ninth century as there is no manuscript referring to St. Awgin before this time according to Brock. We must have some humility about this observation as it is evidence of having not yet found early manuscripts more than lack of evidence. We may have indirect evidence in our story that this disciple of St. Awgin may have been recorded as early as the seventh century.
The dating of the source of the story could be assisted by identifying two towns mentioned in the story. First, there is Domaane which is north and west of Mt. Izlo. It seems to be in the region of Turabdin. Also the town of Romanus near Anhel. These villages are not present today. If one could find when these villages began and ended under these names it could provide a range of time for narrowing down the period for the source of this story along with other factors.
Also we learn some things about the religions of the region during the time of the writing of the story or perhaps even during the time of St. Habib. We are told that there was a large idol and image-making industry. Some of these idols were made of wood. We deduce that figurines were hung on the idols and items such as gold and silver beads and pearls were hung around the necks of the worshippers.
The names of the people also give us hints into the religious world St. Habib was encountering, or at least it is knowledge of the pagan world at the time of the writing of the story of St. Habib. In the story we encounter a chief magi who was named Adarmalek and his son Pargoshansaf all indicate a Persian/Mithrian religion.
Summary of the Story of St. Habib
St. Habib entered a monastery near Alexandria when he was about fifteen years old feigning ignorance, although he was quite knowledgeable in the scriptures and philosophers. After a few years he secluded himself a cell and wrestled with demons. He left the solitary life in order to go to Jerusalem. He went to Alexandria to receive a blessing from the Patriarch who saw his holiness and made St. Habib Bishop for Athens. Having to chase down the saint, the Patriarch succeeded in making St. Habib a Bishop and sent him to the city. He was received in Athens with great adulation and miracles of walking on water. In Athens he battled over money with a fellow by the name of Dionysious who had confiscated the money of the church and also from the poor. St. Habib through a dream discovered where the money was hidden and had it brought to him. Habib prayed and made the money magically fly to him. Afterwards, Dioynisious committed suicide and St. Habib fled back to Egypt to the Nitrian desert and joined the holy band of St. Awgin. They left Egypt and traveled to Syria, crossing over to Beth Nahrain to Mt. Izla near Nisibis. There they built a monastery and church and it became a staging area for a large missionary enterprise in the region. St. Habib traveled with the troop to the Kardu mountains where he miraculously healed a man who had been mauled by a lion. He was taken to the village of the man and there St. Habib destroyed their house of idols and converted the village to Christianity. He baptised 6,006 people and stayed there and taught them for one month. He returned to Mt. Izla with the man he healed and had become his disciple, Barboze. Later he traveled to the village of Domaane which was north west of Mt. Izla. He and Barboze built a monastery and gathered sixty monks there. Later they traveled to Beth Lafat where they worked for seven years among idol worshippers. When it was discovered that they were Christians, the people of the city threw them in prison. The chief of the Magis beat St. Awgin but the son of the chief of the Magis died as a divine consequence. Through a dream of the Christian servant, the chief of the Magis had St. Awgin released and come and raise his son from the dead. St. Awgin mocks the pagan priest whom he asks first to try to revive the dead son. When they fail St. Awgin revives the son and converts the city and many nearby villages to Christianity. He baptises 10,635 people. He stays with them for three years. St. Habib then goes to the city of Shigir and pays a carpenter to make a living idol. He mocks the man and the idol and for this he is cast into prison again. But St. Habib prays and casts down their house of idols. The people ask St. Habib to show them the power of his God. St. Habib has them bring two dead children to him, a Persian and a Jew. He revives them and converts the city to Christianity. He baptises 1,027 souls. He conducts ministry of healing and teaching and stays with them for six months. Finally he leaves the city and goes and builds a small cell near the Tigris River across from a small village. He is told that he will soon die, and after a brief illness he dies and is taken to heaven.
Signs of Authenticity
Although the story in its present form in the two manuscripts consulted in this story at Mor Gabriel monastery, shows signs of redaction, there are clear evidences of authenticity. In three place we have exact numbers given when counting the number of people baptised. We have 6,006 people baptised in the region of Kardu, 10,635 in the region of Beth Lafat, and 1,027 souls in Shigir. Also we have what sounds like a very authentic prayer from the mouth of the saint that he prays over the people of Kardu. This is followed by a poem in praise of the saint.
1. see J-M Fiey, Nisibe metropole syrienne orientale et ses suffragants, des origines a nos jours, History of Mt Izla Superiors of Mor Augin: Augin 327-363 AD, Andreas 363-444 AD, Yoanon of Hira 444-485 AD, Daniel 485-505 AD, Yohanon Araboyo 505-540 AD, Estephanon the Persian 540-590 AD, Isho the Palestinian 590-592 AD, Abraham the Egyptian 592 - 612 ADAbraham of Jerusalem 612-643 AD, Sallara 643-664 AD
2. Brock, S., Notes on Some
Monasteries on Mt. Izla, Abr-Nahrain XIX, Leiden, 1980/1
912 The life of John the Egyptian is copied at Mor Awgin by monk Moshe (Mingana 496)
1271: restoration of Mor Awgin by Mar Abdisho
1501: A manuscript is copies at Mor Awgin (Berlin syr 59)
1620; A manuscript is copied at Mor Awgin (Berlin syr. 31)
1739: Maryam of Mor Awgin commissioned the writing of the manuscript of the life of Mor Awgin.
Coped by the priest Shemoun of Alqosh (Mingana syr 166)
1808: Order of St. Anthony and St. Awgin founded as part of a monastic revival by Gabriel Danbo
1842: Monastery changed hands from Nestorian to West Syrian ownership. Perhaps initiated by Mafrian
1973: Monastery restored again and one monk and two nuns live there.
3. M'arre: a village in the
vicinity of Mt. Izlo. Known to have inscriptions of a unique relief similar
those found at Mor Gabriel and Mor Yohanon.
4. see Brock, S, Parole de
l'Orient XX. Kaslik, 1995
Fr. Dale A. Johnson (Bar Yohanon)
Fr. Johnson (Bar Yohanon) works at the Mor Gabriel monastery
in southeast Turkey where he is involved in the translation of the local hagiography.
The story of Mar Habib has not been published in the west and Bar Yohanon has
kindly submitted this article for exclusive publication in the Zinda Magazine.
THE CONTROVERSIAL ILISU DAM PROJECT
(ZNRU: Istanbul) The governments of Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the U.S. are currently considering extending official export credits or guarantees of about $ 850 million to finance the Ilisu hydropower project in Turkey. Ilisu is at present the largest dam project in Turkey's pipeline. It is located on the Tigris river in South-East Anatolia, 65 km upstream of the Syrian and Iraqi border. The project is extremely controversial for a variety of political, social, environmental, economic, and archeological reasons. It appears to violate five policy guidelines of the World Bank on 18 accounts, and core provisions of the UN Convention on the Non-Navigational Uses of Transboundary Watercourses.
The Ilisu reservoir will flood 52 villages and 15 small towns, including the city of Hasankeyf, and will affect 15,000-20,000 people. The exact number of affected people has so far not been established, since the surveys of the reservoir area were in part conducted by helicopter rides. Affected people are not being consulted.
The Ilisu reservoir will flood Hasankeyf, a Kurdish town with a population of 5,500. Hasankeyf is the only town in Anatolia which has survived since the middle ages without destruction. Being a rich treasure of Assyrian, Christian, Abassidian-Islamic and Ottoman history in Turkey, Hasankeyf was awarded complete archeological protection by the Turkish department of culture on April 14, 1978 (decision A-1105). The decision by the department of energy to flood Hasankeyf violates this protection. Numerous cultural experts and activists in Turkey have appealed to the national authorities and the foreign companies to save Hasankeyf by changing the design of Ilisu. According to Olus Arik, a professor of Ankara University who supervises the archeological excavations at Hasankeyf, many cultural treasures cannot be transported, and that only 15 percent of all relics could be saved by evacuation.
For more information see this week's ASSYRIAN
SYRIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ON CENSUS 2000,
SOCNews: The Patriarchal Vicars of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the United States have issued a joint encyclical requesting members of the Church residing in the U.S. to submit the US Census-2000 forms registering themselves under the category "Syriac", rather than the name of country of origin. Registering under this category will help ensure that the community meets the minimum numbers required to ensure appropriate federal assistance that is available to such communities in the US. The Archbishops point out that the category should be spelled correctly as "Syriac" and not "Syrian" since the latter would indicate a national of Syrian Arab Republic.
May the blessings, peace and grace of our Lord be with you.
As you may know, the U.S. Government is conducting census this year. As of next March, the Census Bureau will start sending out the Census-2000 forms to every household in the USA. This process takes place once every ten years, and based on its results, the Census bureau studies the demographics of the population shift in the USA, and accordingly it assigns certain federal financial help to each community based on its size. This federal help could contribute towards education programs such as teaching of our language and culture, as well as other community related services. There are two forms involved-- form D-61B (the long form) and D-61A (the short form). A sample of the sections related to ethnic origin and race is attached for reference. It shows the location where the SYRIAC name is to be entered.
We urge each and every member of our community to register as "SYRIAC", the specific category that has been assigned for our people. Please, do not register under the name of any country of origin (i.e. the country from which you originally immigrated from, such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, etc.), because if you register under the name of any country of origin, the federal help would go to the nationals of that country. It is very important to register as "SYRIAC" with a "C" and NOT with an "N", because to the U.S. Government the word "Syrian" means Syrian Arab and not Syriac (Suryoyo).
Our Syriac speaking community owns one of the oldest cultures in the world, and it always strove to preserve its language and culture throughout its long history. It is vital, therefore, for us to continue to work towards preserving our language, the language of our Lord, and our culture.
The "Syriac for Census-2000 Committee" was formed to encourage and request all Syriac speaking communities in the US to register as "SYRIAC" under the combined category of "Syriac Speaking People" (Syriac/Chaldean/Assyrian), so that we can meet the minimum required size of an ethnic minority to be qualified for federal assistance.
Assuring you of our fatherly love and benediction, we remain,
Clemis E. Kaplan, Archbishop
Patriarchal Vicar of the Western US.
Cyril Aphrem Karim, Archbishop
Patriarchal Vicar of the Eastern US.
P.S. If you need any further information or help in filling
the Census forms, contact your Archdiocese office or the Syriacs for Census
2000 Committee (SCC) at: (818) 888-4768.
For Syriac version click here.
(ZNRU: Baghdad) Iraqi archeologists have discovered an ancient castle dating back to the pre-Islamic era in southern Bet-Nahrain's Babil Province- 60 miles south of Baghdad. According to the al-Zawra Weekly the castle contained many artifacts, statues, coins and earthenware pots of different sizes. Abdul-Hameed Aggar, the head of the excavation team, said that bricks gilded by engraved gypsum were used in the castle, indicating ``technical innovation'' in the building. The excavation began last year in Babil province, which is also the site of the historic city of Babylon. Aggar said other houses and castles discovered in the excavation had designs showing they were built under Parthians and Sassanids -- Persian dynasties that reigned between the third century BC and seventh century AD. Last December, Iraq said its archeologists discovered 397 artifacts that dated back to about 2500 BC at an ancient site in southern Iraq.
Also last week, Turkey took possession Wednesday of 133 artifacts, some of which are 2,500 years old, that were looted from archaeological sites in Turkey and smuggled into the United States. Items on display at the State Department ceremony included bronze bracelets and lamps, a terra cotta bird image, a Byzantine cross and a small green glass flask. The collection also contained Assyrian antiquities.
As Alfay Pasinli, Turkey's director general of monuments and museums, signed a receipt and officially received the pieces, Istemihan Talay, Turkey's culture minister, said he hoped the treasures' return would set a precedent.
Last week, Joel Malter, 68, of Malter Galleries in Encino, Calif., pleaded guilty in federal court in Oklahoma City to a conspiracy charge in connection with the smuggling. Investigators said Malter had agreed to buy $8,000 worth of the stolen antiquities.
The investigation began in October 1997 after a U.S. Customs
agent learned of the smuggling from an Oklahoma City buyer. Working with the
Turkish national police, the agent met with Sezai Portakalci, who worked on
the U.S. Air Force Base in Incirlik, Turkey. Portakalci, whom investigators
called the operation's mastermind, was arrested in 1998. Searches in the Turkish
towns of Adana and Kozan resulted in four more arrests, including a reserve
U.S. Air Force major at Incirlik. Investigators also recovered additional coins
“As a Deacon for the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, I am surprised constantly by the ignorance and the lack of research of so-called theologians and the inappropriate presentation of the facts when publishing material regarding the Assyrian Church of the East and St. Nestorius. While it is true that he was condemned for believing that the Virgin Mother of Christ should not be called "Theotokos" or God-bearer, you fail to mention that he was unfairly tried and judged in a hostile and prejudice court during the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. Also, it may be true that his followers fled to Persian territories after his ex-communication and exile, it is utterly false that they founded the Nestorian Persian church. While the Persian Church, also known as the Assyrian Church of the East, similarly rejects the designation of Mary as God-bearer, they do accept that she should be called "Christotokos" or Christ-bearer. However, this belief in Christ's natures and his relationship to the Virgin Mary was part of the Church's theology long before the birth of Nestorius, let alone his ascension to the Patriarchal See of Constantinople. Neither Nestorius nor his followers founded the Assyrian Church of the East in Persia. This is a misconception actively spread by the Roman Catholic Church and believed by many Assyrians. Rather, the Orthodox theology Nestorius preached was that of the Assyrian Church, founded centuries before his birth. Additionally, he did not claim the existence of 2 persons in Jesus Christ, as the Roman Catholics and Chaldeans falsely maintain. In contrast, he believed in the dual natures of Christ, one divine and one human, each performing their own purpose in the one man Jesus.
The Assyrian Church of the East, with its capital being located at Seleucia-Ctesiphon during the 5th century A.D., was founded by the apostles St. Thaddeus and St. Mari during the first century. It had developed an organized and structured religious institution with the Catholicos-Patriarch as its head. Furthermore, while the western church was embroiled in persecutions and religious controversies regarding Christology, the Church of the East had developed a superior theology and belief in Christ that was based on the prophets and Gospel, as opposed to the Western Church's theology that was based on Greek philosophy.
Because the Assyrian church was confined to the borders of the Persian Empire, free and open communication with the Roman West was difficult and mostly prohibited. As many of our church's ancient theologians state, by the time the Persian Church had heard of the Nestorian controversy, many decades had passed and Nestorius was dead. However, our church did not excommunicate Nestorius as the Western church requested, since we found no fault with his religious doctrine and theology. To excommunicate St. Nestorius would be tantamount to excommunicating our own faith and theology, which was handed down to us via the Apostles, and has allowed us to survive two thousand years of persecution, rape, torture, and injustice perpetrated against us because of our belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God Almighty.
Since the Assyrian Church of the East had a structured hierarchy and institution with the Catholicos-Patriarch as its head and various metropolitans, bishops, and clergy to oversee its rural and urban districts, and as mentioned above due to geographical borders, it was independent of the West and had no dependence on Rome as did the Sees of the Western church. Additionally, the Assyrian Church had prominent learning centers, such as the schools of Nisibin and Edessa (Orhai), where instructors of Christian theology, inspired by divine thinking rather than earthly philosophy, taught students that would carry on the traditions of the church. These learning centers were the envy of the Western world. Not only was theology taught at these institutions, but secular subjects as well, such as medicine, astronomy, and science.
In all actuality, the Assyrian Church was an organization centuries ahead of its time that was open and tolerant to many beliefs and promoted novel ideas to educate its members. Its success can be witnessed by its flourishing during the Abbassid Caliphates, when many Assyrians were promoted to high level government positions during Arab rule. Furthermore, as quoted by A. Mingana, a prominent Assyrian theologian, the Assyrian Church had realized that the atom was the smallest physical particle and that the earth revolved around the sun centuries before these discoveries were made by Bohr, Copernicus and Galileo. And while the Roman church considered such ideas as heresies, the so-called Nestorian church promoted these ideas centuries before they were scientifically proven in the West.
When the Roman church was still in its infancy, the Assyrian Church of the East, with its strict monasticism, had developed an active missionary prowess that would allow the penetration of the good news of the Gospel into areas such as Malabar and Trichur, India, Armenia, Turkestan (southern USSR today), Tibet, central China, Mongolia, Siberia, and Japan. Even today, there is a bustling community of "Nestorian" Christians in India that claim their Christian heritage from St. Thomas and recognize the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East as their head. Therefore, it is erroneous and intellectually ignorant to make such a statement regarding Nestorius and his followers.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, Roman Catholicism began to penetrate into the Middle East, specifically Iraq, causing divisions within the Assyrian Church of the East as well as the Assyrian nation. Many believers, due to church controversies and matters beyond their control, were compelled to leave their mother church and join their Assyrian brethren that had subscribed to the Roman Catholic faith. During the 16th century, in order to distinguish between the Assyrians who had steadfastly remained in the faith of their ancient church, and the newly converted Roman Catholic Assyrians, Pope Eugene IV, quite belligerently subscribed the connotation of "Nestorian" to the ancient and true Assyrians, while calling his Roman followers "Chaldean". The head of this newly formed "Chaldean Church" was the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans who was ordained amidst controversy.
Although members of both churches are Assyrian and of Assyrian ancestry, until today these false and inappropriate titles have only deepened the divide between our churches, possibly eliminating all hope of unifying our Assyrian nation.
Additionally, we must realize the workings of the Roman Catholic Church. This is the same institution that in the name of Christianity began the Inquisition throughout regions of the world where Roman Catholicism was dominant. Furthermore, with the use of the militaries of Portugal and Spain, the Inquisition was spread to other areas of the world, such as Goa in India, in order to reconcile to the Roman church those "heretical" Christians who claimed their heritage from the Apostles and only recognized and followed the Persian Church and its Patriarch. One must wonder how such brutal and ungodly actions were taken by Rome and condoned by the Bishop of Rome (Pope) all in the name of Christ! As I have stated quite succinctly, it is erroneous to call members of the Assyrian Church of the East as "Nestorian". This term has been applied to us by the Roman Catholics as a way of demeaning our faith and denomination, and it is still used today. St. Nestorius is considered by the Assyrian Church of the East as a martyr that suffered for Christ and the true Orthodox faith without shedding blood. Many ancient theologians of the Holy Apostolic Catholicos Assyrian Church of the East have commented on this matter, stating that St. Nestorius was not of our race, his features were not like ours, he did not speak our ancient Aramaic language, and by the time he was born, our church had a developed faith and theology that was spreading like wildfire throughout Persia, the Middle East, and Asia due to its missionary zeal. In other words, Nestorius nor his followers founded the Persian Church. Rather, Nestorius through his preaching only affirmed the orthodox faith of the Persian Church. Thus, Nestorius' theology supported what the Church had been preaching centuries before and not the other way around as claimed by Rome.
If one was to seriously study the events of that period, they would see how the political and economic atmospheres during that time influenced the decisions of the so-called "Robber Synod". Furthermore, contemporary theologians as well as theologians and historians of the past century, many of whom have strong Protestant roots, have supported St. Nestorious, stating definitely that the Christology he subscribed to and the faith he preached is the true Orthodox faith, and that he was unfairly judged and tried by hypocrites rather than true Christian believers. Therefore, the idea that his followers founded the Nestorian Church following his exile is absolutely and unequivocally incorrect.
As mentioned previously, I am a Deacon for the Assyrian Church of the East, and such matters of theology and history are of vital importance to me as well as many other people of my church and Assyrian nation. For nearly two thousand years my people have suffered in the name of Christianity, albeit much of it due to pagans and Muslim conquerors, but also to the Roman Catholic institution. Even to this day, this misnomer of "Nestorian" and "Nestorian Church" perpetuated by the political and egotistical whims of a Roman pontiff stings like a venom. We should never allow these so-called historians to inaccurately portray our most glorious and sacred church with their misguided claims. The Assyrian Church of the East has been a beacon of hope and spirituality for the Assyrian nation, and for it to survive in this new millennium, we must be vigilant in making sure not only Assyrians, but other nationalities and religious denominations, know and understand our history and what our ancestors have suffered to keep our Christian faith and ancient and beautiful Assyrian race alive. I apologize for the length of this manuscript, but throughout it, I hope I have shed some light on this matter.”
Deacon John Badal Piro, B.S., M.S.
March 3, 2000
The Assyrian Academic Society, along with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at North Park University, proudly sponsor a Seminar entitled "The Assyrian Genocide: Living With Hope For the Future." Featured speakers are: Abdul Massih Saadi, Ph.D. Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Raman Michael, BS., Chair, Public Programs Committee, Assyrian Academic Society (AAS) and Robert DeKelaita, JD., Chair, Publications Committee, Assyrian Academic Society (AAS).
Both, the AAS and CMES view this seminar as a unique opportunity to showcase some of the complex issues facing Assyrians today with a focus on the last century's upheavals and future prospects. The seminar will be enlivened by a panel discussion formed by representatives of the Coalition of Assyrian Political Organizations, namely: Assyrian Democratic Movement, Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party, Assyrian Universal Alliance, and the Assyrian Democratic Organization. The panel participants will discuss a brief history of each respective organization and the political objectives the representatives are pursuing on behalf of Assyrians in the Middle East/Bet-Nahrain. The seminar, "The Assyrian Genocide: Living With Hope for the Future", will take place on Sunday, March 12, 2000 in the Anderson Chapel (corner of Spaulding and Foster in Chicago) from 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
A $5 admission fee will be collected
at the door. For more information, please contact the Assyrian Academic
Society at: (773) 461-6633; or the Center for Middle Eastern Studies
at (773) 244-5786.
All are welcome.
Academic Society, P. O. Box 3541, Skokie, IL 60076
(773) 461-6633: E-mail: email@example.com
for Middle Eastern Studies, 3225 W. Foster, Box 52 Chicago, IL 60625:
(773) 244-5786: E-mail: sklavins-barshney@Northpark.edu
Released by the Bureau of Democracy,
Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of State, February 25, 2000
Excerpts on the "Christian" & "Assyrian" populations:
I R A N
Religious activity is monitored closely by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). Adherents of recognized religious minorities are not required to register individually with the Government, although their community, religious, and cultural organizations, as well as schools and public events are monitored closely...Evangelical Christian groups are pressured by government authorities to compile and hand over membership lists for their congregations. Evangelicals have resisted this demand. Non-Muslim owners of grocery shops are required to indicate their religious affiliation on the front of their shops.
The Christian community is estimated at approximately 117,000 according to government figures. Of these the majority are ethnic Armenians and Assyro-Chaldeans. Protestant denominations and evangelical churches also are active, although nonethnically based groups report a greater degree of restrictions on their activities.
Authorities have become particularly vigilant in recent years in curbing what is perceived as increasing proselytizing activities by evangelical Christians, whose services are conducted in Persian. Conversion of a Muslim to a non-Muslim religion can be considered apostasy. Government officials have reacted to this perceived activity by closing evangelical churches and arresting converts. Members of evangelical congregations are required to carry membership cards, photocopies of which must be provided to the authorities. Worshipers are subject to identity checks by authorities posted outside congregation centers. Meetings for evangelical services have been restricted by the authorities to Sundays, and church officials have been ordered to inform the Ministry of Information and Islamic Guidance before admitting new members to their congregations.
Evangelical church leaders are subject to pressure from authorities to sign pledges committing them not to evangelize Muslims or to allow Muslims to attend church services. Evangelical communities in Iran report a heightened sense of fear from authorities in the period since the murders of three prominent Iranian evangelical ministers in 1994, Reverends Tatavous Michaelian, Mehdi Dibaj, and Haik Hovsepian Mehr. Three female members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq organization were convicted for the murders of the three ministers; however, many observers believe that authorities played a role in the killings. Late in the year, a prominent investigative journalist raised new questions about the guilt of the three women convicted of the 1994 murders, alleging that the real murderers may have been officials within the Intelligence Ministry linked to the deaths of several prominent dissidents in late 1998 (see Section 1.a.).
One organization reported 8 deaths of evangelical Christians at the hands of authorities in the past 10 years, and between 15 and 23 disappearances in the year between November 1997 and November 1998.
Oppression of evangelical Christians continued during the year. Christian groups reported instances of government harassment of churchgoers in Tehran, in particular against worshipers at the Assembly of God congregation in the capital. Instances of harassment cited included conspicuous monitoring outside Christian premises by Revolutionary Guards to discourage Muslims or converts from entering church premises and demands for presentation of identity papers of worshipers inside. Iranian Christians International (ICI) detailed the cases of Alireza and Mahboobeh Mahmoudian, converts to Christianity and lay leaders of the Saint Simon the Zealot Osgofi Church in Shiraz, who were forced to leave the country permanently in June 1998 after continued harassment by the authorities. The ICI reported that Alireza Mahmoudian had lost his job because of his conversion and had been beaten repeatedly by Basiji and Ansar-e Hezbollah thugs on the orders of government officials from the Ministry of Islamic Guidance. His wife, Mahboobeh, also had been the subject of intimidation, principally through frequent and aggressive interrogation by government officials.
I R A Q
The Government does not recognize the various political groupings and parties that have been formed by Shi'a Muslims, as well as Kurdish, Assyrian, Turkomen, and other Iraqi communities. These political groups continued to attract support despite their illegal status.
Assyrians and Chaldeans are considered by many to be a distinct ethnic group as well as the descendants of some of the earliest Christian communities. These communities speak a distinct language (Syriac), preserve important traditions of Christianity in the east, and have a rich cultural and historical heritage that they trace back over 2,000 years. Although these groups do not define themselves as Arabs, the Government, without any historical basis, defines Assyrians and Chaldeans as such, evidently to encourage them to identify with the Sunni-Arab dominated regime.
The Government does not permit education in languages other than Arabic and Kurdish. Public instruction in Syriac, which was announced under a 1972 decree, has never been implemented. Thus, in areas under government control, Assyrian and Chaldean children are not permitted to attend classes in Syriac. In areas of northern Iraq under Iraqi Kurdish control, classes in Syriac have been permitted since the 1991 uprising against the Government. By October 1998, the first groups of students were ready to begin secondary school in Syriac in the north; however, some Assyrian sources reported that regional Iraqi Kurdish authorities refused to allow the classes to begin. Details of this practice (for example, the number of students prepared to start secondary courses in Syriac and the towns where they were located) were not available, and Kurdish regional authorities denied that they engaged in such a practice. There were no reports of elementary school instruction in Syriac being hindered in northern Iraq. In November the Kurdistan Observer reported that the central Government had warned the administration in the Kurdish region against allowing Turkmen, Assyrian, or Yazidi minority schools.
Assyrian groups reported several instances of mob violence by Muslims against Christians in the north in recent years. Assyrians continue to fear attacks by the Kurdistan Workers Party, a Turkish-based terrorist organization that operates against indigenous Kurds in northern Iraq. The Christians often feel caught in the middle of intra-Kurdish fighting. In December 1997, six Assyrians died in an attack near Dohuk by the PKK. Some Assyrian villagers have reported being pressured to leave the countryside for the cities as part of a campaign by indigenous Kurdish forces to deny the PKK access to possible food supplies.
Many Assyrian groups reported a series of bombings in Irbil in late 1998 and early and late 1999. On December 9, 1998, Nasreen Shaba and her 3-year-old daughter Larsa Toma were killed when a bomb exploded on the doorstep of their home in the Terawa section of the city. Later the same month, bombs exploded at the front door of Salman Toma Khoshaba in the Al-Iskan area and in front of a convent in the Al-Mal'ab area. On January 6, a bomb exploded at the door of Father Zomaya Yusip in the 7th-of-Nisan area. No one was killed in these three subsequent incidents. On December 15, a bomb killed 60-year-old Habib Yousif Dekhoka in front of his store in Irbil after several months of threats and one prior attempt. Although the bombings have not been linked to any particular faction or group, Assyrians believe that they are part of a terror campaign designed to intimidate them into leaving northern Iraq. The Assyrian Democratic Movement, the Assyrian Patriotic Party, and other groups have criticized the investigation into these incidents conducted by the Kurdistan Regional Government. There were no reported arrests by year's end.
In June the Assyrian National News Agency reported a " well-established pattern" of complicity by Kurdish authorities in attacks against Assyrian Christians in northern Iraq.
Many Assyrian groups reported a series of bombings in Irbil in December 1998, and in January and December. On December 15, a bomb killed 60-year-old Habib Yousif Dekhoka in front of his store.
On June 19, the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reported that the partially decomposed body of Helena Aloun Sawa, a 21-year-old Assyrian woman missing since early May, was discovered by a shepherd in a shallow grave near Dohuk dam. Her family reportedly suspected that she was raped. Sawa was a housekeeper for Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Political Bureau member Izzeddin Al-Barwari. Reporting that the KDP offered no assistance in searching for Sawa and that Al-Barwari had intimidated the family into not pursuing an investigation, AINA concluded that the murder " resembles a well-established pattern" of complicity by Kurdish authorities in attacks against Assyrian Christians in northern Iraq. It reported that Sawa had been coerced into working for Al-Barwari to restore to her family a KDP pension that had been suspended arbitrarily. The pension had been awarded because of the recognition of Sawa's father as a KDP martyr after he was killed in the uprising against the Iraqi regime in 1991.
However, on June 21, a spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced that the Dohuk police Homicide Division and the Dohuk General Security Department were investigating the Sawa murder. A subsequent KRG statement indicated that there did not appear to be a " political or racial" motive. The KRG noted that the Al-Barwari family had reported last seeing Sawa when she left Dohuk on her way to a vacation at her family village in the Nerwa O Rakan area, and that Al-Barwari had been in Damascus, Syria at the time. Nevertheless, Al-Barwari was suspended from official KDP duties pending the conclusion of the investigation. At the end of June, KDP President Massoud Barzani decided to appoint a three-member commission to further investigate the killing. No results of that investigation were reported by year's end.
No hostilities were reported between the two major Iraqi Kurdish parties in de facto control of northern Iraq. During the year, the KDP reportedly imposed a blockade on Assyrian villages, and later entered the villages and beat villagers. The Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan agreed in September 1998 to unify their administrations. Little progress was made toward implementing the 1998 agreement.
Many Assyrian groups reported a series of bombings in December 1998, and January and December 1999. Assyrian groups criticized the investigation into these crimes by the Kurdish authorities.
The Special Rapporteur and others reported that the Government has engaged in various abuses against the country's 350,000 Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, especially in terms of forced movements from northern areas and repression of political rights. Most Assyrians live in the northern governates, and the Government often has suspected them of " collaborating" with Iraqi Kurds. In the north, Kurdish groups often refer to Assyrians as Kurdish Christians. Military forces destroyed numerous Assyrian churches during the 1988 Anfal Campaign and reportedly tortured and executed many Assyrians. Both major Kurdish political parties have indicated that the Government occasionally targets Assyrians, as well as ethnic Kurds and Turkmen, in expulsions from Kirkuk, where it is attempting to Arabize the city.
According to AINA reports, on August 25, the KDP imposed a blockade on eight Assyrian villages in the Nahla area east of Aqra. ICRC monitors in northern Iraq reportedly intervened on the villages' behalf, and the blockade was lifted. During the night of August 27, KDP forces reportedly reentered the village of Kash Kawa, rounded up the villagers, and publicly beat two of them. The KDP allegedly suspected a connection between the village and the Kurdistan Workers Party, with whom the KDP often has fought. AINA reported a similar night raid by a dozen members of the KDP forces on the village of Belmat on September 10. The KDP media quoted village leaders and the mayor of Aqra, denying that any such blockade or village raids occurred. The ICRC confirmed that it intervened with the KDP after receiving an Assyrian request and that the KDP withdrew from the villages thereafter. AINA reported that armed KDP members entered Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) headquarters in Dohuk on October 21 and forced its closure. APP offices were allowed to reopen 4 days later.
J O R D A N
In general Christians do not suffer discrimination. Christians hold government positions and are represented in the media and academia approximately in proportion to their presence in the general population, which is estimated at 6 percent. Christian children in public schools are not required to participate in Islamic religious instruction
Over 90 percent of the population are Sunni Muslim, and approximately 6 percent are Christian. The Government does not recognize religious faiths other than the three main monotheistic religions: Islam; Christianity; and Judaism. In addition not all Christian denominations have been accorded official government recognition. Officially recognized denominations include the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic (Melkite), Armenian Orthodox, Maronite Catholic, and the Assyrian, Anglican, Lutheran, Seventh-Day Adventist, United Pentecostal, and Presbyterian Churches. Other churches, including the Baptist Church, the Free Evangelical Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Assembly of God, and the Christian Missionary Alliance, are registered with the Ministry of Justice as " societies" but not as churches.
The Government does not interfere with public worship by the country's Christian minority. However, although the majority of Christians are allowed to practice freely, some activities, such as proselytizing or encouraging conversion to the Christian faith--both considered legally incompatible with Islam--are prohibited. Christians are subject to aspects of Shari'a (Islamic law) that designate how inheritances are distributed.
Non-Jordanian Christian missionaries operate in the country but are subject to restrictions. Christian missionaries may not proselytize Muslims. In late 1998 and early 1999, foreign Christian mission groups in the country complained of increased bureaucratic difficulties, including refusal by the Government to renew residence permits. One couple affiliated with the Anglican Church was accused of converting a Muslim minor to Christianity and ordered to leave the country. The couple stated that the minor in question had been attending their church for several months before they met him.
Of the 80 seats in the lower house, 9 are reserved for Christians, 6 for Bedouins, and 3 for the Circassian or Chechen ethnic minorities.
J O R D A N
Officially all schools are government-run and nonsectarian, although some schools are run in practice by Christian and Jewish minorities. There is mandatory religious instruction in schools, with government-approved teachers and curriculums. Religion courses are divided into separate classes for Muslim and Christian students... Although Arabic is the official language in public schools, the Government permits the teaching of Armenian, Hebrew, Syriac (Aramaic), and Chaldean in some schools on the basis that these are "liturgical languages."
T U R K E Y
Although the country is secular, religious and moral instruction in state primary and secondary schools is compulsory for Muslims. Upon written verification of their non-Muslim background, minorities considered by the Government to be covered by the 1923 Lausanne Treaty (Greek, Armenian, and Jewish) are exempted by law from Muslim religious instruction; they may hold their own classes. Syriac and other Christians whom the Government does not consider to be an official Lausanne Treaty minority are not exempted. Non-Muslim students who wish to attend such courses may do so with parental consent.
By law religious services may take place only in designated places of worship. Non-Muslim religious services often take place in nondesignated places of worship. The Roman Catholic Church in Ankara, for example, is confined to diplomatic property but has not sought property to construct a church recently.
Minority religions considered by the Government not to be recognized under the Lausanne Treaty may not acquire additional property for churches (beyond those predating the establishment of modern Turkey). Religions recognized by the Government under the Lausanne Treaty (Greek Orthodox, Armenian Christian, and Jewish) can regain lost property if there is a community need, but if they cannot maintain existing property, it may revert to the Vakiflar. Government authorities do not interfere in matters of doctrine pertaining to minority religions, nor do they restrict the publication or use of religious literature. While the Government does not recognize the ecumenical nature of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, it acknowledges him as head of the Turkish Greek Orthodox community and does not interfere with his travels or other ecumenical activities.
In February 1998, the Syriac Christian community and government officials reached an understanding that the Syriacs could resume renovation of the Dayrul Umur monastery in Midyat in compliance with government standards for preservation of historical sites. Authorities had halted the renovation in 1997. In April the Syriac Christians received written government approval of their technical plans for the renovation, which was well under way at year's end.
Under the law, religious buildings that become "extinct" (because of prolonged absence of clergy or lay persons to staff local religious councils or for lack of adherents) revert to government possession. Some non-Muslim minorities, particularly the Greek Orthodox community and, to a lesser extent, the Jewish community, the Armenian Orthodox community, and the shrinking Syriac Christian community have lost the use of houses of worship and other facilities. During the year an Armenian Church in Hatay province was deemed by authorities to be no longer in community use and is to revert to the Vakiflar. If such minorities can demonstrate a renewed community need, they may apply legally to recover such properties. The authorities monitor the activities of Eastern Orthodox Churches and their affiliated operations. The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul consistently expressed interest in reopening the seminary on the Island on Halki in the Sea of Marmara. The seminary has been closed since 1971 when the state nationalized most private institutions of higher learning. Under current restrictions, including a citizenship requirement, religious communities remain unable to train new clergy. However, coreligionists from outside the country have been permitted to assume leadership positions.
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ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIAN PREGNANCY TEST
A rare pregnancy testing text from Babylon has come to light. It was used to test whether a woman is able to conceive. The test consists of inserting a pessary made from medications wrapped in a wad of wool, or of giving the woman a potion to drink. If the potion causes her to vomit, she is pregnant; if the wad of wool has turned green, she is pregnant.
Babylonian Birth Prognosis, Erica Reiner (Zeitschrift
fur Assyriologie und vermandte Gebiete 72, 1982)
Where can a TV viewer see samples of the ancient Assyrian clothing designs? How about Showtime's most popular Sci-Friday series, Stargate SG-1? According to wardrobe designer Christine McQuarrie, some of her exotic designs were inspired by the ancient designers of Beth-Nahrain.
Stargate SG-1 follows a unique team of a Special Operations Colonel, an Archaeologist, an Astrophysicist and an Alien Warrior on their missions through an ancient "gate" to new worlds where they encounter fascinating, but sometimes dangerous cultures. This team, known as SG-1, works under the auspices of a covert agency known as the SGC, a division of Air Force Intelligence that is highly classified; only the President and the Joint Chiefs know of its existence.
Stargate SG-1 began filming on February 18, 1997 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dozens of extras were utilized throughout filming, meaning that hundreds of costumes had to be designed. That task fell to wardrobe designer Christine McQuarrie, who made about two hundred costumes, borrowing liberally from different historical periods.
"I used the film as a starting point and then was inspired solely by visual interest," says McQuarrie. "By mixing modern fabrics with classic designs -- from such cultures as the Roman, Egyptian, Assyrians -- I was able to create costumes that convey the right feeling and avoid being historically accurate. We didn't want the clothes to be identified too closely with any actual Earth culture because the societies of these different peoples seen in the show were developed on different planets. It would be too coincidental if they dressed exactly like the ancient Egyptians or Greeks."
Working with a staff of ten, McQuarrie sourced her clothes from Vancouver and also New York and Los Angeles. She worked closely with a U.S. Air Force representative in designing the garb of the SG-1 team. In fact, the group's fully-dressed field uniforms are authentic military issue.
Courtesy of MGM Global Television Inc. and Showtime Networks
BACK TO THE FUTURE
A pharmaceutical handbook is found from this period indicating different herbs' medicinal effects. For example: Yellow Saffron for constricted bladder and Dog's Tongue for cough.
Astral Magic in Babylonia, Erica Reiner
dies, Paul Émile Botta (b. 1802), French archaeologist
and diplomat, born in Turin, Italy, the son of the Italian historian and physician
Carlo Giuseppe Guglielmo Botta, who became a French citizen in 1814. Botta studied
medicine but later entered the French diplomatic service; his first post was
in Alexandria, Egypt. In 1842 he was assigned to Mosul in northern Iraq, then
a Turkish province. While there he directed a search for Assyrian antiquities
at the nearby village of Khorsabad. Excavation uncovered ruins of the city Dur
Sharrukin, founded by Sargon II, king of Assyria (reigned 722-705BC). Statues
of Sargon and winged bulls that guarded his palace were moved to the Louvre
in Paris. Botta wrote accounts of his discoveries and a work on the cuneiform
writings of the Assyrians.
March 12, 1838: The first Assyrian Girls School in Urmia is founded. The first enrollment sheet consisted of 4 registered students.
HANNIBAL ALKHAS PAINTINGS EXHIBITION
Sponsored by the Patriotic Revolutionaries of BethNahrin & Museium Jannink
The gallery opens officially on March 17 by the Syrian Orthodox Church's Bishop Yulius Cicek who lives in the Mor Afrem Monastery in Holland. Gedeputeerde Overijssel dhr. Jan Kristen and Wethouder dhr. M. Swart from Enschede will also be present. The opening ceremony will also feature Beth Nahrin folk music.
Phone: 053-431 9093
SEMINAR: THE ASSYRIAN GENOCIDE
"The Assyrian Genocide: Living With
Hope for the Future"
North Park University
For more info click here
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
2ND INTERN. CONGRESS ON THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
"Near Eastern Archaeology at the
Beginning of the 3d Millen. AD"
Contact: Secretary of the
FIRST ASSYRIAN MIDI COMPOSERS CONFERENCE
EIGHT ANNUAL CONGRESS FOR SYRIAC STUDIES
Department of Semitic Studies
46th RENCONTRE ASSYRIOLOGIQUE INTERNATIONALE
"Nomadism and Sedentarism in the Ancient Near East"
College de France
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 33-1-48-87-82-58
Rachelle Badal..........California...........News Digest
Nadia Joseph....................Chicago..........Calendar of Events
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