|Z I N D A M A G A Z I N E|
|Tishrin II 27, 6750 Volume VI Issues 31 November 27, 2000|
On November 12 one of our most avid readers, Ms. Germaine Merza, passed away in Santa Clara, California. Every week a member of her family printed a copy of Zinda Magazine and delivered it to Germaine, who prided herself in reading every section. Ms. Merza contributed to the pages of this magazine with several letters, poems, and articles.
We dedicate this issue in memory of Mr. Germaine Merza whose support of our magazine and love for Assyrian culture, history, and heritage will be sorely missed.
|The Lighthouse||The Genetics of Modern Assyrians|
|Good Morning Bet-Nahrain||Assyrian-Catholic Leader Asks for Embargo Lifting|
|News Digest||AACC of Turlock, President Under Police Investigation
Syriac-Malankara Catholics Meet the Pope
|Surfs Up||"Our people's biggest enemy"|
|Surfers Corner||After the Revolution: A Christian Report on Iran
Hymnal CD from Tbilisi, Georgia
|Bravo!||Patriarch Ignace Moussa I Daoud|
|Assyrian Surfing Posts||Layard's Discoveries in Nineveh|
|Pump Up the Volume||Keeper & Guardian|
|Back to the Future||Ashur-uballit II and the Diyarbakir Carpets|
|This Week in History||Henry Layard|
|Calendar of Events||Stories from Sumer
New Year's Eve Parties in Santa Clara
All blue links throughout this issue are hyperlinks to other sections on this page or featured websites.
THE GENETICS OF MODERN ASSYRIANS & THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER PEOPLE OF THE MIDDLE EAST
The authors of the book "The History and Geography of Human Genes"(1), published in 1994, and the abridged version in 1962, took on the monumental task of analyzing the vast number of research articles written about genetic properties of different human populations. The senior author, Prof. L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, Professor of Genetics at Stanford University, is considered one of the preeminent human population geneticists in the world, a field that he has been working in for over forty years.
After eight years of collecting this massive information, the authors spent several more years doing the genetic and statistical analyses using sophisticated computer methods. The objective was nothing less than to define the genetic variations in the entire human population of the world and, from that information, to trace the origin and migration of modern humans to their present locations on the planet (hence the "History and Geography" in the title). As the American Journal of Human Genetics stated, "This book represents a landmark in biology. There is nothing of its kind... where the evolutionary history of a single species possessing a cosmopolitan distribution is distilled from genetic, morphological, and cultural data. It represents an essential historical source for all human biologists ... " And as the New York Times said, "Perhaps more than anyone else in his field, Dr. Cavalli-Sforza ... has been able to make sense of the whisperings of human ancestors that are recorded in the genes of present-day people."
For their study, the authors chose to use data from only those populations that had been in the same geographic area for at least 500 years. They considered them as the native indigenous people of an area ("aboriginal") that could be used to trace human population origins, relationships and migrations. From analysis of the genes in these populations, it became possible to determine not only the genetic makeup of a people and the genetic relationships of different groups to each other, but also to measure the "genetic distance" between them. The analyses showed that there were sufficient data to provide statistically significant information on the genetic characteristics of 491 different human populations. Assyrians were one of them3-6. In this article, we will focus on the knowledge that has been gained about Assyrians and the genetic relationships between Assyrians and their neighbors, with the hope that it will lead to better understanding between the people of the Middle East.
Members of a specific human population, for example an ethnic group, identify with each other by a shared language and also by cultural, religious, social, geographic, and other features which are held in common. They distinguish themselves from other groups by the same criteria. What are "hidden" from external view are genetically determined attributes of the type that are only brought into the light by scientific methods such as those described in this book, and they reveal a very important component of a group - its genetic character. This can provide both a genetic definition of a group and also its relationships to other groups that would not be apparent otherwise. The use of language along with genetics to define groups is very useful, but linguistic change can occur much faster than genetic change and "languages are sometimes replaced by others of totally different origin in a very short time", as will be pointed out later in this article. As the authors state, "Only genes almost always have the degree of permanence necessary for discussing" the changes in populations that took place in the history of our species.
I have attempted the difficult task of presenting this information for the general reader in a concise way without compromising accuracy. Technical terms placed in parentheses are informative but not essential to understanding the basic ideas. But one technical element is crucial to the understanding of this information and I must briefly discuss it here. The chemical substance that makes up genes is DNA. A specific gene controlling the formation of a specific product may undergo a chemical alteration in its DNA ("mutation"). The product that it forms will then also be altered. We now have two forms of the same gene ("alleles") in the population and different individuals can get different forms of the gene. In the case of the familiar A, B, AB, and O blood types, whether an individual has the A form of the gene, the B form, or neither, determines the blood type. A human population can be genetically characterized by determining the distribution of the various forms of genes within that population ("gene frequency") - for example, what percentage of the population has the A, B, or O gene. When this is done for enough people and for enough different genes a "genetic profile" emerges for that population. Genes control the synthesis of proteins. In the "classical" studies that form the greater part of the material in the Cavalli-Sforza et al. book, the structure of the protein is analyzed as a genetic marker - the specific structure of the protein reflects the specific structure of the gene that codes for it. The proteins commonly analyzed as genetic markers are those that determine various types of blood groups, enzymes, blood serum proteins, hemoglobin, antibodies and cellular markers of the immune system (HLA system). In addition, direct analysis of DNA has recently become increasingly common and, of course, adds to the information pool about the genetic makeup of a people. In his very recent book (2a), Cavalli-Sforza says: "Results with DNA have complemented but never contradicted the protein data." An example of DNA analysis will be seen later as part of the discussion of Jewish genetics.
Analysis of the Assyrians shows that they have a distinct genetic profile that distinguishes their population from any other population. It is important to understand that this applies to the population as a whole, not to any one individual. Each individual can have a variety of genetic features, but it is when all the data for the individuals are assembled together that the population can become distinctive. The authors state that "The Assyrians are a fairly homogeneous group of people, believed to originate from the land of old Assyria in northern Iraq," and "they are Christians and are possibly bona fide descendants of their namesakes." The main research paper on Assyrians is that of Akbari et al. (3), who state "that the Assyrians are a group of Christians with a long history in the Middle East. From historical and archeological evidence, it is thought that their ancestors formed part of the Mesopotamian civilization." Akbari et al. examined some 500 members of Christian communities in Iran (Armenians and Assyrians from six localities) from whom specimens were obtained and examined for a number of blood group, red cell enzyme and serum protein systems. In the case of Assyrians, the researchers studied 18 different gene sites with a total of 47 different forms of those genes (alleles) in Assyrians in two regions of Iran - Urmia and Tehran. The particular gene frequencies of those 47 genes in the population formed the basis, along with the other two studies (4, 5), for establishing the distinctive genetic character of the Assyrians. A major finding of the study is that Assyrians, especially those in Urmia (their home area in Iran), are genetically homogeneous to a high degree. That is, an individual Assyrian's genetic makeup is relatively close to that of the Assyrian population as a whole. "The results indicate the relatively closed nature of the [Assyrian] community as a whole," and "due to their religious and cultural traditions, there has been little intermixture with other populations." The small size of the population is also a factor. The genetic data are compatible with historical data that religion played a major role in maintaining the Assyrian population's separate identity during the Christian era.
For most of that period Assyrians existed as a Christian minority in non-Christian majority populations, and adherence to their religion, abundantly documented in the historical record, would have provided a "genetic barrier" to gene flow from external groups. In analyzing other groups in similar situations, Cavalli-Sforza et al. arrived at this opinion: "The important conclusion is that the genetic origin of groups that have been surrounded for a long time by populations of different genetic type can be recognized as different only if they have maintained a fairly rigid endogamy [ marriage within the group] for most or all the period in which they have been in contact with other groups," although genes contributed by external groups ("gene flow") can be tolerated for many centuries or even millennia by a population, provided they are not on a large scale. Later in this article we will see an analogous situation with Jews, where a religious difference allowed them to maintain their genetic characteristics as a minority over many centuries while living among non-Jewish majority populations. In any case, the data provide unequivocal evidence that Assyrians as a people are distinguishable from all other population groups in their genetic characteristics and are not a part of any other population.
The second important contribution that emerges from the book is seen when genetic relationships are made between the 18 populations of Western Asia for which enough data were available to allow meaningful interpretation. The results are summarized in the "tree" shown in the figure. The horizontal scale at the bottom quantitates the genetic distance between groups. The individual populations are listed in the general order of their relationships. The three Arab populations at the lowest part of the "tree" (Saudi, Yemeni, Bedouin) are close to each other genetically but are so far separated from the others as to constitute what the authors call a separate "minor cluster." The remaining 15 groups constitute the "major cluster."
Our primary purpose here is to define the relationships of Assyrians to their closest neighbors in the Middle East, so we will focus on seven groups that appear at the top of the "tree." Of these, Iranian and Iraqi are defined by the country of origin, after exclusion of Kurds. Jordanian, Lebanese and Turkish also mean the country of origin. Assyrians and Kurds refer to specific groups of people. All those studied were indigenous people of the area whose roots in their geographic locations go back to at least 1500 A.D. Relationship pairings are shown: Turkish and Iranian, and Assyrian and Jordanian are "loose" pairings; Druse and Lebanese form a closer pair; and Iraqi and Kurdish people form an extremely close pairing. The closest genetic relationships of the Assyrians are with the native populations of Jordan and Iraq. In point of fact, however, all of the seven populations of interest are quite close to each other. There are no wide separations between any of them. This despite the fact that they contain members of three major language families: Indo-European (Iranian, Kurdish), Turkic (Turkish) and Semitic (Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese - Arabic; Assyrian - Aramaic). As the authors state, "In spite of the complex history of the Middle East and the great number of internal group migrations revealed by history, as well as the mosaic of cultures and languages, the region is relatively homogeneous" [genetically]. The least heterogeneous zone of Asia "is observed in the Near East, where the highest population densities have existed the longest, especially in the central part (Mesopotamia). Ten thousand years of agriculture, ancient urban developments, and internal migrations are probably responsible for this homogeneity." Thus, in that part of the world with the most ancient civilizations, an underlying genetic homogeneity has been "masked" by great cultural, religious and linguistic heterogeneity.
The latter point is also made in studies of Jews. Based on earlier studies using classical genetic methods7 , Cavalli-Sforza et al. came to the conclusion "that Jews have maintained considerable genetic similarity among themselves and with people from the Middle East, with whom they have common origins." Evidence for the latter concept was very convincingly made and extended by an international team of scientists in a very recent research article8 ,widely reported in the press, in which the genetics of different Middle Eastern populations were studied using a completely different method than the classical methods that form the great majority of papers in the Cavalli-Sforza et al book. The research involved direct DNA analysis of the Y chromosome, which is found only in males and is passed down from father to son. Seven different Jewish groups from communities in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East were compared to various non-Jewish populations from those areas. The results showed, first of all, that "Despite their long-term residence in different countries and isolation from one another, most Jewish populations were not significantly different from one another at the genetic level." Furthermore, the genetic characteristics of Jews were shown to be distinctly different from (non-Jewish) Europeans, suggesting that very little admixture occurred between Jews and Europeans, even after about 80 generations of Jews in Europe. There was a similar distinct difference between Jews and North Africans. In striking contrast, there was an "extremely close affinity of Jewish and non-Jewish Middle Eastern populations [Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, Druze, Saudi Arabians] observed here ...[that] supports the hypothesis of a common Middle Eastern origin" of these populations dating back about 4,000 years. The differences between the populations were not statistically significant, demonstrating once again the close genetic relationship of Middle Eastern populations to each other. In fact, the Palestinians and Syrians were so close to the Jews in genetic characteristics that they "mapped within the central cluster of Jewish populations." As one of the Israeli scientists on the team said, "Eventually people will realize that they are not that different." Peace through Genetics?
Let us examine the situation in two areas of the Middle East where a radical change in the population and language occurred rapidly without being accompanied by a significant genetic change, and try to explain it. The land that now forms the nation of Turkey (Anatolia) was once a part of Byzantium. Greek (Christian) was the major influence there. The Turkic-speaking people arrived there from Central Asia in the 11th century A.D., spread successfully throughout the land and Turkish eventually became the dominant language as a Turkish nation was established. Turks are, as the authors state, "the only major group in the region that speak a language originated at a great geographic distance (probably in the Altaic region)." The pre-existing people in Anatolia, however, did not physically disappear. The genetic studies show that the majority became part of the new Turkish population. The genetic constitution of the Turks today is much closer to their nearest geographic neighbors, although none is a Turkic-language population, than to the Turkic-speaking populations of Central Asia. The authors interpret this to mean that "the Turkish language was imposed on a predominantly Indo-European-speaking population (Greek being the official language of the Byzantine empire), and genetically there is very little difference between Turkey and the neighboring countries. The number of Turkish invaders was probably rather small and was genetically diluted by the large number of aborigines." And [ in Turkey] "language replacement has occurred essentially without, or with very little, gene replacement."
In view of the authors' theory explaining the genetic characteristics of the population in Turkey, it seems reasonable to consider the possibility that a similar type of event may have occurred in the Arab world of Mesopotamia and its adjacent regions - Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon (and presumably also Syria and Palestine) - to explain the genetic characteristics of those populations. In the 7th century A.D., after the conversion to Islam, the Arabs of the Arabian peninsula conquered large areas, including Mesopotamia and adjacent regions. Arabic became the major language of the region and an Arab nation was established there under Islam. But again, the pre-existing indigenous population, mainly Christian (including Assyrians), did not physically disappear, and the majority must have become part of the Arab population. Looking at the figure, one sees a very large genetic separation between the Arabs of the South - Saudis, Yemenites - and those in the region of Mesopotamia - Jordanian, Iraqi. The latter two groups are much closer genetically to the four non-Arab people of the region that we are interested in (Turk, Iranian, Kurd, Assyrian) than to the Arabs of the Arabian peninsula. As in the case of the Turks in Anatolia, these findings provide a clue that a relatively small number of Arabs from the Arabian peninsula may have carried out the conquest of a region with a much larger population, which included a number of cities, and that although the dominant language, religion and culture changed, the genes of the previous population may not have been significantly diluted and were transmitted to the present population of that region.
Finally, as seen in the figure, the two Indo-European language populations, the Iranians and the Kurds, are genetically closer to the Turks and the Semitic language group of Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, Assyrian, than they are to their nearest Indo-European language speaking neighbors - Armenian, Pathan, Hazara Tajiki. In fact, the figure shows that the latter are part of a separate subcluster from the one in which the Iranians and Kurds are located.
The results of these scientific studies lead to the startling realization that Turks, Iranians, Kurds, Iraqis, Jordanians, Lebanese are more closely related genetically to Assyrians than they are to other members of their own respective language families in Asia. These seven groups (and Jews) are genetically close. The great language, cultural and religious differences are not reflected in the most fundamental aspect of their biology - their genes, which are the most accurate indicators of their shared origins and ancestry. If this were widely known, would the Assyrians seem so "different" to the others? Would changes in attitude begin to take place, especially among the intellectual and academic communities and the younger generations?
We stand with hope at the dawn of a new millennium. For mankind in general, the future holds exciting scientific prospects for understanding our past and present genetic nature. The tiniest amounts of DNA recovered from people who died thousands of years ago can now be exactly reproduced billions of times, providing abundant material for analyzing the genetic nature of ancient ancestors ("genetic archeology"). The "whisperings of our ancestors" can now be heard by us with our DNA amplifiers. Molecular genetics is poised to take understanding of the human race to heights undreamed of just a few years ago. Within the year there will occur one of the most momentous events in human history - the complete definition of the entire human genetic code (genome) of about 100,000 genes ("human genome project"). We will be able to see the complete DNA blueprint for creating a human being, God's handwritten letter to us9. Future research will show how little difference there is between us in our DNA, giving us an unparalleled opportunity to understand how much of our humanity we hold in common.
Also standing at the dawn of the new millennium are the Assyrians - on the brink of extinction. For over 1900 years since they accepted Christianity and established the Church of the East, the Assyrians in the Middle East have survived for the most part as a religious and language minority. While this preserved their identity and kept them from disappearing, it came at a terrible price. The history of the Assyrians reads like one long unbroken story of massacre, persecution and indescribable horror, culminating in the 20th century with genocide and diaspora, followed by even more persecution and massacre. Was it just a coincidence that the first fratricide occurred in the Middle East, when Cain murdered his brother Abel? Will we ever be free of the curse of Cain? Will the younger generations of the Middle East release their souls from the dark forces of the past? Will the knowledge that Assyrians are their "blood relatives" begin to change the perception of Middle Eastern people about Assyrians? Will it be too late for the Assyrians?
References and Footnotes
Cavalli-Sforza, L.L., Menozzi, P. and Piazza, A. The History and Geography of Human Genes. 1994. Princeton University Press. Unabridged Edition. As above, Abridged Paperback Edition. 1996. Contains the text of the Unabridged Edition, but not the hundreds of pages of genetic maps; has an index, and references to literature that were cited in the text. Only the unabridged version has the references for research articles that were used to arrive at each population group's genetic analysis, listed by name for each population; also, the tables of gene frequencies.
2a. Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. Genes, Peoples, and Languages. 2000. North Point Press (division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux), New York. The book is a summation of the author's work written for the general reader.
3. Akbari, M.T. et al. Genetic Differentiation among Iranian Christian Communities. Am. J. Hum. Genetics, 38: 84-98. 1986. [Armenians and Assyrians].
4. Papiha, S.S. et al. Isoelectric focusing of vitamin D binding protein (Gc): Genetic diversity in the population of Iran. Jpn. J. Hum. Genet., 30: 69-73. 1985.
5. Amin-Zaki, L. et al. Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency among ethnic groups in Iraq. Bull. WHO, 47:1-5. 1972.
(References 3,4 and 5 were used to establish the Assyrian genetics in the Cavalli-Sforza et al. book).
6. Ikin, E.W. et al. The blood groups and haemoglobins of the Assyrians of Iraq. Man, 65:110-111. 1965.
7. Carmelli, D. and Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. The genetic origin of the Jews: A multi-variate approach. Hum. Biol., 51:41-61. 1979.
8. Hammer, M.F. et al. [12 authors]. Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations share a common pool of Y-chromosome biallelic haplotypes. Proceedings National Academy Sciences USA. The article appeared online on the website of the journal (www.pnas.org) on May 9, 2000, in advance of print publication. At the next issue of the journal, May 23, the article was still only online. Presumably, it will be in print in the following issue - June 6.
9. The entire DNA code is written in an "alphabet" of four "letters," A, T, G, C, which stand for the four bases found in DNA - adenine, thymine, guanine, cytosine. The bases are lined up in a precise sequence to create a specific gene, say one that has 1,000 bases. Alteration of even one of the bases is a mutation.
Dr. Joel J. Elias
University of California
School of Medicine
Dr. Elias is Assyrian and an active member of the Assyrian
Foundation of America, publisher of Nineveh Magazine in Berkeley, California.
ASSYRIAN-CATHOLIC LEADER ASKS FOR LIFTING OF EMBARGO
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The Assyrian-Catholic Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad said to the Vatican news agency that he wishes for the economic sanctions against Iraq to be lifted. Archbishop Athanase Matti was in Rome on a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter. He made his statement to the Vatican agency Fides. The archbishop, 70, is the leader of the Assyrian-Iraqi Catholics which number about 50,000 faithful. Assyrian-Chaldean Catholics number over 800,000 in Iraq.
The archbishop told Fides that Iraqi Christians are leaving the country: "Many Iraqi Christian families crowd the doors of embassies in Amman (Jordan), ready to do anything to obtain a visa for America, Canada or Australia." A U.N. embargo was imposed after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The Church, Caritas and Iraqi benefactors abroad are sending medical supplies and assistance to help the country's people.
The Assyrian-Catholic Church traces its
roots to 1783 when it joined communion with Rome. Its has about 150,000 members,
two-thirds of whom live in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, spread
over nine dioceses). The rest are abroad, primarily in the United States.
Based on a report by Patrick Giblin for Modesto Bee, published on November 21
(ZNDA: Turlock) The Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock is under investigation for possible financial improprieties. Police Chief Lonald Lott sent a letter to members of the club last week telling them that the organization is being investigated and that detectives may contact them.
Search warrants were served last Friday on the Assyrian American Civic Club and the home of its president, Mr. Ramin Odisho. "This is all a surprise to us," said Ramin Odisho, president of the 1,200-member club, the largest Assyrian organization in the United States. "I really can't say much until I understand what this is all about." Mr. Odisho was the youngest member of the AACC to be elected as president; he is currently serving his second term.
Police received several reports in October from people who said there are financial misdeeds going on at the club, said Rosemary Howser, spokeswoman for the Police Department. The investigation formally was opened earlier this month, she said. Police would not give details of the complaints.
"We believe there is a great potential for misappropriation of funds at the club," Howser said. "The purpose of this investigation is to formally investigate the reports and charge anyone who is committing any illegal activity." There have been no arrests.
Detectives served search warrants at the club Friday and seized several computers and club documents, Howser said. They also searched Odisho's home and took club records and club property found there.
"Turlock police services recognizes your club as a valuable member of our community," Lott wrote to members. "It is not our intent to create a hardship or inhibit the operations of your club's activities, but rather to assist your club with our services."
Odisho said the club remains open while the investigation continues. Located 2618 N. Golden State Blvd., the club is the site of a number of social and community events, including bingo and weddings.
"I'm aware there's an investigation into allegations with bingo and other issues," said City Councilman John Lazar, a member of the club. "My position is to wait and see what comes in during the course of the investigation."
Odisho is the first president in the club's history to serve two terms in the position. He was re-elected earlier this year after the club's charter was amended to allow people to serve consecutive terms. During his first term, the club held its first Assyrian New Year's parade in the city and began adding services to the organization.
(ZNDA: India) Last week
Pope John Paul II received members of the Syriac-Malankara Catholic Church
of India in Vatican. A Mass was celebrated in the Roman Basilica
of Santa Maria in Trastevere.
The Syriac pilgrims were accompanied by Metropolitan Archbishop Cyril Baselios Makancharuvil of Trivandrum.
The Syriac-Malankara Catholic Church is also known as the "Church of St. Thomas," as it began with the apostle's preaching. There are four religious congregations in this Church, which is rooted in India: the Order of the Imitation of Christ, the religious of the Imitation of Christ, the Daughters of Mary, and the Kristia Sanyasa Sabha (Christian Religious Congregation). The Syriac-Malankara Church, of the Antioch rite, regained full communion with Rome in 1930. It retains its special liturgy in the local tongue, Malayalam.
The Pope asked the Syriac-Malankara Catholics "to invoke God's love on the Christians of the Oriental Churches, that in new and deeper ways they may 'discover the fact that they are all walking together toward the one Lord ... and, thus, toward each other."
Last Thursday Pope John Paul also met with members of the Syriac Catholic Church of Antioch in Vatican. They were accompanied to Rome by Patriarch Ignace Moussa I Daoud. John Paul II on Saturday officially appointed Patriarch Ignace Moussa I Daoud of Antioch of the Syrians, as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches. The new Vatican prefect, who will quite likely be created a cardinal at the next consistory, is replacing Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, 77, who resigned for reasons of age.
It was in Antioch where Jesus' followers were first called "Christians". According to an ancient tradition, all heads of the Syriac-Catholic Church of Antioch have Ignatius' name as a first patriarchal title. This Church, whose patriarchate since 1920 has been located in Beirut, Lebanon, embraces Catholics living in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
Malankara Church in the U.S.
Malankara Orthodox Church
“The question is not what went wrong in Tur-abdin. We all know Turkey is oppressive country to its non-Turkish citizens. I ask where our leaders are when we need them???? How come I don't see the Zawa, Betnahrin, and Jouyada men helping their brethren in Turkey? Our people's biggest enemy is not Turkey, Saddam, Moslems, or whoever. It's US, Assyrians ourselves. If Turks kill or torture to that priest in Turkey, nobody should blame except ourselves.”
November 25, 2000
I have just led a church delegation to the Islamic republic of Iran. It aimed to engage in inter-religious dialogue, monitor human rights and support Christian and other minority communities.
Change is occurring in Iran; there is foreign investment, women are visible and, at least in the cities, the dress code has been relaxed. In some respects, the position of women is better than before 1979. Religious and ethnic minorities are also a little more relaxed, and appear to be freer than in the early revolutionary years. There seems to be a policy of fostering inter-faith dialogue.
But, it has to be said, the United Nations' special rapporteur has noted a worsening of the human rights situation, especially in relation to the trial of Jews for espionage, the situation of the Bahais - with some marginal improvements - and the press clampdown.
Most people we met were aware that the expectations of the early days of Khatami's presidency and the new majlis (parliament), had been unrealistic, and that change must come more cautiously and gradually. There is a struggle going on for the nation's soul between an old guard that wishes to preserve the purity of the revolution's ideals, and those who want the values of an ancient civilisation reasserted and who would like Iran, once again, to open up to the outside world.
We found an eagerness for this kind of contact. The deeply-rooted mystical and anti-clerical aspects of Iranian Islam are coming to the fore, once again, as is the desire for a diverse and tolerant society.
The meetings with those responsible for education, including clerical education, showed a deep awareness of western intellectual and social currents. Traditionally dressed ayatollahs and Hojjatul-Islams showed a lively interest in, for example, post-modernism and the deconstructionists. The implications for hermeneutics which this raised in relation to sacred texts, and the ways in which traditional exegesis was responding to these challenges, were matters of mutual interest.
Such attitudes could be very significant if they influence the study of the Koran and the traditions. There has been some translation of Christian theology, and a desire to do more. Scholars appeared open to advice, centres for interfaith dialogue are developing, and there was a desire that non-Muslim faiths should be taught by adherents of those faiths, and that research and teaching in this area should not be used for apologetic or proselytising purposes. Some scholars desire a view of plurality faithful to Islam, and open to dialogue and learning.
Lawmakers are interested in the moral basis for western law. They appeared well-informed regarding the dangers of merely following public opinion, crude forms of utilitarianism and the over-emphasis on the individual. Most wanted to affirm Islam's teaching, and for its principles to be embodied in law, but they were aware that such applications must take into account contemporary circumstances.
Senior figures suggested that parliament was the best forum for deciding how Islamic principles should be applied; the examples given were about the promotion of monogamy and the development of penal law. The role of reason in relation to revelation was stressed. It may well be that those traditions of Islam, both Shia and Sunni, which give reason a role in the interpretation of revelation, will be in the vanguard for the development of Shariah or Islamic law, on which so much else depends.
The suggested parliamentary role has implications for the clerically-dominated theocracy, with pressure on the council of guardians to take a more progressive view of Islamic law. Much depends on how tension between the majlis and the council of guardians is resolved.
Senior figures are now opening up conversations with religious minorities, and are conspicuous at these communities' events. There is even an acknowledgment that some movement of individuals between faith communities is inevitable.
At the same time, members of these communities continue to report intimidation. Some need to have their legal status recognised, and confiscated properties returned and repaired. Government needs to clarify the balance between community and individual rights; there is a tendency to privilege the former.
One reason for greater tolerance may be the emi- gration of skilled people - including Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians. To halt this brain drain, society has to be more open, rights respected and the press allowed to exercise its functions. Many of those who left Iran should be allowed to return.
Interest in an international dialogue stems partly from the desire of Iran's rulers to end the country's isolation. But we need to point out that no civilisation is entirely homogeneous, and a dialogue is needed also within civilisations. Iran has many ancient religious communities. Their contribution to Iranian culture should be acknowledged.
We saw much to suggest that both kinds of dialogue are beginning. But immediate improvement is needed in the situation of minority communities, the judicial system must be seen to be fair, punishment rehabilitative and the press free to investigate and criticise. Otherwise, dialogue will be fruitless and the country could return to the dark days just after the revolution. But there is also the possibility of much fruit both for Iran and for the rest of the world.
Those reformers are taking risks and need support. The slow pace of change may be frustrating for outsiders, but patience is an ancient value in Iran. As the country's premier poet, the 14th-century Hafiz of Shiraz, said: "Patience and success are old friends:/ From patience's sedate walk/ Comes victory's triumphal march."
The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali is the Anglican Bishop of Rochester.
My Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
This Holiday Season give a gift of Life to your friends and family.
"A Hymns Of Hope CD" is the Choral Performance of Assyrian-Chaldean Catholic Church of Tbilisi, Georgia.
And Bring the blessing of our Children in to your House
All proceeds from the sale of this CD will be sent to the our kids in Tbilisi, Georgia.
And A very Special thank you gift from Waw Allap to you and your family.
Layard's Discoveries in Nineveh
Do not fear mother
Do not look at my age
Could be I'm not a famous brave
But it has never happened
That in the face of a challenge,
Kateeni to step back.
Listen to this promise,
Which I make in the memory of my dead father.
The last day of Shidda is at hand.
Before the sun sets,
Before the moon rises,
Her death she'll meet by this hand.
By the truth of my soul,
By the light of this day,
I give you a sacred promise
Before the God of night,
Sets up his tent,
The enemy will lose its head.
No longer will it pass,
That Shidda seeps blood.
Wipe the tears off your eyes.
Before the sun sets,
Before the moon rises,
You'll embrace your sons in your arms,
Our men and maidens
She has stolen from us,
Their lives are entombed,
In mountain cliffs.
If Shamiram could hear,
She would bitterly weep for her children,
Captive in their own land.
Rage is swelling in my chest,
If enflames my body.
It burns me like a fire ablaze.
If I do not put an end to Shidda,
Then it's best to lie down and die
As I would not be,
The son of Gilgamish, the Ninevite.William Daniel
Excerpted from William Daniel's "Epic of Kateeni Gabbara". Translated from Assyrian by Dr. Arian Ishaya.
"Shidda", a she-monster.
In 1948, following the war between the Palestinian war between Jews and Arabs, the seminary was transferred to the Convent of Charfet, Lebanon. He completed his philosophy and theology studies at the same seminary from the year 1949 until the year 1955. He was ordained priest on October 17, 1954 by the late Cardinal Patriarch Igance Gabriel I Tappouni at the St. Georges Cathedral for the Syriac Catholics in Beirut with seven of his priest colleagues, and amongst them five have been ordained bishops. He returned to his diocese of origin in Homs in 1955 and had the following responsibilities: Professor of Catechism at St. Joseph School, Vicar parish priest, principal of the school and parish priest, secretary to the Archbishop and thereafter episcopal vicar general. In 1962 he was sent to Rome to study Canon Law at the University of Latran and obtained his Masters in 1964.
In 1970, His Beatitude, Mar Igance Antoine II Hayek appointed him Patriarchal Secretary General, he held this position for seven consecutive years. He was elected bishop for the diocese of Cairo at the Patriarchal Synod in 1977. His consecration took place at our Lady of Deliverance Church in Charfet, Lebanon. He was enthroned in Cairo at the Church of St. Catherine on 7 October 1977. He served the diocese of Cairo for seventeen years and accomplished the following: Construction of a cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, Cairo.
At the Patriarchal Synod in 1994, he was transferred from the diocese of Cairo to the diocese of Homs, Syria. He was enthronement at Our Lady of Deliverance Church at Zeidal, Homs on September 18, 1994. He was nominated Consultant for the Commission for the revision of Cannon Law and remained such for 15 years, thereafter he became member of the same commission for five years. He presides the Commission of translation of Latin and Arabic Cannon Law for Oriental Churches in Cairo. A few years he was elected member of the congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in Rome. In 1995 he was nominated permanent member of the Synod and member of the Superior Court of Judicial Affairs for the Syriac Catholic Church. In 1977 he was nominated President of the community Beneficiary Commission (Syria) by the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Syria. At the Patriarchal Synod of 1998, he was elected Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church on 13 October. His enthronement took place on 25 October 1998 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Annunciation, Beirut.
Last Saturday, His Beatitude Ignace Moussa I Daoud was appointed by Pope John Paul II as the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches. This is an important event in the canonical history of the Church as once again the primary exponent of the ancient and glorious Oriental Churches is being occupied by the office of prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. In the past, this post was held by the Armenian patriarch of Catholic rite, Gregoire-Pierre XV Agagianian (1895-1971), and Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy, former archbishop of Bangalore, India.
This Vatican congregation has the task of being a unifying link with the Eastern Catholic Churches to foster their growth, safeguard their rights, and maintain the Eastern Christian tradition alive and whole in the Catholic Church, along with the liturgical and spiritual patrimony of the Latin Church.
Some of these Churches have other rites (sometimes the same as the Orthodox Church), and another discipline (some, for example, accept the ordination of married priests). All, however, all acknowledge the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, sign of communion for the universal Church.
In addition, the congregation has exclusive
authority in the following regions: Egypt and the Sinai peninsula, Eritrea and
Northern Ethiopia, Southern Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon,
Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Afghanistan.
Ashur-uballit II was the last ancient Assyrian king who survived the final sack of Nineveh in 612 B.C. He fled to the city of Harran, where he tried to establish an Assyrian government in exile. Two years later, Nabopolassar of Babylon attacked Harran and Ashur-uballit abandoned the city.
Chronicles of Ancient History, 1990 (III-2), Oates
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan about 5,000 Afghans fled to Diyarbakir, bringing thousands of handmade carpets, mats, and richly embroidered camel bags to sell for much-needed cash. Today Diyarbakir is home to one of the world's ancient businesses: the carpet trade. Dealers as far away as California travel to Diyarbakir to buy carpets in bulk.
San Jose Mercury News, October 15, 2000
November 28, 1845: Sir Henry Layard, for the first time, discovers a set of clay tablets in Nineveh. The discovery of these tablets on a rainy day such as this was important in furthering Layard's interest in digging through the rubble in Nineveh and finally discovering the ancient capital of Assyria.
See this week's ASSYRIAN SURFING POSTS
WALTER AZIZ NEW YEAR'S EVE PARTY
Presented by Worldance Entertainment:
AAA of SAN JOSE NEW YEAR'S EVE PARTY
Assyrian American Association of San Jose Presents:
Join us for a memorable evening of Dining and Entertainment!
(*Please Note: On December 2, ticket sales from 8 to 10AM will be limited to members only.)
Tickets may be purchased on Saturdays from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM and Thursdays
from 7 to 10PM at:
For more information, please call 408-927-8100 or 408-927-9100
STORIES FROM ANCIENT SUMER
Retold in live oral performance by storytellers:
TREASURES FROM THE ROYAL TOMBS OF UR
The Oriental Institute
Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat, & Sun 10AM-5:30PM
General Info: 773-702-9514
Admission is free, but the Institute suggests a donation of $5 for adults and $2 for children under 12 to view the Ur exhibition.
CANADIAN SOCIETY FOR SYRIAC STUDIES LECTURE
"Icons & Syriac Inscriptions in the Monastery of the
Syrians in Egypt"
CANADIAN SOCIETY FOR SYRIAC STUDIES LECTURE
"Frescoes & Syriac Inscriptions in Medieval Churches
CANADIAN SOCIETY FOR SYRIAC STUDIES LECTURE
"Syriac Heritage at the Northern Silk Road: The
Archaological & Epigraphic Evidence of Christianity in Kirghizia"
XLVIIe RENCONTRE ASSYRIOLOGIQUE INTERNATIONALE
International Congress of Assyriology and Near Eastern
Registration Form: click here
Lena Mushell (California)
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