ASSYRIAN STATE CONVENTION AT LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA
In addition to top-notch Assyrian-style entertainment, Assyrian conventions in the United States provide excellent opportunities for social interaction and lively discussions. Many educational and political forums are organized at these conventions to stimulate thinking on the important issues facing the Assyrian-Americans. Of course, most of us travel thousands of miles to see relatives, find our future spouses, and mingle at the parties.
At daytime while the local and national delegates convene at the National Executive Committee meetings, hundreds of other guests are invited to listen to a music concert, watch Assyrian soccer and basketball games, review the latest fashions from France and Italy, and do some sight-seeing with other Assyrian families. In the evening, all urban adventurers, art aficionados, hot-headed activists, and the singles seeking companionship - permanently that is - come together at the dance parties and hold hands to form circles of unity for hours at a time. They smile, drink, eat, and kiss. All is good until the next day's exciting agenda.
Conventions are entertaining, educational, and yes - expensive.
The 35th Annual Assyrian State Convention of California, held between May 25 and 28, in Long Beach was a different story. Just a tidbit short of a disaster, it provided painful reminders of how a hardworking group of people in a fabulous location can offer so little to so many eager guests.
What happened to the educational programs, youth workshops, political rallies, guided tours of Disneyland and the Universal Studios, etc? Wasn't this the same Assyrian American Association of Southern California that had organized the successful State Convention in Pasadena in the 90's?
Upon closer examination it was quickly revealed that there was a dearth of manpower at this convention. The internal issues facing the members of the AAASC had taken their toll. The active members from the yesteryears were standing idly in the lobby while the same group of inexperienced committee chairpersons were selling tickets, hanging art portraits, and running after the police officers in pursuit of the violent youth. No matter how hard a small and inexperienced group works and thinks, it's still just that - small and inexperienced.
Keeping in mind their limited resources, the organizers of these State and National conventions should be asking themselves: "How can we provide utmost number of educational and political programs and quality entertainment for as many of our valued guests?" Someone in L.A. forgot the most important item on the convention menu: THE GUESTS!
The Long Beach convention was poorly organized and hardly provided any fun or educational activities between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm. The cafes and restaurants inside the hotel were open for a limited number of hours (what happened to our 3 am breakfasts after the dance parties?). Did we miss the Bazaars? There were no merchandize sold between Friday and Sunday, and only at the picnic were we offered to buy our latest Assyrian CDs and videos. No bazaar at the Assyrian conventions?
The inexperienced Convention Committee is now singing the post-Convention blues. Not surprisingly, every entertainment event was a financial catastrophe. On Sunday night for example, less than one-third of the expected guests were served dinner, and 600 plates were already pre-paid. Ouch! Happy were the homeless folks in Long Beach!
The blame may be placed partly on the divided membership of the AAASC for not coming through for their sister organizations in California. However, let's leave the AAASC's internal woes for a future discussion. All we need to know is that some previously active members, experienced in such matters as running a State Convention, had decided to wash their hands off this year's convention.
Then, wasn't there enough of us to occupy those $65 seats on Sunday night? Are you kidding? There were so many of us from San Jose, Central Valley, So Cal and even Chicago that the organizers had to put us in two large hotels.
Yet there was one more secret the experienced Assyrian convention organizers had not shared with Ms. Shamiram Tabar's committee chairs: "Keep the hotels as far away from local entertainment centers as possible." Indeed many of us preferred to do salsa at the clubs on Pine Street and watch the sharks at the Aquarium of the Pacific. It's a lot more fun to watch the Tigersharks than the ones throat-cutting at the NEC meetings. And what did we do after the parties? Let's just say that there was more energy expended on the fifth and sixth floors of Hotel Renaissance than any hour of the day at Hyatt.
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Moral of the story- (To future Convention organizers):
In the meantime, to be fair to the hardworking organizers at this year's State Convention here are our top ten memorable events we brought back with us:
Well, 6 out of 10 isn't too bad, L.A.! Our next stop: San Jose, California. Can't wait!
FIRST ASSYRIAN MEDIA MERGER, ZINDA AND NAKOSHA MAGAZINES
(ZNDA: San Jose) Zinda Corporation, the parent company of Zinda Magazine announced last week that it has merged with the successful Assyrian-Australian magazine, Nakosha.
Zinda Corporation, a privately held California-based company, headquartered in San Jose, is a leading provider of human resources services for clients including Cisco and Hewlett-Packard. In addition to HR services, Zinda provides its corporate clients with multi-media and Internet application products.
Wilfred Alkhas, President of Zinda Corporation commented on the merger: "We are very pleased that this merger will soon enhance the level of media services provided to the Assyrian communities in Australia and abroad. Our staff at Zinda Magazine will capitalize on the synergies arising from the complementary nature of Zinda's worldwide resources and Nakosha's unparalleled distribution systems.''
The Staff in Australia will continue to maintain full editorial control of Nakosha Magazine, while Zinda Corporation will provide the Assyrian Youth Group of Victoria with funds to continue the publication of their successful magazine.
David Chibo, Editor
of Nakosha Magazine, said "Nakosha and Zinda will focus their efforts
and create a strong platform for the media campaigns that will be waging
in the future."
PROUD ASSRYIANS OF LEBANON
(ZNDA: Beirut) There's a sense of rebirth in a small community in Sid al-Bauchrieh. Many homes are displaying red and blue flags, parents refuse to speak to their children in Arabic and classes are being conducted in an ancient language. "We're Assyrians," explained a shopkeeper. "Once we were powerful. Now we're forgotten."
Today's Assyrian community in Lebanon is a sad comparison to the once powerful dynasty thousands of years ago.
Assyrians rose to power in Mesopotamia, or modern-day Iraq. The area was better known as the "land between the two rivers," the Euphrates and Tigris. The Assyrians created many ideas and technologies used today, including the first postal system, a sexagesimal system of keeping time, paved roads, magnifying glasses, libraries, plumbing and flush toilets, guitars, aqueducts, laxatives and the use of lock and key.
They also created the first boot a calf-high, laced leather boot with a sole reinforced by metal developed for soldiers, who had used open-toe sandals up until then.
The Assyrian government also served as a model for future empires, especially the Persian and Roman.
Known for its brutal and cruel warriors with well-organized and well-equipped armies, Assyrian rule extended over a vast area between 2,400 BC and 612 BC. Assyrians held power from Egypt to Cyprus in the west, through Anatolia, to the Caspian in the east.
In 612 BC, however, the empire collapsed.
In the first century, the Assyrians were among the first people to embrace Christianity. Until then, they worshiped their god, Ashur. In 33 AD, the Assyrian Church was founded.
In the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries, Assyrians translated Greek works, including religion, science, philosophy and medicine. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen and many others were translated into Assyrian and from Assyrian into Arabic. It was these Arabic translations that the Moors brought with them into Spain and which the Spaniards translated into Latin and spread throughout Europe, thus igniting the European renaissance.
In the fourth century, the Assyrians founded the first university in the world. The school of Nisibin had three departments: theology, philosophy and medicine. By the end of the 12th century, the Assyrian Church was larger than the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches combined. It expanded over the Asian continent from Syria to Mongolia, Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines. But the days of glory were coming to an end.
By 1300 AD, the Arabs levied heavy taxes on Christians, forcing many Assyrians to convert to Islam. Timurlane the Mongol did his share by destroying many cities in the Middle East, drastically shrinking the Assyrian community.
Many in the Assyrian population fled to the Hakkari mountain (present-day Turkey) while the remaining Assyrians stayed in northern Iraq, Syria and Urmiah (Iran). In time, the Assyrian community split into three Christian sects: The Assyrian Church of the East (Nestorian), established in 33 AD by Theodos, Thomas, and Bartholomew, the Assyrian Orthodox Church (Jacobite), established in 450 AD, and the Chaldean Church of Babylon (Roman Catholic), established in 1450 AD. In the following decades, a series of massacres forced the Assyrians to flee from one nation to the other.
In Iran, the Ottomans and Kurds massacred hundreds of Assyrians, forcing survivors to escape to Iraq. On the 25-day day journey, another 7,000 perished from starvation, diseases and more massacres.
In exchange for their support in World War I, Britain, France and Russia promised the Assyrians their own homeland in northern Iraq.
The promise was never fulfilled and in 1933, an estimated 3,000 Assyrians were massacred in the Iraqi village of Simel, creating what is known as the Assyrian Diaspora.
Odisho is a Syrian national who moved to Lebanon four years ago. But to him and to many Assyrians, nationalities mean little.
"I am neither Syrian nor Lebanese," he said. "I am an Assyrian." Of the approximately 3 million Assyrians worldwide, an estimated 14,000 live in Lebanon. About 4,000 of the Assyrians in Lebanon come from Syria or Iraq and continue to join the Assyrian community mainly located in Sid al-Bauchrieh and Zahle.
While most have received Lebanese citizenship, they continue to yearn for a nation they can call their own. Betrayed by the Allies who promised them a homeland in northern Iraq in exchange for their support, and persecuted by the Ottomans, Kurds and Iraqis, many Assyrians made their way to Lebanon.
The journey to Lebanon was paved in the 1920s when Assyrians from Russia fled the communist regime. They are remembered in the community as bringing with them nuggets of gold most of which were quickly squandered.
Among the Russian immigrants was the Wazira family.
"We were accompanied by another 30 or 40 families," recalled 80-year-old Jean Wazira, who was eight years old at the time.
The group made their way into Iran and moved through Iraq and Syria before finally reaching Lebanon in 1930. The country was seen as a safe haven due to its Christian government.
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Seven years later, the Waziras moved to the United States.
"Then my father heard that a new movement was created to form an Assyrian nation in northern Iraq," said Wazira. "So we rushed back to the Middle East, and my father built a hotel there in anticipation of this nation. But nothing happened." Broke, the Wazira family moved back to Lebanon. To obtain Lebanese citizenship, they later changed their last name to the Armenian name of Simonian.
"My father never forgot Russia," said Wazira, who still speaks fluent Russian. "He often talked about it."
Two years ago after more than 70 years of exile, Wazira traveled to Russia to search for his family.
"I saw my cousins again after all these years," he said.
Fluent in seven languages, Wazira shook his head in anger when talking about the high illiteracy rate in the Assyrian community. "Don't they know what their ancestors have given to the world?" he said.
The community does seem to be aware of its people's contribution to the world, but only from stories handed down through generations. Unfortunately, in their escape from persecution and efforts to settle in a new country, many families failed to educate their children.
According to the Assyrian church, 90 percent of the older Assyrians are illiterate. It is only recently that efforts to educate younger Assyrians are being made.
At 76, Alice Isho can neither read nor write.
"My parents were highly educated," she said. "My grandfather was a doctor." Her grandfather, however, was among the first to be massacred in 1933 when the Iraqi Army attacked the village of Smile, killing an estimated 3,000 residents. More than 65 years later, the image of her grandmother holding her up in the air as soldiers tried to yank her away is still vivid. At eight, she was strong enough to resist them.
In frustration, one soldier grabbed the earring in her left ear, pulled hard and tore her ear lobe in two. The scar on Isho's ear is an ever-present reminder. Isho and her two sisters fled the house with their grandmother. "I remember running between mountains," said Isho. "We later found out that they killed all the men."
Isho also remembers boarding trucks driven by French soldiers and being taken to Syria. They later made their way to Lebanon. "The last thing on anyone's mind was to educate us children," she said. "We were too busy finding ways to survive."
The cycle seems to be repeating itself as more recent Assyrian refugees arrive in the country. In 1993, Ibrahim Bello and his family fled from Iraq and settled in Sid al-Bauchrieh.
Eight years later, Bello's one regret is that he couldn't educate his five children. As foreigners, the children could not attend Lebanese public schools and Bello once an engineer in an Iraqi petroleum company couldn't afford to send them to private schools. Instead, the whole family found jobs to earn an income. Bello's troubles began when he refused to volunteer for the Iraqi Army during the 1991 Gulf War. As a consequence, he said he and the other Assyrians in the petroleum company were continuously harassed and interrogated by the Iraqi authorities.
Finally, in 1993, Bello was forced to quit his job and retreat to his northern Iraqi village of Kosh.
"But there was no work in a small village, and I would be harassed again in Baghdad so we had to leave," he said.
That same year, Bello and his family walked to the northern Iraqi border and waited until nightfall. They than slipped through the border into Turkey. A few days later, they crept into Syria and from there made their way into Lebanon. "I knew there was an Assyrian community here and that we would be safe," he said. "All an Assyrian had to do is ask about the whereabouts of the church." In this community, it is the church elders who are seen as the leaders. Disputes and complaints are usually settled by the priests.
The upkeep of traditions such as New Year celebrations on April 1 once one of the most important religious and national celebrations held in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) is fervently observed. But most of all, the community is fiercely attached to its language.
"It is the role of the church to keep the language alive," said Father Khamis Safar. "Nothing we do is in Arabic. Our masses, baptisms, weddings, funerals and sermons are in Assyrian. We even give classes in the Assyrian language in our school." Assyrian, also known as Syriac, Chaldean or Neo-Aramaic, was widely spoken in the Middle East until 700 AD when it was supplanted by Arabic. Until this day, many Lebanese villages carry Assyrian or Aramaic names "such as Beit Meri, which means the house of gents, or Aintoura, which means spring of mountain, or Bkirki, meaning the house of books," explained Safar.
Its similarities with Hebrew, however, occasionally cause problems, as Lucia Isaac experienced first-hand.
During the 1982 Israeli invasion, Lucia, then nine, was playing on the old Sidon road when Israeli tanks rolled up next to her. In the open hood, Lucia spotted a box of biscuits.
Mistaking the soldier's language for Assyrian, Lucia approached the tanks and asked in Assyrian for a biscuit. In turn, the Israelis mistook Assyrian for Hebrew and promised Lucia a biscuit if she would guide them to her home. "I said all right and walked ahead of the tanks," she said. "I thought they were Assyrians and didn't think much of it. I just wanted the biscuit." As soon as the Israelis entered the family home, however, they forced Lucia's parents and siblings on the floor at gunpoint.
"They thought we were Jewish spies," said Isaac. "Finally, some people came and explained to the Israelis that we are Assyrians and the language we speak is not Hebrew. My parents were not too pleased with me that day."
"For the record," she added, "I never did get my biscuit."
ASSYRIANS IN IRAN STAND BEHIND PRESIDENT
(ZNDA: Tehran) The 300,000 non-Muslims voting in Iran's presidential election next Friday are expected to side en masse with reformist incumbent Mohammad Khatami, although their political leaders generally refrain from taking sides in the Islamic republic's politics. These are Assyrians, Armenians, Jews, and the Zoroastrians.
"Khatami gave us hope. He recognized us on the cultural and human levels. My family and friends will all vote for him," said Azad, a young Armenian woman.
Her enthusiasm is shared by Iran's 30,000 Assyrians.
"In 1997, we all voted for him. We will do it again. He is good for us and he wants us to stay in Iran," said Yonathan Bet-Kolia, the Assyrian Representative in Iran's Majlis (Parliament), unnerved by the large numbers of his community leaving for the United States.
Khatami is expected to win re-election this Friday in a field of 10 candidates.
Khatami last year even visited an Assyrian church in the western city of Uremia. "That was marvelous," Bet-Kolia said.
But Assyrians are not without their criticisms of the president. They particularly resent that Christians are still barred from high administrative functions and from teaching.
"We now have no more than three schools instead of five. But we're listened to. We were given a budget. In Uremia, a 30,000 square-meter area of land was given to us," Bet-Kolia said.
Like the Christians, most Iranian Jews seem to prefer Khatami.
"He has started a dialogue with minorities and we trust him," said Esghagh, a student.
The Iranian constitution, passed in 1979 after Islamic fundamentalists ousted the pro-Western shah, stipulates constitutional representation for the country's Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian minorities.
Last month, while Khatami was registering his candidacy for a second term as president, he wept as he described to reporters the personal angst involved in his decision to seek re-election amid the setbacks and crises of his first four years in office.
IN SWEDEN MOURN VICTIMS OF MINIBUS ACCIDENT
(ZNDA: Södertälje) This was perhaps Sweden's most attended burial. Tears never ended when 6,000 mourners filled the Scaniarinken [arena] yesterday.
'I wish I had wings so I could go on a visit in heaven', said Daniel Senkal, 19, who lost his best friend Artin Kesenci, 18, in the minibus disaster.
People had come on a pilgrimage from all over Sweden and Northern Europe in order to honour the four killed Syriac youths who had died on last Sunday.
In front of the rostrum there stood four coffins with white roses, carnations and gerbera atop. Behind and around there were red carnations and yellow roses - the colours of the Syriac flag.
'He wanted to become a policeman'
' We had so many wonderful hours together till you disappeared. Why everything passed so quickly?' asked Artin's sister Diana, 12, when she stepped up to the microphone.
On Saturday she wore her brother's student cap. In her arms she held a teddy bear which she intended to give him as a student's present together with a volleyball.
' He wanted to become a policeman'. Two bishops of the Syriac Orthodox church and 25 priests celebrated the mass which took nearly two hours.
His class-mate Daniel Senkal gave a moving speech.
' I wish they had never gone [on this trip]. They ended up in a ditch and now they are proceeding to heaven. Artin, I love you. I wonder if I'll ever wake up from this nightmare. I wish I had wings so that I could come to visit. I can never carry you to your wedding. Now I have to carry your coffin.
The thousands of gathered people listened to "Who Can Sail without Wind, Who Can Row Without Oars?' performed by Clarissa Krabbe, 30, who was assisted by the youth choir of the St. Afrem parish.
' I met them every week on the Fornbacka leisure ground. What has happened is tragic and affects all of us', says Clarissa.
The four Syriac youths were on their way home from a volleyball tournament in Göteborg when the accident occurred. They were half an hour away from home when the driver fell asleep behind the steering wheel.
' This event should be a lesson to all youths. Drive carefully." says Father Gabriel Bar Qashisho from the St. Jakob parish. The four were all interested in sports and hard-working at school. They were respected by organisations as examples to their peers of the same age and younger ones in their neighbourhood.
' They have engraved their names with golden letters in the Syriac Orthodox Church', said Bishop Mor Julios Ablahad G. Shabo.
ASSYRIANS' CONTRIBUTIONS TO ISLAM
(ZNDA: Beirut) Although the Arab world, the cradle of all three monotheistic faiths, has become largely Muslim, it is also home to over 16 Christian communities and has constantly been the seat of many influential Christian movements and thoughts.
To promote this Christian contribution, the Saint Joseph University's Center for Documentation and Research on Arab Christianity, established in 1996, has proclaimed May the Month of the Christian Orient.
The Center for Documentation and Research on Arab Christianity is a research institute that records the Christian contribution to the Arab world. Headed by Samir Khalil Samir, the five-year-old center at Saint Joseph University contains the world's largest collection of manuscripts written by Arab authors. The center's library contains over 4,500 microfilms dealing with such diverse issues as medicine, history and philosophy and covers all periods, with a special emphasis on the Abbasid period, which stretches roughly from 750 AD to 1250 AD. "We cover all Christian communities: the larger communities like the Copts and the Maronites, but also the Syriacs, the Latins, the Protestants and all the others," said Samir.
Samir maintained that the role Christians played has been fundamental to Arab civilization, and at times, even more important than the Muslim contribution. The 60-year-old Jesuit priest, who teaches at USJ and USJ's Universite pour Tous, is also the co-organizer of two world congresses on Christian studies. The Symposium Syriacum and the Conference for Arab Christian Studies are held in a different city every four years, with the next scheduled to be hosted in Beirut in 2004. The last two were held in Sweden and Australia.
Having written some 25 religious books, Samir holds two doctorates one in Islamic studies and another one in Oriental Christian theology and has taken it upon himself to bring the two religions closer to people. "Throughout my career, I have always focused on giving courses about both religions," he said.
"This line of thought has followed me in all of my studies. I always try to balance and draw a parallel between the study of Islam and that of Christianity."
Lectures and conferences organized by the center, in collaboration with USJ's brand-new faculty of religious sciences, are being held on Wednesdays throughout the month at Monot Street's Oriental Library.
"The task of these seminars is two fold," explained Samir Khalil Samir. "One: to trace back the history of Christian thought, especially through the Medieval period, and two: to identify and place Christian thought within the framework of a Muslim civilization."
Samir will host the two remaining lectures. Wednesday's will deal with Arab Christians and the Abassid renaissance during the 8th and 10th centuries, and the next, on May 30, will focus on the Christian renaissance during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Centered mainly on Syriac and Arab Christianity and their connection to Arab civilization, the lectures focus on four major pre-Islamic centers: the cities of Edessa, Najran, Baghdad and Aleppo.
In earlier lectures, Basil Aggoula, an Iraqi professor at the College de France in Paris, dwelled on the origins of Syro-Mesopotamian Christianity, while Manfred Kropp, an expert in Semitic languages, presented Christianity in Southern Arabia before Islam.
Samir introduced Kropp as a specialist of all Semitic languages, including Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic and Amharic, and as the author of many publications, "most of which would be far too heavy to carry."
Kropp, who is also the director of the German Orient Institute, a research institute housed in Zoqaq al-Blat, drew a standing-room-only crowd.
He lectured on Christianity in Southern Arabia before Islam, bringing forth archeological evidence of the presence of Christians in the pre-Islamic era. Basing his study on "Najran: Christians of Arabia Before Islam," a book he had previously published, he cited evidence of Christian presence in the oasis-city of Najran in Yemen, as early as the third century AD. Christians, he suggested, came to Southern Arabia from Ethiopia's "evangelizing movements."
He also showed evidence of Christian symbols and graffiti, and spoke of the Jewish persecution of Christians in the 6th century AD.
Speaking of one massacre, that of a bishop and his followers, who were burned to death, Kropp said, "I would certainly like to go back in time and witness this event. If I were to go, my wish would be to be able to take a peek at the bible that was being burned along with the people, and see what language it was written in my guess would be Syriac."
Kropp ended by saying that shortly after the appearance of Islam there was evidence that southern Arabia was two-thirds Jewish and Christian and one-third Muslim, "but after that, the story of Christians in the region disappears in the darkness of the unknown."
However educational and fascinating to anyone interested in Christian history, the conference carries a deeper meaning. For Samir, it even holds a message of peace and understanding.
"Ultimately, my goal is to advocate a harmonious cohabitation of Muslims and Christians," he said.
"In order to have this harmony, I believe people should be made to realize two things," he said. "First, Christians in Lebanon should realize that Arab civilization is their own, and that it is in no way alien to them as some might think and second, Muslims should realize that Arab civilization is not exclusively Muslim it's common to both religions."
Having proclaimed May the month of the Christian Orient for the first time this year, Samir hopes that it will become an annual tradition, "and an occasion to learn and celebrate."
INDIANS OF BALTIMORE CELEBRATE NEW CHURCH
(ZNDA: Baltimore) The natives of Kerala, India who live in Baltimore have yearned for years for a church. About30 years ago, a few families began gathering in homes for services. Then they began renting space from other churches, most recently spending a decade in the basement of Faith Presbyterian Church in Northeast Baltimore.
"We have been spiritual nomads," said Varghese For the past five years, they have been raising money, drawing plans and supervising construction of their sanctuary. Within recent weeks, they quietly began celebrating the Divine Liturgy at their new home, St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church. "It has been our dream to have our own place," said Varghese, a professor of social work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore who was one of the congregation's founding members.
From the outside, the newly built church set back from a two-lane road in Woodlawn looks conventional enough: a simple two-story structure with cream-colored siding and a plain cross at the end of the peaked roof. But step inside and be transported into a sacred space of brilliant color and intricate ritual with a lineage reaching back two millenniums.
The parishioners of St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church trace their origins to A.D. 52, when, they believe, the apostle of Jesus who is their namesake traveled to Asia and established one of the earliest Christian communities. "We are known as St. Thomas Christians in India," said Raju Varghese, secretary of the congregation. "We have always claimed we are one of the oldest churches in the world." This church, completed last month on Windsor Mill Road, was built by a small band of St. Thomas Christians, immigrants from the state of Kerala, India. They are members of the Malankara Orthodox Church founded by the Apostle Thomas, who is believed to have traveled from Jerusalem to establish Christianity in India, where he established seven churches in Kerala on the southern coast.
"We have been scraping all resources, financial, intellectual, human, to have a church." The worship space is rather bare; stained glass and icons will come later. "We thought we would occupy it and slowly furnish everything nicely," said M. G. Abraham, a member of the church board of trustees. Worshippers remove their shoes before entering the room. A burgundy curtain, surrounded by a red and gold border with an Eastern cross in the center, covers the sanctuary before it is slowly opened to reveal the four-tiered wooden altar lighted by a dozen candles. Leading the liturgy is a bearded priest wearing a round black hat and elaborately decorated vestments of red and gold with green trim. He is flanked by eight white-robed attendants, two of them holding long sticks with bells at one end that they ring at various points in the service.
Another attendant swings a chain attached to a burning fragrant incense. As is traditional, men sit on one side; women, many of them in colorful saris, heads covered, sit on the other. Younger children sit with their mothers, while some older boys are attended to by their fathers. The entire liturgy is sung, mostly in the native tongue of Malayalam with a smattering of Syriac, in haunting Byzantine melodies led by the priest, with the congregation chanting in unison response.
The liturgy comes from the Syrian Orthodox Church, which helped the St. Thomas Christians reorganize in the 17th century and has since maintained spiritual ties with them. A third language is used in the service in deference to the younger members, who do not speak Malayalam well. The profession of faith, the readings and some of the prayer petitions are recited in English. Parish members hope to begin classes in the language and culture of their native land for their increasingly Americanized children. "We want to impose our culture and pass it down to the next generation," said Mathew M. Aloth, an accountant who serves as the church's trustee.
also hope to reach out to their neighbors. They are contemplating holding
a big picnic to welcome the community this summer. "We'll send a
flier around the neighborhood, invite them over for a hamburger or a hot
dog," Aloth said. They also plan outreach to neighborhood children.
"We would like to expand our community service to the neighborhood,
perhaps give some help with education," said Aloth, formerly an accountant
for Baltimore's public schools. "I don't think we should limit ourselves
to services once a week."
(ZNDA: Detroit) On Thursday, May 31, The Chaldean Arsenal - a U.S. Amateur soccer team- defeated Chicago's CWSC RWB Adria, 3-2, in a U.S. Open Cup Midwest regional final at Pebble Creek Park in Southfield.
Scott Babinski of Sterling Heights, George Kithas of Troy and Hassan Ehab of Southfield scored for the Chaldean Arsenal. There will be a drawing June 4 to determine who the team will play next.
The British called Gandhi a "naked fakir" and Nelson Mandela a "terrorist". Europeans spoke ill of the evils Yassir Arafat had committed and then in 1994 awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to create peace in the Middle East. He who the French call an "international crook" was a freedom-fighter and the savior of the Assyrian nation between 1915 and 1923. The gallant military service of General Agha Petros d'Baz to the people of Urmia and Bet-Nahrain must never be besmirched with labels attributed by the same colonial powers that exiled him and Mar Ishai Shimmun from Bet-Nahrain in the 1930's.
ATTENTION: GRADUATING ASSYRIAN STUDENTS!
Congratulations Class of 2001!
If you are a graduating Assyrian students (high school, college/university, post-college) please contact Zinda Magazine with the following information:
Your Full Name
Your name and information will be listed in our "June 12" issue.
Deadline to receive your information is June 10.
NEMROD SIMONO SCHOLARSHIP AWARDS NIGHT
You are invited to
come along to "Rabi Nemrod Simono Scholarship" awards night.
It will be a great night
We will officially announce the winners for this year.
So come and support these students who have achieved high marks in their HSC for 2000.
I guess you want to know where and when...
The Scholarship Presentation Day will be held as follows:
Date: Sunday, 17th
I look forward to seeing you, your presence will be tremendously valued and much appreciated.
Refreshments will be served!
ASSYRIAN ACADEMIC SOCIETY LECTURE SERIES VIDEO LIST
THE MIRACLE OF AKITU FEST 6751
On April first, the place to be was the Fairfield Showgrounds in Australia. Young Assyrians had invited the Australians visitors of various age groups, gender, and backgrounds to a unique festival showcasing the Assyrian New Year. About 7000 people attended the event from every corner of the Greater Sydney area and celebrated the miracle of AKITU FEST on the first day of April 2001 at the Fairfield Showground. Local young Assyrians organised the New Year celebrations linking them with the Centenary of Federation and National Youth Week in Australia.
The day opened when the Assyrian flag was brought into the showgrounds to the sound of traditional music of Dawola and Zorna. It was followed by a breathtaking performance of Anu-El Drama Group entitled "The Miracle of Akitu" and the Anu-El Dance Group. It brought tears to many eyes to see the spirit of Assyria shining through the crowd.
The festival was designed to create an open event in which everyone felt welcome and at home. This included a broad range of activities for every age, ranging from kids craft to traditional dance aimed at the older people, from giant rides and a jumping castle to face painting, information stalls, and international food hall. It also included a large outdoor Dance Party featuring a choir, live bands, singers, dance troupes and a DJ.
The highlight of the day was the surprising fireworks display which held the crowds in awe with an enormous display of colours. Amidst the fireworks, the Assyrian flag was lit up in all its glory which brought on the emotional applause of all 7000 who attended. Here was an opportunity to promote a positive image of our young people in Fairfield through music, drama, dance,and art.
This year's festival was held at Fairfield Showground as a part of a day-long dance and family funfest. All members of the Greater Australians Multicultural Communities were welcome to join us in this unique and exciting community event celebrating the Assyrian New Year and to partake in a rare glimpse of the Ancient and Modern music, art, food, and culture.
The AKITU Assyrian festival is organised by a network of Assyrian young people keen to keep their traditions alive and well in a modern setting. Over 30,000 Assyrians live in Australia and were proud to present this very special event, and thanked all Australians, for sharing in such an exciting and inspiring cultural exchange. The Assyrian New Year was truly a successful day for all. None of this could have been achieved without the support of all our sponsors and supporters and all those that volunteered their services.
The Assyrian youth hope to see you at the AKITU FEST next year to celebrate the year 6752.
All in all, ten out of ten.
PRESIDENT BUSH HONORS ASSYRIAN WAR VETERAN
One of his friends at Yale, George Walker Bush, was one of a number of dignitaries invited to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony scheduled for 1 PM on April 23, 2001. Those who attend will gather at the George Sulliman Memorial located just off Eddy-Glover Boulevard in New Britain, Connecticut. They will do so almost exactly 50 years after his death. The Korean War Veterans of Connecticut, the New Britain Marine Corps League, The United States Marine Corps League, The United States Marine Corps color guard and a representative of the 1st Company, Connecticut Governor's Foot-guard will all have a part in the ceremony.
George starred in football, baseball and basketball at New Britain High, winning the Burns Memorial Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Citizenship and Athletics. He joined the United States Navy V-12 program after graduation. The Navy sent him to Yale University, from which he graduated in 1948 as a Marine Corp officer. "Sully" was called to active duty in Korea in 1950 and killed on April 24, 1951. In 1997 his two brothers posthumously accepted his induction in the New Britain Sports Hall of Fame. George's boyhood friends continue to honor his memory by providing an annual scholarship in his name at New Britain High School. An invitation was given to all who knew George to attend and honor the memory of one of New Britain's truly great heroes.
"Sully was Truly a Man of Honor"
As homework, Babylonian students were given the task of copying of standard text on clay tablets. These included lists of geographic names, the names of birds and fishes, lists of words in two languages, Akkadian and Sumerian grammar, and mathematical tables and measurements. By doing this each student trained himself in cuneiform writing and accumulated a small personal library of tablets.
Scientific American (Feb 1984), Joran Fribeig
According to a Syriac book found in a coffin some 200 years ago in Tikrit, Iraq, this city was a major Christian community as late as the 13th Century. The records found testify that a present-day mosque in Tikrit had formerly been a church belonging to the Syrian Orthodox Church. Tikrit is a city on the Tigris River, mid-way between Mosul and Baghdad. It is also the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq.
The Nestorians and Their Rituals (Vol I), Badger
June 9, 1920
Dies in Germany, Paul Bejan, Assyrian priest, scholar,
and author/translator of 25 books and 38 major articles.
Share your local events with Zinda readers. Email us or send fax to: 408-918-9201
ZOWAA POLITICAL RALLY
A Political Rally of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa)
Speaker: Mr. Rommel Eliah
Topics: Reports of Zowaa's accomplishments in the homeland (Northern Iraq) and its future agenda
Sunday, June 10, 2001
Hall of the Church of the East (Awana)
For more information call 1-800-MY ZOWAA
7TH ANNUAL GRADUATION CEREMONY
Hosted by the Assyrian Church of the East
Hanging Gardens Banquet
Deadline for registration is June 10, 2001
AN EVENING OF ART & POETRY WITH HANNIBAL ALKHAS
Ticket Price: $30
To reserve/purchase tickets call:
Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation
Assyrian American Civic Club of Chicago
Assyrian Academic Society
BRITISH MUSEUM LECTURE SERIES
Conference Under one sky: "Astronomy and Mathematics in the ancient Near East- Babylonian and Egyptian astronomy and its mathematical background"
Contact Department of the Ancient Near East
XLVIIe RENCONTRE ASSYRIOLOGIQUE INTERNATIONALE
International Congress of Assyriology and Near Eastern
Registration Form: click here
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF HISTORY
" Between the Tigris and the Euphrates: Mesopotamia"
About 300 artworks on loan from Le Louvre in Paris celebrate the great civilization of Mesopotamia. The show spans different periods, from the emergence of the first villages of the Fertile Crescent during the neolithic period to the encounter with the Greeks and Alexander the Great.
For more information: (2) 2361-0270
A festival celebrating the descent of the god Tammuz to the Underworld and the end of spring in Bet-Nahrain. It is customary to sprinkle water on friends and family members, wishing for Tammuz' safe return to his beloved Ishtar.
A day to commemorate the Assyrian martyrs throughout history.
August 28 - Sept 3
ASSYRIAN AMERICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
A PERFORMANCE OF SUMERIAN STORIES
The Zi-Pang Trio
November 8 thru
March 17, 2002
AGATHA CHRISTI & THE ORIENT
Revealing Agatha Christie the archaeologist and how her discoveries in the Near East influenced her detective writing.
The hitherto unknown interests and talents of the great crime writer are told through archaeological finds from the sites on which she worked with her husband Max Mallowan at Ur, Nineveh and Nimrud. Important objects from these sites in the Museum's collections are combined with archives, photographs, and films made by Agatha Christie herself.
Personal memorabilia and souvenirs of travel in a more leisurely age are only some of the exhibits which range from first editions of those novels inspired by her other life to a sleeping compartment from the Orient Express, from a lethal 1930s hypodermic syringe to a priceless first millennium ivory of a man being mauled to death
Admissions £7, Concessions £3.50
West Wing Exhibition Gallery Room 28
MIDDLE EAST STUDIES ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
Middle East Studies Association of North America Panel
Hyatt Regency Hotel, San Francisco
Dr. Arian Ishaya - Urmia to Baquba: From the Cradle of
Water to Wilderness
THE NIMROD CONFERENCE
Sponsored by the British School of Archaeology in Iraq
Cost To Be Determined
Contact Dept of Ancient Near East 020 7323 8315
Coincides with Ancient Near East week at the British Museum:
Zindamagazine would like to thank:
& Edward Kliszus
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