LOOK WHO'S TALKING!
Last week the Jerusalem Post reported that the Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit is calling Israel's actions in Palestine a "genocide" against Palestinians. Ecevit said at a meeting of his party that not only Chairman Yasser Arafat but the whole Palestinian nation is being destroyed step by step. His comments have led to a serious crisis between the two strategic allies since 1996.
Israel immediately asked Ankara for an "explanation" of the comments, warning that Ecevit's announcement could affect relations between the countries. Ecevit later said his words were misunderstood and that he does not mean that the Israeli public is committing genocide. Ecevit also said that he does not want to disappoint or upset the Israeli people by his use of the term. But what he really meant to say was that he does not want to upset the military industry complex in Tel Aviv.
American Jewish lobbies are known for their support of Turkey in the face of Armenian and Greek lobbies in Washington. They did deliver a symbolic message to the Turkish Embassy in Washington last week, decrying Ecevit's statements. They added that the comments are "particularly unseemly in consideration of their attempts to defend Turkey from Armenian claims of genocide, and in light of the Jewish genocide suffered at the hand of the Nazis."
For decades the Armenian lobby has been unsuccessful in obtaining the full recognition of the Assyro-Armenian Genocide of 1915 in which some two million Assyrians, Armenians, and Greeks perished in the hands of the Turkish troops. Ironically, the Jewish-American lobbies have played a key role in stopping a Congressional bill foreseeing an Armenian genocide law. Why? Because the bill may prevent Israel's sale of arms to Turkey.
On April 24 nearly every Armenian organization in the United States and several other countries will commemorate the "Armenian Genocide". An Assyrian organization in southern California will also join the local Armenian groups in such commemoration. Yet neither the documented appeals of the Assyrian and Armenian leadership in the United States, nor the long marches of the children of the survivors of the genocide to Capital Hill will bring a final resolution to this most tragic unless the arming of the Turkish military by the Israelis is stopped and therefore the creation of another rogue militant power in the Middle East is prevented.
Recently TAAS-Israel Military Industries agreed to modernize 170 of Turkey's M-60 tanks, despite a public outcry raised in protest of the ongoing Israeli operations. Strained relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv may cost Israel a very sweet $670 million deal.
We don't expect the Israelis to turn away from any such military deals, especially when the entire world continues to hold them in contempt for their overzealous military action against the Palestinians in Jenin and Bethlehem. To calm some legislators in Washington apparently Israel has decided that it will not participate in the upcoming three-way Anatolian Eagle joint military exercises with the United States in Turkey. Reason? Technical problems.
How sad that a nation founded on the crimes against humanity during the Second World War is not only ignoring the first and most devastating genocide of the Twentieth Century and of other non-Moslem populations in its neighborhood, it is indeed arming the perpetrators of the same genocide.
So the next time you ponder the reason for Washington's denial of Turkey's massacre of the 700,000 Assyrians, one million Armenians, and 300,000 Greeks between 1915 and 1923, remind yourself of Israel's new Schindler's List: a current upgrading of 54 of Mr. Ecevit's F-4 and 48 F-5 jets under a nearly $1 billion deal.
FIRST, THE ASSYRIAN NEW YEAR
Courtesy of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; based on article by Michael Rubin
STATE DEPARTMENT DELEGATION VISITS NORTHERN IRAQ
(ZNDA: Prague) A U.S. State Department delegation completed a four-day visit to northern Iraq on 4 April. The delegation, headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Near East Ryan Crocker and North Gulf Affairs Director David Pearce, visited the Assyrian and Kurdish leaders.
The delegation may have been around the city of Sulaymaniyah on 2 April when an assassination attempt was made on PUK Prime Minister Dr. Barham Salih. Five of Salih's bodyguards were killed in the ambush outside his house. Dr. Salih is in Washington this week. One Kurdish source says Mr. Crocker "could hear the gunfight very clearly."
There appear to be similarities between this assassination attempt
and the one carried out in February last year against Franso Hariri
- the top Assyrian KDP politician in the region. In both cases, a taxi
was purchased two days before the shooting; the same name was used both
times to buy the car.
The American delegation also met with Mr. Yonadam Kanna, General Secretary of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. The details of this meeting were not reported to Zinda Magazine at press time.
BET-NAHRAIN WRAP-UP OF THE FIRST TEN DAYS
April the First - the mezalta [parade] through Noohadra [Dohuk].
"The New Year celebrations were a riposte to those who are trying to break our nationalistic spirit and our unity."
Mr Yonadam Kanna, General Secretary of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM)
In a massive sign of unity and brotherhood, over 25,000 Assyrians of all denominations and all backgrounds march through the streets of Noohadra to celebrate Kha B'Neesan. In an equally significant sign of harmony, the Kurds and Yezidies join in the festivities.
This year the Assyrians came from Baghdad also -- an important symbolic move.
Dubbed the "purple parade" - for the bright purple ADM flags flooding the streets - it's not an over-exaggeration to say that there would not have been such a parade through the streets if it weren't for the organisational skills of the ADM.
(See last week's Zinda article for a complete description of the parade.)
2nd April Concert in Ankawa's Airfield
The celebrations move to an ex-military airport in Ankawa. Early light rains weren't enough to hamper the mood and Shamiram, Ramsen Shino, John Dashto and Laith Yousif gave it their best as thousands of Ankawans flooded the airfield and pushed their way right up to the makeshift stage. Unfortunately, the concert was cut short as Laith Yousif's booming voice blew out the system's amps! Problems with electricity are a very common occurrence in North Iraq. Black-outs occur a number of times a day and power fluctuates continuously.
3rd April Arbaelo School and concert in Shaqlawa
The day started with a visit to the Ministry of Industry and Energy, whose Minister is an Assyrian, Mr Younan Hozaya. After a brief run down of the Ministry's activities, we were taken next door and were able to purchase some beautiful Assyrian rugs. At around $US30 for a 100cm x 50cm carpet, the only limit was how many we could carry!
After meeting with other organisations, we visited the Arbaelo School in Arbil, a school where the entire curriculum is taught in Syriac by Assyrian teachers highly proficient and trained in the language. They say people who visit the school for the first time struggle to hold back their tears. Linda George certainly had a hard time holding her tears back. But it wasn't only the girls who cried . John Dashto was also seen to shed a tear. The ex-principal of the school told us that he still cries whenever he sees the children sing "Roosh Jwanqa!"
The evening's concert took place in Shaqlawa, a gorgeous Assyrian town set in rolling hills a one-hour drive from Arbil. From an ex-military airfield to a little church this time - the singers were certainly kept interested by the venues!
While not a part of the Kha B'Neesan festivities, it was an opportune time for the First National Media Conference, as representatives from most countries of the Diaspora were present. Yosip Bet Rasho, publisher of The Assyrian Times in Chicago, organised this very important and significant event in Assyrian media history. Its main purpose was to try to get the various forms of media around the world connected, so that every Assyrian in any part of the world knows what is taking place in the homeland or the Diaspora. The meeting was held over three days. Day One took place in Arbil and titled the "Status of our National Media and Development Horizons". Eight speakers from around the world gave their thoughts.
The main purpose of the Media Conference was to try to get the various forms of media around the world connected, so that every Assyrian in any part of the world knows what is taking place in the homeland or the Diaspora
Shlimon Abu Tariq from Syria felt that media is of the utmost importance, stating that America's strength, for example, lay not just in its military, but perhaps more importantly its media. The Assyrians are militarily weak, but can be an effective force if their media is strong and linked worldwide.
Narsai Warda, chief-editor of the ADM's Bahra newspaper, said that Assyrian media in Bet-Nahrain, while relatively better than 10 years ago, is still far behind North Iraqi standards. For example, there are 400 Kurdish newspapers and magazines, and only 6 Assyrian (Bahra - Arabic and Assyrian, Mezalta, Banipal, Nahrenita and Kikhwa d'Bet-Nahrain); 20 Kurdish TV centres and only 2 Assyrian (Ashur TV in Arbil and Dohuk); 10 Kurdish Radio centres and 4 Assyrian (Ashur Radio in Arbil, Dohuk and Zakho and a Short Wave radio station in the village of Kore Gavana). Assyrian media still hasn't been used as an effective tool to undo political problems in the region, he added.
4th April the Media Conference continues in the morning; the second concert in Ankawa.
Over forty representatives of various forms of media from Bet-Nahrain, Syria and Iran gave a brief run down of themselves and their organisations. Some of the representatives from the Diaspora were Zinda Magazine, Urhai Club in California, The Assyrian Times, Nakosha Magazine and Assyrian World TV.
Each group gave some suggestions as to how to fulfil the Conference's goal. These were read and agreed upon on the third day of the Conference on the 8th April. The list numbered 25 points and was exhaustive, but here are some of the top points:
Ensuring that all the various forms of media have a strategic, patriotic
The people of Ankawa got another chance to see the singers without interruption again in the Ankawa Hall later on that day. The concert ran without electrical disruptions this time!
5th April Ankawan artist Dalzar Isaac presents the singers with gifts; the party moves to Aqra.
Assyro-Chaldean artist Dalzar Isaac took us through some of his latest works, various subjects painted on a black background with gold paint.
6th April . The amazing concert in the cave at Ineshke.
If a disused airport or an old village church weren't amazing enough venues, the second concert was held in what every singer unanimously voted as the most incredible venue to sing in . a natural, thousands-of-years-old cave, set mid-way up a mountainside. Across the fields opposite was a gorgeous view of Assyrian farms, with one of Saddam Hussein's ex-presidential palaces set on top of a hill. The whole thing was slightly surreal The acoustics of the cave surprisingly proved perfect for a concert!
7th April Ramsen Shino's video-clip in Ineshke
Taken away by the beauty of Ineshke, Ramsen returns the following afternoon with Ashur TV to shoot a video-clip .. which continues late at night back at the Jiyan Hotel in Dohuk.
8th April . Concert set against the mountains at Shiez
The artists were reaching exhaustion point, with a week of just about continuous concerts. Despite this, and John Dashto's bad cold, the singers continue the concert. "I'm here to sing!" said Ramsen Shino, showing no signs of fatigue despite the rigorous programme.
9th April the final day of the Akitu festivities at the Al-Jazeeri Hall coincides with the 23rd anniversary of the ADM.
Heads of various worldwide Assyrian organisations gave their speeches for this day marking the founding of the ADM. Below is part of Mr Yonadam Kanna's speech translated from Assyrian:
Rabbie Yonadam Kanna's Speech
It's with great honour that we welcome you and thank you all for taking part in this blessed day in our motherland, a day marking the 23rd Anniversary of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. I also thank you all for your participation and the love you showed at the Akitu Festival - the Assyro-Babylonian New Year Festival for the year 6752. I also extend a special thanks to the heads of various political organisations and Assyrian patriotic groups, journalists and our dear artists for their participation
We hope that all our national festivals will, in the near future, be celebrated in Nineveh and Baghdad and other regions in our homeland.
While taking part in our blessed festival, you all saw very large groups of our people in the "purple parade", thousands and thousands of the sons and daughters of our Assyrian nation from all parts of our motherland and from the Diaspora, showed their love for the Assyrian nation, this country and the ADM - carrying flags, hugging closely to the nationalistic Assyrian path, they were all inseparably connected by a common sacred goal and by the New Year parade.
And by your participation in this great festival you demonstrated something to those both inside and outside our Assyrian nation you emphasised your promise to our great forefathers - Addai Sher, Toma Odou, Naom Faik - that you will forever stand strong on the path of national unity, no matter from what church you may be or what name you may take - Chaldean, Suryoyo or Assyrian .. The New Year celebrations were a riposte to those who are trying to be zeewana and by-standers, to be used by others to break our nationalistic spirit and our unity.
And at the same time you saw how the dear Kurds and Yezidies of Noohadra took part in our happiness by joining in the New Year parade with joy and respect. This cordial relationship is one of the positive results that comes from the brotherly, historic ties between the Assyrians and the Kurds. Similarly, it is one of the satisfying outcomes of our beliefs in the principles of the ADM and friendly Kurdish political groups that believe Assyrians are equals in this part of our motherland, just as we are equals with our brotherly nations - Arabs and Turkoman.
On this sacred day, the celebration of the 23rd year of the ADM, it is imperative that we have a look at positive results in the field of Assyrianism, as from day to day nationalistic feelings are on the rise and political work is maturing - to the point, in fact, where the Assyrian Coalition was born in the summer of 1999. This Assyrian Coalition has taken on a great responsibility in the Assyrian national struggle and we are hopeful that it is successful in creating those ties that contain all our abilities and make our future brighter. On the other hand and in the short time of its patriotic struggle, the ADM was able to strengthen the foundation stone of good bilateral relations with various Iraqi and Kurdish political groups and movements, and take a proper place for our people in all the phases of our struggle, from the days of the Armed Struggle [of 1982 to 1991] and great sacrifices, above all, our martyrs - Yosip, Youbert, Youkhanan, Francis Shabo and Peris Sliwo and other immortal martyrs, whose martyrdom is and always will be a candle lighting the path of our struggle.
Our march has continued forward until these last 11 years in Iraqi Kurdistan among which the Assyrians made their decision in 1992 and chose ADM's representatives to become the official and legitimate representatives of the Assyro-Chaldean people in the Regional Parliament. And we were able, along with friendly Kurdish parties, to gain some of our cultural and educational rights and political freedoms in this region. At the same time, in this period our people returned to their historic lands, rebuilding our ancestral villages and a colourful tapestry of cultures came back to our country.
We are very pleased with what we has been achieved until now, but still we have a lot to complete and issues to resolve. The ADM will always be bound to the cause, the Assyrian question and interests and its free will, and the love of our people for Zowaa will never be taken away from us. The load of the Assyrian question in the homeland is not just the ADM's duty or the responsibility of political parties or of the Assyrian Coalition. Rather, it is the duty of all those who feel a connection to the much admired Assyrian nation and are proud of it, wherever they may be from, whatever church they may be from, whatever name they may call themselves. United we will be strong and respected.
Especially at this critical stage - one where political change is to become imminent reality - it is crucial that we organise ourselves, so that our Assyrian nation will hold its rightful position in the Iraq of the future, a democratic Iraq after the end of the current dictatorial regime.
I'd like to end by confirming once again our promise to our dear nation that we will always be true to the path of our martyrs with our persistent national march towards the gaining of our legitimate national rights.
Again, may your Assyro-Babylonian New Year and ADM Anniversary be blessed.
Long live our nation.
Mr Yonadam Kanna
[Translation by Sankherib Daniel]
Notes: zeewana: weeds that grow along with wheat and turn the flour bitter.
10th April the singers are farewelled, as they head off to continue the rest of the Akitu Fest in Demascus, Syria.
Chebo & Sankherib Daniel
FIRE DESTROYS ANTIOCHIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN CALIFORNIA
Courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle (12 April); by Suzanne Herel
(ZNDA: San Jose) A fire destroyed the Antiochian Orthodox Church of the Redeemer, built in 1985 off Interstate 280 on Magdalena Avenue in Los Altos Hills, California last Sunday, 7 April after 4:30 a.m. The police report indicates that the fire was deliberately set, but it is unclear whether it was a target because its parishioners are predominantly Arab American. The fire was set from inside the approximately 5,000-square-foot church using ignitable liquids. No one was injured or killed.
Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Atherton, a co-sponsor of recent hate-crime legislation,
said last week that she is donating $5,000 to a reward fund. Likewise,
Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss is successful in asking her
colleagues to approve $10,000 for the cause. The federal Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms has added $5,000 to a reward for information leading
to an arrest and conviction in the arson fire. The reward now totals
Eshoo and other Bay Area lawmakers wrote to Attorney General John Ashcroft and U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, urging them to pursue a full federal investigation.
Eshoo attended services at the church last Sunday, which were held outdoors and in another building on the property.
"This underscores the great tensions that are going on in the world right now, and we are not free of that," said Eshoo, who also is calling for donations to rebuild the church.
A handful of congregants gathered at the church to hear whether their house of worship had been taken from them purposely.
The Rev. Samer Youssef, the pastor, appeared dazed by the news.
"I'm very sad to hear the fire was intentionally set," he said. "What kind of human being would demolish and set fire to the house of God? It is very devastating to us as a community."
The church's membership numbers close to 200 families, many of whom are from Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.
It served as a meeting place for the Arab-Jewish Dialogue of the South Bay, an interfaith group for those hoping to promote peace, though the church was not an official sponsor of the group.
Some congregants, who had hoped the fire was accidental, said they now want to believe the act was not a reflection of Middle East tensions between Palestinians and Israelis.
"I try to believe the best in everybody," said Hanan Joy Ghanaim, 35, of Morgan Hill, a youth counselor at the church. "There's part of me that wishes to feel that this was just somebody who was disturbed."
Ghanaim said she felt a particular loss because she had associated the church with her father, whose funeral was held there two years ago.
"That was my last sight of him," she said, her diamond cross necklace glittering against her blouse. "I have a lot of memories here."
Samer Bahou, 29, of San Jose also serves as a youth counselor at the church. On Sunday afternoon, he and his colleagues will try to explain the situation to the children.
"We will tell them the Christian way is to forgive, not to hold hatred in your heart," Bahou said. He gestured toward the burned- out building: "That's just a wooden altar. The real altar is inside each of us."
Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the ATF office in San Jose at (408) 535-5015, the Santa Clara County Fire Department at (408) 341-4401, or Crime Stoppers at (408) 947-7867.
Donations to the church rebuilding fund may be sent to the Antiochian Orthodox Church of the Redeemer Reconstruction Fund, account No. 2476205441, Bank of America, 19376 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino, CA 95104; or to the Antiochian Orthodox Church of the Redeemer Restoration Fund, 380 Magdalena Ave., Los Altos Hills, CA 94024.
The NCC - whose 36 member denominations comprise 50 million adherents
- organized the visit by invitation of the Middle East Council of Churches
and Jerusalem church leaders. Co-leader with Dr. Edgar, a United Methodist,
is Elenie Huszagh, a Greek Orthodox layperson from Nehalem, Oregan.
The group will meet with clergy in each country and expects to meet with several high-level political officials, including Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri - -- who will have just returned from Washington, D.C. The delegation also intends to meet with Israeli and Palestinian government officials and with the U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem, and hopes to visit Israeli and Palestinian wounded and bereaved.
The group's first full day (April 18) will be spent in Istanbul with Armenian and Syrian Orthodox church leaders and with His All Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of more than 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. The group is to go on to Beirut (April 19-20), Syria (April 21-22) and Jordan (April 23), then spend April 24-27 in Israel/Palestine.
Delegation members are: Rev. Janet Arbesman, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Scottsdale, Ariz.; Bishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocese of the Armenian Church, Washington, D.C.; Mark Byron Brown, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Washington, D.C.; Dr. Edgar; Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., Senior Minister, The Riverside Church, New York City; Rev. Joseph Rice Hale (United Methodist), Former General Secretary of the World Methodist Council, Waynesville, N.C.; Mrs. Huszagh; Rev. Robert S. Jones, National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc., West Chester, Pa.; His Eminence Cyril Aphrem Karim, Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch for the Eastern United States, Teaneck, N.J.; Rev. William Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc., Philadelphia, Pa.; Rt. Rev. Arthur Edward Walmsley, The Episcopal Church, Deering, N.H.; Rev. James Wetekam (United Church of Christ), Media Program Director, Churches for Middle East Peace, Washington, D.C., and Mr. James Edward Winkler, General Secretary, United Methodist Board of Church and Society, Washington, D.C.
of the Guardian (13 April); by Stuart Jeffries
"Here I remained for some time turning over the leaves and digging into the mass of loose vellum pages; by which exertions I raised such a cloud of fine pungent dust that the monks relieved each other in holding our only candle at the door, while the dust made us sneeze incessantly as we turned over the scattered pages of vellum."
It is a resonant story: from the dusts of the desert an Englishman retrieved ancient manuscripts just before they were lost forever. Curzon thereby liberated this haul from Egyptian monks who seemed not to know or perhaps not to care about their worth - or at least so he liked to suggest in his whimsical book. There is much here to allow us to imagine Curzon as a bookish Indiana Jones or one of those historical tomb raiders who secured Egyptian artefacts for posterity by taking them from their homeland and back to Bloomsbury for safe keeping.
There is enough, too, in Curzon's narrative to keep devotees of Edward Said's Orientalism in business for years deconstructing the westerner's colonialist appropriation of this rich eastern heritage (indeed there are several critiques of Curzon's Visit to Monasteries in the Levant in this vein).
But why were the manuscripts that Curzon found so important? For ignorant westerners, they give a strong indication of the eastern roots of Christianity and of the riches of eastern Christian literature. What Curzon had stumbled across were priceless examples of some of the earliest dated books in existence, complete-bound Christian texts as well as fragments, most written on vellum in ancient Syriac - a language now known by only a few scholars in the world. Many of these works had been brought to the monastery in the eighth century by monks fleeing from religious persecution in their homelands of Baghdad and Syria.
These monks settled in Wadi al-Natrum, a celebrated centre for Christian ascetics, the so-called desert fathers, in which the monastery of Deir-el-Suriyan is located. The books they brought made the monastery's library remarkable even by Egyptian standards, and it was swollen later by donations of collections amassed through the eastern Christian world. The books Curzon found included fourth-and fifth-century gospels, lives of the saints, theological writings, and doctrinal disputes. There were palimpsest fragments too: in one a transcription of Homer's Iliad, for example, had been overlaid by sacred texts. Some pieces of vellum had been used and reused three or four times, and the traces of original texts could still be detected. Curzon, and later British bibliophiles, bought up as much as he could and arranged for his purchases to be collected and sent to London.
Even before he unearthed the ancient treasures in that dusty cellar, Curzon had agreed prices with the monks for other ancient Christian books he wanted to take back to London. These included superb illuminated gospels, often in parallel texts of Coptic and Arabic, now kept at the British Library at St Pancras. These Coptic works are much later manuscripts than the Syriac texts, but Curzon discovered them in similar disarray in a small room of the monastery's great tower. "Most of these were lying on the floor, but some were placed in niches in the stone wall. One of these was a superb manuscript of the Gospels, with commentaries by the early fathers of the church; two others were doing duty as coverings to a couple of large open pots or jars. I was allowed to purchase these as they were considered to be useless by the monks, principally, I believe, because there were no more preserves in the jars."
In total, Curzon negotiated the purchase of 600 manuscripts for which he paid £350. But the story gets better. On his return to London, Curzon and other like-minded bibliophiles applied to the trustees of the British Museum for Treasury money and secured another trip to buy up the rest of the monastery library. By now, though, German biblical scholars had got wind of spoils to be had and arrived in Egypt to make their own purchases. The race was on to empty Deir-el-Suriyan of its treasures.
This prompted Curzon's British associates to hire one Auguste Pacho, a globe-trotting, multi-lingual Egyptian seeking confidential employment, to acquire what manuscripts remained at the monastery at the Treasury's expense. According to William Wright, a late 19th-century assistant keeper of manuscripts at the British Museum: "[Pacho] swept up every fragment from the floor of the library, sought out scraps that might have been conveyed to other apartments, superintended the packing of the books in person, and took every precaution, which the greed or superstition of the monks could suggest, to secure even the last remnant of their treasure."
All well and good, but the British Museum's confidential agent didn't hand over all the spoils to his paymasters in London. Pacho instead withheld four bound manuscripts which he sold to the Imperial Public Library of St Petersburg for 2,500 silver roubles. Other manuscripts from the monastery have since turned up at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, where Pacho dallied for a while before arriving back in London; still others were reported circulating in Cairo and Alexandria before being sold to the Royal Library of Berlin.
The result of these years of buying and selling ancient Christian texts was that the monastery's collection was dispersed throughout the world. The diaspora of Egyptian artefacts was one of the key consequences of the European plunder of Egypt set in motion with Napoleon's invasion. In the case of Deir-el-Suriyan's manuscripts, many are now held in libraries in Britain, Russia, France and Germany. Even so, the Egyptian monks managed, despite Pacho's eagle eye, to retain a great many literary treasures.
Only now is there a chance that the treasures of the Deir-el-Suriyan monastery will be reunited - but only virtually, thanks to a project that involves British Library conservationists working in collaboration with Coptic monks. Both the library's and the monastery's collections of Coptic and Syriac manuscripts are to be digitised and put online for scholars to study. In future, it is hoped that all the manuscripts taken from the Deir-el-Suriyan monastery will be digitised in this way.
But why did the 19th-century Coptic monks not appreciate the literary treasures when Curzon paid his visit? Why did they use priceless manuscripts as stoppers for olive-oil jars? One suggestion comes from William Dalrymple's recent threnody for Eastern Christianity, From The Holy Mountain. It is that these men did not hold the written word in high regard, and in this they were following their most illustrious ancestors.
In any event, today's Coptic monks are an extraordinary people with a singular heritage: arguably one of the most anthropologically pure races in the world, the Copts can trace their bloodlines back to the pharaohs. They thrived in Egypt long before a seventh-century invasion made the country overwhelmingly Arabic. As Dalrymple points out, the same tongue that has sung the praise of a Christian God for more than 1,500 years had been used in the great Pharaonic temples of Thebes to praise Isis and Horus for the 3,000 years preceding that. Of all the sacred languages in the world, only Sanskrit has comparable antiquity. "It is a strange and exotic language," reported Dalrymple after attending vespers at the Coptic Orthodox monastery of St Antony the Great near the Red Sea coast, "whose elliptical conflation of syllables sounded as though they had been specially designed for the uttering of incantations."
But whence the contempt for literature? This was due to Saint Antony, the Coptic farmer who fled Alexandria for the desert in the third century and thus gave birth to Christian monasticism. Saint Antony and the monks who followed him into the Egyptian desert were rejecting everything that Alexandria stood for: luxury, elegance, sophistication, writes Dalrymple. Instead they cultivated a deliberate simplicity - sometimes even a wilful primitiveness - and their way of life is reflected in the art and architecture. This simplicity, in St Antony's case, extended to books: he said that in the person whose mind is sound there is no place for letters.
There is much in Dalrymple's account of these ascetic, world-weary monks. For instance, the tradition of hermit monks retreating to caves which they had dug for themselves in the desert is still prevalent among modern Coptic monks: a retreat from the luxury and indulgence of the world seems still important to them.
But the contempt for the written word has not survived. Today's Coptic monks are highly literate - most are university graduates - and since Shenouda III became the 117th Pope of Alexandria and thus head of the Coptic Church in 1971, much more concerned to safeguard what remains of their literary and artistic heritage. As a result a host of European conservationists - mostly Dutch or Polish, but some Britons - have been unleashed on the monasteries of Egypt to restore paintings and manuscripts, as well as monastery buildings themselves.
One such monk is Father Bigoul el'Suriany, who is library curator at Deir-el-Suriyan. A cultured, multi-lingual chemistry graduate, Father Bigoul this week returned to his monastery after spending three months in Britain learning conservation skills at the British Library, the Royal Library at Windsor and the Wellcome Trust library. He was appointed curator because it was thought his scientific training would prove useful in helping him to learn parchment and paper conservation techniques quickly. He hopes to use the skills he has learned here not only to restore manuscripts himself, but to spread his practical knowledge throughout his monastic community in Egypt. In this he will be helped by Elizabeth Sobczynski, a British-based freelance conservationist specialising in works of art on paper (she has, amazingly, been working recently on both Andy Warhol's paper works at Tate Modern and on old Coptic manuscripts at the British Library), as well as David Jacobs, senior conservator at the British Library. It is Jacobs, whose current work for the library involves pigment analysis of the Lindisfarne Gospels, who is behind the project to digitise the manuscripts. Jacobs will visit the Deir-el-Suriyan monastery next month to start the digitisation project alongside Father Bigoul.
Father Bigoul's stay in Britain gave him the opportunity to peruse for the first time the British Library's collection of manuscripts taken from his monastery. It proved a moving experience. "I was so glad to see these manuscripts still alive and well in the British Library. Also I loved to smell these books - they have the smell of our ancient desert fathers. When I open these books, I feel at home. It's just the same with our collection at Deir-el-Suriyan: my work there gives me the opportunity not only to read the texts and learn about the monastic lives of the desert fathers, but to be blessed by these books.
"People have been asking me if I am offended that these manuscripts are still here in Britain. But I am not offended. They have been conserved so well and through the digitising we can link the collections. It doesn't matter where they are housed."
In a conservation room in the British Library, Father Bigoul showed me an illustrated symbol painted in gold leaf on a page of the Gospel according to Saint John, written in Coptic. "That symbol is a conflation of the Coptic word for God," he says. "And the symbol is used in our architecture." He then proceeded to draw in my notebook a Coptic archway surmounted by a cross with masonry work: the result resembled the symbol for God in the margin of the text. This, he said, "is what the doorways to our monasteries look like. The name of God is written in this way into our buildings."
So great was the historic persecution of the Copts that they had little need for such gateways for thousands of years. Instead, guests to monasteries would be winched over high-security walls by means of ropes, or by hoisting them in chairs. Only much later, when monks felt less threatened, were front gates constructed.
The Copts have endured much persecution since the apostle Saint Mark founded the Coptic church more than 2,000 years ago and it continues today in modern Egypt. Monks, to be sure, are not the only victims, but the Coptic minority of about three million people, or 6% of this mainly Arabic republic, has suffered from the rise of Islamist militancy. In 1992, 14 Copts were shot dead in Asyut province for failing to pay protection money. In 1994, the Coptic monastery of Deir ul-Muharraq was attacked by militants who shot two monks and two lay people dead at the monastery's gate. And in February of this year, Copts' homes, cars and churches were burned in the Al-Minia district. But the Coptic church has pressed on with strengthening its heritage - often backed by dona tions from around the world. The restoration project under way at Deir-el-Suriyan in collaboration with British Library conservationists continues an ancient link between the Coptic church and the British Isles that some argue goes back nearly two millennia. Egyptian pottery has been found at Tintagel in Cornwall, said to be the seat of King Arthur, which is believed to have been brought over by Copts. Scholars, as well as writers such as Dalrymple, insist on the close connection between Coptic iconography and that of the Pictish sacred artists. Most suggestively, the Irish Litany of Saints remembers the seven monks of Egypt who lived in Disert Uilaig on the west coast of Ireland. Maybe it was these Copts who brought Christianity to these islands for the first time.
But the conservation projects currently taking place at the Coptic monasteries in Egypt are not uncontroversial. The Egyptian government hopes that the monastery will donate its manuscripts to a new national library being built in Alexandria, a reconstruction of the legendary library founded by Alexander the Great which, at its height in the third century BC, housed some 700,000 papyrus manuscripts including works by Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Sophocles, Euripides, Hippocrates and Euclid.
But there is resistance among the monks. They want to restore their monasteries and keep what is left of their treasures intact. There has been a massive revival of monasticism in Egypt under Shenouda III. Many ruined monasteries are being brought back into use and monastery buildings being improved.
On Monday, Father Bigoul was clearly anxious to return to his home, to get away from the rush of London to the relative peace and quiet of his monastery. Does he ever imagine retreating from this troubling world into a contemplative hermetic existence - as his ancient predecessors did when they left the decadence of Alexandria? "My duties to the library make that impossible now. But I have spent much time in the past retreating into my cell. There are still many caves into which monks retreat, and where many live in their solitude. Even Pope Shenouda has a cave 10km behind the monastery where he retreats from time to time. And sometimes, yes, I do think about this life for myself, to live as many of the old fathers of the desert did."
BACKERS AWAIT THE FATE OF THEIR FUNDS
COMPANY TOLD TO RE-EMPLOY ASSYRIAN SUPERVISOR
(ZNDA: San Jose) Last month a group of Assyrian youth working with the EastJam entertainment company debuted a web site dedicated to the game of basketball in the Assyrian communities. A professionally designed Internet site, www.assyrianbasketball.com is a grassroots effort to put basketball on the pedestal and create an active and peaceful community for all interested in the Assyrian basketball games and tournaments. As is clearly evident in the sports programs of the Assyrian conventions and Olympic games in California, the popularity of the "Assyrian hoops" is growing as the basketball events keep getting bigger and better.
Mr. Benjamin Aziz tells Zinda Magazine that "this is a way to keep the interest fueling to create a better atmosphere." Mr. Aziz coaches a team in Modesto, California. Independent Assyrian teams, such as the one coached by Mr. Aziz are not allowed to participate at the Assyrian state and national conventions, whereby only teams from the affiliates of the Assyrian American National Federation and the Assyrian United Organization of California can join in. Mr. Aziz hopes that "with the contribution of the site to the community, its effects can be appreciated and the bureaucracy that we have been dealing with for months now trying to get our guys in these tournaments can somehow vanish."
THE SCORPION KING" FEATURES AKKADIAN ASSASSIN
(ZNDA: New York) "The Scorpion King" is a new PG-13 guy-flick film featuring the pro-wrestler The Rock with lots of flying swords, arrows, snakes and punches. The Rock stars as Mathayus, one of the last survivors of an ancient race of Akkadian assassins.
Mathayus is hired by ravaged tribes to kill the sorceress Cassandra (Hu), whose advice has helped the evil warlord Memnon (Steven Brand) drive his opponents to near extinction. Yet Cassandra proves strangely sympathetic to Mathayus, who, after a series of daring escapes from Memnon's thugs, kidnaps the sorceress and flees with her into the desert.
They wind up as allies in the fight against Memnon, aided by the Nubian behemoth Balthazar (Michael Clarke Duncan), inventor Philos (Bernard Hill) and comic-relief geek Arpid (Grant Heslov).
"After a hard day of looting and pillaging, there's no greater city than Gomorrah," Arpid proclaims as he and Mathayus approach the sinful city. "Except maybe Sodom."
"The Scorpion King," is a Universal release and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and some sensuality. Running time: 91 minutes.
JAPAN'S PRIME MINISTER: 'ASIA' AN ASSYRIAN WORD
Courtesy of Kyodo News (11 April)
(ZNDA: Tokyo) In a speech at the Boao Forum for Asia, the Japanese Prime Minister Akiro Koizumi at Boao Forum for Asia held in China made the following comments:
"A great challenge that faces Asia is to collectively speak to the world and jointly contribute to world prosperity. Asia comprises approximately 60% of world population. As a force for world growth, we hold a critically important position in the global economy. It is vital for the management of the global economy that Asia's message be clear and responsible.
It is said that the word "Asia" has its origin in "asu," which means "sunrise" in Assyrian. Asia is different from the Americas or Africa, which are independent continents. Asia not only spreads across a large part of the Eurasian continent, but also has links to other regions through sea routes. Therefore cooperation in Asia inevitably stretches to worldwide cooperation."
AUA REQUEST FOR ASSYRIANS PARTICIPATION AT THE WASHINGTON CONFERENCE
We have a unique chance at this time for the Assyrian world community of all denominations such as Chaldean, Syriac, etc. to participate in a political representation and be strategically involved in Iraq, our ancestral homeland.
We have this great opportunity to include Assyrians in a Conference on Iraq should the sanctions be lifted or should there be a change in the Government of Iraq. We must make sure that we will have a voice in the process to protect the rights of Assyrians, the indigenous people of Iraq.
The Assyrian Universal Alliance has been asked to gather and submit names and information regarding expertise or experience by Assyrians of Iraq in both the areas of the Public and Private Sectors, Water and Sewer Systems, Transportation (all) Electrical, Medical, Housing, Energy (Oil, Power, etc.), Financial (Banking, Budgeting and Appropriations), Manufacturing, Infrastructure Development, Education, Social Services, Telecommunications, Information Technology, Environmental, etc.
The names of the individuals being recommended for consideration are to be invited to a Conference in Washington. Submit all the names to the Regional or Central Offices listed below by April 30, 2002. This information will then be forwarded for acceptance to participate in a Conference that will take place in May or early June 2002.
The Assyrian Universal Alliance has established a Committee for this purpose and invites all Political Organizations and Parties to participate in this process. Whether our people are to be included in a major way at this Conference depends on us. Address all questions to the following offices:
While the international community focuses its attention on the crises in Afghanistan and currently in Israel - Palestine, the Turkish administration takes advantage of the situation to accelerate the cruelties directed to the remaining few Christian inhabitants. The EU-candidature of the country seems not to be a restraining factor. It looks like that Turkey, with its 99 % Islamic population, is determined on ousting its ethnic minorities with Christian denomination from its territory, homeland to these people since thousands of years, well before the territory became homelands to Turks themselves.
The Roman Catholic Church Saint Antuan in Icel (the former Mercin) was taking care of 7 children who were either orphans or were belonging to families weighted with unbearable economical and social burdens. This care was supported by an official resolution from 1991, which meant that these children were offered meals, accommodations and cloths by the church. The children went to the common Turkish school for their compulsory education. By a resolution dated November 29, 2001, with immediate effect, this charity action has been forbidden without previous notice. No motivation to the resolution has been given. The church was even forbidden to have any helping operations, involving these children, in the future.
The resolution includes a prohibition of other persons presence in the property of the church than the clergies, effectively banning visitors, and tourists. The church protested against the resolution not the least because there are no other places for the children to go. Unfortunately, the protests did not led to any change. The Turkish police executed the resolution on March 30, 2002 by forcing the children away. Besides that, the Turkish police threatened the monk Giorgio Bruno Simonelli that any spreading of information around the world on this event will lead to punishments. A copy of the resolution (in Turkish) is available.
The consequences of the decision, for which the Turkish government carries the full responsibility, are that the children are living as street urchins without any caring hands or homes with responsible adults. It is obvious that this situation does not offer any future for these children. Previously, the Vali (Mayor) of Icel has closed a Protestant church in Icel. Turkey is a candidate country since 1999 to join EU, with a dark history on its responsibilities against its Christian minorities and with a line of actions showing that even today it does not tolerate a Christian church to take care of orphans or homeless children. How can the European countries accept Turkey as a candidate land and expect that Turkey will adopt the norms of the European Union, when the Turkish governments do not hesitate to persecute children belonging to the Christian minorities? We appeal to You, the Parliament Members, not to accept crimes against human rights and see to it that Turkey nullifies its resolution directed against helpless children immediately and give the children the right to go back to the church.
Södertälje April 9, 2002
St. Petrus, The Syriac Ortodox Church, Stockholm
Assyrian District in Stockholm
ATRA PROJECT APPEAL
The Atra Project is an effort to invest in our Homeland to create means of generating income for Assyrian villagers. The current focus of the Atra Project is farming and animal husbandry. Through the support of the Assyrians in the West, the Atra Project aims to enable Assyrian villagers to live and prosper in Bet-Nahrain.
The Atra Project has so far accomplished the following since its beginning less than a year ago:
Future projects that are presently being evaluated are:
Atra project is our project! It was founded by one of our own, Dr. Ashour Moradkhan, a long-time resident of San Jose who now lives in our Homeland. It is a way for us Assyrians in San Jose to make a difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters in our Bet-Nahrain.
Invest in the future of our nation by supporting the Atra Project
Send your contributions to:
For more information, please call (408) 885 0705, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Assyrian Aid Society is a charitable 501 (c) (3) organization.
Aid Society of America
TO ALL ASSYRIAN INTELLECTUALS WORLDWIDE
A call for the formation of the Assyrian International Intellectuals Association
The blows that buffeted our people in the last decades made us stand at crossroads and threaten us to disappear and extinct from the pages of history as a direct consequence of uprooting us from our historic land, Land of Ashur (Beth-Nahrin) that portrayed the generosity and the glory of the Assyrian man across thousands of years and the marks it has left and the cultural role it played for the service of all humanity.
Today a high proportion of our people scatters in various continents and countries with different cultures which in itself poses serious dangers that face us and this is the total assimilation and the loss of our historic identity with all its treasures, linguistic, cultural and genuine social customs.
We instantly found that our historic roots are being eradicated from our fathers and ancestors' land and we ended up in a foreign land unable to give reasons for our stay and incapable to protect our characters and historic identity, as the adopted nations of Dispersion have become a great mill crushing our national existence and cultural identity. The societies we have scattered into have cultures, in which we are unable to accommodate, giving our status of fear and dissipation.
We feel with emphasis, the burning fire and the inevitable danger inflicting us in all areas mentioned earlier, but in order to establish adaptation basis between us and the western culture and civilization and the will to protect what we have inherited from our fathers and ancestors, we feel the need to organize ourselves in associations ready to respond dutifully and act accordingly for what is needed to protect our Assyrian identity and work diligently in new environments.
In this regard, the burden is borne by the Assyrian intellectual, who must become a faithful guard to our culture and guide to our sparsed communities, that aids adaptation between our civilization and the present civilization. By this we shall coordinate between the culture we possess and the abundant knowledge in the advanced societies we live in, thing that will assist in bringing to existence of a bonded Assyrian family in Dispersion that would be able to serve the society we live in, and in the same time strife to guard its existence and the precious gifts it has because of its ability to sustain and marvel.
Therefore, and coincidence with our nation's festivities of glorious
NEESAN (April), the symbol of the Assyrian spring and the start of Assyrian
Year 6752, we announce to you that a group of Assyrian intellectuals sparsed
in various countries of Dispersion, find that our current status compels
us to form an association for the Assyrian intellectuals in every country
we live. And from these associations will resurrect "The Assyrian
International Intellectuals' Association", whose responsibilities
1- Forming comprehensive and objective vision for the social and characteristic features that exists in our society due to massive emigration outside our nation and attempt to serve our people and direct them toward creating Assyrian generation conscious to the nature of the alien society.
2- Express and encourage a new academic writing of the history of our Assyrian people from nation's viewpoint that was neglected by non-Assyrian researchers and historians either unintentional or intentional by linking the negligence process to the conspiracy thought against the Assyrian existence that contributed largely and excessively to the obliteration of the Assyrian national identity among large sections of our nation's compatriots and expose the present painful narration that is emerging toward division along sectarian lines.
3- The study of our national status in Dispersion by activating and linking bridges of understanding among the intellectuals of our Assyrian people regardless of sectarian affiliations and standing firm against advocates of new names aimed at dividing our Assyrian nation into numerous nationalities and work for the consolidation of the national security principles to implement the one nation definition.
4- Coordinate the cultural status between the scattered Assyrian communities and work to activate cultural and informational movement to serve the high goals of our people through reviving of our rich legacy and protect our language with all its dialects and principles and affirm that as urgent national goals and build civilizational and cultural bridges between us and the societies we live in.
5- Strengthing fraternity bonds between our Assyrian communities in various countries and work to benefit from the advanced communications to link bridges that lead to the consolidation of this matter and affirm the civilizational and cultural links between our communities and the motherland.
6- The emphasis of the nation's general rights by democratic means in the selection of the right person in the right place that relate and has direct effect in the destiny of the nation.
7- Express and encourage the Academic writings that monitore the Assyrian national and political movements in the previous decades to evaluate our political and national status.
Therefore, we call upon all our intellectuals who care the future of
their nation and are ready to its call for the sake of a new dawn to lay
the viable foundations and work with definitive Assyrian concern, in the
midst of the impacts and chaos of life in Dispersion, that they take their
role for the sake, service and reach the goals of their nation. Everyone
who finds himself/herself the ability to serve our nation is
For more information contact :
The Assyrian Intellectuals
ASSYRIANS AT THE 2002 SMITHSONIAN FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL
Assyrians on the "Silk Road" at the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
The 36th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival will explore the cross-cultural influences among the lands of the ancient and fabled Silk Road, from Japan to Italy.
The 2002 Festival, "The Silk Road: Connecting Cultures, Creating Trust," will be held outdoors on the National Mall between 7th and 14th streets Wednesday, June 26 through Sunday, June 30 and Wednesday, July 3 through Sunday, July 7.
Admission is free.
The Festival will be an international exhibition of Silk Road traditions with some 350 musicians, artisans, cooks and storytellers from the United States and more than 20 other countries telling the complex story of the Silk Road, its peoples and cultures, and the intercultural exchange it inspired.
The Festival will be laid out along the National Mall with magnificent pavilions that evoke the look and feel of Silk Road architecture. Visitors will follow the Silk Road from Nara, Japan (the pavilion closest to the U.S. Capitol) to Venice, Italy (the pavilion closest to the Washington Monument). On the way, they will pass through Xi'an, China; Samarkand, Uzbekistan; and Istanbul, Turkey.
On the way, visitors will pass three Assyrian contributions: singers and musicians, jewelry makers and a calligrapher.
Ten Assyrian singers and musicians are coming from Qamishly, Syria, two Assyrian jewelry makers from Midyat, Turkey, and the calligrapher is none other than the very talented Issa Benyamin of Iran and Illinois.
The sponsorship for most of the Assyrian participation is borne by the Smithsonian festival itself but part of the expenses also come from individual members of the Assyrian community in the United States, especially Mr. Afram Koumi.
Assyrian businesses that want to sell items in conjunction with this two week festival need to contact the Assyrian Star immediately for details (email@example.com).
The Festival is produced in partnership with The Silk Road Project, a global initiative founded and led by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma in coordination with a distinguished team of scholars, musicians and artists from around the world.
Special passports for young visitors will be available at Passport Stations around the Festival. The passports will feature a foldout map and fun facts. Children may have their passports stamped when they visit each pavilion and will receive a reward at the end of their Silk Road journey.
Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with special celebrations, performances and concerts continuing until 9 p.m.
This is a wonderful opportunity to expose the thousands (over 1 million) visitors to Assyrian contributions to Silk Road civilization. Plan one of your summer vacations about this event.
Bring your children.
SO CAL ASSYRIANS TO MARCH ON APRIL 24
The Assyrian American Association of S. California has decided to accept the invitation of United Armenian Students and take part in the April 24, 2002 Genocide events. Assyrians of Southern California are asked to join in around 9:30 a.m. at the Assyrian Center and from there proceed to the March in Hollywood's Little Armenia. The Assyrians will be permitted to speak officially about the Assyrian, Armenian and Greek Genocide because many Assyrians were slaughtered as well.
A call for the formation of the Assyrian International Intellectuals Association
THE FORGOTTEN VICTIMS
Courtesy of the Washington Times (14 April)
(ZNDA: Washington) The Arab monarchs and presidents-for-life met in
Beirut amidst boiling crisis. They had to discuss the "Palestinian
cause" between the Saudi initiative and the Syrian radical maneuvers.
They had to face the "Question of Iraq" between Kuwaiti resentment
and Arab solidarity with Saddam. And lastly but not least, they contemplated
signing on the campaign against Terrorism, an initiative that sunk under
the rolling thunders of Hezbollah.
The Middle East Christian communities are native ethnicities, which preceded the Arab conquest of the region. They were the original owners of the land outside the Arabian Peninsula. They have been submitted to oppression and Dhimmi (second class) status for 13 centuries. And today, when the Arab regimes met to discuss the region's affairs, they acted as if the Middle East Christians did not exist.
In Beirut, Arabs discussed Arab matters. Demands by and concerns of the Christian minorities were absent. Let's review the excluded questions
Lebanon: The country is under direct occupation by the Syrian Army since 1991. It was bled by a series of violent shelling campaigns since 1976. Christians are emigrating at a high pace. Those who oppose the Ba'athist onslaught are brutally oppressed. Hundred of political prisoners in Lebanese and Syrian jails are forgotten, tortured. Arab eyes only see Israel's past occupation of the south, but fail to notice Syria's occupation across the country. Brothers do not criticize brothers.
Sudan: The genocide perpetrated by the Sudanese army and militias against Southern Sudan took the lives of more then a million black men, women and children since 1983. But self-determination works for Palestinians, not for Negroes. The West Bank of the Jordan River exists in the Arab lexicon, the southern banks of the Nile River don't. Moreover, no one has discussed the enslavement of hundreds of thousands of Blacks in South Sudan. Too dark to have human rights perhaps?
Egypt: Twelve million Copts are represented by four members in the National Assembly, all chosen by the president. Three times the size of the entire Palestinian population, the Copts have fewer rights then the Arabs citizens of the state of Israel. Regular massacres against the Copts do not make it to the Arab League agenda as do the clashes in Gaza.
Syria and Iraq: Land of the oldest Semitic cultures, Mesopotamia and the Syrian Plateau are today the land of cultural and political suppression of the native peoples of the Fertile Crescent: Syriacs and Assyro-Chaldeans. Their languages, spoken by Jesus, were eradicated on behalf of Arabization. Their ethnic organizations forbidden.
Palestine: Christians are harassed and persecuted by Hamas and Jihad, Bethlehem overwhelmed by the Palestine Liberation Organization, and their spiritual leaders pressured to remain silent on Nazareth.
Finally, Saudi Arabia: The question is crystal-clear. Religious intolerance against Christians and all other religious groups is law.
But let's praise the governments of Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, the Emirates, Qatar and Morocco for the level of tolerance and legal protection they grant Christian and other communities in their countries.
In Beirut, the Arab League once again missed the boat of reconciliation with the region's past, and with its own minorities. But the demonstrators who marched in the eastern sector of the capital said it all. They lit fires from tires. They wanted the world to see the smoke. Like those last Indian tribes vying for their ancestral land, the Christians of Lebanon expressed the fears and frustrations of millions around the region. They wanted the world of post-September 11 to open its eyes on the last of the Mideast Mohicans. Hoping that the Campaign against Evil will free the unseen victims of Terrorism.
THE MIRACLE OF AKITU ASSYRIAN FESTIVAL 6752
6752 years later, Assyrian young people invited all Australian mixed in ages, gender, and style to a festival showcasing the Assyrian New Year. About 10,000 people attended from all around the Greater Sydney area to join them in celebrating The Miracle of Akitu Assyrian Fest on the 7th April 2002 at Fairfield Showground.
As a part of young Assyrian's moving through to 6752, their impact towards their community was seen as they encouraged local people to draw others in their region together in a project linked to National Youth Week 2002 and Pepsi Taste Challenge.
In the week leading up to Akitu Assyrian Fest Assyrian young people across the region linked arms and invited their friends and neighbours to join them in a time where the Assyrians celebrated their connection with their land and they beauty of nature by welcoming spring and its harvest in their homeland Assyria.
The Akitu Assyrian Fest opened the day with a breathtaking performance titled 'Assyria' by Anu-el Drama and Dance Group where the Assyrian flag was led into the Showground together with traditional music by the Dawola w-Zorna. 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 was made 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 live bands, Assyrian singers, dance troupes and a DJ.
The highlight of the day was surprising fireworks display which held the crowds in awe with an enormous display of colours. In amidst the fireworks, the 'Assyrian flag' and the Assyrian identity 'Lamassu' were lit up in all their glory which brought on the emotional applause of all 10,000 who attended.
In the midst of all these activities was the opportunity to promote a positive image of young people in the Western Sydney Region through music, drama, dance and art. To provide the young people with the opportunity to display their talents and boost their self-esteem and sense of belonging through participating in the event. And to enhance oppotunity for the young people to access, participate and manage its own arts and cultural activities.
Akitu Assyrian Festival is organised by a network of Assyrian young people who are keen to keep their tradition alive and well in a modern day Australian setting. Over 60,000 Assyrian's live in Sydney and were proud to present this very special event, and thanking all Australian's for sharing in such an exciting and inspiring cultural exchange and partaking in a rare glimpse of Ancient and Modern Assyrian music, art, dance and food.
The Assyrian New year 6752 was truly a successful day for all. All this could not have been achieved without the support of all the community members that attended and all those that volunteered their hearts and soul for the success of the Assyrian New year. We would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and the Assyria Youth Association hope to see you at the Akitu Assyrian Fest next year 6753.
All in all, ten out of ten.
No drug and alcohol youth event.
Are you still griping about the April 15th Tax Day?
The Sumerians, who lived in the Fertile Crescent of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, developed the first system of taxation and they had a lot more reasons to be complaintive.
Sumerians had to spend up to five months a year providing military or physical labor to the government, a tax called a "lifting" - if they didn't have the financial resources to pay a stand-in.
Unfortunately for the Sumerians, the central government was ruthlessly good at tax collection and would have made the Internal Revenue Service look like a bunch of pushovers.
"It's not clear what benefit the common people obtained from paying their taxes. We assume they did so partly because the king would kill you if you didn't," said Tonia Sharlach, a research assistant in the Babylonian section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
In fairness to the king, the Sumerians did presumably benefit when the government built roads and maintained lavish temples to Sumerian gods.
Unlike other early societies, including the Egyptians and Greeks, Sumerians kept voluminous statistical and legal records on clay tablets, which have turned out to be highly resilient. About a million of them have been excavated and now reside in various museums, including about 30,000 at the University of Pennsylvania.
Many of the clay tablets at Penn are no more than an inch or two wide, and some have their own small clay envelopes. Several make direct reference to Sumer's tax system, using the cuneiform characters that Sumerians developed into the first written language.
Sumerians used a clumsy system of math that makes their tax records less than reader-friendly. One tablet describes a provincial tax payment that included 2 + 60 + 20 - 1 fattened oxen and 600 + 8 x 60 + 10 sheep.
Of course, it took 4,000 more years before the IRS devised a 1040-EZ form.
Turkey's Interior Ministry issues an instruction that all Christian villages must be evacuated and re-settled with Moslems. Mass deportation and massacre of Assyrians, Armenians, and Greeks follow shortly after. By 1923, two out of every three Assyrian was either killed by Moslems or perished while escaping from Turkey and Iran.
Share your local events with Zinda readers. Email us or send fax to: 408-918-9201
Third International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East
Purpose: To promote cooperation and information exchange between archaeologists working in the ancient Near East, from the eastern Medi-terranean to Iran and from Anatolia to Arabia, and from prehistoric times to Alexander the Great.
Contact: Victoria de Caste, Secretariat,
CANADIAN SOCIETY FOR SYRIAC STUDIES LECTURE
La Societe Canadienne des Etudes Syriaques
"Bar-Hebraeus & His Time:
The Syriac Renaissance & the Challenge of a New Reality"
University of Toronto
[Zinda Magazine is a proud Corporate Sponsor of CSSS.]
ASSYRIAN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
The Editorial Board of “Melta” Bulletin and a committed group of Assyrians
in Russia plan to hold a two-day International Scholarly Conference “The
Assyrians Today: Issues and Perspectives.” The Conference program
will highlight the following aspects:
PLEASE SUBMIT THE FOLLOWING REGISTRATION INFORATION:
Family name: _________________________ First name(s):
Hotel accommodation: Hotel Rossiya (about 2 blocks from
the Kremlin). Per day costs are given in US dollars at the conference
rate, include breakfast, and are as follows:
Send this information to:
Melta Bulletin: P.O. Box 18, Moscow, 129642, Russia
Roundtrip fares – New York/Newark to Moscow - are available on all major airlines. Mid-week fare structures for the period of the conference begin at $625 (Alitalia) and range to $660 (Swissair). Weekend fares are about $20 more. These fares do not include taxes and are based on availability. They are available now through Rafih Hayek (Service Plus Travel) at 800-256-2865. Mr. Hayek’s travel service will be able to make similar special fares available to Moscow from all major US gateways.
Roundtrip fares - Chicago to Moscow - are available on Delta at $793 and on Luftanza at $814. The Chicago information comes from Shlimon Khamo of Bablyon Travel (773-478-9000). Cheaper group fares may be available also if a club or group of friends wish to make joint arrangements.
[Travel & Conference information courtesy of Melta Magazine and the Assyrian Star Magazine.]
AAA OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GENERAL MEETING
THE SOCIETY FOR IRANIAN STUDIES LECTURE
"Identity and Institutions Among
Assyrian-Iranians in the United States"
An examination of the patterns of departure and arrival from Iran, the discovery of an expanded Assyrian identity in a milieu that began to include refugee Assyrians from other parts of the Middle East, tied by religion but not language, to Iranian Assyrians.
Due to special efforts exerted over the past twenty years at Harvard University and at the Ashurbanipal Library in Chicago, a record of printed materials and photographs affords an opportunity to study the issues facing the Assyrians from Iran as they settled in New York, New England, Chicago, and California.
The conference will be held at the Bethesda Hyatt Regency. Arrangements have been made for reduced rates. To make hotel reservations, contact Hyatt Regency Hotel directly at 1-800-233-1234 or the conference site at the following address:
Bethesda Hyatt Regency
July 1-4, 2002
48TH RENCONTRE ASSYRIOLOGIQUE INTERNATIONALE
"Ethnicity in Ancient Mesopotamia"
Registration Form: http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/rencontre/mailform.html
MIDDLE EAST STUDIES ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
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