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Volume VIII
Issue 40
13 January 2003
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This Week In Zinda

cover photo

  An Untimely Call For Chaldean Renaissance
  Dr. Edward Odisho: “We All Have to Hang Together Before We Are Hanged Separately”
  Looters Attack Syrian Orthodox Church in Turkey
World’s Earliest Christian Cultures Totters on the Edge of Extinction
  Turkey Investigating Capuchin For Baptizing a Muslim
Chaldean Bishop Questions Bush’s Christian Principles
Syrian Orthodox Vicar Leaves Bahrain

In Praise of Last Week’s Feature Article
Website of the Assyrian Church of the East in Down Under
The Battle over the Ancestry Codes
To Our churches: Stay Out of Our National Affairs
Abandoned Assyrian Families in Austria
She, Doh, Yek… Happy New Year!
The Price of Reckless Internet Etiquette


Behind U.S. Iraq Policy: Analysis & Commentary

  Green Eyes of Krasnodar
  Sargon Dadesho Expects to be Back in Iraq



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Zinda Says


Last Thursday, at a meeting in Detroit, Michigan, attended by 300 Assyrians (including several non-Chaldeans), Bishop Sarhad Jammo of the St. Peter Diocese in San Diego- California in a divisive speech demanded the creation of a unique Chaldean political, cultural, and religious identity – detached from that of “Assyrian”. Fortunately, Mar Sarhad Jammo’s message has not been well received among the Chaldean groups. Yet, the question remains: “Why is the Chaldean Bishop from California so vehemently opposed to an “Assyrian” political identity?”

Last Thursday’s poorly orchestrated oratory did not divide the world opinion. Assyrians remain Assyrians and the Chaldean Catholic Church continues to be the most prominent Assyrian church. Some Chaldean extremists rejoiced, while non-Chaldean Assyrian fanatics accused the Bishop as the “modern-day Simko”.

The notion of “Chaldean ethnicity” as separate from the Assyrian nationality is intimately linked to the notion of Babylonian ethnicity and religion being separate from the Assyrian nationalism and religion. Mar Sarhad Jammo is well versed in the history of ancient Mesopotamia and has used this duality of our Mesopotamian characteristic to argue his idea of a new Chaldean/Babylonian identity that may one day transform his Church into a new nationality.

The fact however remains that there can be no pluralistic Assyrian identity without the Chaldean church and no Chaldean identity without the Assyrian sense of nationalism. This inescapable reality troubled the two dozen or so Chaldean leaders in Detroit last Friday when a closed-door meeting was called by Bishop Jammo. He left the gathering without any conclusive support for his call to unity behind a new Chaldean political identity.

The Bishop has incessantly failed in his attempts to divide the Assyrian-Chaldean opinion, because he undermines the most elementary variable in his expression of the new identity: a new political identity is founded by politicians, not religious figures. Although the creation of a new political organization, namely the Chaldean National Congress, was recently announced by Sarhad Jammo’s friend, Mr. Joseph Kassab, the said entity has yet to receive any formidable support from the members of the Chaldean church.

Can or should there ever be a separate “Chaldean” political and/or ethnic identity? Yes, it can, but it certainly should not. A separate Chaldean identity will polarize our nation into two Syriac-speaking Christian communities in Iraq. If the “Arabization” and “Kurdofication” policies of the Moslem groups do not erode our unique and historic identity, the emmigration of the Christians – as a result – will surely complete the disappearance of every individual with true ties to that counrty’s Mesopotamian origins.

Bishop Jammo’s speech was given in a time when the current Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Mar Raphael Bidawid, has fallen ill in a hospital in Lebanon. Sources to Zinda Magazine indicate that he is no longer able to perform his patriarchal duties and his condition is deteriorating daily. Mar Bidawid’s position on the issue was clearly stated in an Assyrian Star magazine article and a recent interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Company: “Before I became a priest I was an Assyrian… I am an Assyrian, today, tomorrow, forever, and I am proud of it.”

Mar Jammo’s appeal last Thursday was hesitated further when on Monday, Pope John Paul II’s ordained Mar Andraos Abouna of the Patriarchal Eparchy of Baghdad, Iraq, as the new bishop of the Chaldeans and appointed him the auxiliary of the Patriarchate. Mar Jammo’s speech was delivered three days later.

Many questions remain: Is the issue of a separate Chaldean identity being confiscated to the advantage of a dictatorial and egoistic Chaldean bishop as a career move? Or is the Bishop from San Diego genuinely concerned for the political wellbeing of the followers of his church, believing that the “Assyrian” groups do not properly represent the interest of the Chaldean Catholics? If so, then what percentage of the Chaldean Catholic Church is truly supportive of this claim and his separatist movement?

With the new developments in Iraq on everyone’s mind, the creation of a new Chaldean identity will not improve the lot of the Syriac-speaking people in that country. It will discredit one hundred years of Assyrian political struggle in Bet-Nahrain and provoke internal disputes and greater suffering. Assyrians of any religious affiliation must come together and demand a singular representation in the post-Saddam government. Any discussions of a separate “Chaldean”, “Syriac”, “Nestorian”, “Aramean” identity must be neutralized at once. A single Assyrian political identity that can best represent the different
interests in the context of religious and linguistic differences must be the ultimate goal of our national unity. This is our best option to achieve greater recognition in Iraq and around the world.

On the other hand, if it is the will of the majority of the Chaldean Catholics to proclaim themselves as a people with a new identity, their aspiration must be demonstrated through political means. It would be foolish to think that an Assyrian political representative may one day meet face to face with a bishop or a priest to discuss the political future of our nation.

At the present stage of our political development in Iraq, a call for separate identity is a victory for the Kurdish and Arab factions. With tribal consciousness and religious susceptibility we may never attain a national awareness and political maturity. All passionate speeches must be ignored at this time, and if needed, every avenue of dialogue among the concerned groups must be explored through the assistance of our political parties.

[Z-info: Mar Sarhad Jammo’s speech: pnm://realaudio2.mindspring.com/webhost/www82779/cv2.rm]

The Lighthouse


With the critical situation in Iraq and the hope for the elimination of the dictatorial and fascist regime of Saddam Hussein and its replacement with a democratic one, the future of the Iraqi people in its entirety, with all its Arabs, Kurds, Assyrian Chaldeans, Turkomanis, Armenians, Yezidis and Mandaeans hangs in the balance. However, for those of us who are unfortunately known today in more than one appellation [name] as Assyrians, Chaldeans or Suryanis— the most indigenous people of Beth Nahrain— our whole past, present and future are at risk if we all do not dialogue rationally, plan strategically and implement judiciously. By all standards of anthropological, historical, social and linguistic definitions we are one entity [not two or three], one identity [not two or three] and, therefore, we should have a strong belief in presenting ourselves as one people and one nation. Without this sense of Unity, the disunity that we have been suffering from for centuries will snowball into total self-inflicted annihilation through acculturation and assimilation among other peoples and religions in the region. Remember before the Arab conquests and the advent of Islam, we were in many millions, but we count today in only one or two millions. Ask yourself: Where did those millions go? Doubtless, they were consumed by acculturation and assimilation which led to ethnocide that can be worse than genocide. We, therefore, have a serious destiny problem to face, but fortunately it is a solvable problem if we were to dialogue rationally, plan strategically and implement judiciously to maintain and revive what is left of our identity as a people.


We are now at the most critical turning point in our whole history. With the disunity in which we are and the serious erosion to our language and religion, our survival chances as an ancient people with a brilliant civilization and a historically renowned language are very bleak. Thus, it is incumbent on all our sincere intellectuals—lay or clergy— to get involved in a Unity Dialogue to avert our tragic demise as civilization builders.


I am, hereby, suggesting the following strategy for an intellectual constructive Unity Dialogue with the purpose of a genuine and lasting Unity of all the Assyrian Aramaic speaking indigenous people of Beth Nahrain. In social sciences, in general, and in linguistics, in particular the dichotomy of Surface Structure vs. Deep Structure serves as a very constructive vehicle for a more objective and scientific comprehension of facts. Very simplistically expressed, elements that are in the Surface Structure are more visible and tangible; though essential, they not necessarily as essential as the elements in Deep Structure. Elements in Deep Structure are less visible and tangible though indispensably essential. Let me cite you a very simple example from language and then I will proceed further to apply the dichotomy to our Unity Dialogue. The Surface Structure in a sentence such as: “They cut the meat on the table” may fool you into thinking that this sentence has only one meaning. In reality, it has at least two radically different meanings because it has two Deep Structures which reveal themselves in response to the following two questions: a) Which meat did they cut? “They cut the meat [which was] on the table”. b) Where did they cut the meat? “They cut the meat on the table [not on the counter].” By the same token, when we look at the Assyrian Aramaic-speaking people through the perspective of Surface Structure vs. Deep Structure dichotomy, we will discover that there are several identity constituents that belong to Deep Structure, while other constituents belong to Surface Structure. Foremost of the identity constituents that belong to Deep Structure are: language, religion, history, geography, culture etc. while, religious denominations, dialects, villages and customs belong to Surface Structure. In light of such significant distinction, the constituents of Deep Structure are the primary constituents of identity, while those in Surface Structure are the secondary ones.


Our Unity Dialogue should focus on the primary constituents first and then the secondary ones. This approach to the dialogue will immediately highlight our impeccable linguistic unity through our Assyrian Aramaic language. In other words, our language is one, regardless of our different dialects.


As for our religion, we are all Christians— and have been so for two millennia— before we became ‘Yaqubaye’, ‘Nestornaye’ and Qatuliqaye or Ma’irwaye [Westerners] and Madinkhaye [Easterners]. No one of us would dare to claim that our ‘Jacobite’, ‘Nestorian’ or Catholic denominations are sublime to our Christian Faith. Thus, no one would ever dare to contemplate that Mar Rafael Bidaweed, Mar Zakka Iwas, Mar Khanania Dinkha and Mar Addai are more sublime than their Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ as a prophet is distinctly known for His patience and gentleness and He rarely manifested anger at others, but I believe that with His second coming He will definitely be angry at all those circumstances that made His Church split into four or five churches. We should all work for our Unity before Jesus discovers our disunity and admonishes all of us— the young and the old; the lay and the clergy; and the rich and the poor. 


Doubtless, our history, geography and culture are far more uniform than different. We are bound together by our millennia-long history in Beth Nahrain and by a blend of our Assyrian, Babylonian and Aramean cultures.


In light of the above facts, we all have to adopt a new philosophy for our Unity Dialogue. We all have to remember that we as a people:


1)                 Speak one language, which is the symbol of our Unity. Our dialects are only regional, tribal and personal. Our dialects will divide us if we give them significance more than our language.

2)                 We should identify ourselves as Christians before revealing our Catholic, ‘Nestorian’ Orthodox, or Protestant and Eastern or Western denominations. Our denominations will divide us if we give them significance more than our Christianity.

3)                 We are Beth Nahrainians before we are Assyrians, Babylonians, Chaldeans or Arameans. Our Unity as a civilization and culture is more important than our regional and historical names.


As an Assyrian intellectual, who has been equally involved in politics and academics for the last four decades, it is a pleasure to see the Assyrian Democratic Movement, as the first Assyrian political party embracing the theme of Unity as a working principle. Remember that I am not a member of ADM, but I am convinced that ADM does not look at Unity as a tactical maneuver to respond to the current political situation in Iraq or to gain votes; instead, Unity for ADM is a philosophical, political, and nationalistic belief that has been amply demonstrated in all aspects of its struggle during the last three decades of its life.


Our Unity is not just for the present procurement of our political and nationalistic rights; rather it is for the preservation and continuation of our overall Beth Nahrain civilization that matched in importance the Greek and Roman civilizations. The Beth Nahrain civilization is the one that invented the writing systems and introduced the rest of humanity, including the Greeks, Romans and Arabs, to literacy. It is the earliest civilization that adopted Christianity as a faith and spread it throughout the world. It is the civilization that introduced the Arabs to the scientific, philosophical and medical heritage of the Greeks and transformed them from bedouins and nomads to civilization builders. 

It is our responsibility to preserve the Beth Nahrain civilization. It is only through our Unity the preservation can be attained. As Assyrians alone, Chaldeans alone and Suryanis alone nothing is attainable. Without our Unity we will face the terminal lesson of extinction after which there will be no more survival. We, therefore, better hang together as one people or be hanged separately as Athuriyoon, Kildan and Suryan.


We have no time left for arguments with fanatics and extremists among us regardless of whether they come from among the Assyrians, Chaldeans and Suryanis or from among the lay or the clergy. In fact, we should defeat those arguments wherever they come from and whoever promotes them. Fanatics and extremists are mere saboteurs because they see things at the Surface Structure level and fail to see them at the Deep Structure. Fanatics and extremists fail to understand that thinking at the Surface Structure level will never bring about Unity. Fanatics and extremists should learn that Unity comes with our Assyrian Aramaic language, our Christian Faith and our Beth Nahrain culture. Fanatics and extremists should learn that their insistence on thinking in terms denominations, dialects and villages will only lead our people and our nation to what I have recently began to call “ethno-suicide” which means self-inflicted extermination from within through the gradual loss of our language, religion and culture.


We all have only one last opportunity to come back to our senses and realize that we are threatened by extinction and total oblivion through ethnocide and ethno-suicide. We all have to learn how to survive as Assyrian Aramaic-speakers, as Christian believers and as bearers of Beth Nahrain civilization lest we should face our death and demise separately as Assyrians, Chaldeans and Suryanis or as Catholics, ‘Jacobites’, ‘Nestorians’ and Protestants. We have to learn how to visit each other’s homes before all our homes disappear.  We should all remember that it does not matter whether you cross your heart from the left or the right as long as you know you are sincere at heart. We have to remember that we have homes in Alqosh, Telkepe, Ainkawa, Nohadra, Zakho, Sarsang, Dere, Komane, Barwar, Kirkuk, Doura, Botan, Si’irt, Mardin and Urmi etc. All those small homes together make the large Homeland. Let’s remember the Homeland not the villages. Finally, remember there are more who aim at dividing us from OUTSIDE than those from inside. Le us not be their naïve subservient.


Edward Odisho, Ph.D.

Professor, Northeastern Illinois University,






Courtesy of SOLNews (21 January); article by Gabriel Rabo

(ZNDA: Diyarbakir) Reports from Zinda Magazine’s desk in Europe indicate that on the evening of 6 January a group of Muslims broke into the Syriac Orthodox Church of the Mother of God in Diyarbakir, Turkey and vandalized the building. Several valuable liturgical items were also stolen including an 18th-century hand-written Bible, three 17th century silver crosses, an ancient Mother of God icon which stood over the tomb of a famous 12th century Syriac theologian Dionysios Bar Salibi, two rare silk and golden liturgical vela (cloths) covering the Chalice and Patena.


Courtesy of Christianity Today (21 January); article by Thomas C. Oden

Our Turkish-speaking drivers were taking us through the Fertile Crescent, that crossroads of great civilizations, but it did not appear very fertile. On this visit to eastern Turkey, religious freedom advocate Paul Marshall and I saw little cultivated land and a striking level of depopulation. We met the only two monks remaining in the monastery of the village of Sare (or Sarikoy). They were resigned, calm, and ready for the apocalypse.

Syriac-speaking Christians in this area have persisted through more than a dozen centuries of Muslim, Ottoman, and now Turkish rule. They languish between the secularizing government of the Republic of Turkey and an Islamic culture that views them as heathen outsiders. The government has long given them minimal "freedom of worship" while decisively restricting property rights for local congregations. Nor do authorities allow them any avenues of new growth—communication, speech, normal press freedom, or economic development.

Syriac-Aramaic comes as close as any living language to what Jesus spoke. It is the liturgical and poetic language of these Christians. Yet authorities forbid Christians on Turkey's southeastern border with Syria, Iraq, and Iran to teach that language—nor can their schoolchildren learn any subject in it. Christians in Syria, by contrast, legally teach and worship in that language.

Besides the secular and Islamic opposition, modern forces also threaten. Dams for electric power and irrigation are filling up the great valley of the Tigris, threatening to submerge lands—including churches and monasteries—on which Christian families have lived for more than a millennium. In any case, as in the rest of Turkey, Christians cannot buy property.

In short, the government would be pleased to see the Christian communities quietly disappear altogether. Christians have been caught in the middle of a war between the government and the Kurds. Now it matters little to the government that the Hezbollah as well as the Kurds are harassing them.

Christians abroad, meanwhile, know little of their life-and-death struggle.

First Christian Generations
The Turkish government has told the Christian villages, in effect: You cannot have seminaries in your language. You cannot repair your churches. Or if you do, you must do it without any help and under local Turkish government surveillance.

Heirs of the ancient Chaldeans and Assyrians, today these Christians affiliate mainly with the Syrian Orthodox Church, with separate church patriarchates in Damascus: one Jacobite, the other Antiochene. The Christian population has dwindled to nearly nothing in villages that have called Christ Lord for well over 15 centuries.

No one doubts that there are viable arguments for continuity between these ethnic Syriac-speaking Christians and the earliest Christian beginnings. Before Christ, there were Jewish communities in this area in which the first generations of Christians eventually grew.

One of the major Christian centers of learning, hymnody, and monasticism during the fourth and fifth centuries a.d. flourished at Urfa, previously called Edessa (the ancient Haran). The fathers of the Edessa churches, along with their scholars, hymn-writers and poets, were lauded and quoted throughout the Christian world. By the seventh century, dozens of monasteries—some of them with up to 700 monks—covered the nearby hills. Few Christian families remain there.

In Nisibis (now Nusaybin), an ancient city in the upper Euphrates valley (on the river Djada), the Christian community dates back to the second century. A fourth-century church there was locked up and abandoned shortly after World War I, when the community fled south into Syria. For 60 years there had been no Christians in this church. Now the Syriac diocese has sent a Christian family from one of the surrounding villages into Nisibis. They live in a little apartment in the church and keep it from falling apart.

In the church crypt lies the tomb of Jacob of Nisibis, from whom comes the term Jacobite. Representing Syriac Christianity, he attended the Council of Nicaea in a.d. 325. Jacob was the teacher of the great poet, Ephrem the Syrian, whom John Wesley called "that man of the broken heart."

This ancient church, once so important in Christian history, now sits alone in an entirely Muslim culture. I turned my gaze from the sarcophagus in the crypt to the richly decorated arches, then to the geometric design on the lectern. Marshall, a Senior Fellow at Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom, stood with me by the silent crypt of this deserted church dating back to a.d. 359.

Suddenly, our driver broke into song, an ancient hymn of the church. His voice was strong and sure, filling the empty stones with a flood of music, without being prompted.

We asked him what the words meant. He said the lyrics came from the great Ephrem:

Listen, my chicks have flown,
left their nest, alarmed
By the eagle. Look,
where they hide in dread!
Bring them back in peace!
This church had nurtured Ephrem, the greatest of the Syriac theologians. After being expelled from Nisibis, he spent the last 10 years of his life (363–73) in exile in Edessa (Urfa).

The Nisibis church and others in the area deserve to be introduced to the rest of the world. Yet they remain virtually inaccessible. Christians especially should have the opportunity to understand the area's history, poetry, liturgy, and the early growth of monasticism here.

An armed group, the Hezbollah, still operates in the area. This is not exactly the same Hezbollah that operates in the Middle East but is related to them. It has frequently attacked Christian villages in these areas and sought to drive them out. There may be only a few thousand Christians left in southeastern Turkey.

Caught in a Vise
This community is coming to a decisive moment: either great courage or complete collapse. Some sense of solidarity with the outside Christian world would help. Their plight cries out for understanding by art historians, museum curators, theologians, political scientists, and sociologists, as well as concerned laypeople.

If Christians abroad began to take an active interest in them, either through business enterprise or by visiting, empathizing, and getting to know them personally, the balance could shift. The displaced Christians of Upper Mesopotamia who are now in Europe might begin to come back. That could encourage economic development.

The aggressive campaigns of the ministry of tourism notwithstanding, the Turkish government has grossly neglected these ancient Christian sites. The tourist literature nowhere mentions them. Instead, the government has supervised the demise of numerous Christian villages or passively watched them deteriorate.

Yet encouraging the government to develop area tourism would likely be more persuasive than moral arguments for freedom of religion. Some churches here have remained in use largely without interruption since the fourth century. As Freedom House's Marshall remarked, this whole area is a museum—an ancient Christian museum.

The possibility of a new wave of tourism appears very remote without encouragement from Western political, academic, and church interests. Through a kind of passive-aggressive neglect, the government denies access to all except those with insider connections. If I were a Muslim, I would be encouraged to go on Hajj to Mecca. But if Christians want to go to Nisibis, someone with a badge is standing in the path, saying, "Show me your invitation."

Eastern monasticism, music, liturgy and theology thrived here and spread to much of the remaining Christian world. These sites contain a precious heritage that belongs not just to the Turkish government. It belongs to Christians everywhere.

[ Z-info: Thomas C. Oden is a CT executive editor. For more information on the area and on relief efforts, contact the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of the Western United States, 417 E. Fairmount Rd., Burbank, CA 91501.]

Click Here

News Digest


Courtesy of Zenit News Agency (14 January)

(ZNDA: Ankara) Turkish authorities are investigating a Capuchin friar for baptizing a 26-year-old Muslim who asked for the sacrament but later turned on the priest.

Italian Father Roberto Ferrari, 70, whose passport has been seized, has been a missionary in Turkey for the past 45 years. The Capuchins have several houses and missions in the country.

Another Capuchin, Father Mario Cappucci, who is familiar with Turkey, said that "Father Roberto baptized a 26-year-old youth in the mission of Iskenderun, on the border with Syria, who had asked insistently that the sacrament be administered to him, after appropriate preparation."

"However, the youth then denounced the missionary to the Turkish authorities, who removed his passport and put him under investigation," said Father Cappucci, 67.

Father Cappucci is the chaplain at Santa Maria Nuova hospital in Reggio, Italy, and a native of Quara, a town of the region, where Father Ferrari was born.

Father Cappucci was surprised at the news. "I have been in that country some 30 to 40 times, both to lead pilgrimages as well as to visit our houses," he said. "I have good relations with the guides and with different authorities. I never expected an incident like this."

"The situation in Turkey is certainly complex," he added. "However, this serious event is worrying."

In fact, although the constitutional law guarantees religious freedom, there are strong social pressures against conversion from Islam -- the main religion in Turkey -- to Christianity. In some regions, local authorities back the persecution of Christian communities, especially the Chaldeans.

"Why does Turkey call itself a secular state and put a friar under investigation who baptized a converted Muslim?" Father Cappucci asked. "Why can't religious wear their habit?"

"A lay state is not concerned with these matters," he added. "And this is happening in countries that would like to form part of Europe, where human rights are the foundation of the secular state."

He further stressed: "Father Roberto did not baptized an unconscious child, but an adult who consented to it."


Courtesy of BBC (13 January)

(ZNDA: Baghdad) Baghdad Auxiliary Chaldean Bishop Monsignor Slamon Warduni has said that US President Bush is not acting in accordance with Christian principles. In an interview in an Italian newspaper, he said that if Bush attacks Iraq without the backing of the United Nations, that would make him too a dictator. The bishop added that Bush's use of the word "crusade" in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 events was ill-advised, since there were Christians in Muslim countries just as there were Muslims in the West. He also said that in Iraq his followers enjoyed freedom of worship, teaching and religious practice but "there is no religious freedom as such". The following is the text of an interview with Monsignor Slamon Warduni by Luigi Ippolito in Milan, date not given, published by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on 12 January:

"The Pope speaks, he speaks out a great deal, but no one listens to him, especially not in countries that call themselves Christian." This disconsolate and pained remark was made by a man of the [Roman Catholic] church. Monsignor Slamon Warduni is the auxiliary bishop of the Chaldean [Christian] Church in Baghdad. In practice, he is Patriarch Bidawid's right-hand man. He is a man accustomed to living on the border, accustomed to treading the narrow path down which allegiance to the gospel needs to move if it is to coexist with a despotic regime. Warduni was clear in outlining the argument for peace: "It is inconceivable that civilized men should be talking of war in the third millennium," he said.

The Iraqi bishop, who was visiting Milan as a guest of the Pax Christi association, is a representative of an extremely ancient Christian tradition that dates back to the first century after Christ and to the apostle Thomas's preaching in the Middle East. Some half a million people in Iraq today belong to the church which is loyal to the pope in Rome but which uses the traditional Chaldean ritual in Aramaic.

[Ippolito] A feature of the current US administration is its strong religious imprint, with President Bush himself heading the list. He claims to be a devout Christian. What would you as a bishop and a shepherd of souls have to say to George W. Bush the faithful Christian?

[Warduni] I would say that what he preaches does not lie within the rationale of the faith. Let us read the letter to John: God is love, he does not want to harm children, women, or the sick, who will be the holocaust victims of this war. If this war is taking place over weapons, then we can ask the question: What country in the world does not possess weapons? Does the United States not have any? Does Italy not have weapons? And Israel, does it not have weapons, including nuclear weapons? We are in favour of the destruction of all weapons, but throughout the world. What could Iraq do against the massive armaments that exist in the world today?

[Ippolito] Quite apart from all the statements being made by the politicians, the military machine appears at this juncture to be moving ahead, in keeping with a dynamic of its own that inexorably leads to war. Can no one do anything to prevent it? Is there nothing that can stop it?

[Warduni] The only one who can do anything is God, because human affairs appear in a negative light. The United Nations could do something, because if Bush refuses to accept even the United Nations then there is no difference between him and the dictators. Thus Europe is going to have to speak out: I am thinking of Germany which has come out firmly against the war. Finally, Christians must raise their voice in the world to say "no" to war and "yes" to peace, to justice and to dialogue.

[Ippolito] Ever since the days of the Gulf War back in 1991, Saddam Husayn has been seeking to promote an image of himself as the champion of the Arab and Muslim world against the aggression being perpetrated by the Christian West. Are you Iraqi Christians not in danger of being crushed by this cultural and religious "showdown" rationale?

[Warduni] I do not want to discuss political issues because there are topics that it is not prudent to address. But right now that danger does indeed exist. Bush was wrong to use the word "crusade" immediately after 11 September, because there are Muslims also in the West just as there are Christians in the Middle East. And those Christians are in great danger on account of the identification of Christianity with the West. That is another reason why our leaders are sometimes tempted to equate us with the Westerners. For our part, we have always been loyal to the government and to our country: Our troops have fought at the front alongside their Muslim brothers. There is harmony between the Christians and the Muslims. We are not like other countries where the two communities are at war.

[Ippolito] How do you experience your role as a Christian bishop in a country governed by a dictatorial regime and, what is more, with an overwhelming Muslim majority: Does that not put you in an awkward situation?

[Warduni] I do not want to discuss political issues, but what I will say is that we seek to assist the weak, including our Muslim brothers, because there is so much poverty on account of the embargo that is strangling us. We have to share our country's good and its ills.

[Ippolito] Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, one of the Iraqi regime's leading lights, is a member of your church. What kind of contact do you have with him?

[Warduni] Yes, Tariq Aziz is a Chaldean Catholic, but he is pursuing a political path; he does not address religious issues. That said, we have met on a number of occasions in order to resolve certain practical matters.

[Ippolito] Do you feel able to state that the Catholic Church enjoys full freedom of worship and of expression in Iraq?

[Warduni] In all conscience I can say that we have freedom of worship, of teaching and of religious practice in our churches, but there is no religious freedom as such: There is none anywhere in Islam, either in our country or anywhere else. What there is, however, is fanaticism that is increasing on account of the identification of Christianity with the West.


Courtesy of Gulf Weekly (6 January)

(ZNDA: Bahrain) St. Peter's Syrian Orthodox Church vicar Father Samson Kuriakose left Bahrain on 6 January after three years.

He has been replaced by Father Shyjan Kuriakose.

Father Samson will take up the post of Cochin Diocese vicar in Kerala.

While in Bahrain, he founded the social service league and church Vanitha Samajam (Ladies' Wing). He also restructured the church choir.

"I am glad that I was able to spend time in this great country," said Father Samson.

Christian Charitable and Social Association (CCSA) and Kerala Christian Ecumenical Council (KCEC) gave Father Samson a farewell reception.

Father Shyjan Kuriakose is from Waynad, Kerala and holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics and Theology.

He was previously Waynad Diocese vicar.


Surfs Up!
Letters From Zinda Magazine Readers


Blessed be those who fearlessly express voice of reason. Mr. Youel Baaba has once again written eloquently about how a lot of us feel. Lots of credit goes to him because his article about the church opens the door for loyal sons of the Church of the East, like Mr baaba, to say what should have been said a very long time ago.

I add my voice to that of Mr. Baaba and hope that with the Grace of God we can place the sinners were they belong.

Edward Mikhail

Mr. Youel A Baaba has properly described SOME of the problems of the Church of the East and offered realistic solutions. Although it is long overdue, I hope that the leadership of the church will seriously consider Youel's comments. They represent the request of the silent majority of the Assyrians.

Daniel Benjamin

It is about time that devout members of our beloved Church of the East speak out. I applaud Mr. Youel Baaba’s wisdom and courage in expressing his ideas regarding the current issues facing our church and his recommendations for the betterment of church practices. In particular, I support his advice for the church leadership to:

1. Move the Patriarchal See to our Homeland when proper circumstances prevail.
2. Remove the name “Assyrian” from the Church title. Our church name should be inclusive and be called “Church of the East”.
3. Unify our church.
4. Appoint more Bishops.
5. Education of our clergy.

Despite the disagreement of the majority of church members with the manner our church leaders handled the matter of Mar Aprim, I could only hope that we move beyond this issue to the more important matters such as those mentioned above. As Mr. Baaba stated so eloquently, we should always respect our Patriarch and other clergy, however, we should voice our opinion when such decisions are in violation of the church law. Upon voicing our difference of opinion, we must also demonstrate our full respect to our Patriarch, regardless whether we agreed or disagreed with his decision. Furthermore, the church leadership should dig in deep, look for the roots and causes of this problem; perhaps it would be wise to reevaluate our church canons in regard to the celibacy of our bishops. I am in favor of allowing our bishops to marry and experience the sanctity of marriage and family life.

God bless our Church of the East

Sargon R. Michael

I support the following three articles which appeared in the Zinda Magazine - and let us do something about it !

1- Assyrian Church of the East: The next 2000 years by Zinda 12/8/2002
2-Church of the East: Challenging Issues by Youel Baaba 6/1/2003
3-The Name, the Church & the Ultimate Challenge by Fred Aprim

The two subjects that dominated the above articles are A & B:

A - NATIONALITY: We are Assyrians ( no more names attached). This subject to be dealt with by our clever politicians.

B - CHURCH: We want a united Church of the East - very urgently.

So let not the calendar issue become a stumbling block. None of the calendars are correct - for the last 2003 years no one knew in what month and on what day of the month was Jesus Christ born !!!

Not one of his many biographers is able to tell. Early Christianity did not know. The church was never able to determine this. A hundred different opinions regarding it have been expressed by Christian scholars. The Evangelists Matthew (2:1) says Jesus was born "In the days of Herod". And Luke (2:1-7) says Jesus was born "When Cyrenius was governor of Syria". Matthew and Luke attempt to give the time approximately. But between these two attempts there is a discrepancy of at least ten years; for Herod died 4 BC, while Cyrenius did not become governor of Syria until 7 AD.

But it was not until 532 AD that Dionysius Exigus, an Abbot and Astronomer of Rome, was commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church to fix the date of the birth of Jesus. Then when December 25th was decided on, the Armenians and Syrians accused the Roman Church of Sun worship, because it adopted the date of solar event - which was also the birth-date of the Sun God Mithras, and of Tammuz, and all the other ancient Sun Gods. (25th December is the longest night of the winter solstice).

In this case we beseech our church leaders Old and New to come to an understanding and unite our ancient church.

We will wait and see!

Youaw Toma Kanna

The article published in your issue # 39 of Jan 6 "Church of the East: Challenging Issues" represents clear and progressive views on the subject matter.

I fully support its contents and commend the writer, Mr. Youel Baaba, on his knowledge, courage and farsightedness.

Pnoel Shamun


I would like to advise all the Assyrian brothers and sisters worldwide, to visit the official website of the Assyrian Church of the East, Diocese of Australia and New Zealand on www.assyrianchurch.com.au and obtained updated factual information on the progress and events of the Diocese.

Deacon Genard Lazar


In Fred Aprim's article in the January 6, 2002 issue of Zinda Magazine, titled "The Name, the Church and the Ultimate Challenge", the author blames, as he has always done, the few Assyrian doctors and scholars who stood in direct opposition to the handful of Chaldeans who demanded a separate ancestry code for US Census 2000. Mr. Aprim hones in on the Assyrian census committee in a paragraph titled “Misconceptions and the Failed Promises”, as if those Assyrians promised Mr. Aprim, or anyone else for that matter, anything. As far as misconceptions, they seem to be mostly Mr. Aprim’s in that paragraph of his article.

The only reason for the creation of the Assyrian census committee was to stop separate ancestry tabulations for Chaldeans. Because then it would mean that Assyrians and Chaldeans have different ancestors and therefore cannot be one people. Surely this goes against the grain of Assyrian Nationalism, let alone history. The Assyrian census committee did not wish our enemies, especially in the homeland, to use the US Census as precedent to claim that we are indeed two separate peoples. We know all too well how they have continually tried to divide us along sectarian lines, in order to weaken us and to steal our land and suppress our rights. Had those few Assyrians not taken the initiative to get involved, Mr. Aprim and his friends would have done absolutely nothing to stop the Census Bureau from tabulating our people separately. So the reason for the involvement of the Assyrian group was not to boost our numbers; and become eligible for grants from the Federal and Local governments, as Mr. Aprim claims.

Mr. Aprim also informs us that the pro-slashed camp that fooled the Assyrian side was represented by the Assyrian American National Federation, Assyrian Universal Alliance and the Assyrian Academic Society (AAS), all headquartered in Chicago. No doubt by “headquartered in Chicago” he means that it was an unrepresentative and dictatorial effort by those organizations. My involvement in the AAS at the time is only one reason why I responded to Mr. Aprim’s article, revealing the truth being the other and main reason. Mr. Aprim neglects to mention that there were other Assyrian organizations who became involved, such as the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party (BNDP), and others. Both the ADM and BNDP were represented in an important meeting with Census Bureau representatives, which took place at the Mesopotamia Museum in Chicago. Mr. Aprim knows very well that that meeting was video taped by Mr. Isho Ballou, a well-known videographer in Chicago, and that the tape has always been for sale. Let’s not forget to mention that the ADM was consistently supportive of the single code/single tabulation solution. Assyrian activists strolling through life with blinders on cannot be a good thing for our people.

Mr. Aprim also reduces the numbers gained in Census 2000, I assume to help support his thesis. The 1990 total for the Assyrian ancestry tabulation was 46,099 (see link), and the one for 2000 was 82,355 (see link), a difference of 36,256 and not the 25,000 Mr. Aprim casually throws around. Considering the gross underestimation of our people in any US Census to date, 11,256 is not an insignificant number, as a percentage of the total reported.

Mr. Aprim speaks of the "two positive things in all of the Census mess", which was that the race and language codes for Assyrians remained unchanged in Census 2000. Will he do in 2010 what he did in 2000, if someone tampers with these codes, i.e. nothing at first and then encourage separate codes? He also neglects to mention that there are now, actually since 1999, three separate US Census ancestry codes for our people. Namely category 483 for Assyrian, category 484 for Chaldean, and 485 for Syriac. See the following links:


It is important to reveal all the relevant facts to our people, even if I personally don’t like them. Seemingly, those few Chaldean separatists were victorious, since there are now three new ancestry codes. Mr. Aprim and his friends may likely also be secretly happy, since they preferred a separate code for Chaldeans, as long as the Assyrian heading of code 482 remained unchanged. Looking more closely however, reveals that the Census Bureau is still reporting only a total number for our people in 2000, as it did in 1990, albeit under the new heading Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac. Then our separatists don’t have much to celebrate after all.

Considering the flexibility with which the US Census Bureau wields its substantial power, the Assyrian census committee which prevented separate tabulations for our people, put up a valiant struggle and should be thanked for their effort, not blamed. They also managed to get on record and in writing agreements from all sides that we are one people to be tabulated together, and that is exactly what the Census Bureau has done for Census 2000. That makes the job of the separatists more difficult. Let all the good people of our nation stand united against these few separatists, regardless of their sect, their affiliation or their position, we owe it to future generations and to our glorious ancient kings who also spoke to us of keeping our faith and our traditions.

Raman Michael


It was very interesting reading the two statements issued by the Chaldean Federation of America in the last issue of Zinda Magazine. While in one letter, the Federation is using slashes to proclaim that the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac people are one nation and declares "United We Stand", the same Federation in a letter to President Bush states that "Iraq is 3.5% Chaldeans; 1.5% Assyrians and Syriacs", omitting the slashes and completely separating Chaldeans from Assyrians and Syriacs! It is even more interesting to note that the letter is approved and endorsed by the Bishops of the Chaldean Church in America. The Chaldean Federation clearly is not an independent voice for the people who belong to the Chaldean church. Rather it is the mouth piece for certain Bishops who are intent on rewriting history to create a new national identity for the Assyrians who belong to the Catholic Church and their attempt, in this crucial phase in the life of our nation, to undermine the efforts to achieve meaningful national rights for our people in Iraq.

I would also like to express my view regarding the use of the name Assyrian by the Church of the East. For a Church to be nationalistic, especially in this modern day and age, is ludicrous. Churches are entrusted with spiritual matters, not national affairs. Adding the Assyrian name to the Church of the East to give it a national image is the same mistake that the Chaldean church is now making by trying to use the Chaldean name to give itself a national image (except that Assyrian is a true national name and Chaldean is not, hence the recent attempts by the Chaldean Church to rewrite history to make up a Chaldean national identity). What benefit have we gained by adding the Assyrian name to the Church of the East? This has diminished our national name, taking away its universal, all-encompassing nature and reduced it to that of a religious denomination, especially in the eyes of many Assyrians from other religious communities. This has in effect, if not alienated the other communities within our nation from our national name, but at least made it more difficult for them to use Assyrian as their national identity.

Also, it is ironic that the contributions of the Church of the East to the Assyrian national cause have been greater when it did not carry the Assyrian name. Interestingly, at about the same time that the name Assyrian was added to the Church of the East, a recent event which happened about twenty years ago, the Patriarchal See - which for two thousand years held steadfast in Bet-Nahrain despite the various invasions and the ravages brought on by the Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Turks, and the Kurds - was moved ten thousand miles away to Chicago! What we desperately need is to establish a national identity on par with modern standards, i.e. independent of our religious affiliations. For this we need to demand that our Churches stay out of our national affairs. This may take decades, may be a century, and will be an especially difficult task in the Assyrian communities that are currently dominated by their Churches. But we have no other choice.

Samuel Saro
New York


As you may know there are more than 70 Assyrian families in Austria, and majority of them are being deported back to their countries, (i.e. Iran,). Couple months ago a petition was collected and sent to the U.S. State Department, but we don't know where we stand with this petition. As you know these families have already sold all their belongings, and they have nothing left to go back!!

Could you please let me know what steps we should take to help these people to come to the U.S..?

Edward Tuman


Frankly, I am puzzled which one to believe!

According to Mr. J. Issavie , Vice President [of the Assyrian American Association of Southern California], [Assyrians in Southern California] had a very successful New Year Party. He claimed it in the previous Zinda Issue as a record breaker. According to many disappointed Assyrians, the doors were opened late, the food was not on time and not organized (as they had promised), the place was overcrowded (luckily nobody called the Fire Department.) The New Year count down was called not in Assyrian, not in English, but in Persian. Because the celebrated singer was Persian. I hope next year they will hire an Arab singer so the count down will be in Arabic (they won't sell tickets to Arabs or Persians because they are not Assyrian).

Dear fellow Assyrians from Arabic-speaking countries: don't get mad. Get even next year and vote for an Arab singer. (With all respect to Miss Leila Forouhar, if she is reading the article). Make no mistake about it that I am her fan and I have been in too many of her concerts, but in an Assyrian New year party, at least the Assyrians should do the count down in Assyrian just like the Jews and Armenians and Arabs and Spanish and Russians and .... . They do it in their own language or the language of the country in which they are living.

David Gavary
United States


On Monday, January 6, 2003 the Assyrian American Association of San Jose received a vicious e-mail letter titled “2003 New Year's Eve Assyrian Party in San Jose, CA” from an anonymous person using a pseudonym and a bogus e-mail address of Agha_Podrouz@yahoo.com. This letter contained personal attacks on the members of the Executive Board and myself, including defamatory statements, libel and slander, and was sent through the Internet to many respected Assyrian organizations as well as many individuals who we believe read the contents with utter disbelief.

As officers and volunteers of this non-profit organization, we always welcome any positive and constructive criticism. We strive to satisfy the majority of our guests at the two social functions that we organize every year, and we accept the fact that there will always be individuals whom cannot be satisfied. However, instead of offering positive criticism and suggestions, the author of this Internet “flame” inappropriately aims his personal attacks against the organizers who have given hundreds of volunteer hours to this organization and to their community. His anti-American and anti-Assyrian statements are clearly the opposite of constructive, and aim at demoralizing the spirit of volunteerism within our organization and community.

Furthermore, this letter contained many unsubstantiated statements regarding the manner in which this year's New Year's Eve party was planned and executed. The writer accused the organizers and the volunteers of “gouging” and “robbing” the guests and pocketing the money. A simple math exercise will prove that by the time you add the cost of $42 per person dinner for 750 people charged by the Marriott to the $29,000 paid to the two wonderful Assyrian (not Arab, as the letter claims) singers, plus cost of decorations and security, the $99 ticket purchased by the writer was quite a bargain, and not a “highway robbery”.

In the last 48 hours the officers of the Assyrian American Association of San Jose have contemplated the motives behind such malicious and intentional writing, and find that we have no other choice but to share the information we have gathered with those in our community while we contemplate the legal remedies available to us.

Our preliminary investigation revealed the internally stated author of the document as a Joseph Shahidi who works for Xerox Corporation. It appears that the author also used a computer at Phoenix University to send out his pseudonymous attack letter. We have contacted the Xerox Corporation about this issue and they expressed great concern about the alleged conduct of their employee who apparently used company resources to prepare his attack memo. We thank Xerox for their attention and professionalism. We have also notified University of Phoenix, which as indicated are conducting an internal investigation about this matter.

Let me assure the readers of this letter and Joseph Shahidi, whom I have never met, that at NO time such malicious and intentional act of defamation against the selfless and dedicated officers and volunteers of this Association will go un-noticed or un-punished. We believe that the integrity and reputation of our organization and its officers has been built and proven within our community, and in my capacity as the president of the Assyrian American Association of San Jose along with the Executive officers we are prepared to defend it at all cost.

We are deeply saddened by these events, however, we remain hopeful that this most unfortunate experience will teach Joseph Shahidi a valuable lesson in ethics, moral responsibility and constructive participation in the Assyrian-American community.

Because the original author did so, we are circulating this initial letter to all Assyrian organizations, media, and individuals who may or may have not read the original letter. If you receive this letter and have further questions, please feel free to contact us. We will provide updated information and results of our final investigation and legal follow-up when available.

Jacklin Bejan
Assyrian American Association of San Jose

Surfer's Corner


It appears that Saudi Arabia can no longer be trusted as an Ally of the US. Wahabizm, the bedrock of Islamic fundamentalism, has not only flourished in that country but has been supported, financed and exported through out the Moslem world. This was the fuel that ignited terrorism in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime and its surrogate, Usama Bin Ladin’s Al Qaida terrorist organization. Consequently, Saudi Arabia is no longer a safe haven for US military presence and our dependence on its oil supply is in jeopardy partially due to the perception that US’s Middle Eastern policy in that region is skewed towards the State of Israel.

In view of the above and for reasons discussed below, the US administration is contemplating a decisive military action against the government of Iraq. Toppling Saddam and the establishment of a democratic pro American regime will secure the vast oil resources of Iraq, thus, US will no longer be dependent on Saudi Arabia’s oil.

Iraq’s strategic location, particularly as it relates to its neighbor, Iran, is of utmost importance to US national security interests. A democratic Iraq under US protection would be a model for the rest of the Islamic/Arab Middle Eastern countries. It is not surprising that Iraq’s neighbors including many Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iran and Egypt abhor the idea of regime change and conversion from dictatorship to a democratic state lest it might be contagious. The domino effect of democratizing other nations in this area of perpetual turmoil drives the US administration’s policy of the region. Saddam was thought to be a buffer zone between the Islamic revolution of Iran and the rest of the Moslem/Arabic world, therefore, allowing him to survive the onslaught of the Gulf war, crush his opposition and maintain a government structure, which does not threaten his neighbors. This was the pre Gulf War policy of containment, which lingered until September 11, 2001. Apparently, the tragic events of September 11, 2001 changed the mentality of US foreign policy strategists. The US could no longer rely on Saddam to provide a reliable buffer against the rapidly expanding ideology of Islamic fundamentalism, a breeding ground for terrorism. Consequently a direct intervention to bring about a regime change in Iraq is deemed to be in the best interest of the United States of America.

US administration’s primary justification for waging a war against Iraq, thus far, is Saddam’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and the potential for developing nuclear capabilities. While, this is of concern, it is not the main and only reason to waging war against Iraq. Despite its limited success, to plant the seed of fear in the mind of US citizens, it has failed to convince the rest of the world. The US administration must inform the public of the strategic reasons behind its policy in Iraq. The American people and the Free World would understand, accept and support the administration in its policy to remove Saddam Hussein oppressive regime.

Another valid justification for the removal of Sadam Hussein is his oppression of the Iraqi people. Ousting Saddam will bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people especially those who suffered the most, the Kurds, Assyrian Christians, Turkmans and Shia Moslems. There are those who speculate that a democratic form of government in Iraq would not succeed. They explain that unlike Japan and Germany after WWII, Iraq is not amenable for conversion to a democratic state. According to a Wall Street Journal article by Hugh Pope (November 12, 2002) which was published in a previous issue of Zinda Magazine “Iraqi society is actually a complex patchwork of ethnic and tribal rivalries that Mr. Hussein both inflames and restrains to preserve his regime’s domination”. The author further notes that, “Each group has its own grudges, feuds and vulnerabilities likely to bubble to the surface if the domineering hand of Mr. Hussein is suddenly lifted”. While the ethnic divisions must be addressed by Iraq's post Saddam democratic government, it does not justify maintaining the status quo in Iraq.

The fallacy that Iraq is incapable of embracing democracy as witnessed in Japan and Germany following World War II belittles the Iraqi people including the Assyrians. We shouldn’t lose sight that Mesopotamia was the cradle of civilization. And that it was in the forefront of introducing urban centers with their rich, complex and varied life. Political loyalty was no longer to the tribe or clan, but to the community as a whole; where lofty temple-towers rose skyward, filling the citizen’s heart with awe, wonder and pride; where art and technological ingenuity, industrial specialization and commercial enterprise found room to grow and expand.

Iraq, as presently constituted, is undeniably an underdeveloped country and has to struggle to catch up with the industrialized world, but given the opportunity and protection of the only super power, it will flourish sooner than many would expect. One should never underestimate the hidden power of the oppressed people and their yearning for freedom and democracy. Iraq’s democratization does not need to follow in the footsteps of Japan, Germany nor the USA. Every country, nation, society could develop its form of democracy applicable to its socio-political makeup. The British and American policies in the Middle East during the later part of Twentieth Century were aimed at blocking the Soviet Union and communism. Their support to the Islamic movement, which contributed to the rise of autocratic regimes, was a direct result of the cold war and fear of communism. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the demise of Communism, democracy in the Middle East is in the best interest of US and Britain.

In conclusion, the Iraqi people including the Assyrians are suffering tremendously under Saddam’s brutal dictatorship, therefore, US administration’s policy of removing his oppressive regime, thus facilitating the institution of a democratic government, is in the best interest of the Iraqi people, humanity and US national interests. One can only hope that it is accomplished with minimum destruction and loss of life.

Sargon R. Michael




It’s 10:55 p.m. San Francisco time. A cluster of dark thunderclouds hover over the old Bank of America Building in downtown San Jose, the westernmost edge of man’s endless devotion to material reward. Another day in the capital of Silicon Valley has ended – new ideas, new products, new aspirations, and new dreams were born at 8 a.m. and quickly disappeared two minutes after the closing of the stock market.

Eleven time zones to the east of this mindless rat race is where my miserable heart aches to be tonight. Somewhere between the Black Sea and Lenin’s Tomb, between the silence of glasnost and the roaring echoes of optimism one hears in the crowded Internet Cafes of St. Petersburg. For my naïve Assyrian-American wits, it’s a bizarre place tucked away in the forgotten pages of a shadowy history. I see such twisted visions of fathers separated from their families and carried away to labor camps in the Siberian forests; of the boys in Red Army uniforms serenading victory songs, and the few Urmian patriots living for a glimpse of hope amid total despair.

Tonight I thirst for something different. I want to hear the murmurs of tender love and lay my head deep within my lover’s breast. Her soft voice will take me away from the mundane stories of the political conferences, treacherous bishops, and impending wars. With her gentle touch I wish to be carried onto a small boat, dangling atop the blue-green waters of Volga, as green as the color of her sultry eyes.

Dressed in a pair of black jeans and an old cashmere sweater, I lean forward to get a closer view of the pedestrians madly pacing before the newly-erected parking garage on the 4th Street. On the corner, across from the unfinished public library building, stands a young man in depleted blue pants and a long black coat. Twice he’s looked at his watch within the last few seconds. I bring my glass of wine closer to my lips, intensely observing his clumsy moves.

It’s an unusually warm night for this time of the year, and even more unusually hushed. I swear I can hear the young man humming a Bee Gee’s song. So asinine! Separatists call for a new identity, extremists yearn disunity, hundreds of thousands are soon to be killed in the Cradle of Civilization and I sit on the patio of my apartment wondering if it’s the sound of “Night Fever” or “Jive Talking” creeping from the depth of my mind’s nocturnal solitude.

Ten minutes have passed and he has not moved an inch. How long is he going to stand there?

I return from the kitchen with the second glass in one hand, and a box of cigarettes in the other. I should be editing sixty more pages of letters, articles, and personal attacks for this week’s issue. Instead I begin meditating on the sweet visions of the last two weeks and of the green eyes of Krasnodar.

Was it only a dream that idly catapulted through my mind like a transient thought? If so, then why do I feel her presence around me, in my car, behind the breakfast counter, and in the walking closet? I must be going mad, for I swear I can still smell her perfume. It intoxicates and then slays my logic even more as the sun goes down each day.

By now it is obvious that he’s waiting for a girl. He’s been standing there for over an hour, incessantly checking his watch. Why else would a ‘man’ lose his sense of reason and direction and be willing to look otherwise confused in public? Do her eyes cast the same deadly spell upon him that has numbed my senses for so long? I too have become a victim of love’s unforgiving enchantment, unable to move in any direction or to stand in one place.

My mobile phone rings from across the living room. I jump up in hope of hearing her voice: “Hello…Priviet!”. It’s the author of next week’s Lighthouse article, making sure that I have edited the correct version of his essay. A few minutes later I return to my wine glass and light up a cigarette so I can feel my breathe within my chest. I take a sip of my wine.

Suddenly I am standing by the sandy beaches of Sochi. Her beautiful, slim body is absorbing the last few rays of the October sun inches away from my arm. An odd feeling of completeness overwhelms my senses. “I want to explain something to you before we go back home,” she says in her adorable accent. Her nose turns upward and I see those blue-green eyes equally filled with love and fear, and relentlessly concealing the origins of her noble heritage. I know what she’s about to ask, so I hesitate to amend her focus: “Let’s talk about it later. Trust me, it will be over soon.” Her voice falls to a whisper: “I know you will make it work. I just know you will.”

The sound of a large truck disrupts my dream of a love founded on an illusion. At once aware of myself, I quickly look down to see the young man. He was gone. Did she ever show up or was he aimlessly forced to leave that spot for the next unforgiven lover in the night. Suddenly, I feet abandoned.

It’s 12 noon Moscow time. The sky is clear, my glass empty, and I – alone. After I hot-synch my Palm Pilot, download latest news from CNN, fax a revised article to Sweden, and update my Market spreadsheets, I give up my nightly mêlée with myself and restively drag my body to the bed. Once again I end up in bed sleeping alone, comforting myself with the thought that someone across the Caucasian plains loves me tonight. All because of a glorious fairy tale that begun last year when a pair of green eyes got caught between London and the last blue moon in March.

Wilfred Bet-Alkhas



Courtesy of Modesto Bee (15 January); article by Michael Doyle

Dadesho's trip will be politically fraught, as the Modesto resident joins other international Assyrian figures in a bid to topple a regime and unite a scattered population.

"As far as the Assyrians were concerned, we were united for the first time," Dadesho said. "Everyone has the same agenda."

President of the Modesto-based Assyrian National Congress, Dadesho is among the most politically active Assyrians in the San Joaquin Valley.

Some estimates put the number of Assyrians living in the San Joaquin Valley at upward of 15,000. It's a population that's attracting attention of U.S. policy-makers and war planners, as the Bush administration mobilizes against Iraq.

The Pentagon, for instance, is offering $5,000 a month and special training for natives of Iraq willing to sign up as translators and guides. Dadesho said, "We have submitted a list of names" of potential recruits from the San Joaquin Valley.

The State Department, for its part, has recently designated the separate Assyrian Democratic Movement as one of the organizations eligible for federal money under a law designed to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The designation marks the first time an Assyrian group has become eligible since Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998.

The Iraq Liberation Act has had rough spots, particularly as some officials have questioned the merits of funding fractured Iraqi opposition groups. Assyrian leaders, though, say the assistance is needed and overdue.

"We were ignored, really," said Modesto resident and Assyrian Democratic Movement member Batta Younan. "We were ignored all our lives."

Assyrians are Christians whose original civilization spanned the countries now known as Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. They are a distinct minority in Iraq, accounting for less than 5 percent of the nation's population, according to the CIA World Factbook.

A former social studies teacher who has lived in the San Joaquin Valley since 1990, Younan said the Assyrian Democratic Movement funding will target efforts in northern Iraq. How much the organization will receive has not been determined.

A total of $97 million is available for military, humanitarian and broadcasting purposes under the Iraq Liberation Act, passed by Congress after Iraq stopped cooperating with U.N. arms inspectors.

"The people over there are so much in need," Younan said.

Dadesho, too, sees potential in the pot of money.

The State Department rejected an earlier request that would have helped support Dadesho's Assyrian television broadcasts reach Iraq. He has resubmitted the funding request, noting that broadcasts are bouncing from the Assyrian Cultural Center of Bet-Nahrain in Ceres to the other side of the world.

"It's amazing how many people are watching," Dadesho said.

He presumes that Saddam sympathizers are taping the broadcasts and taking them apart. He knows, after all, about Iraqi government methods.

He's waiting to collect some $2.4 million in frozen Iraqi assets, stemming from his lawsuit against the Iraqi government over a 1990 plot to murder him.

The United States controls some $1 billion in frozen Iraqi assets. Like the Clinton administration, the Bush administration had opposed using the money to pay civil lawsuit judgments; nonetheless, President Bush last year signed a law that permits victims of "state-sponsored terrorism" to tap the frozen Iraqi funds.

Dadesho, who won a judgment of $1.5 million and has since seen it grow through interest, said he hopes the money can be freed.

He also expects to reach northern Iraq in two or three weeks. He said he'll be traveling as one of eight leaders -- one of only two from the United States -- of the Assyrian Consultative Committee, a new umbrella group meant to coordinate efforts of various Assyrian organizations.

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Geroge Stifo


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