BECAUSE OUR FUTURE IS IN THEIR HANDS
One of the immediate ramifications of the Assyrian identity issue discussed in Diaspora is the diffusion of the identity crisis among our youth. Between the ages of 14 and 20 most teenagers ask the question: Who am I? Or Where do I belong? Sadly, we are not offering our youth the necessary tools to study and analyze themselves in order to reach a sensible conclusion.
A youth working with an American organization called “Arab & Chaldean Council” for example may find herself within a baffling cultural context. Are Chaldeans Arab? Are Suryoyo-Assyrians worshipping in a Syrian Orthodox Church Syrian? Does our language Syriac originate in Syria? When we do not offer a sensible answer to our youth’s inquiring minds, we leave them confused and alienated. Unable to form a coherent identity during their seminal maturation years and slowly losing self-worth, they either seek refuge within other ethnic groups or assimilate within the greater majority. Due to our insignificant numbers, we cannot afford missing even one such Assyrian youth from our communities. Hence, making every Assyrian youth a productive member of our community must become a priority.
The solution to our youth dilemma lies in the hands of every Assyrian institution: our churches, our social clubs, our families, and even our political parties – all of us must share the responsibility. The message is very clear: it will take an entire community to help our youth and no Assyrian youth must be allowed to mature in isolation apart from his or her community. Every functional member or organization must be committed to engaging our youth in our community efforts and socio-political discussions. But first we must provide them with the tools, room, and freedom to do all of the above.
The minimum requirements for our youth’s healthy maturation process who can identify with their proud Assyrian heritage and similarly serve their adopted countries are a few simple steps. We must formulate ways to provide our youth with:
Assyrians in Europe have successfully adopted a formal policy to integrate their youth in the overall social and political structure of their national and supra-national organizations. The youth from several countries, for instance, gather together and discuss issues of importance to their communities and Assyrians in general. One such gathering took place earlier this month in Germany (See The Lighthouse). Last year, for example, a group of Assyrian youth traveled to Tur-Abdin in Turkey and visited Midyat, Bote, Urnus, Kfarze, Hah, Boqesyono. Every one of them returned with a renewed decision to pursue a life-time objective toward the betterment of their people’s conditions in the homeland and in Diaspora.
Over the next 3 to 5 years every Assyrian community in the Diaspora must follow suit and adopt strong youth-orientated policies at local and national levels. Formal plans must be ratified to mandate the establishment of Assyrian Youth Federations in North America, Australia & New Zealand, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, India, Russia and former Soviet Republics. An annual international meeting of these youth federations should convene no later than the summer of 2007; the first of which can be hosted by the Assyrian youth in the homeland..
Let us take a proactive approach to solving our current issues of identity, stagnation, and apathy by strengthening our youth today. Zinda Magazine, in turn, recognizes its share of responsibility in providing a strong forum for the voices of our youth. Accordingly, Zinda Magazine has initiated the sponsorship of an Assyrian University Students’ website which will soon compile information on the whereabouts, interests, and the academic accomplishments of every Assyrian student from around the world. By summer of 2004 Zinda Magazine will offer its resources for these Assyrian students to publish a new Assyrian magazine exclusively serving the Assyrian youth around the world. We will have more on our Nineveh University Initiative in our future editorials.
Our young people are confronting difficult challenges. Let us help them "fit in" and be a part of our constantly changing Assyrian society. Soon they will have to write our editorials, negotiate with our adversaries at the political gatherings, and demand our rights. With a dynamic plan for the future of our youth we can guarantee a more active and involved generation of Assyrians at all levels of our political and economic reality. The process may be long and difficult, but the rewards are immeasurable.
A REPORT ON THE YOUTH CONFERENCE IN DINGDEN
The small, sleepy town of Dingden on the limits of Münsterland and Westfalen in Germany between 17 and 19th of this month, was host to a group of 38 Assyrian youth and the organizers of the first Assyrian Youth Federation of Central Europe (Assyrian Jugendverband Mitteleuropa or AJM) gathering. They had come from Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Russia, ages ranging from 14 to 29. The theme of this year’s gathering was “Perspectives on the Future of the Assyrian Youth”.
The meeting began with a brief welcoming speech by Mr. Aryo Makko, chairman of the AJM. Mr. Makko encouraged the participants to get to know one another and build new friendships. He also explained that they were to receive a dose of history in order to better analyze the present situation of the Assyrians in Europe and be able to express ideas for the future. Mr. Makko ended his speech with a short overview of the organizational structure and objectives of the AJM.
Ms. Nicme Seven, on Saturday morning, began the day with a seminar on the history of the Assyrians from the ancient times through the era of Christianization, touching upon the massacres and the genocide, the Assyrian national movement of the last 100 years, and the emerging identity issues in the Diaspora. Ms. Seven is the current Chairwoman of the Assyrian Youth in Augsburg, Germany. She is a Student of Political Sciences, American Studies and Sociology at the Universtiy of Augsburg.
Ms. Seven’s presentation was followed by an engaging discussion on the challenges facing the youth in Europe. The problem of maintaining linguistic integrity of the Assyrian communities, the use of Assyrian (Suryoyo) at home were among some of the issues discussed at length.
Malfono (Teacher) Aziz Said gave a lecture on the activities of the Assyrian youth in Central Europe and their future. Mr. Aziz spoke about the establishment of the several Assyrian political parties in Europe and the current lack of enthusiasm among the public in Europe and the youth in particular. Mr. Aziz urged his listeners to assume a new “work ethic” based on tolerance and open-mindedness; and establish greater channels of communication between themselves and the non-Assyrian institutions or European political parties. Malfono Aziz Said was born in Qamishly, Syria.
The participants were then asked to split into different workshops. The topics covered at the workshops included Identity, Homeland, Generational Conflicts, Education and Public Relations. At the end, each group presented their findings to other teams. The result was as one puts it “unimaginable”. Given facts, tools to analyze, and space to discuss issues without any mental inhibitions, the youth were able to present creative solutions to some of the most critical problems concerning the Assyrian political parties and leadership today.
The highlight of the conference was a short comedy-drama on the complexity of the problems emerging from the generation gap within the Assyrian families. With a great sense of humor, stage actors such as “Lahdo” (aka Grigo) illustrated the challenges faced by today’s parents and their children in a family. Afterwards the evening ended with a little dance party. Dr. Matay Arsan from Holland was the source of joy and laughter with his funny anecdotes until the break of dawn.
The talented actors were:
Hardly having slept our 38 heroes once again assembled on Sunday morning to discuss the topics discussed over the weekend and offered their suggestions and criticisms. Mr. Makko was back again to question the youth on their experiences from their weekend assembly. Generally, the workshops were found to be the most effective and interesting activities of the conference. The important lesson that each of the 38 participant took home was that in isolation all will wither away, and together they could accomplish everything.
OFFICIAL BULLETIN ON THE CONDITION OF MAR RAPHAEL I BIDAWID
His Beatitude Mar Raphaël I Bidawid is still recovering in Hotel Dieu Hospital in Lebanon. The last report given by his doctor Pr Aïda S. Moussaly indicates that his health condition is very stable.
His Beatitude has received a phone call from H.E General Emile
Lahoud, who had previousely sent his son deputy Emile Emile
Lahoud to visit His Beatitude, to ask about his health.
(ZNDA: Tehran) According to Reuters, the Iraqi opposition leaders have postponed their next meeting in North Iraq until around mid-February. The 65-member grouping of opponents of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, of whom two are Assyrian, had been due to assemble in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq in early February to continue preparations for a government-in-waiting if Saddam is toppled.
But problems in obtaining visas from neighboring countries for the delegates and worries about security for the meeting, which is a follow-up to a conference of Iraqi exiles held in London last month, had forced the timetable back.
The 65-member committee formed at the London conference is dominated by six parties recognized by the United States.
Several of these officials have met in Tehran in recent days to try to coordinate the Arbil meeting.
Iran is one of the principal entry routes into northern Iraq
where a no-fly zone patrolled by U.S. and British war planes
has given Iraqi Kurds virtual autonomy from Baghdad since 1991.
Courtesy of SOLNews (21 January); based on an article by Gabriel Rabo - reported on 9 January
(ZNDA: Diyarbakir) Two years ago the Syrian Orthodox community of Diyarbakir was caught in a political dilemma when now-famous Father Yusuf Akbulut went on trial before a Turkish court for speaking about the Seyfo Genocide of 1915 to a Turkish journalist.
On the eve of 7 January, the Syrian Orthodox Church of the Mother of God (known as "Meryem Ana" in Turkish) in Diyarbakir, Turkey was broken into and vandalized by unidentified Muslims.
According to the information given to Suryoyo Online (www.suryoyo-online.org) by Saliba A?is, a Syrian Orthodox teacher at this church, the looters removed valuable liturgical items, among which are a large handwritten Gospel-Lectionary from the 18th century with a silver cover placed in the altar room, three silver crosses from the 17th century and a very old icon of the Mother of God, placed above the tomb of the famous Syrian Orthodox theologian and Metropolitan Dionysios Bar Salibi (A.D. 1171), as well as two rare 18th century silk and golden liturgical veils covering the chalice and paten. Iconographic pictures of the saints were also found to the floor.
The looters broke into the church after climbing over the outer 6-meters high walls surrounding the church compound and broke a window to enter the church building. The crime was discovered early in the morning when Father Yusuf Akbulut arrived to celebrate the morning service.
The small Syrian Orthodox community of Diyarbakir and the Metropolitan of Tur Abdin Timotheos Samuel Aktas from the monastery of Mor Gabriel were alarmed when they learned about the looting of St. Mary's church. The future of the small Christian community remains uncertain in an area increasingly threatened under watchful eyes of the Islamic radicals.
In the past 2 years Father Akbulut has continuously been under investigaton by the Turkish authorities and journalists. On Sundays, armed members of the secret service attend his sermons. Assyrian observers believe that the looting may have been an act of violence against the court decision to free Father Akbulut.
2ND PHASE OF TALKS BETWEEN VATICAN & EASTERN CHURCHES
(ZNDA: Vatican) According to Zenit News Agency, on Monday Pope John Paul II officially launched the second phase of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and ancient Eastern Churches that separated from Rome in 451. These Churches rejected the conclusions of the Council of Chalcedon, which professed the divine and human natures of Jesus.
The ecumenical dialogue that followed the Second Vatican Council has clarified misunderstandings, seeing that the differences arose more from "terminology" and "culture" adopted "by the various theological schools to express the same argument."
This much was acknowledged in the 1984 joint declaration signed by John Paul II and the head of the Syro-Orthodox Church, Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas of Antioch.
Present this week in the Vatican were representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Coptic Patriarchate of Egypt, the Syro-Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, the Orthodox Church of Eritrea, and the Syrian Orthodox Church of Malankar.
"Substantial ecumenical progress has already been made between the Catholic Church and the different Eastern Orthodox Churches," the Holy Father said, when he received the members of a dialogue committee composed of Catholic representatives and members of those Churches.
"Essential clarifications have been reached with regard to traditional controversies about Christology, and this has enabled us to profess together the faith we hold in common," he added.
"This progress is most encouraging, since it shows us that the path followed is the right one and that we can reasonably hope to discover together the solution to other disputed questions," the Pope added.
"May your efforts to establish a Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue prove a major step forward toward full communion in truth and charity," he said.
Most of the Churches' representatives came from Middle East countries or surrounding areas. Pope John Paul invited them to "pray together that this region will be preserved from the threat of war and further violence."
"May our ecumenical endeavors always be directed to the building up of a 'civilization of love,' founded on justice, reconciliation and peace," he concluded.
The dialogue committee began its meeting Monday at the headquarters of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The meeting, which ends Wednesday, is studying the topics and methods of the second phase of dialogue. To date, theological agreements were reached separately between each one of the Churches and the Catholic Church. The second phase will foster joint dialogue among all the Churches in a single commission.
A Statement From the Iraqi National Coalition
The Iraqi Opposition meeting has been scheduled to commence in early February 2003 in Arbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. Two leading members of the Iraqi National Coalition, the Secretary General, Brigadier General Tawfiq Al Yassiri also the Spokesman for the Iraqi Military Council and Mr Albert Yelda, Head of the Relations Bureau and a prominent Assyrian Christian opposition leader, both being members of the Iraqi Opposition Follow-up and Coordination Committee, arrived in Turkey en route to Iraqi Kurdistan early last week.
It had been anticipated that this journey was fraught with danger, nevertheless the trip and the planned meetings with Kurdish, Turkomen, Assyrian, Christian and Islamic parties in addition to the main Iraqi Opposition meeting, was deemed well worth the risk. Upon arriving at the Turkish/Iraqi border of Ibrahim Al-Khalil both leaders were prevented from proceeding into Iraq and advised by the Turkish Military Intelligence to return immediately to London for their own personal safety, we now have credible information from European and other Intelligence Agencies that Saddam had issued orders for their assassination.
This is yet another example of the callous nature of Saddam, and represents further evidence of the regimes evil intention to brutally and ruthlessly crush any attempt that opposes his tyranny and the oppression of the Iraqi people. Our march towards the liberation of Iraq will continue, despite such threats. We do however urge the Iraqi opposition to be more cautious, extra vigilant and that security measures be stepped up a notch or two.
There is no doubt that Saddam has huge stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, he has been afforded every opportunity for the past 12 years to come clean in order to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people and to safeguard his own position, and yet he has ridiculed and practically flouted every UN resolution. His evil knows no boundaries, and whilst we are tempted to catalogue his crimes against humanity, his support and funding of terrorist organizations, his use of chemical weapons, the list would be too long and besides has been well documented and known to all and sundry. So to suggest that he does not possess these dreaded weapons, and if he did, that he would not use them himself or put them in the hands of like-minded terrorists is folly and catastrophic.
The legitimacy of the United Nations is at stake, we firmly believe that now is the opportunity to conclusively define her course through these turbulent times and support our Iraqi people in their determination to rid the world of Saddam's evil regime and his WMD.
Finally, we should stress that we totally disagree with an absurd proposal that has recently surfaced by some ill-minded people suggesting that the Butcher of Baghdad and his cruel and evil clique be exiled into a safe haven. We firmly believe that such a move is an insult to the millions that have and continue to suffer at the hands of the world's most oppressive regime. The Iraqi people demand no less than to see him and his cohorts rot, God willing in everlasting hell.
Bureau of Information
ARCHAEOLOGISTS FIND ANCIENT HIGHWAYS IN BET-NAHRAIN
Courtesy of UPI (28 January); article by Marcella S. Kreiter
(ZNDA: Chicago) University of Chicago archaeologists, using recently declassified satellite images, said this week they have discovered an ancient road system that once linked communities from Syria to Iraq.
Tony Wilkinson, research associate at the university's Oriental Institute, said the ancient roads lost favor when better routes were established. The 5,000-year-old roads, between 200- and 400-feet wide and 20- to 24-inches deep, were in depressions and later became sources for moist clay to make mud bricks for building.
The scholars concentrated on the northern section of Mesopotamia but said such road systems likely were common throughout the Near East.
"When considered at a regional level, these routes emerge as segments of larger 'highways' that run from site to site on a generally east-west axis," wrote Jason Ur, a researcher at the institute, in his paper, "CORONA Satellite Photography and Ancient Road Networks: A Northern Mesopotamian Case Study," to be published in the spring issue of the journal Antiquity.
Archaeologists always assumed roads existed between major settlements but the imagery for the first time has shown them the precise locations.
Ur said the data lend credence to suppositions archaeologists have long made.
"Using declassified intelligence information, we can now map large scale landscape features we've never been able to see but have inferred by drawing lines between ancient sites. We can actually map them using traces of their remains," Ur told United Press International.
The roads indicate some urban centers grew to massive size and relied on intensive agriculture in surrounding fields to support that growth.
Unlike the so-called Cradle of Civilization in southern Mesopotamia where agriculture was dependent on irrigation, the area Ur and his team studied in northern Mesopotamia had a climate much like the Midwest, dependent on rain for crops to grow.
Former Army satellite imagery interpreter Jennifer Pournelle, co-director of the Mesopotamian Alluvium at the University of California-San Diego, said what we see in these Cold War images is "the end of Eden."
Pournelle said the road system extended over southeastern Turkey, northern Syria and northern Iraq, "three areas we now think of as unstable and politically divided."
"The routes are still there. ... If we can get a little bit of stability, the area will thrive again," she said.
The Oriental Institute has been concentrating much of its research on the Syrian sites of Tell Brak and Tell Hamoukar. The satellite images show Tell Hamoukar was more important than scholars previously had thought and likely was part of a road system that stretched from Nineveh in modern Iraq to Aleppo in western Syria, Wilkinson and Ur said.
"For the Early Bronze Age, new conclusions can be drawn about the underlying economy, which had a large role in producing this pattern of settlements and roads," Ur said. "The agricultural backbone of these towns is vividly illustrated by the abundant radial system of roads, although the interconnectedness of these systems suggests a far more integrated agricultural economy than originally recognized."
High-value luxury goods, such as textiles and metals, also traveled these routes.
The roads fell out of favor in a general collapse of the urban civilization at the end of the third millennium B.C., Ur said.
"The urban settlement pattern was replaced by a much more rural pattern where you have smaller towns," he said. "As a result you didn't get large concentrations of people at key points, which produced these large roads."
Why did the civilizations collapse? Ur said there are two theories. The first favors some sort of natural catastrophe like a volcanic eruption or meteor strike.
"I personally don't think that's case," Ur said. "What is more likely is these agricultural system we see manifested by these roads were relying too much on the yield from these fields. When they had a couple of not-so-good seasons, the system collapsed."
Pournelle said it was more than just a few poor harvests, adding the situation likely paralleled the Dust Bowl phenomenon of the 1930s, where extended drought coupled with past farming practices created an untenable situation where the land could no longer support the population.
"The Syrian government has been trying to reintroduce more agriculture in the area through irrigation. It's possible because of several dams on Euphrates and also through deep wells and pump irrigation. Now there are new techniques for bringing water in area. However, the water supply is not infinite. The wells already are dropping," she said.
Courtesy of the San Jose Mercury News (25 January);
article by Jessie Mangaliman
“I'm glad for them, but we never comment on individual cases,'' said Sharon Rummery, the immigration service's San Francisco spokeswoman.
The three men, who had valid visas, were arrested at the San Jose
Immigration and Naturalization office in December and shipped out
on a 30-hour, six-stop flight before authorities finally found a place
to imprison them in San Diego.
Their bizarre odyssey focused attention on the INS detentions, which eventually included 1,200 people, most for overstaying their visas. Dozens from the Bay Area were among them.
Attorneys representing the men and others familiar with the case said the INS asked an immigration judge earlier this week to dismiss the deportation actions against Ramsin Ziazadeh, 30, a senior design engineer for National Semiconductor who lives in San Jose; Faisal Qaisi, 36, a software engineer for ATI Silicon Valley Research who lives in Redwood City; and Faramarz Farahani, 42, an Informatica employee who lives in San Jose.
``They're unbelievably happy,'' said Cynthia Lange, a Los Angeles attorney who represents Qaisi, who is from Iraq, and Farahani, who is from Iran. Both men are Canadian citizens.
Lange had challenged the detentions of the men, who have valid H1-B visas. Lange said the men did not know about the Dec. 16 registration deadline because the INS did not adequately publicize it. That deadline was recently extended to Feb. 7.
The registration program, adopted in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is aimed at tracking visitors from nations that the Justice Department believes have active terrorist networks. Men and boys older than 16, primarily from Middle Eastern and African countries who are in the United States on temporary visas, are required by the government to register with the immigration service.
The Dec. 16 deadline applied to visitors from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Libya.
Civil libertarians have criticized the program as a form of racial profiling because it singles out visitors from mostly Muslim countries.
Ziazadeh, who is from Iran, did not return telephone messages. His
father, Michael Ziazadeh, said his son learned the news this week.
“He's very, very happy. You would be, too, if you were him,''
he said. Michael Ziazadeh, who is an American citizen, had objected
to the treatment of his son ``like a criminal,'' echoing criticism
from civil libertarians that the government has criminalized visa
DR. EDEN NABY’S TALK IN LAS VEGAS
A lecture by Eden Naby (Frye), PhD
Topic: How a Saddam War would affect the last Aramaic speaking Christian presence in the Middle East.
Dr. Naby is a Columbia University trained cultural historian of
Central Asia with a particular interest in ethnic interaction and
minorities in the Middle East. She has taught at Columbia, Harvard
and elsewhere, has served as a consultant to 60 MINUTES as well
as other radio and TV news programs, and taught as a Peace Corps
volunteer in Afghanistan. She is currently engaged in building Assyrian
collections at American universities, especially at Harvard
Aside from many articles and book chapters, she is co- author of THE MODERNIZATION OF INNER ASIA (1995) and a monograph on AFGHANISTAN: MULLAH, MARX AND MUJAHID (Westview Press , hardback 1998, 2000, 2002), and two Assyrian related exhibits at Harvard University (with accompanying catalogues). She lectures extensively on both Central Asia and on Assyrian topics.
This program is part of a series sponsored by the Assyrian American Society of Las Vegas (AASLV, a non-profit 501 c 3 corporation) in cooperation with the Las Vegas Public Library System. For further information, contact Dr. Sargon Odishoo at 702-360-1709.
Date: Saturday February 1st, 2003
Time: Doors open at 3:00 PM, lecture starts at 3:30 PM
The public is welcome!
Assyrian American Society of Las Vegas
NEW ISSUE OF HUGOYE: JOURNAL OF SYRIAC STUDIES
(ZNDA: New Jersey) Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute (http://www.bethmardutho.org)
has published a new issue of its peer-reviewed academic periodical
Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies (Vol. 6, No. 1). The issue is
available electronically on the Institute's home page. This issue
features four papers and nine book reviews, in addition to publication
announcements, conference announcements, and advertisements.
Barabara Aland, Andreas Juckel, eds., Das Neue Testament in syrischer
Überlieferung. II Die paulinischen Briefe, Teil 3: 1./2. Thessalonicherbrief,
1./2. Timotheusbrief, Titusbrief, Philemonbrief und Hebräerbrief.
Gary A. Anderson, The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish
and Christian Imagination.
David Wilmshurst, The Ecclesiastical Organisation of the Church
of the East, 1318-1913.
Pier Giorgio Borbone, Storia di Mar Yahballaha e di Rabban Sauma.
Un orientale in Occidente ai tempi di Marco Polo.
Christoph Luxenberg (ps.) Die syro-aramaeische Lesart des Koran;
Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung der Qur'ansprache.
Aho Shemunkasho, Healing in the Theology of Saint Ephrem.
Kees den Biesen, Bibliography of St. Ephrem the Syrian.
Wheeler M. Thackston, Introduction to Syriac.
MAJORITY & MINORITY: A CASE FOR STUDY
During the week of January 6th through 10th, 2003, a public campaign was organized for the support of what is called “a unique Chaldean nation.” During this campaign, Bishop Sarhad Jammo, the champion of this separatist movement, presented a lecture titled Chaldean Renaissance. In his lecture the bishop basically relied on a statement by a late 19th century Chaldean Catholic Church Patriarch, Yousif Audo, who had mentioned what the bishop called “the Chaldean nation”. The bishop additionally presented statements by two other Catholic clergymen - Addai Scher and Shmouel Jameel - who have mentioned the mythical geographical term Chaldo-Athur. The rest of the lecture meanwhile was about bits and pieces of some general information that has nothing to do with arguing the essence and of the so-called Chaldean Renaissance in my opinion.
An English dictionary defines the word ‘Renaissance’ as “revival” or “rebirth”. Both meanings stress the process of a resurrection of something that was originally there but has been lost. In other words, one cannot revive something that did not exist in the first place! Historically, northern Iraq was Assyrian; our church records called Assyria’s bishops as “bishops of Athur” and “bishops of Nineveh” into the Dark Ages. Historically, the region of today's northern Iraq was never presented as Chaldean, whether geographically or ethnically. Claiming that few clergymen have used that name lately (after the Chaldean Catholic Church was established in 1830 and the title Chaldean was popularized by the Vatican) does not justify legitimizing this title. Therefore, I wonder what Bishop Jammo is referring to when he calls for the revival and rebirth of something? Where was Chaldo, if Chaldo ever existed in the first place? Why would anybody legitimize and propagate the non-existent? Why would anybody emphasize the exception or the insignificant? This puzzles me.
The Assyrians can, for example, start a campaign of the Syriac language Renaissance because Syriac had a rich history, which is for all practical purposes dead. Bishop Jammo, could have spoken in his lecture about the Renaissance of the Syriac language among the Catholic congregations who in general uses Arabic and Kurdish these days due to the policies of Arabization and Kurdification! But he brought up the issue of population of the members of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq and made comparisons to those of the Church of the East in a questionable attempt to justify his claims. He stated that the Christians were about 5% of the total population in Iraq and that the Chaldeans made 3-3.5% and that the members of the other groups from the Church of the East and Syrian Orthodox Church were about 1.5-2%.
Furthermore, few individuals in the Chaldean Catholic Church have in the last couple years claimed that their numbers in Iraq were around 800,000 while the other Christian groups totaled around 200,000. What do these figures represent and are they reliable? Fact is that there has been no accurate and reliable census in Iraq in the last forty years. In the 1970s and 1980s censuses, for example, the Iraqi government manipulated the numbers by forcing, sometimes under threats, the Assyrians to register as Arabs or Kurds. The Chaldean Catholic Church meanwhile asked its members to officially register as Arabs in the Arab regions and Kurds in the Kurdish regions to avoid conflict; this we know for a fact. Therefore, any reports on figures are misleading and one cannot verify their accuracy. Furthermore, issues relating to how one religious congregation is bigger than another within the same ethnic group is really insignificance when discussing national issues.
It does not take much to analyze the issue of the Christian population in and around the Mosul Province and what each sect represents and the reasons behind the population increase of one sect and the decrease of the other. Let us look at the issue and analyze some early figures.
To start, it is important to understand that for at least two thousands years the Christians in the region of Mosul and its immediate surroundings were living under one political power. There was of course an exception during the short period when part of the population fell under the Roman rule while the other under the Persian. With the coming of the Arabs, Mongols, and Ottomans the Christian communities were basically not separated from the political and geographical point of view; they lived within an identified geographical boundaries and under one political power. It was not until the conclusion of World War One and the 1919 Peace Conference in Paris that the countries of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and others were founded and new borders drawn. Therefore, to look at the Nestorian community as being from Turkey while the Chaldean as being from Iraq is really ludicrous. Additionally, the majority of the Chaldeans of the Mosul plain were Nestorians too until around the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Therefore, those who bring such arguments are impractical. Furthermore, we have to understand that the Nestorians in 1918 moved to the same region as Chaldeans did before Iraq as a country was officially founded in 1921. Therefore, the Nestorians are not some sort of newcomers to Iraq because Iraq did not exist in 1918 to start with.
Now let us look at some figures.
In the middle of the 19th century, and before the Kurdish Badr Khan Massacre of the Assyrians in the Hakkari Mountains (1842-1847), Perkins (1843: p.10) estimated the population of Nestorians in Hakkari at 110,000 (H.L. Murre-Van Den Berg, “From Spoken to a Written Language”, Leiden, 1999, p. 39). Still, Fortescue (The Lesser Eastern Churches, p. 159) estimated the number of the Nestorian Assyrians in Hakkari to 100,000 prior to 1914. Yohanan, however, gives the figure at 190,000, but it is not clear if this figure includes those who became Catholics (John Stewart, “Nestorian Missionary Enterprise: A Church on Fire”, Trichur, India, 1961, p. 314). Meanwhile, Badger estimated total numbers of Nestorian Assyrians in Turkey and Iran before the Kurdish massacres at 100,000-140,000 (H.L. Murre-Van Den Berg, “From Spoken to a Written Language”, Leiden, 1999, p. 40).
In the same period, Badger counted some 10,458 Chaldeans of which the majority lived in the Mosul plain. Towards the end of the 19th century the number had risen to about 17,700 in the southern part and 16,700 in the Salamas region (total 34,400). In 1913, according to Chevalier (Chevalier 1985: p.132), based on the Annuario Pontificio of 1914, the number of Chaldeans had risen to 24,000 and 19,200 respectively (total 43,200) (H.L. Murre-Van Den Berg, “From Spoken to a Written Language”, Leiden, 1999, p. 40).
Speaking about the city of Mosul in late 19th century, while still under Ottoman Turks, Sarah Shields writes:
“In 1886-1887 the government tried to figure out how to deal fairly with the dispute between the Nestorians and the Chaldeans. The Catholic conversion effort had been so effective that the Nestorian Patriarch was left with 550 adherents, two churches, and four priests in the city, while the Roman-connected Chaldeans had 650 adherents, two churches, a bishop, and six priests and monks” (Sarah D. Shields, “Mosul Before Iraq: Like Bees Making Five-Sided Cells”, State University of New York Press, p. 47]). Even in the city of Telkaif, the center of the population that calls its self today Chaldean, the author reports that the Nestorian Patriarch still had 750 people, one church, and seven priests, while the Chaldeans had 1,150 people, two churches, and eight priests (Sarah D. Shields, “Mosul Before Iraq: Like Bees Making Five-Sided Cells”, State University of New York Press, fn. 66, p. 221).
From the above we can conclude that until the middle of the 19th century the Nestorian community was still relatively bigger than that of the Chaldean in the Mosul Province and the localities around it, i.e. south of Turkey and Urmia regions. It seems too that around the end of the 19th century the two sides were almost even. All historical accounts attest the fact that it was only in the beginning of the 20th century that the Chaldean side surpassed the Nestorian and this was due to the continuous conversion of the Nestorians to Catholicism and the perishing of a much larger Nestorian population compared to the Chaldean population during WWI. This does not belittle from the lost of life of many Catholics in regions of Saart, Mardin and Jezira during WWI.
Abd Al-Razzaq al-Hussayni writes that the Governorate of the Mosul Liwa sent an official letter numbered S-200 dated July 12, 1933, to the Interior Ministry indicating the Assyrian families who accepted and rejected the League of Nations decision dated December 14, 1932 regarding the Assyrian issue and their settlement in Iraq. According to this official letter the number of the Assyrian families ‘polled’ were 5,650 families (Abd Al-Razzaq al-Hussayni, “The History of the Iraqi Cabinets” or Tareekh al-Wazarat al-Iraqiya, Part III, in Arabic, 2nd edition, Sidon, 1953, p. 243). If 5,650 families have expressed their sentiments from the decision of the League, there must have been other families who did not care to express their opinion for one reason or another or they were simply not contacted. Hence, it is reasonable to conclude that there were at least 7,000 or 8,000 Nestorian Assyrian families in Mosul Liwa in 1932 according to the Iraqi figures at the time. If the average family consisted of 6 members, a moderate figure considering that Assyrian families in the villages were bigger in those days, therefore, Mosul Liwa alone had between 42,000 and 48,000 Nestorian Assyrians in 1932. This figure is not unreasonable because we know that more than 80,000 Christians, mainly Nestorians, fled Urmia in 1918. We know too that some of these were massacred and others perished because of hunger among other conditions. Still, a large percentage of this population entered a region, which became later known as Iraq. Therefore, it is reasonable and safe to assume that there were at least 50,000 Nestorians in the newly founded country Iraq in 1921.
After the Semele massacre of the Nestorian Assyrians in 1933 in Iraq, many others converted to Catholicism and became hence Chaldeans. This was due to the well-known reason that the Chaldeans were in good terms with the Iraqi government, while the Nestorians in general were persecuted with the exception of certain group of malik Khoshaba who was on good terms with the government. The Chaldeans had representatives in the Iraqi parliament and ministers in government and the Chaldean Patriarch was a Senator in the Iraqi Senate. Other Nestorian Assyrians escaped to Syria, for example, and their numbers decreased ultimately compared to that of Chaldean Assyrians.
Yusif Hermiz Jammo (Sarhad Jammo’s father) wrote on page 113 of his book that the Chaldean population in Iraq in 1937, was 100,000 (Yusif Hermiz Jammo, “The Remains of Nineveh or the History of Telkaif”, Baghdad 1937, reprint in 1993 Detroit).
If we consider all variables that play a factor in the growth of any specific population, including birthrate, natural and non-natural deaths, one-way immigration and others, could the Chaldean population have increased 8 folds within 3 generations (from 1940-2000), which means an increase of approximately 3 folds during any given single generation? In other words, how did the 100,000 Chaldeans figure of 1937 reach 800,000 in 2000, as few claim today?
Previously I explained that there were some 40,000 to 50,000 Nestorians in Iraq in 1921. If we apply the Chaldean Assyrians example on the Nestorian Assyrians then the 50,000 Nestorians within 4 generations (1921-2000) should have then increased 12 folds. Therefore, with simple math we can conclude that today the Nestorian population in Iraq should be around 600,000. If Bishop Sarhad Jammo claims in his lecture that the Assyrians and Suryanis make 1.5% of the total Christian population in Iraq, i.e. the Nestorian Assyrians alone are some 100,000 or 150,000, what happened to the remainder of the 600,000?
From the above revelations many conclusions can be reached. It is obvious that many Nestorian Assyrians (members of the Church of the East) continued to convert to Catholicism and be labeled Chaldeans even in the early 20th century. The Chaldeans did not make the Christian majority in the region until later in the 20th century. Furthermore, to claim that this Christian religious sect known as Chaldean is an ethnic group and that it is separate from the Assyrians is a myth according to a ton of historical evidence, including Bishop Sarhad Jammo’s own father (in his book “The Remains of Nineveh or the History of Telkaif”) and our beloved Chaldean Catholic Church Patriarch, Mar Raphael I BiDawid (in his live interview on the Lebanese Broadcasting Company), who attested to the fact that the Christians of northern Iraq were Assyrians.
I only hope that our people would reinvestigate these matters in a more logical manner using all the historical, archaeological and church records available to us today. We cannot build our history on the foundation of what one or two clergymen stated; our study must be thorough and inclusive.
BROWN UNIVERISTY SENIORS 'CRACK' CUNEIFORM TABLETS
Visitors to the John Hay Library sometimes ask, "How old is your oldest book?" Answer: 4,000+ years old.
The Library holds 27 cuneiform tablets and cones from ancient Mesopotamia, none of which had been translated until two seniors in Visiting Professor Alice Slotsky's class, Ancient Scientific Writings: Akkadian, undertook an elective project to decipher two of the tablets.
Cuneiform writing was, for close to 3000 years, one of the principal media of literate civilization. This almost matches the length of time for which our own alphabet has been in common use. Brown's collection of ancient Mesopotamian clay tablets covers this long span of time and includes both Sumerian and Akkadian examples, both of which were written in cuneiform script.
The Sumerians and Akkadians lived harmoniously in the same geographical area, the region between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, but they spoke two dramatically different and unrelated languages. Sumerian was the language of a people who migrated to southern Mesopotamia in the late 4th millennium BC. To this day, we do not know to which language family it belongs. Akkadian, on the other hand, is the earliest attested member of the Semitic family of languages. It was written and spoken by both the Assyrians and Babylonians. The writing was invented by the Sumerians and subsequently adapted for Akkadian and other languages, including Elamite in Iran and Hittite in Anatolia.
Both languages were written using a reed or wooden stylus that made impressions of simple shapes on soft clay. To read what was written on letters, legal documents, and literary and scientific texts, knowledge of some 200-300 cuneiform characters made up out of combinations of wedges and lines was adequate, but there is no way of knowing what percentage of the population possessed this basic literacy. Anything resembling formal education was primarily for the purpose of training scribes, not only to read and write but also to occupy administrative positions in palaces and temples. Most modern scholars believe that few people were literate in any given period of Mesopotamian history, and that, by and large, literacy was limited mostly to a small professional class of scribes. All had to undergo long training and much practice, like any other craftsmen, and having completed it, became members of a privileged class entitled to call themselves DUB.SAR "scribe." They were mostly male, although a few female scribes are known. Some became ordinary scribes earning their living in the streets, while others were employed by the palace or the temple. Some of these rose to be the literati of their day.
The project to translate cuneiform tablets in the Library's collection was a completely elective component of Professor Alice Slotsky's class, HM0232 (Ancient Scientific Writing: Akkadian). Two students enthusiastically rose to the challenge. Both are graduating seniors and advanced Akkadian students. Virginia Rimmer is an archaeology major who is going on to an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Ancient Near East dept. Nicholas Kammer is an economics major and will be starting at the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall.
Both tablets chosen for the project turned out to be economic texts written in Sumerian, not Akkadian. Since the students are proficient in Akkadian but not Sumerian this is was a trial by error operation for both of them. They are poring over Sumerian cuneiform sign lists for the first time in their lives, and using books of parallel published tablets to try to crack the cuneiform and the translation.
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