ASSYRIANS ON THE WAY TO LEARN POLITICS?
Zinda Magazine, for sure, deserves our praises. It has actually been sending a message of great meaning: Assyrians, engage in politics, the nerve of life and the savior or breaker of all nations.
A week ago, I discussed with three Assyrian politicians, all senior officials in the Syrian communist parties, why Assyrian question in homeland has not been promoted nationwide in Syria even if through non-Assyrian factions. In fact, all the three agreed that Assyrians have been “depoliticized, consequently disempowered, long time ago, the thing that makes us feel we were going to advocate a loser’s cause.” Of course, this is sad.
Mr. Aprim Shapira’s “The Fear of Politics” has blamed it all on the 1933 massacre in Semele and its repercussions on Assyrian psychology. On the other hand, Assyrians, followers of different religious sects, were the starters of pan-Arab and national movements, the thing which implies that Assyrians have never quit politics and never feared it. Tariq Aziz is just an example, not to mention the founders of several communist and Arab nationalist parties in Iraq and Syria. Actually, I find myself compelled to admit that those intellectuals, including the Greek Orthodox Michael Aflaq, the founder of Baath Party and Antoine Sa’adi, the founder of the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, have found the Assyrian cause unappealing, especially after Assyrians failed to achieve any considerable success in their strife for independence early in the 20th century.
In fact, the Maronites in Lebanon set a good example in the modern times for what led Assyrians to be toothless, disempowered people. Maronites fought united at the beginning of the Lebanese civil war in 1975. They were strong and influential. They split. Their sway in Lebanon has been waning during the past decade. External powers are playing them off against each others. Nowadays, they are migrating; their numbers are dwindling; and they are feeling weak and disabled. And, they fear now Lebanon’s Muslim majority will even take the Lebanese presidency from them sometime in the near future.
With Assyrians, the same has happened with some differences. The Assyrian struggle for freedom began early in the 20th century. But, Assyrians were not united from the onset. I dare here say that the Assyrian nationalist movement was “Nestorian” to the letter. Neither Chaldeans nor Orthodox Syriacs have militarily participated in the struggle led by the Nestorian Mar Shamouns and some other militant leaders such as the well-known Agha Patrous, a Nestorian who converted to Catholicism. Nationalist schism has played, and is still playing, the major role in sending Assyrians from one gap into another deeper one for more than a century. Assyrians are also migrating to the West. Their numbers are sharply slipping down in homeland countries. External powers (Kurds for example) are playing us off against each others in Iraq. Now, Assyrians feel weak and disabled. However, they haven’t held any political official positions since the fall of Orhai – or Asrouina – in the early centuries A.D.
The only outstanding Assyrian feat was preserving their existence through time, thanks to God
I think everybody agrees that Assyrians can righteously boast they are the most ancient people on earth, who survived the history’s ugliest genocides and massacres.
The picture is not all black. There are some bright spots.
The three past decades have witnessed a major Assyrian involvement in national politics, thanks to Zowaa in Iraq and ADO in Syria. Both factions have followers from all Assyrian denominations. And, they are wisely and cautiously addressing our internal chronic problems with moving, at the same time, forward on the long road of gaining the legitimate rights of the Assyrian people at home. Also, the Syriac Orthodox pontiff has sent a clear message supporting our people’s nationalist rights in post-war Iraq. The majority of Chaldean clergymen have agreed that Zowaa is the representative of the Chaldo-Assyrian people in the Iraqi interim Governing Council. No doubt, Mar Denkha’s statements three or four months ago were remarkable. He has, for the first time, admitted that the Assyrian, Syriac, Chaldean and Aramaic names all apply to one single ethnic group.
The recent voices of schism have not been loud so far, thanks to the awareness raised among Assyrians in the past two or three decades by major parties in home and in Diaspora.
The moment of truth has come for Assyrians. Intellectuals and prominent figures are gathering in Baghdad. They have one task: make a decisive choice whether to be or not to be. This is the most crucial time in decades for Assyrians to decide their political fate on the land that embraces their forefathers’ and foremothers’ bones, flesh, crosses, winged bulls and hanged gardens. Shall we unite?
Abraham, a reporter for the Associated Press in Damascus, is Zinda
Magazine’s special correspondent in Syria and a regular
contributor to the pages of this publication.]
WILL POST-WAR IRAQ ACCEPT
"The constitution subcommittee has proposed language for the constitution that says, 'Islam is the majority religion in Iraq,'" said Ken Joseph, a Protestant minister of Assyrian descent who moved to Iraq early this year and is an active leader in his community. "All the Muslim members of the Governing Council support this line or a position that is even more privileged for Islam, so that is 24 out of 25 members."
Yonadan Kanna, an Assyrian, is the only non-Muslim on the council, said Joseph.
"What this means," said Joseph, "is that two tracks will be set up in Iraq like in all other Muslim countries. Most Iraqis believe that democracy means majority rule. So whatever the majority wants and is, is what should be. They have no Western-style understanding of minority rights."
Joseph said that though most Iraqis are politically secular and do not want an Islamic state, "They are intimidated by the radicals. They are afraid that the Americans will leave in two or three years and the radicals will take over."
A Zogby Poll of Iraqis released September 10 found that 60% wanted a secular government rather than an Islamic one. Thirty-seven per cent picked the United States as a model for government while 28% chose Saudi Arabia. Only 40% said democracy could work in Iraq.
A State Department official familiar with the issue said the United States is giving Iraqis great latitude in drafting its own constitution. But "we would like a strong declaration of religious freedom included," he said. He agreed with Joseph's contention that even under pro-Western Arab regimes in Egypt and Jordan, non-Muslims face significant discrimination. "We want to set up a model for democracy in Iraq," he said, "but that does not preclude an Islamic dimension to that."
Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House, traveled to Iraq in July and met with senior Christian leaders. He said, "The United States did not appear sufficiently cognizant of the dangers. To my knowledge, the CPA [Coalition for Provisional Authority] there has not appointed anyone to deal with religious issues."
Marshall argued that there was a simple way for the United States to insist on religious freedom in Iraq without seeming "imperialistic." "Use international human rights standards such as the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights," he said. "Who could object to them?"
Marshall said that "blasphemy laws and apostasy laws"
were his greatest concerns for Iraq based on the experience of
other Muslim countries. "Blasphemy laws have been used to
criminalize criticism of implementing Islamic law," he said.
"Apostasy laws mean that a Muslim who converts to Christianity
could face death."
Joseph A. D'Agostino
[Joseph D’Agostino is an Associate Editor of the Human Events, a weekly conservative publication. The article was posted on 22 September. Former Associate Editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report, he holds a B.A. in Classical Studies from the University of Chicago. He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, Cox News, Al-Jazeera, and numerous radio shows.]
TWO ASSYRIANS SHOT & KILLED IN IRAQ
(ZNDA: Baghdad) According to Rev. Ken Joseph reporting for Zinda Magazine from Baghdad, two Assyrian men were shot to death on 12 October in Faluja, Iraq. Danny Isaac and William Cesar were killed in front of their homes. Both men were apparently killed due to collaboration with the U.S. forces stationed.
According to the family members a person who knew both men arrived at the front door of their home on al-Khardia (May 1st Street) and ordered them out and shot both men.
The remaining ten family members have requested protection from the coalition forces - 82nd Airborne 3rd Hd. and Georgia Unit 314, but has received no repsonse.
According to Rev. Joseph their families and “many others
like them” are in danger and fear for their lives.
ADM OFFICE ATTACKED IN KIRKUK
Courtesy of the Elaph Newspaper (19 October); translated from Arabic.
(ZNDA: Kirkuk) A rocket-propelled grenade hit the office of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) in Kirkuk on Sunday, 19 October.
Jevan Jres, 29, a member of the ADM was slightly injured during the attack. Mr. Isaac Zakaria, a representative of the ADM, explained to the Agence France Press that this incident in Kirkuk was the first of its kind and that the Assyrian Christians are peaceful people who want to serve Iraq and seek the unity of all people. He continued that Assyrians are an integral part of the country.
Zakaria added that Kirkuk has 400,000 Assyrians; however, the local
officials estimate the Assyrian population to be around 250,000
SEVERAL ASSYRIAN POLITICAL PARTIES OBJECT TO BAGHDAD CONFERENCE PLANNING
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian National Conference takes place this week at the Tammuz Hall of the Ishtar Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq. The Conference will convene under the auspice of Dr. Ayad Alawi, the interim president of the Iraqi Governing Council.
The conference is organized by the Assyrian Democratic Movement and the Assyrian Democratic Organization. Invitations were sent by the Preparatory Committee to a large number of Iraqi political organizations and groups including this publication. The opening ceremonies re scheduled to commence on October 22.
The following is a copy of the letter signed by the heads of several Assyrian political groups submitted earlier this month. At press time none of the signatories of this letter are expected to attend the conference.
October 7, 2003
Dear Preparatory Committee,
Please be advised that to this date of October 7, 2003 we have not heard from you or any other source concerning the postponed conference of September. We can only assume that no conference will be held in October, however we have heard that some individuals are going to Baghdad for a visit.
For your information several of the invitations were received three or more days after the deadline you set for participation.
We know it is imperative to have a conference in Iraq so we can reach an agreement and support the concerns of our people in Iraq.
The conditions outlined in your invitation make it difficult if not impossible to be united and of one voice.
We members of the Amsterdam Conference, you the Organizing Committee and other political groups must as soon as possible meet in a conference and agree on one presentation in order to have any influence for our people in the new government.
We must immediately if not sooner make the agreed presentation to all of the following: to the Iraq Governing Council, and representative Yonadam Y. Kanna, to the US Civil Administrator Ambassador Paul Bremer, to the Coalition Provisional Authority, to the new Reconstruction Task Force of the US National Security Council, to the 25 member Constitutional Preparatory Committee and appointed member Prof. Hikmat Hakim, to the American Congress, to President George W. Bush and his administration, to the major governments of the world, to the UN and to the world media. Time is of the essence.
We suggest that you proceed with us to call a conference immediately and include all the political participants and advisors, so we can come up with a proposal for our Nation. We can all meet in Baghdad to agree on a unified proposal for presentation. Please allow a three week notice for making travel arrangements.
We have a number of suggestions and proposals for your consideration, which we will send upon your request.
Please let us hear from you at your earliest convenience.
Assyrian Democratic Party, Yonan Houma
ASSYRIAN WOMAN WHO LOST CHILDREN & HER SIGHT IN IRAQ STRUGGLES TO COPE
Courtesy of the San Diego Union-Tribune ( 20 October); by Angela Lau
(ZNDA: San Diego) Majdolin Yonan's eyelids are sunken, the sockets empty. But she can still picture her 2½-year-old daughter, Valantina, who died when bombs hit their apartment building in Mosul, Iraq.
Remembering how her daughter slept and played is an obsession for the 24-year-old, who lost both eyes in the late March war raid.
She cannot see the frightful condition of her own once-beautiful features, although she can feel the haphazard ridges of scars that crisscross her face from the 250 stitches required to repair shrapnel damage.
Majdolin's unborn son, who was to be named David, did not survive an emergency Caesarean section at the Iraqi hospital where doctors saved her life.
When Wardiya Yonan first saw Majdolin's image on the Al-Jazeera television network at midnight on April 1, she didn't recognize her younger sister.
The news broadcast showed a woman with eyes and forehead covered in bandages and her face darkened by black stitches.
"I thought, 'Oh my God! God help this lady,' " said Wardiya, 35, who lives in El Cajon. Then the TV screen showed Majdolin's wedding picture and an image of Valantina.
Wardiya, who arrived in San Diego 2½ years ago, immediately began a quest to help her sister.
With the aid of her congressman, the Red Cross and the International Communities Services Center, she managed to bring her sister to the United States for medical care.
"She is first in my life, and my life is second," Wardiya said of the sacrifices she has made for Majdolin, who now lives with her. "I love her."
While no official estimate of Iraqi civilian casualties exists, an Associated Press analysis concluded that at least 3,240 civilians died during the war.
The Department of Defense has not verified whether the U.S. military mistakenly bombed Majdolin Yonan's residence, as her relatives have claimed. News reports indicated intense bombardments by U.S.-led forces on enemy positions near Mosul that day.
Majdolin hides her short black hair – cut in Iraq to facilitate surgeries – under a black felt hat and hides her eyes behind sunglasses. She walks with uncertainty, even when supported by her sister.
She welcomes any human touch as if it were a rarity, and shows her gratitude with a slight smile that lifts her misshapen lips.
"If anyone had told me I won't see for the rest of my life, I wish I had died," Majdolin said shortly after she and her husband arrived in July on temporary visas to receive medical treatment. Majdolin's husband, Bashar Salloe, 33, lost his left eye in the bombing.
A local team of ophthalmologists, plastic surgeons and ear, nose and throat specialists, a dentist and a gynecologist have volunteered their services.
Although Majdolin recently overheard a doctor's comments in Arabic, suggesting she probably will never see again because she lost her eyeballs, her illusions linger. She hangs onto the hope that the land of medical miracles can produce one for her.
"If Americans can make rockets, they can help me see again," she says as her sister translates.
If she could have just one functioning eye, Majdolin tells her sister, she'd be able to bathe herself, cook her meals and, maybe, have children again.
Majdolin, who is Catholic, once dreamed that the Virgin Mary granted her two eyes in return for her unflagging faith.
But just one would be good enough, she says in mellifluous Chaldean.
The reality is, said Dr. Lawrence Cooper, an ophthalmologist who examined her, that Majdolin will not see again.
Wardiya refuses to translate questions to Majdolin about how she fared under Saddam Hussein because of the risk of further upsetting her.
Wardiya, who came to the United States 2½ years ago from Iraq, expressed her own frustration at increasing lawlessness after the war.
"OK, Saddam Hussein is a bad man. Every day we hear about how much more dangerous and how much more bad it was under Saddam Hussein," Wardiya said. "But what happened to my country after Saddam Hussein? They don't have water, electricity, security. My family said they have to lock their doors after 6 p.m. You think this is a better life or freedom? It's just more bad, nothing good."
But none of the politics matter, Wardiya said.
"My mind is too stressed out, and I'm too busy to worry about Saddam Hussein or anyone else. I don't have time to feel anything," she said. "I just want to help my sister."
While Majdolin waits for medical appointments and hopes for the unlikely to materialize, she spends her days in the El Cajon apartment she and her husband share with her sister.
"When she talks, she talks about her daughter – how she moved, how she slept, what she liked to eat. I have to change the subject every time," Wardiya said.
"I never can cry when she's with me. I have to drive my car for five minutes, cry and come back. If I cried, she'd ask me, 'Why you cry? You think my eyes don't have a chance?'
"It's too hard to tell her, 'You're going to be like this all your life,' " Wardiya said, her face red from suppressing tears.
Difficult as it may be to break the truth to Majdolin, it should
be done soon, Dr. Cooper said.
To help her accept her new life, Majdolin needs psychological help, said Dr. Geva Mannor, an eye plastic surgeon at Scripps Clinic. He will perform plastic surgery on Majdolin's eyelids and fill the lost volume caused by missing ocular eye tissue.
"She would benefit from counseling and support – medical, social, psychological or religious. That's more important than any of the surgery I might do," Mannor said.
But the $368 Wardiya earns each week as a cashier and buffet waitress at Sycuan Casino is stretched thin. She cannot afford paid medical care or long-term counseling for Majdolin.
Majdolin's trust fund – established with donations from San Diegans – has dwindled from around $11,000 to $5,000, Wardiya said.
"We have a lot of Chaldean organizations here, but nobody helped me. Everybody gave me their back," she said.
Sam Abbod, who co-owned the former Chaldean-Assyrian American Social Club in El Cajon, where Wardiya first made her case for her sister, said if the Chaldean community helped the Yonans, it would have to help everyone else who was maimed or lost loved ones in the war.
"The community will be broke in two days," he said. "Helping one and leaving thousands behind is not a good Samaritan."
Many Chaldeans, who are Catholic, fled to the United States to escape persecution because of their religion and anti-Saddam Hussein political views, Abbod said.
Raymond Barno, director for the International Community Services Center, said he will try to find Majdolin a pro bono counselor. Barno donated his time taking Yonan to the Red Cross to search for her sister's whereabouts, writing letters to Iraqi hospitals, filling out immigration papers and contacting the office of Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-San Diego, to help Majdolin and her husband obtain visas.
Loretta Moore, an instructor for the San Diego Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired, said her agency will contact Majdolin to offer help in counseling and rehabilitation.
When Majdolin first arrived, she and her husband lived in an apartment Wardiya shared with an aunt and uncle. Now three of them have moved to a separate apartment in El Cajon, leaving the uncle and aunt behind. In the old place, Wardiya slept on a living room couch while Majdolin and her husband used the available bedroom.
Wardiya still bathes her sister, feeds her, paints her toenails and fingernails to match her clothes and calls her "my daughter" and "my love" in Chaldean. She cooks and does laundry for Majdolin and her husband, who, by cultural habit, does not perform household chores – although he folds his laundry when asked.
"I feel like I have the world on my hands," Wardiya says.
Majdolin's husband, who cannot speak English, looks on glumly, if not helplessly. He says he feels as though his life is gone. He cries when he's alone. He wants to return to Iraq to his family, and he wonders why no visible progress has been made in his wife's situation.
Wardiya has lost 20 pounds since her sister's ordeal began on March 31, the day of the bombing. On a recent Sunday, she passed out while on duty at the casino and was taken to an emergency room. She knows it comes from shouldering her sister's troubles.
"What can I do?" she asks.
"A lot of people tell me you can't stop your life for your sister.
"I answer: I promised her – if she wants to be with me, I'll be with her all my life. I don't want her to feel I forgot about her because I have a separate life."
Most of the day, Majdolin sits beside her husband in the living room. She doesn't speak or move much. Her family knows she is recalling the life that was and dreading the future.
One moment, she giggles at jokes. Another, she lapses into silence, stroking her forehead with her fingertips.
"I want to know whose fault this is. Is this my fault?"
she asks. "Is it my president's fault? Is it Americans' fault?"
ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST IN AUSTRALIA PARTICIPATES IN THE BALI REMEMBRANCE SERVICE
(ZNDA: Sydney) On Sunday 12 October 2002, Bali Remembrance Services were held throughout Australia on the first anniversary of the terrorist attack that took place in Bali, Indonesia. 202 people died, 88 of whom were Australian.
The Assyrian Church of the East was invited to participate at the Bali Remembrance Service that took place at the War Memorial in Sydney Hyde Park. The ceremony was attended by the Governor of NSW Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, Hon Alan Cadman representing the Prime Minister of Australia, the Consul of Indonesia Mr Hertomo Reksodiputro S.H, as well as other distinguished guests, including representatives from four Middle Eastern Churches.
The ceremony consisted of statements made by government and church representatives, hymns and prayer. Deacon Genard Lazar from the Assyrian Church led the Responsive Prayer at the Service.
As with other participants, The Assyrian Church of the East presented the following statement on the occasion, which was given by Mr. Ashur Isaac, on behalf of His Grace Bishop Mar Meelis Zaia:
The Assyrian Church of the East shares in the grief of all those who have lost their loved ones, all those who have had their lives injured by the bombing - by this hideous crime of inhumanity.
The world of the 21st century is still far from perfect, yet any fanatical group that uses such criminal means of communicating their discord attracts nothing but a condemnation of their ideology. Such an ideology is removed from the reality of peace. The perpetrators of this crime have shown us that their fanatical beliefs have nothing positive to offer humanity. They do not offer an individual a chance at experiencing the fullness of life. Instead, fear, intimidation and destruction are the means by which these groups use in an attempt to terrorise others into conformity.
Yet we celebrate the giving of life, we work hard to heal the wounds of the body and the spirit. One year after the horrible act that touched our lives, we have only grown stronger in our resolve that peace is to be cherished, nurtured and protected.
Pray for peace. Pray for our governments to nurture the good will that exists between our countries. Pray for wisdom as the people whom we have democratically elected to represent us, work out the means by which peace can be protected - so that every individual can have his or her opportunity for the fullness of life as the True God intends.
For the children who have been orphaned, for the people who have been widowed, for those who have lost dear members of their families and loved friends, we stand beside you - our hearts share your grief; our arms are around you. You are in our prayers and our spirit is with you.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ continue to bring healing - strength for the heart, the mind and the spirit. And may His guidance help us fulfil the hope of true peace amongst our nations.
During the ceremony, the names of the 88 Australians who died were read out as children lit candles and laid an arrangement of flowers in the sign of the cross.
Courtesy of ChronWatch (15 October); by Parker Ames
(ZNDA: Tokyo) Assyrian minister (raised in Japan) and ''peace activist'' Ken Joseph Jr., writing for Townhall.com, recounts his experiences in Iraq right before the war started, and how his views were completely transformed as a result.
How do you admit you were wrong? What do you do when you realize those you were defending in fact did not want your defense and wanted something completely different from you and from the world?
This is my story. It will probably upset everybody--those with whom I have fought for peace all my life and those for whom the decision for war comes a bit too fast.
I am an Assyrian. I was born and raised in Japan where I am the second generation in ministry after my father came to Japan in answer to General Douglas Macarthur's call for 10,000 young people to help rebuild Japan following the war.
As a minister and due to my personal convictions I have always been against war for any and all reasons. It was precisely this moral conviction that led me to do all I could to stop the current war in Iraq.
From participating in demonstrations against the war in Japan to strongly opposing it on my radio program, on television and in regular columns I did my best to stand against what I thought to be an unjust war against an innocent people--in fact my people.
As an Assyrian I was told the story of our people from a young age. How my grandparents had escaped the great Assyrian Holocaust in 1917 settling finally in Chicago.
Currently there are approximately six million Assyrians--approximately 2.5 million in Iraq and the rest scattered in the Assyrian Diaspora across the world.
Without a country and rights even in our native land it has been the prayer of generations that the Assyrian Nation will one day be restored and the people of the once great Assyrian Empire will once again be home.
It was with that feeling, together with supplies for our church and family that I went to Iraq to do all I could to help make a difference.
The feeling as I crossed the border was exhilarating--''home at last'' thought as I would for the first time visit the land of my forefathers.
The kindness of the border guards when they learned I was Assyrian, the taxi, the people on the street, it was like being back ''home'' after a long absence.
Now I finally know myself! The laid back, relaxed atmosphere, the kindness to strangers, the food, the smells, the language all seemed to trigger a long lost memory somewhere in my deepest DNA.
The first order of business was to attend church. It was here where my morals were raked over the coals and I was first forced to examine them in the harsh light of reality.
Following a beautiful ''Peace'' to welcome the Peace Activists in which even the children participated we moved to the next room to have a simple meal.
Sitting next to me was an older man who carefully began to sound me out. Apparently feeling the freedom to talk in the midst of the mingling crowd he suddenly turned to me and said ''There is something you should know.'' ''What,'' I asked surprised at the sudden comment.
''We didn’t want to be here tonight,'' he continued. ''When the Priest asked us to gather for a Peace Service we said we didn’t want to come,'' he said.
''What do you mean?'' I inquired, confused. ''We didn’t want to come because we don’t want peace'' he replied.
''What in the world do you mean?'' I asked. ''How could you not want peace?'' ''We don’t want peace. We want the war to come'' he continued.
''What in the world are you talking about?'' I blurted back.
That was the beginning of a strange odyssey that deeply shattered my convictions and moral base but at the same time gave me hope for my people and in fact hope for the world.
Beginning that night and continuing on in the private homes of relatives with whom I stayed little by little the scales began to come off my eyes.
I had not realized it but began to realize that all foreigners in Iraq are subject to 24 hour surveillance by government ''minders'' who arrange all interviews, visits, and contact with ordinary Iraqis. Through some fluke either by my invitation as a religious person and or my family connection I was not subject to any government ''minders'' at any time throughout my stay in Iraq.
As far as I can tell I was the only person including the Media, Human Shields and others in Iraq without a Government ''minder'' there to guard.
What emerged was something so awful that it is difficult even now to write about it. Discussing with the head of our tribe what I should do as I wanted to stay in Baghdad with our people during their time of trial I was told that I could most help the Assyrian cause by going out and telling the story to the outside world.
Simply put, those living in Iraq, the common, regular people are in a living nightmare. From the terror that would come across the faces of my family at a unknown visitor, telephone call, or knock at the door, I began to realize the horror they lived with every day.
Over and over I questioned them ''Why could you want war? Why could any human being desire war?'' They're answer was quiet and measured. ''Look at our lives! We are living like animals. No food, no car, no telephone, no job, and most of all no hope.''
I would marvel as my family went around their daily routine as normal as could be. Baghdad was completely serene without even a hint of war. Father would get up, have his breakfast, and go off to work. The children to school, the old people--ten in the household--to their daily chores.
''You cannot imagine what it is to live with war for 20, 30 years. We have to keep up our routine or we would lose our minds''
Then I began to see around me those seemingly in every household who had lost their minds. It seemed in every household there was one or more people who in any other society would be in a mental hospital and the ever present picture of a family member killed in one of the many wars.
Having been born and raised in Japan where in spite of 50 years of democracy still retains vestiges of the 400-year-old police state, I quickly began to catch the subtle nuances of a full blown, modern police state.
I wept with family members as I shared their pain and with great difficulty and deep soul searching began little by little to understand their desire for war to finally rid them of the nightmare they were living in.
The terrible price paid in simple, down-to-earth ways--the family member with a son who just screams all the time, the family member who lost his wife and who was left unable to cope anymore, the family member going to a daily job with nothing to do, the family member with a son lost to the war, a husband lost to alcoholism, the daily difficult-to-perceive slow death of people for whom all hope is lost.
The pictures of Sadaam Hussein whom people hailed in the beginning with great hope everywhere. Sadaam Hussein with his hand outstretched. Sadaam Hussein firing his rifle. Sadaam Hussein in his Arab headdress. Sadaam Hussein in his classic 30-year-old picture--one or more of these four pictures seemed to be everywhere on walls, in the middle of the road, in homes, as statues. He was everywhere!
All seeing, all knowing, all encompassing.
''Life is hell. We have no hope. But everything will be ok once the war is over.'' The bizarre desire for a war that would rid them of the hopelessness was at best hard to understand.
''Look at it this way. No matter how bad it is, we will not all die. We have hoped for some other way but nothing has worked. 12 years ago it went almost all the way but failed. We cannot wait anymore. We want the war and we want it now.''
Coming back to family members and telling them of progress in the talks at the United Nations on working some sort of compromise with Iraq, I was welcomed not with joy but anger. ''No, there is no other way! We want the war! It is the only way he will get out of our lives.''
Once again going back to my Japanese roots I began to understand. The stories I had heard from older Japanese of how in a strange way they had welcomed the sight of the bombers in the skies over Japan.
Of course, nobody wanted to be bombed but the first sight of the American B29 Bombers signaled to them that the war was coming to an end. An end was in sight. There would be terrible destruction. They might very well die but finally in a tragic way there was finally hope.
Then I began to feel so terrible. Here I had been demonstrating against the war thinking I had been doing it for the very people I was here now with, and yet I had not ever bothered to ask them what they wanted. What they wanted me to do.
It was clear now what I should do. I began to talk to the so called ''human shields.'' Have you asked the people here what they want? Have you talked to regular people, away from your ''minder'' and asked them what they want?
I was shocked at the response. ''We don’t need to do that. We know what they want,'' was the usual reply before a minder stepped up to check who I was.
With tears streaming down my face in my bed in a tiny house in Baghdad crowded in with 10 other of my own flesh and blood, all exhausted after another day of not living but existing without hope, exhausted in daily struggle simply to not die I had to say to myself ''I was wrong.''
How dare I claim to speak for those for whom I had never asked what they wanted!
Then I began a strange journey to do all I could while I could still remain to as asked by our tribe let the world know of the true situation in Iraq. Carefully and with great risk, not just for me but most of all for those who told their story and opened up their homes for the camera I did my best to tape their plight as honestly and simply as I could. Whether I could get that precious tape out of the country was a different story.
Wanting to make sure I was not simply getting the feelings of a long oppressed minority--the Assyrians--I spoke to dozens of people. What I was not prepared for was the sheer terror they felt at speaking out. Over and over again I would be told ''We would be killed for speaking like this,'' and finding out that they would only speak in a private home or where they were absolutely sure through the introduction of another Iraqi that I was not being attended by a minder.
From a former member of the army to a person working with the police to taxi drivers to store owners to mothers to government officials without exception when allowed to speak freely the message was the same: ''Please bring on the war. We are ready. We have suffered long enough. We may lose our lives but some of us will survive and for our children's sake please, please end our misery.''
On the final day for the first time I saw the signs of war. For the first time sandbags began appearing at various government buildings but the solders putting them up and then later standing within the small circle they created gave a clear message they could not dare speak.
They hated it. They despised it. It was their job and they made clear in the way they worked to the common people watching that they were on their side and would not fight.
But what of their feelings towards the United States and Britain? Those feelings are clearly mixed. They have no love for the British or the Americans but they trust them.
''We are not afraid of the American bombing. They will bomb carefully and not purposely target the people. What we are afraid of is Saddam Hussein and what he and the Baath Party will do when the war begins. But even then we want the war. It is the only way to escape our hell. Please tell them to hurry. We have been through war so many times, but this time it will give us hope.''
The final call for help came at the most unexpected place--the border. Sadly, and sent off by the crying members of my family I left. Things were changing by the hour--the normally $100 ride from Baghdad to Amman was first $300 then $500 and by nightfall $1,000.
As we came to the border we began the routine paperwork and then the search of our vehicle. Everything was going well until suddenly the border guard asked if I had any money. We had been carefully instructed to make sure we only carried $300 when we returned so I began to open up the pouch that carried my passport and money stuffed in my shorts.
Suddenly the guard began to pat me down. ''Oh, no!'' I thought. ''It's all over.'' We had been told of what happened if you got caught with videotape, a cellular telephone or any kind of electronic equipment that had not been declared.
A trip back to Baghdad, a likely appearance before a judge, in some cases 24-48 hour holding and more.
He immediately found the first videotape stuffed in my pocket and took it out. I could see the expression of terror on the driver as he stifled a scream.
The guard shook his head as he reached into my pocket and took out another tape and then from pocket after pocket began to take out tape after tape, cellular telephone, computer camera--all the wrong things.
We all stood there in sheer terror--for a brief moment experiencing the feeling that beginning with my precious family members every Iraqi feels not for a moment but day and night, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That terrible feeling that your life is not yours that its fate rests in someone else's hands that simply by the whim of the moment they can determine.
For one born free a terrifying feeling if but for an instant.
As the guard slowly laid out the precious video tape on the desk we all waited in silent terror for the word to be taken back to Baghdad and the beginning of the nightmare.
Suddenly he laid the last videotape down and looked up. His face is frozen in my memory but it was to me the look of sadness, anger, and then a final look of quiet satisfaction as he clinically shook his head and quietly without a word handed all the precious videotape--the cry of those without a voice--to me.
He didn’t have to say a word. I had learned the language of the imprisoned Iraqi. Forbidden to speak by sheer terror they used the one language they had left--human kindness.
As his hands slowly moved to give the tape over he said in his own way what my Uncle had said, what the taxi driver had said, what the broken old man had said, what the man in the restaurant had said, what the army man had said, what the man working for the police had said, what the old woman had said, what the young girl had said. He said it for them in the one last message a I crossed the border from tyranny to freedom . . .
Please take these tapes and show them to the world. Please help us .. . . . and please hurry!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Please contact: Lisa Mirza Grotts
Event to be held November 7th at The Ritz Carlton San Francisco to raise funds for Assyrian Aid Society
(ZNDA: San Francisco) If you want to know what celebrity chefs love to eat, join us at the inaugural “Narsai’s Taste of the Mediterranean” benefit dinner and find out! Hosted by Bay Area culinary expert and KCBS food and wine editor Narsai David, “Narsai’s Taste of the Mediterranean” will benefit a full range of ongoing health, education, and engineering projects for Assyrians in Iraq as they struggle for cultural survival in a homeland so recently ravaged by dictatorship and war. Our goal is to raise $200,000 to rebuild homes and villages, bring electricity and drinking water, pay teachers, invigorate agriculture and animal husbandry, establish more day care centers, pursue proposed programs to train education administrators, and so much more.
According to Narsai, "The Assyrian Aid Society of America (AAS-A) is planning a truly splendid fundraiser with each course prepared by a different chef and the theme is Middle Eastern flavors.” As the son of Assyrian immigrants and current president of AAS-A, Narsai is dedicated to helping preserve the birthplace of the Assyrian people. The Assyrian Aid Society is a 501 (c) (3) dedicated to helping Assyrians in need; promoting Assyrian culture and heritage; building a structure capable of responding to unexpected crises that require immediate mobilization, and focusing American and international attention on the needs and humanitarian concerns of the Assyrian people.
The Basic Ingredients. The evening will feature a five-course meal prepared by some of the nation’s finest chefs, including Jean-Pierre Dubray of The Ritz-Carlton, Justine Miner of RNM Restaurant, SF, Hoss Zare of Zare, SF, Frank Proto of Layla, NY.
“Narsai’s Taste of the Mediterranean” will be held at the San Francisco Ritz-Carlton on Friday, November 7th. The event begins with a 6:00 p.m. cocktail reception, followed by a 7:30 p.m. dinner and live auction with Narsai serving as auctioneer. Chairing the event are AAS-A Director Mona Malik and Lisa Mirza Grotts. Among the growing list of sponsors and donors include KCBS Radio, Ritz-Carlton, Macy’s, Willis Insurance Services, Cedars Bank and Joseph Schmidt.
Auction items include a San Francisco Giants Luxury Box for 12, Lake Tahoe Getaway for 8, San Francisco Dining Experience, a Wine Cabinet stocked with 49 bottles of wine and dinner for 10 prepared by Narsai David at his home.
Ticket prices start at $250 and may be purchased by calling 510.527.9997 or by visiting www.assyrianaid.org
About the Host. Chef Narsai David is a successful restaurateur and radio and television personality. He launched Narsai's Restaurant in Berkeley, CA as well as Narsai's Caf? at I. Magnin in San Francisco. His current culinary endeavors include a partnership in Grasing's Coastal Cuisine and The Carmel Chop House, both in Carmel, CA. His specialty food products may be found at many high-end markets such as Draeger’s, Mollie Stone's and Andronico's.
350 Berkeley Park Boulevard • Berkeley CA 94707 •
The Assyrian Aid Society of America is a tax exempt, non-profit organization
under Section 501(c)(3) •
A Message from the Editorial Board of Zinda Magazine - Special Offer for our Student Readers
Are you a full-time Assyrian college or university student who loves
good food, good company, likes to help his fellow Assyrians in need,
and never misses an issue of Zinda Magazine? Then join us at the Zinda
Students Table, especially reserved for you and your academic peers
thanks to your favorite Assyrian magazine and the Assyrian Aid Society
of America. For a reduced ticket price of only $100 per person (60%
discount), let Z-crew and the sponsors of this year’s Narsai’s
Taste of Mediterranean show you how to party in San Francisco. Just
ask our student guests from last year’s event. For more information
or to reserve your chair at the Zinda Table please contact us at Narsai2004@zindamagazine.com.
See you at the Ritz Carlton San Francisco!
ASSYRIAN POLITICAL CANDIDATE WANTS TRANSITION PROGRAM BACK IN CONNECTICUT
Courtesy of the Record-Journal (20 October); by Deanna Lee Chaparro
(ZNDA: New Britain) Some people would say running for office as an independent candidate is a bad idea.
But in 1987, after the Republicans decided not to endorse Zaya Oshana in Connecticut, he decided to do just that. At the time, Republicans charged that he didn't side with them on key issues.
Oshana received the most votes of any candidate that year. It didn't hurt that the Democrats endorsed him, nor did it hurt that he had served on the school board for 12 years. He soon joined the town's Democratic ranks and has continued to be among the top vote-getters.
He hopes to continue the trend as a Democratic candidate for the Board of Education in New Britain, Connecticut. Oshana has served the longest of any current member of the board.
"You have to leave your agendas by the door and consider all the youngsters," he said. "A successful school board means a successful youngster."
Education has long been a priority in Oshana's life. A New Britain native, Oshana, 74, taught and was an assistant principal there. His wife Angelica taught business at Southington High School. His daughter is also a teacher.
The board's vice chairman, Oshana graduated with a degree in elementary education from Central Connecticut State University; he also has a degree in administration and supervision from the University of Hartford.
He now supervises student teachers and interns for the University of New Haven. That job, he said, takes him to school systems all over the state.
Oshana has traced his first name back at least 12 generations. The Oshanas came to the United States from what was then called Assyria. Assyria now makes up parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Oshana's son (Zaya number 13) is vice chairman of the Planning and
Zoning Commission and the father of Zaya number 14.
"It worked well for 25 years," he said. "These youngsters need help. They will have a difficult time and need an extra year."
He is also troubled by the school board's negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The union represents the school system's secretaries, custodians and nurses, and has been negotiating with the school board for three years. Oshana said he'd like to see negotiations with AFSCME handled more like negotiations with the teacher's union, which must be completed in a specific amount of time.
"They are often the least paid and among our most important," he said. "Lawyers are the only ones who benefit here. It does no good for the morale of our staff."
Nicholas DePaola, who first met Oshana through the Kiwanis Club and has served with him on the Board of Education for the past two years, said Oshana has a lot of experience to draw from.
"That's experience I would hate to lose," DePaola said.
"We don't always agree ... but he's always open to new ideas
and has always had the children at heart."
AKH MIN KHIMYANI TO DEBUT IN TURLOCK
TEXT OF REV. KANDO’S SPEECH ON THE ASSYRIAN MARTYRS DAY
[Z-info: The following is the complete text of Rev. Kando David Kando’s speech on the occasion of the Assyrian Martyrs’ Day on August 7th, 2003 at the Assyrian Democratic Movement Headquarters in Turlock, California. The literal translation of Rev. Kando’s speech was made verbatim from Assyrian for special entry in this week’s issue of Zinda Magazine. After the delivery of the a placque was presented to the ADM office in Turlock. The speech has since caused much contraversy and a few individuals have publicly codemned the message given by Rev. Kando. The second article is the complete text of Mr. Rowill Isho – the host of a weekly program on the “AssyriaVision” satellite television on Saturday, 30 August. “Ashur TV” is a television program hosted by the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Turlock, California. The Bet Nahrain Inc.’s “AssyriaVision” is run by Sargon Dadesho and his team of individuals who remain politically in odds with the Assyrian Democratic Movement. ]
Rev. Kando’s Speech
First, once again, may the peace of our Lord be among you all.
Rest (comfort) upon the souls of our beloved Assyrian Martyrs. We Assyrians, whether within our Church or our Assyrian Nation, especially in our church, are referred to as “The Church of Martyrs.” This is because our church has sacrificed many men to martyrdom for its faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Obviously, those martyrs in large part have been of our nation, we Assyrians.
Today, we who are here together, are once again, honoring all those martyrs from generations gone by to the ones we have sacrificed in the most recent years. We have designated the 7th of August of each year to commemorate the remembrance of our beloved martyrs of our Assyrian nation specifically rather than our religious martyrs exclusively.
Today, we are honoring all of our martyrs, nationalistic and religious. However this year’s remembrance that we are celebrating, for me, is like they say in English, “A Turning Point” in the history of martyrs. From today on, our Assyrian martyrs will be celebrated in another fashion (way), by another purpose (objective), by another means and by a different and new method of commemoration. These methods will be utilized to honor and respects our martyrs of today and generations to come. This new method, which commenced this year, like I told you, is because of the following: I don’t know if you are aware of this or not, but, yesterday in Baghdad, they acknowledged, honored and celebrated the Assyrian Martyr’s Day publicly for the first time. Did you know that the pictures and the names of these martyrs,(pointing to the portraits of the Assyrian Martyrs in his background), Yousip and others, were shown and mentioned in the media. That Baghdad, the place that was the cause for their deaths, only because they were Assyrians. Today, rather yesterday, The Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) and all our people in Baghdad, celebrated the remembrance of the Assyrian Martyrs Day and their names were mentioned in Baghdad itself.
So, a change has taken place, a change that in our nation, since the fall of Nineveh, has not occurred. Therefore, the new history has today, begun. The writing of the new history is dependent upon us as to how we lead it and where we take it. When I say, “It is dependent on us”, I don’t mean it is dependent on the sons, daughters, brothers and fathers that are members of the Assyrian Democratic Movement that reside in Northern Iraq, Bet-Nahrain. But it is dependent on each Assyrian, whether man or woman: if an elderly man or elderly woman, whether he possesses a rank of consecration in an Assyrian church or he is in an Assyrian nationalistic or patriotic organization or political party. It is dependent upon all of us, together, as to how we want to fulfill the new challenge following the occurrence that has provided us with a new opportunity for the first time in 2000 years. Obviously the recent occurrence in Iraq has made this possible. However, let us not forget, that when this opportunity arose, we would not have attained anything if it was not for the Assyrian Democratic Movement in our country in Bet Nahrain.
For years, it has been said, that this Movement commenced in the year 1979, but I do not agree with that. The men of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa), even though at that time their name was not such, had actually begun the similar national strategic ideology movement in 1968. However, at that time it was a secretive or an underground movement due to the political climate in Iraq at that particular time. When many of you were in Iraq, you may remember the “E’daash Adaar” (Announcement of March) that gave the Kurds an Autonomous State through a liberation treaty. It was this occurrence that motivated some of our Assyrians to aspire to attain their own liberation a few years later. This struggle caused the deaths of our first martyrs in the twentieth century. Even though the ADM had yet to be established, it was the same political ideology group and the same individuals. The ideology within the movement of the ADM is called. “Zowaa” (Movement) and it is a very beautiful name. Zowaa, is a very honorable (respectable) name for me, as an Assyrian. They were the creators of the strategic ideology that was imagined just years prior. You may agree with me that even in the 1950’s such political philosophy was discussed behind closed doors. I cannot do injustice to those individuals whom held those beliefs and not acknowledge their valiant efforts. However, at that time, one way or another, it was not possible for them to develop or continue those ideas out of fear of political pressures and reprisal.
I have respect for all Assyrian organizations and associations, whether in the country (Iraq) or outside of our country of Iraq. However, there is one thing that I believe in: that a national ideology, if not born, blossomed out of an environment of need and suffering of its people and in a struggle to seek a solution to end its immediate suffering, it would be difficult for such dedication and devotion to come from an organization outside of the area of personal tragedy and suffering. We honor all Assyrian organizations that fulfill the needs of our people. May God bless them and we appreciate them for their works, but we should always keep in mind that there is a difference from one person to another and we must differentiate between one ideology as compared to another. We must be able to differentiate and comprehend the reason and objective for organizing a specific association or a political party as compared to another. There must be a distinction made between someone just sitting someplace, entertaining themselves, eating and drinking and thinking, “hey, why don’t we organize a group or a political party. It would be fine and dandy for them to do so. But, believe me, as easy as it was to organize such an organization, it would be that much easier to forget and abandon such an idea because it was not based upon a critical and crucial need of its population. It would be much easier to be unfaithful and untruthful for such a cause. However, when certain other individuals, through tragedy and suffering, organize and agree to an ideology and swear to stand back-to-back in defense and protection of one another in the situation they find themselves in, they are the ones who sacrifice in martyrdom for the sake of their beloved nation. They are the ones that sacrifice their lives for their belief. They don’t betray one another. They don’t talk behind the back of one another. They don’t say to another, “he’s a liar”, “He sold us out”. They can’t say that because they have each other’s back. If one goes, they all go. So, one must protect the life of another in order to protect his own. It is unfortunate that our people do not comprehend the distinctions between these attributes. We put almost all organizations on one scale of worthiness and give them equal respect, whereby all is spoiled.
Today we are gathered here, as I said, in honoring the remembrance and commemoration of each one of our beloved Assyrian martyrs of every generation. We honor our people who shed their righteous blood for the sake of their Christian Faith, their Assyrian Nation and their national patriotism. As I mentioned before, we have been called a “Nation of Martyrs” and a “Church of Martyrs.
I stand before you in presenting my testimony because I was motivated and my spirit was moved by the wonderful speeches that were made earlier at this podium. I had no prior plans to give a speech and made no preparations to speak. I stand before you in joining you in honoring our most recent martyrs. Those who’s blood has yet not dried. Just a while ago, Mr. Andrius asked me if I knew or had met the martyr, Yousip. Our homes were just across the street from one another. A few doors down from there was his cousin, martyr Youkhana or Kenni Eshoo’s home. We grew up together. Of course I was a little older. I was a teacher while they were still students at that time. Rabbi Gouliet who is just entering this hall will confirm that he was, indeed, among those brave souls from the past. We welcome him here today.
Today, my beloved, the situation and conditions in Iraq have changed after more than two thousand years. Even as the situation has changed for the whole country of Iraq, the change for us Assyrians is very crucial. So it is dependent on us all as to what we should do with this new found opportunity. This change will offer us the opportunity to either end our long awaited aspirations or renew our dreams and give us the honor, respect, comfort and the rise of our nation that we have sung and pleaded for so many generations. Today, the opportunity is in our hands. Mr. Ben Malko spoke about the different Assyrian church denominations. It is true, that we have, within our Assyrian Nation, four organized apostolic faiths in our Christian religion. We also have other denominations: Presbyterian, Pentecost and Evangelical. These are Assyrian religious denominations as well. We have political organizations, political party groups. We have learned people, writers and thinkers. Today, it is the responsibility of each one of these groups to show where they stand. They should express their views as to where they stand, not to me, not to you, but to the individual Assyrian leader who today is a one of the 25 members of the Iraqi Governing Council (official leadership council of Iraq, selected by the United States of America and under the Administration of the Coalition Provisional Authority for Iraq, Mr. Paul Bremmer. We need to support their efforts in enacting their policies for the betterment of the whole country of our forefathers.
If anyone of us, whether a church, a holder of a rank in the order of the priesthood in the hierarchy of a church, a political party, an organization or any intelligent and learned individual does not extend their help or support for the ADM prior to the completion of the writing of the new constitution of Iraq, then I’m sorry to say he should close his mouth, remain silent and do not place blame on anyone thereafter.
Today, our Assyrian nation is at a turning point. It will either succeed or it will vanish. But we should be appreciative to every individual that is in the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa). Some of us think that even if the ADM was not in the country of Iraq during this period, and these shinning stars (Referring to the portraits of the Assyrian Martyrs in the background of the speaker) had not sacrificed their lives upon the altar of martyrdom of our nation, we would still have acquired something out of the change in the government. But this is wrong. It is totally wrong. Some of us are placing blame by saying ,”why did Mr. so-&-so accept or agree to something so little? Why did he not ask for something more? My beloved, do you know that even the little thing that has been given us would not be, if the people who gave it, knew the type of behavior that we would be expressing towards our brothers in the ADM?
It is unfortunate that some of us are procrastinators. When it is time, when the opportunity is at hand, we remain silent, we don’t speak, we, stop and wait to see what else takes place. Then, if something becomes successful in our nation’s endeavors, we criticize its insufficient value. If something becomes unsuccessful, we blame everyone but ourselves. We complain and say , “oh, so what? But, today we must be wise. I urge and beg all the Assyrian organizations and Assyrian political parties to support our valiant brothers in this struggle for our freedom.
I’m speaking now as an Assyrian and not as a member of the clergy. I have always had great regards and respect for all Assyrian organizations but from today on, I will not have any respect for any political party if it does not show its support and assistance to the young martyrs and the Assyrian Democratic Movement. As to the responsibility of our churches, I will first relate to that of my own, as two of my brother priests are among us today and you all as my witnesses, I hereby state that if my church fails to insure the development of the fine works of our beloved martyrs and to encourage everyone to love and respect them within our Assyrian nation, among our neighbors and throughout the whole world, I will blame my church for not fulfilling its duty. Likewise, the four apostolic churches that I referred to, namely, the Assyrian Syrian Church, Assyrian Chaldean Church, Ancient Assyrian Church of the East and the Assyrian Church of the East. To each one of these churches, I believe it is unacceptable for them to say,” We will wait and say nothing and we will not take a stand until we see what happens. This would be wrong and shall not be accepted. Furthermore, if any political organization fails to support and to assist our official leader in the Iraqi Governing Council in including our Assyrian nation within the new constitution, so that we can acquire even more of what it wants to attain, let him not attempt to face us and to speak to us, for his speech will not be worth a single penny.
So, once again, I ask our Assyrian organizations and political parties, please! There is still time. The Iraqi constitution has not yet been written. It would be very encouraging for the people who are responsible for writing the constitution to receive a letter from all the Assyrian organizations throughout the world and all the Assyrian Churches worldwide stating that they agree to forward their agreements and their requests to the official Assyrian leader in the new Iraqi Governing Council. When this occurs, we can be certain that, with our support, we will receive even more than what they could attain without our support.
So henceforth, the celebration for the 7th of August will be of a different type, The men who formed the numerous links of the chain of Assyrian martyrdom that attained the newly acquired opportunity of being recognized as a nation through the new change in Iraq and its new constitution, will be worthy of being honored exclusively in a new era of the commemoration of the Assyrian Martyr’s Day. They will have earned this honor by the shedding of their sacred blood in order for us to have attained our lifelong dream.
I hope and pray that the links of the chain of Assyrian martyrdom within us subsides. But let us not forget that the energy of a nation, the energy of an organization is through bloodshed. Without bloodshed, the dedication lacks passion and fortitude. We see some Assyrian organizations talking sarcastically of others and putting them down with offensive language and questioning their patriotism. Why is that? It is because they are not in the business of shedding blood. It is only talk! And talk is easy. But shedding blood ties one to another. Bloodshed causes the members of an organization to all become one, because they see, with their own eyes, hear with their own ears and feel with their own hearts, the tragedy that confronts them in their struggle to be free. However, when one is utilizing the method of “talk only”, they will soon realize that they did not stand with the truth and will later come and apologize and admit that they were wrong. And we will probably forgive them again, anyway.
So, I hope for the next year, the 7th of August (Assyrian Martyrs Day) will be celebrated differently with a new thought and a special respect in celebrating our beloved Assyrian Martyrs. May the Lord comfort their souls.
Rev. Kando Kando
ROWILL ISHO’S RESPONSE TO REV. KANDO ON ASSYRIASAT
We are coming to you in the five continents of the world via the “AssyriaSat.” I am Rowill Soorisho Isho. For those who know me, they know that I do not lie nor put on a face. I don’t get angry unless someone speaks against my nation, at which time I fume. I get astonished of how this is possible.
Today, I want to critique a speech delivered by Rev. Kando Kando. The name “Kando” is very strange for those of us that are from Iran. I don’t know what his business is, nor do I know the definition of this name. I want to address two discussions that took place. This is the reason for my commentary today. The first discussion, I spoke to him personally, I will speak to that. The second time, I heard him speak somewhere else, I will also discuss that. (At this time Mr. Rowill Isho read a letter addressed to him from His Holiness, Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Church of the East, where he states that he considers Mr. Isho a member of the Church of the East, even though not by name but by his works). Did you hear that? With his permission of authority! So you see, Mar Dinkha has given me the right to criticize anyone that I see and consider as being offensive to my Assyrian identity, regardless of what degree or rank that he possesses.
About three weeks ago, a friend of mine told me that Rev Kando wanted to meet with me. Frankly, I am still puzzled as to his intent. He came to meet with me three weeks ago at that friend’s house. We spoke for approximately two and one half hours. As I left there, I told everyone that I saw, that we have a person that is very bright, understanding and intelligent, both religiously and nationalistically, referring to Rev. Kando. I suggested that he be brought to this program in order for everyone to listen to the things that he has to say, this was the first encounter. However, when I saw him the second time on “Ashur TV” Program, for the occasion of the commemoration of the Assyrian Martyr’s Day, I must relay to you what I heard and offer a commentary or critique regarding what he said. I have a related or relevant analogy that was written by our forefathers from generations of the past where it states: with one tongue, a person speaks one thing and with another something completely different. I state that this man is not just two faced or a hypocrite but rather, a polytheist.
In our initial meeting, Rev. Kando said; “We Assyrians should have no business with the Chaldeans sect, for they do not accept us, neither, religiously nor nationalistically.” “Any discussions with those people would be moot and unworthy or useless.” He continued, “Those people will never be recognized or acknowledged as a nationality or nation.” They will accept being included in the Assyrian race category on a temporary basis and then, perhaps after ten years or so, request a vote to be distinguished by their sole Chaldean name.” Rev. Kando continued, “If we make any efforts in compromising with them because they are a majority, we would be sacrificing our Assyrian name”. I received a telephone call from a friend after he had heard Rev. Kando’s televised speech. At that particular time, I was complimenting Rev. Kando regarding the things that I had heard from him personally. My friend asked, “what is he doing?” He’s killing two birds with one stone. He wants to destroy our Assyrian name and Religious name at once. This was the content of the speech of Rev. Kando.
In our personal meeting together, Rev. Kando and I spoke about the Holy Trinity, in which he had a tremendous amount of knowledge and intelligence. So now I’m amazed, how it is possible that he speaks with two… Here I will refer to the New Testament where James the Apostle asks; how is it possible that from one well (source) flows water, sweet and bitter? I want to know how it is possible that from one mouth, one tongue, you bless God and with the other you damn and put a curse on your fellowmen? How is this possible, sweet and bitter water? I want to know how this Rev, Kando is able to speak with two tongues. With one mouth, in the church, he speaks one thing, blesses and prays and with the other, he damns and puts curses on others. So it’s up to you whether you want to believe this or not. I can’t find any untruths in what I’m saying.
So for two weeks, I spoke highly of him and then saw him on the television program. I can honestly say that I was grief stricken and nearly cried, How is it that I thought that this was a man who had held steadfast to the ancient faith of the Church of the East. I didn’t realize that he had four faces. I thought to myself, where does this hatred come from? hatred unto death?, hatred unto destruction
These people all speak with the same tongue and lie in the same fashion. The elderly men, women and the young, all speak the same. So I return to the subject of Rev. Kando. I will judge him in accordance of the sacred bible because this man is a priest that hold a rank in the priesthood. Near the conclusion of his speech, Rev. Kando said, “I like all the Assyrian organizations and respect all the Assyrian political parties but from now on, if they do not support Mr. Younadam Kanna (a member of the newly formed Iraqi Governing Council formed by the United States of America under the leadership of Mr. Paul Bremmer, Administrator of the temporary provisional government in Iraq), I will excommunicate them, as someone told me. I didn’t personally hear him say, “excommunicate” but someone else said that he did. I heard him say “hate them”. I will excommunicate and hate them? How is this possible? But I think that you, Rev. Kando, should be excommunicated by the Assyrian nation and the Assyrian Church. They should excommunicate and fire you. Who are you to hate people? Hatred has a story of its own: He who hates his own brother, is a killer. You are a killer! Then what did he say? He said that this political party (referring to the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party, of which the host is representing) is only interested eating, drinking and pleasure. How dare this man, Rev. Kando, prophesize the extinction and destruction of Bet Nahrain. There are thousands of old men and women everywhere that know no other language but the Assyrian language spoken in this program. Their eyes stare in fascination, to the sounds of songs and love. If nothing else, at least seven to eight preachers take part in this program, including the voice of the Church of the East under the management of Rev. Oushana Kanoun which is distributed throughout the five continents of the globe. So how is it that you, as a priest, tell that person to shut his mouth? Do you see? No, he said that my spirit (or conscience) awakened me. If your spirit was really awakened, you would go to your church and tell your parishioners, “My soul has awakened me to share with you, new and holy words (news) from God. If you would have done this, you would not have caused so much friction and disunity within our people. Some people possess two faces but you have four. This is not the business of a priest. A priest should only speak about the Christ and offer them information from the New Testament.
(The host then read from a book, using its content to demonstrate an example of someone that was two-faced like Rev. Kando. After motivating his viewers to take exception with Rev. Kando speech, even though some had not even viewed or heard Rev. Kando’s speech, the host received four calls from viewers. The first caller stated Rev. Kando is not worthy of fulfilling the sacraments and that no one should receive Holy Communion from his hand and that he should be excommunicated by the Church).
How can anyone take Holy Communion from his hand? He should be stripped of his rank. When a man has spent one half of his life living as a layman and has done everything that a layman does, and then becomes a priest, he cannot be a worthy priest. This is because, within his lifetime, he has devoted his works to Satan that will make him unable to fulfill his duties in the priesthood. One must be raised up within the church and be ordained in all the ranks of the Priesthood/Ministry in order to satisfactorily administer his duties. If he was raised in the church from his childhood years, he would not speak badly of others, ever. But the ones who have spent half of their lives in eating, drinking, having fun and having broken the laws of the Church and marry his closest relative, I don’t know how she is related, his first cousin…How is this possible? I don’t care about the Mar Zaia Parish and others, I am an Assyrian descendant from Thomas, the Apostle, this is wrong!
If you (viewers) want to accept this - fine, if not, it’s up to you. This division that Rev. Kando caused is worse than anything. According to Rev. Kando, he said, “So I will excommunicate and hate anyone who does not support Younadam Kanna” , why because he was responsible for changing our Assyrian name? This is not from the spirit of God…No, No!
Don’t blame me I’m an old man, they call me Uncle Rowill. Until now, I had 100 enemies, now they have become 200, but I don’t care! I’m not afraid. (after receiving three additional insulting calls, the host closes). One cannot serve two Gods. If I were you I would not receive Holy Communion from Rev. Kando’s hand. He should be replaced by another, younger man that will be true to his Assyrian nation and his Church. My time has passed, I think I’ll go become a priest.
END OF PROGRAM.
CINCINNATI SCHOLAR FINDS DEMON-CHASING CHARMS IN SYRIAC LANGUAGE
Have you ever suffered from headache or back pain? Many of us would look for relief in our medicine cabinets. If you were called to court, you'd probably get a lawyer. And while many people in the present day may still whisper a prayer for support, the words of a Christian charm, copied by a priest, were the protection of choice for a population a couple of centuries ago.
John Brolley, University of Cincinnati program director for Religious Studies, has been at work for more than a year translating four little books of Syriac charms that are among the rare collections at Harvard University. Brolley believes the leather-bound books, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, may have once belonged to a priest who would have lived in Urmia, a region in Kurdistan that is one of a handful of Aramaic-speaking regions worldwide. Syriac, though now used almost exclusively in church liturgy, is one dialect of Aramaic.
Brolley points out that near-eastern literature dating back thousands of years shows that religions would use incantations to ward off "demons" blamed for illness and other troubles. Brolley says he is translating and analyzing the 17th and 18th century books of Syriac charms in hopes of placing them in the context of 5,000 years of ritual texts. Each book – the texts so fragile that they cannot be microfilmed – contains about between 50-100 written charms.
"Two things appear to have happened with the Syriac charms. First of all, the incantation formulas have been 'Christianized,'" says Brolley. "You don't see references to Zeus here – if anything, deities other than the God of Judaism and Christianity are demonized. This is all about invoking the power of God and Jesus.
"What's also interesting, because this tradition is so late compared to the others, is that there are charms that are not just against the 'Evil Eye' or some sort of illness, but there are also charms designed to correct a disobedient child. There was a charm to ward off gunfire, and a charm to make the judge favorable to you when you had a court appearance. So, the notion of protection really expands as we get closer to the modern era."
And because the majority of the population could not read or write, Brolley says the charms were thought to give them protection just because they were wearing amulets containing the Christian Word of God. "So, for example, if I were a farmer who had somehow ended up with a sick cow or a sick spouse, the priest, probably for some small amount of money, would copy down a charm from one of the books and the farmer would take it and wear it as an amulet. Many of the local villagers may not have been Christian, but they appear to have considered the local priest what you and I would call a medicine man, and were able to trust him."
Compared with more ancient charms dating back several thousand years, Brolley is noticing that although the Syriac Christian charms involve less ritual, it's the "Word of Power" that has survived.
"But now it's a Christian 'Word of Power.' Instead of demonstrating to the demon, 'I may be just a mortal human, but you can't hurt me. I have the national God of Babylon on my side,' they'll be wearing a biblical text that protects them with the Power of the Word, often represented by a brief Bible quote.
"In later traditions, what we call the cult aspect of the charms is gone, meaning there doesn't seem to be any accompanying physical ritual. So it really becomes the power of the words themselves that are thought to drive the demon away. The word of power is one of the most durable features of this religious tradition."
Once he has translated and analyzed these particular charm texts, Brolley says he doesn't plan on stopping there. "There's a lot of similar material out there, and there are some excellent scholars working in this field. Every incantation or charm formula tells us something about the relationship of magic, ritual and religion."
In the meantime, does Brolley believe these formulas carry any power? "No comment," he says, with a smile.
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