KHAMO’S TALK: A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
On Monday evening, Mr. Shimon Khamo, head of the newly-renamed Bet-Nahrain National Alliance spoke to an audience of 100 people at the Assyrian National Alliance of Illinois in Chicago. Mr. Khamo has recently returned from a trip to Iraq, where he met with other Assyrian political leaders and heads of churches.
Mr. Khamo expertly described the evolution of the current leadership council from an opposition group to Saddam, to an interim government, to an interim authority and now an amalgam of working committees under the Coalition Administration and Mr. Bremmer in Baghdad.
Mr. Khamo explained that this arrangement does not take into account the percentage of Iraq’s ethnic and religious makeup and the Assyrians have equal representation to all other major groups. He predicted that as many as 120 to 150 individuals will be assisting Mr. Bremmer in these working committees, of whom many will be Assyrians.
On the new Iraqi constitution, Mr. Khamo commented that in six months a Constitutional Convention will be held in Iraq and hundreds of experts from many walks of Iraqi society will be brought in to discuss and endorse the findings of the constitutional experts within Bremer’s administration and relavant working committees. Mr. Khamo urged the Assyrians to take active role in these discussions.
On the issue of the compound name, Mr. Khamo explained that quick decisions and judgment would be detrimental to the political future of the Assyrian population in Iraq. Mr. Romel Eliya, the Assyrian Democratic Movement representative in North America, during the Q&A session swiftly responded to the audience’s concern by stating that “Zowaa has not and cannot change the name of our nation and has not officially endorsed any new names through a press release as is suggested.”
Mr. Khamo then, in a passionate voice void of any political overstatement, asked that every one visit Iraq and morally and financially support the Assyrian people. He noted economic malaise and unemployment as two forces that may urge the Assyrians in Iraq to entertain emigration to the west in the near future.
It was impressive to hear Mr. Khamo avoiding any direct conflict of interest with the parties working from within Iraq, and in a congenial manner describing the effect of humanitarian projects conducted by the Assyrian Democratic Movement. It is rather uninspiring not to witness a mutual expression of good will from the representatives of the Assyrian Democratic Movement when such praises are publicly offered by fellow Assyrian politicians and heads of political groups.
Mr. Khamo’s talk was informative and well-organized. The Assyrian public deserves more of such edifying deliverances from their leaders in the diaspora.
A REPORT OF THE 2ND WORLD ASSYRIAN CONFERENCE IN MOSCOW
The Assyrians Today: Historiography & Linguistics
10.00 – 11.00 Opening Ceremony
Co-chairmen: Rabbi M. Mammoo & Prof. Mikhael Sado
13:00 – 14:00 Coffee Break
Co-chairmen: Dr. Norman Solhkhah & Dr. S.G. Osipov
10.00 – 13.00 Future of Iraq (The Round Table)
* * * * *
The 2nd World Assyrian Conference has completed its work in Moscow. Representatives from the Assyrian communities of Russia, USA, Sweden, Holland, Armenia, Georgia reported at the conference. Also two reports sent to the Conference by Mr. Hannibal Gevargiz (Iran) and Mr. Aprim Shapera (Great Britain) who could not attend the conference were read to the audience. The Proceedings of the Conference will be published in the near future.
The questions raised at this conference may seem as merely having theoretical and academic significance, but they are of great practical interest. Numerous problems, impossible to solve by means of political or social methods, face modern Assyrian historiography and modern comprehension of Assyrian linguistics.
A dominant problem today is achieving unity. Without solving this problem all other goals and ideas are unattainable. To preserve the nation, national origins, and to strive for the revival of our national heritage even in the form of autonomy –can be accomplished only by means of uniting all remaining fragments of once powerful nation.
We are confronted with unprecedented resistance concerning exactly the problem of uniting the nation and we see that no arguments can lead to any consensus. Each fragment seeks its own way of self-identification and tries to convince the others of its special solemnity, of its ethnic and confessional primordial status. Naturally a question arises: how to extirpate this estrangement and convince everyone of the unity of their nature and in their community?
I believe that science has a priority in this issue, as only scientific method will give an opportunity to find the origins of this estrangement and prove arguments in favor of the nation’s unity, the arguments based on objective historical data. But again, it’s quite natural, that nobody but we will solve these problems.
We all know well enough how subjectively Assyria’s history is interpreted and occasionally in diametrically different ways depending on the interests of this or that historiography schools or even on tastes and wishes of this or that historian. But the most important fact is that against this background national historiography is completely lacking, the point how the Assyrian nation itself sees its history. Even if this vision be a subjective one. Out of all the books I know I can name only one source – a small book by Rabi Benjamin Arsanis “The Fall of the Assyrian State”, in which he manages to bring to the forefront all those positive things that allow considering ancient Assyria the cradle of civilization.
If we can define these priorities and examine the whole path of the Assyrian nation after the fall of the Empire, especially from the moment of adopting Christianity and appearance of ethno-confessional groups as a result of intra-church conflicts aimed at the struggle for power, we will establish a firm basis in order to eliminate false discordant arguments and to unite scattered fragments of the nation.
A similar situation has developed in the Assyrian linguistics. In addition to a natural division of the Aramaic language into eastern and western branches, both these branches have many dialects. One cannot help considering the regularities, which lead to the formation of a modern language. But again, our task is to define these regularities and find optimal ways for forming a common literary language and perfection of the deep-rooted dialects. Will a literary language be formed only on the basis of Classical Syriac, the so called “lishana atiqa” or only on the basis of a modern “lishana svadaya”? It is unlikely.
Most probably details of both languages will become the basis of it, as many classical roots have been lost once and for all, and are not found in any of the modern dialects. And on the other hand, a number of neologisms in the modern language have increased so much that it’s simply impossible to reject them basing only on the classical language.
Modern terminology is also necessary for correct correlation with principal languages of the modern world. It should be considered in order to make translation from Assyrian and into Assyrian full-fledged to the maximum and proper in a semantic sense.
Thus, reasoning from the above said, we considered that in today’s situation which is extremely important for our nation, solution of the issues concerning national historiography and linguistics could have great practical significance. If we solve this problem we will have a real hope in changing the situation fundamentally.
But, first of all, we hoped for the concernment of our specialists in the sphere of history and language. Unfortunately we haven’t received the expected interest and activity. It seems to me that most of them consider this work as a kind of a hobby or as dilettanti’s game, which is of no interest for professionals. But the importance of this work for the future of our nation is not taken into consideration. Alas, it is one more sign of assimilation and destruction of national consciousness.
The quicker we define priorities promoting national unification, the greater confidence in the future and hope for the achievement of an unrealizable dream for the time being – revival of our state - we will have.
Establishment of CANO-CIS
After completion of the conference a general meeting of the representatives from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was held. The Confederation of the Assyrian National Organizations of CIS was established at this meeting. Associations of the Assyrians from Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and some regions of Russia – Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tatarstan, Krasnodar and Novorossyisk became members of the Confederation.
At the first meeting of the ‘Confederation’ the following statement was drafted: the Confederation of the Assyrian National Organizations of CIS manifests its full support of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) and its titanic efforts aimed at the defense of the Assyrian nation’s interests in a new free Iraq. The Confederation calls upon the entire Assyrian nation to support Zowaa’s efforts in every way and express solidarity with it. The Confederation considers it necessary to declare that the compromises to which Zowaa agreed are necessary and well-taken at the modern stage. The Confederation representing the interests of the Assyrian nation of CIS considers its supreme and vital task to be of support to our brothers in Iraq in order to achieve the main national goal – establishing Assyrian Autonomy in a new federative Iraq.
JOHN PAUL II APEALS TO CATHOLICS TO HELP CHRISTIANS OF IRAQ
Courtesy of Zenit News Agency (27 June)
(ZNDA: Vatican) John Paul II appealed to Catholics to do everything possible to help the beleaguered Christians in the Holy Land and Iraq.
The Pope made his appeal on Thursday when he met with 70 members of the Assembly of Organizations for Aid to the Eastern Churches (ROACO), composed of 19 aid organizations of the United States, Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Austria.
The purpose of this institution is to give financial support to Eastern-rite Catholic communities, as well as to some countries of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, such as Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, coordinated by the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches.
The Pope said that this institution's work is particularly important given the violence in the Holy Land, the war in Iraq, and the famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea, the four countries on which ROACO will concentrate its aid.
Noting ROACO's goal of helping the Christians of Iraq, the Pope said, "I pray to God that peace will be consolidated as soon as possible and that the peoples, who have suffered so much in part because of long international isolation, may finally live in harmony."
"I am convinced that your interventions, oriented to carrying out pastoral and social works in support of believers, will help to give life to a better future for the whole nation," he said.
He added, however: "Along with structures and buildings, though indispensable, it is sometimes more important to form consciences and to safeguard the faith inherited from the parents."
"This calls for an adequate catechesis, attention to the liturgy
proper to the Church one belongs to, attention to the formation
of the clergy and the laity, an enlightened openness to ecumenism,
and a prophetic presence in support of the poor," the Pope
CHRISTIANS IN PAKISTAN SUFFERING FALLOUT FROM IRAQ WAR
Courtesy of Zenit News Agency (30 June)
(ZNDA: Islamabad) The Washington Times reports that Christian girls in Pakistan in particular in this overwhelmingly Muslim country are feeling the fallout of Islamic anger for the war that deposed Saddam Hussein.
The newspaper (www.washtimes.com) told of photos showing signs of recent attacks.
One showed a 9-year-old girl with large black burns on her legs and a heavily bandaged right arm. Another depicted a 14-year-old with a face partly melted away like candle wax -- the result of an assailant throwing acid into her eyes.
The 9-year-old, Razia Masih, was beaten and raped in April in the town of Faisalabad, ending up in the hospital with burns, a lacerated left eye, a broken right arm and rope marks around her hands and mouth.
"She was working as a maid in a Muslim house," said Shabazz Bhatti, chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, the Times reported.
"When the Iraq war happened, it was on the TV," Bhatti said. "The family [she worked for] would call her into the TV room and start torturing her. Her skin was burned by the irons, her body wounded by a cricket bat and a medical report showed 15 wounds on her body. She was told by them, 'You are Christian and infidel, and we will take revenge on you for the killings of Iraqi children.'"
"The case has been registered [with police], but the culprits have not been arrested," Bhatti said. "Meanwhile, the girl's family has fled elsewhere, just to save their lives. The government authorities are not giving them protection."
According to International Christian Concern, a religious-persecution watchdog group, the girl's family had unsuccessfully tried to get her out of her employers' home several times. After beating and burning her for a final time, the family sent her home to die.
The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, representing Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Balmeek, Bheel, Maingwal, Zoroastrian, Bahai and Kelash communities, has compiled a "catalogue of terror" on attacks against female Christians, beginning with the May 2000 gang rape of eight Christian girls by militant Muslims near Lahore.
"Christians in Pakistan are increasingly vulnerable to religiously motivated hate crimes, and Christian girls and women seem to be specially targeted," said Stuart Windsor, director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide in London. "We are outraged by the unwillingness of the police to investigate the complaints as this only emboldens extremists to continue to victimize Christians and other non-Muslims."
Fearing such reprisals, the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom wrote Secretary of State Colin Powell in March, asking him to remind foreign governments of their responsibility to protect religious minorities. There are only about 3 million Christians among Pakistan's 140 million citizens.
"The commission is concerned that extremists have tried to portray military action against Iraq as part of an alleged U.S. attack on Islam," they wrote, "and that retribution will be sought against Christians, Jews and others throughout the Islamic world."
The panel also asked President George W. Bush to bring up the matter with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf during their meeting this week near Washington, D.C.
(ZNDA: Ankara) According to a report in the Turkish newspaper, Hurriyet, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has decided against including the southeastern Anatolian city of Mardin on its “World Heritage List”. The decision was based on a recent negative report by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). UNESCO’s decision has shocked the Turkish government and Assyrian observers as Mardin’s inclusion on the list was believed to be definite.
Mardin is associated with seven thousand years of history and was a cradle for numerous ethnic groups, among them Armenians and Western Syriac-speaking Christians. The city reflects the highlights of ancient Assyrian civilization and is famous for its historic houses made out of golden stone.
In April of this year, a 300 year old Book of the Gospels in Syriac
was stolen from the Cathedral of the Forty Martyrs in Mardin.
CHALDEAN-AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Courtesy of the Detroit News (25 June); by R.J. King
(ZNDA: Detroit) When Chaldeans started arriving in Metro Detroit from the Middle East more than 80 years ago, most turned to the Associated Food Dealers of Michigan to provide for legal referrals, networking opportunities and business seminars.
But as more second-generation Chaldeans in the region branched away from their roots in the grocery business, the food dealers trade group found it couldn't handle the needs of members who owned inns, cellular phone stores or service stations.
"We were getting requests for hotel consultants, and it was getting away from our roots as an organization that represents the state's grocery industry," said Michael Sarafa, president of the 3,000-member Associated Food Dealers in Southfield, founded in 1917.
"We're not an ethnic organization, but (roughly 40 percent) of our members are Chaldeans who own grocery stores. We're very supportive of Chaldeans, but we couldn't represent all the various businesses."
Enter the newly formed Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce in West Bloomfield. The group, with 100 founding members, is the first of its kind in the nation to provide Chaldean business owners with educational and networking opportunities along with discounted services on such items as insurance, telecommunications and energy needs.
The Chamber, which joins the American Arab Chamber of Commerce in Dearborn to represent the needs of Middle Eastern business owners, is scheduled to select a 15-member board of directors in the fall. Already 11 founding businesses each have contributed $5,000 to start the Chamber.
Sarafa said he didn't believe the Associated Food Dealers would lose too many members to the new Chamber. "I think a lot of companies will want to be part of both organizations," he said.
Close to 120,000 Chaldeans -- the term used by Catholics of Middle Eastern descent -- live in Metro Detroit, with most immigrating from Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, Chaldean community leaders say.
Traditionally, Chaldeans owned grocery and liquor stores in the Middle East because the Arab Muslim populations in the area were prohibited from consuming or selling alcohol because of religious beliefs.
Today, about 6,000 Chaldeans operate businesses in Michigan, including grocery stores, cellular phone outlets, hotels, professional practices and service firms.
"We need a chamber for Chaldean Americans so we can create more business and wealth opportunities for all of Metro Detroit," said Ronald G. Acho, partner with Cummings McClorey Davis & Acho PLC, a law firm in Livonia and a founding member of the Chaldean-American Chamber.
"If we're successful, it means we're creating jobs for people, paying more taxes and helping families. We do plan to partner with other chambers so we all benefit."
The Detroit Regional Chamber, the largest chamber in the country with more than 20,000 members, has partnerships with six area chambers. It already has met with the Chaldean-American Chamber to explore possibilities, said Amy Hennes, spokeswoman for the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Current partners include the Arab American Chamber, Booker T. Washington Business Association, Hispanic Business Alliance, National Association of Women Business Owners-Greater Detroit Regional Chapter, Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce.
The Chaldean-American Chamber expects to enroll about 2,000 members in the next five years. Martin F. Manna, interim executive director of the Chamber, said the group is scouting office space in Southfield for its permanent headquarters.
"We have a steering committee in place, and we're meeting twice a month," Manna said. "We have many Chaldean-owned businesses, but also large public companies like Standard Federal Bank and DTE Energy."
Amir Denha, a founding member of the Arab American Chamber, said he welcomed the Chaldean-American Chamber.
"By partnering with various chambers, we should all benefit," said Denha, publisher of Chaldean Detroit Times, a biweekly newspaper in Southfield.
Annual dues for the Chaldean-American Chamber will range from $200 for individuals to $1,500 for corporations, Manna said.
Chaldean Businesses in Michigan
The number of stores or units and business type:
Food stores: 2,500
Source: Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce
RESIDENTS OPPOSE BUILDING OF SYRIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Courtesy of North Jersey Media (26 June); by
Monsy Alvarado, photo by Carmine Galasso
"I pray for them. I say to them, even with these conditions, you come to church,'' he said. "They deserve better than that."
In an effort to better accommodate the 450-member congregation, church officials want to build a larger house of worship with a community hall in Haworth. But the church's plans have gotten a chilly reception from Haworth residents and members of a nearby golf club, who have filled Planning Board meetings since February expressing their objection to traffic, noise, the loss of trees at the site, and the size of the proposed building and its dome.
The church wants to erect a 5,000-square-foot building on 3.4 wooded acres on Sunset Avenue, a residential zone. Plans call for the single-family house on the property to be torn down. Churches are permitted in residential neighborhoods.
"I don't think it's the right place for a church,'' said Ruth Benvent, a next-door neighbor to the site who, along with her husband, Joseph, hired a lawyer to fight the plan. "To knock down a home that is well over a million dollars to build a church, it just doesn't conform to the neighborhood."
The White Beeches Golf and Country Club, which abuts the property, has also hired a lawyer.
Hadodo said he understands neighbors' concerns and respects their need to question the church's proposal. But, he said, he is optimistic that eventually, neighbors will warm up to the plans.
"It's going to be a first-class church, nothing of an eyesore,'' he said. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. It will be a beautiful building."
Sunset Avenue residents have said that having a house of worship among single-family homes could negatively affect their property values and bring unwanted cars to the area.
"There is already enough traffic on Sunset Avenue, and we don't need any more traffic," said Nick Fazio, who lives in the neighborhood and has not missed a Planning Board meeting.
Hadodo tried to alleviate concerns that cars would be lining the streets, saying the church probably wouldn't use more than 60 of the 150 parking spaces it is required to build.
Other residents pointed to the loss of tax revenue, since property belonging to churches and other religious organizations is tax-exempt.
Hadodo said that although the church won't be paying taxes, there is a benefit to having a house of worship on the site.
"We're not burdening the school budget, because we are not bringing children to educate,'' the cleric said.
St. Gabriel's has been in Hackensack since 1994 and has outgrown the former Protestant church on Fairmont Avenue that it now occupies.
Most of the church's members are first-generation immigrants from southern Turkey. The congregation was formed so they could attend Mass in Syriac-Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke.
"Our people, they wanted their own church, because they wanted to understand the Mass,'' Hadodo said, about holding services in their native tongue.
He said the congregation includes a number of self-employed jewelers who are hard-working. He said the parishioners, who live in such towns as Dumont, New Milford, Bergenfield, and Haworth, raised the money through donations to build the church and buy the site, which cost $1.15 million.
Hadodo said he doesn't expect the number of congregants to grow much bigger, a concern expressed by several Haworth residents.
"When our people increase in numbers, they look for another church,'' he said, noting the church is composed of about 120 families. "Our people like small groups."
Furthermore, he said, he expects younger members to seek out other parishes, which conduct Mass in English, as they get older. St. Gabriel's holds the one Sunday service in Syriac-Aramaic.
"Newcomers attend church, but as you go through generations, the attendance falls,'' he said. "Our people are going to be Americanized sooner or later."
In addition to a 450-seat sanctuary and community hall, the proposed building would have a kitchen, an area for Sunday school, and a library in the basement.
Hadodo said the church would be used primarily on Sunday mornings for Mass and Sunday school. It also would be used Monday evenings for Bible study. Church events during Christmas and Easter would be held in the community hall, he said.
The hall also would be rented to parishioners for weddings, but Hadodo said he usually performs only four weddings a year. He said most members would prefer to have weddings at restaurants or banquet halls where they don't have to worry about hiring caterers.
"Even with baptisms, they go to restaurants,'' he said.
The plans also call for a dome that would extend approximately 30 feet. The dome is supposed to represent Christ as the head of the church, according to testimony at one of the Planning Board hearings. Church officials said having one dome was conservative for the Orthodox Church.
Another hearing on the church's proposal is scheduled for July 16.
LARGEST CHALDEAN BUSINESS IN DETROIT SOLD
Courtesy of the Detroit News (25 June): by R.J. King
(ZNDA: Detroit) One of the largest Chaldean-owned companies in Metro Detroit has been sold. Melody Farms (www.melodyfarms.com), a large producer of milk, ice cream and other dairy products, was acquired by Dean Foods Co. in Dallas for an undisclosed sum. Dean Foods is a publicly traded food, beverage and ice cream producer with about $9 billion in annual revenue.
Founded in 1950 by Tom George, Melody Farms was a fixture in the Metro Detroit Chaldean community. The company's products include Melody Farms milk, Stroh's Ice Cream and the Sander's brand of confections.
To learn more about the origins of the Melody Farms visit http://www.melodyfarms.com/History.html.]
THE NEW BOOK BY PROF. JOSEPH YACOUB
“Whatever the future of Iraq may be, there is strong reason to fear a regression in the situation of the Christians of this country,” warns the Assyrian writer Prof. Joesph Yacoub in his latest book, “Menaces sur les chrétiens d’Irak”. Prof. Yacoub teaches political science at the French-based Lyon Catholic University.
Other books by Prof. Joseph Yacoub:
· Les minorités dans le monde : faits et analyses
DOCUMENTARY FILM: “IT WAS ONCE MESOPOTAMIA”
The sands of the desert had buried a brilliant civilization born 5000 years ago. Forgotten from our memories, the civilization that invented writing, the sciences and the literature, miraculously emerged out of oblivion with a series of excavations in the 19th century.
Jean-Claude Lubtchansky revives the forgotten cities of Bet-Nahrain in his new documentary titled “Il etait une fois la Mesopotamie”. Produced in 1998 in France, the documentary features archeologists Jean Bottéro, author of “Religion of Ancient Mesopotamia”, “Everyday Life in Mesopotamia” and “Mesopotamia”.
Presented at the Louvre Museum in Paris
Musée du Louvre
LIVE VIDEO STREAMING OF THE SYRIAC SYMPOSIUM
The live video streaming will cover the welcoming session, to
include choir recitals from the various Syriac-speaking Churches,
the plenary invited speaker sessions, and all of the Syriac Computing
(SyrCOM) sessions. Some of these sessions will be later archived
on the Beth Mardutho web site. The bandwidth of the video streaming
is limited to 80 users at a time.
YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO ST. MARY’S ASSYRIAN CHURCH MATTER
"Building A Better Tomorrow" at St. Mary's Assyrian
Church of the East in Southern California.
MICHAEL JACKSON AND I HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON
Michael Jackson once lived on Jackson Street in Gary [Indiana], and so did I -- in 1932, when I was just 2 years old.
I remember some things about Jackson Street between Fourth Avenue and Fifth Avenue, where we lived in two upstairs rooms rented from a widow who lived downstairs.
I remember the wading pool in Jackson Park north of Fourth Avenue. I remember sitting there mad because there was some sand in my trunks, irritating my delicate fanny. I remember wondering why those kids were making so much noise. It was getting on my nerves. I was a quiet, placid toddler, but irritable.
Nearby was the First Presbyterian Church, where my parents met each other and married at the manse in 1929. Rev. Backemeyer was pastor. Down Fifth Avenue was the Assyrian Presbyterian Church, which was for the Assyrian community from Iraq. I remember going to the barber shop, which was several doors from where we lived on Jackson Street.
On the corner was an ice cream parlor. I remember tottering into there, holding my dad's hand. It smelled like milk in there. Later, I learned it was called Jack Spratt ice cream parlor.
I'm proud to have lived on the same street as the famous Jackson musical family. Gary is a great town.
SARGON DANIEL: AN ASSYRIAN LEADER ON THE MOVE
The earliest man to be clearly remembered was called Sargon. Tradition has handed his fame down to us through all the ages as the founder of the great city of Babylon and as its first great king. A legend grew around him, that he was a prince who met death as an infant, but was found and brought up by a gardener. While working in the garden a lady comes to him surrounded by a cloud of doves. This was Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love to whom doves were sacred. Sargon did not know her, but received her in such princely fashion that she fell in love with him. Under Ishtar's guidance, the gardener's boy rose to be the ruler of his own little city. He then conquered other cities, and soon held all the land of Babylonia under his power, being the first man to unite all the little warring cities into a single state.
Mr. Sargon Daniel is a rising star and a senior at Georgetown University in Washington DC. As an incoming freshman, he was selected from among 15,000 applicants to join the John Carroll Scholars. The program chooses the top 5% of the applicant pool and provides them with additional scholarships as well as opportunities for special intensive classes, community service, and increased access to school faculty and staff.
As a sophomore, Mr. Daniel was selected to join the National Society of Collegiate Scholars while simultaneously being nominated as one of the twelve students to attend the top undergraduate business school in England - City University. While at City University, he was selected as one of the 50 students out of 10,000 to be a guest of Queen Elizabeth II of England in a special dedication ceremony.
In May of 2003, Sargon was selected as one of approximately 25 students from the junior class of Georgetown in the Early Assurance Program of Georgetown Law School. He is currently a summer analyst for the technology media and telecom investment bank at JP Morgan, in New York.
The goal of education should never be to make our children bright and successful in the eyes of the world. Rather, we should teach them to become engaged Assyrian fathers—a calling the great Cuban poet José Martí once called “the greatest aim in education.” Assyrian youth who become truly educated will influence and change the lives of our people, because true parenthood does not only mean being a parent to one’s own children. We can be parents to all Assyrian children around us, especially to those whose parents are in some way absent from their day-to-day lives.
Let us pray for the spirit of God to descend on this Young Sargon and guide him to be the catalyst, which can unit our people.
Shamasha Dan Daniel & Donald Daniel
Courtesy of San Diego Union-Tribune (12 June); based on story by Alex Lyda
(ZNDA: El Cajon) The top two students at El Cajon Valley High School saunter through the halls of this East County school in Southern California as if they are surveying conquered territory.
Fellow seniors seem almost star-struck as they wave to Sally Alkass and Tori Danner, who are standing near a picture-filled wall of smiling Cajon graduates.
For several years, classmates knew that Sally and Tori were competing for valedictorian. In the end, Sally accumulated a 4.3 grade-point average and Danner took second seat with a 4.1.
Aside from grade points, both are students in the college-prep program AVID. And both are the first in their families to go to college.
The two will graduate today bearing the dreams of parents who have made big sacrifices. Tori's mother is a single mom who moved from coast to coast during her Navy career. Sally's Chaldean family emigrated from Iraq in search of a better life when she was 4.
And before they reach 23, they vow to have a four-year degree. The pair, who are also best friends, were accepted by University of California in San Diego for this fall.
"We were competing for (valedictorian), but it wasn't cutthroat," said Tori, 17. "We weren't going to risk our friendship."
As expected, their parents are beaming with pride.
When Sally told her dad she was valedictorian, it didn't register.
"My dad just said, 'What's that?' " said Sally, 18, who also speaks Chaldean. "They're from Iraq so they don't really know what this stuff is."
Sally said she never doubted she was college-bound.
"My parents instilled that in me ever since we came here," she said. "They said, 'This is what your goal is in life,' and it has just stuck with me."
Sally also got accepted by UCLA and Berkeley, but decided to stay close to home.
Of El Cajon Valley's class of 413 seniors, 55 are going to four-year colleges and universities this year and 132 are going to two-year schools. The high school, one of 12 in the Grossmont district, serves one of the most economically challenged areas in El Cajon.
Sally and Tori both plan on being doctors and credit the AVID program as integral to their success.
Students recruited for AVID enter in grades 5 through 12. Many of them come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The program allows them to take college-prep classes and an elective for academic and motivational support.
During AVID class, students are coached by college tutors, typically AVID graduates themselves, working in groups focused on writing and note-taking.
Ex-Grossmont Superintendent Granger Ward, who is now the statewide director for AVID, said Sally and Tori are examples of everything AVID – short for Advancement Via Individual Determination – stands for.
"AVID helps remove traditional barriers to honors courses and advanced-placement courses," Ward said. "When you give students that access, they shine. It cuts across all color lines in opening access that kids previously would not have had."
For all the preparation and forethought that went into making her high school career a success, Sally has procrastinated on her class speech.
Heading into last weekend, she still didn't know what she would say.
"I know who I want to thank," she laughed, "but I still have to put it down on paper."
Visit the Zinda Magazine Calendar at http://www.zindamagazine.com/calendar
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