OUR DATE WITH DESTINY IS FINALLY HERE
The legitimate government of Iraq has finally recognized its Syriac-speaking people by appointing an Assyrian nationalist to its supreme governing body.
On Sunday, 13 July, for the first time since the collapse of the kingdom of Little Assyria in northern Bet-Nahrain in A.D. 3rd Century, the Syriac-speaking people of Mesopotamia attained administrative rights in their historic homeland. Mr. Yonadam Kanna (Rabbie Yacu Yosip) was appointed as one of the 25 Iraqi members of the interim National Council to represent the “Chaldean-Assyrian Christians of Iraq”. Mr. Kanna is the Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement.
Mr. Kanna’s appointment is a diplomatic victory for the Assyrian people. At last, after 150 years of national struggle, an Assyrian leader will have equal share of power among all other Iraqi representatives in a recognized body of government. This is an unprecedented event in the history of the Assyrian nation. Never before, after the rise of Islam in the Middle East, has any Assyrian nationalist been able to bestow such an eminent position in the governing body of Mesopotamia as an Assyrian Christian.
Until Nissan of this year, the Assyrian people of Iraq had been reduced to an almost pitiful insignificance. Now, almost on a daily basis, we make our presence felt in every aspect of the new Iraq. Assyrian representatives are being elected in the major Iraqi cities, Assyrian archeologists discuss our ancient history with the western media, and our physicians and teachers pave the road for a healthier and more educated Iraqi society.
In the past few decades only a very few Assyrian nationalists have so powerfully affected the course of our nation's history as Mr. Kanna. His inclusion in the Iraqi National Council signaled a strategic alliance between the Chaldean Catholic and “Nestorian” Assyrians in Iraq. This political synthesis of the Christian identities in Iraq, traditionally differentiated by religious affiliation gives rise to a new identity for the Syriac-speaking people of Bet-Nahrain.
The success of Mr. Kanna was largely due to his astute diplomatic abilities with the Kurdish leaders and the Iraqi opposition groups. He is also the head of an Assyrian political party whose presence is felt in every aspect of the Assyrian society in Iraq. Despite many attempts by the anti-Assyrian factions inside and outside of Iraq, Mr. Kanna was able to suppress the anti-Assyrian political barons in California and Michigan and secure the prominence of his political party to single-handedly represent all Christian factions in his homeland.
Mr. Kanna has an enormous list of to-do’s for the next few months: strengthening the relations among the “Nestorian” and “Chaldean” and “Syriac” Assyrians of Iraq, preparing for the inevitable conflict with his resentful counterparts in the United States, ensuring support for the use of a compound name to designate the Syriac-speaking people of Iraq, namely the “Chaldeo-Assyrians”, and define the Assyrian demands for the new constitution of Iraq.
Yonadam Kanna is one of the most striking figures of the Assyrian politics in the past two decades. His enemies vilify him as a “slave to Kurdish masters”, “arrogant dictator”, and “shrewd conciliater”. His admirers praise him as a “determined leader”, “focused warrior”, and “our only hope in Iraq”. A little more than 20 years after leaving his home in Baghdad and joining the Assyrian armed struggle against Saddam Hussein where he helped found the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Yonadam Kanna has accomplished the unimaginable. The Assyrian people – Nestorians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, and soon the Armenians, Sabaens and Yezidis – have finally come together to create a formidable force in the Iraqi society and restore their political, administrative, and cultural rights within their homeland. With the full cooperation of its Christian citizens, Iraq can now look toward a truly free and democratic future. At the helm of this revolution stands Yonadam Kanna, the man whom we hope will spark the “Amorite Miracle” within his term in office.
The appointment of Yonadam Kanna as the representative of the Chaldean-Assyrian Christians of Iraq on Sunday was nothing less than a political and cultural revolution. It is now up to us to either counter this magnificent achievement with bombastic prose on our radio and television programs in the diaspora or advance this transformation to legitimacy and worldwide political recognition. We can only imagine the effects of Mr. Kanna’s appointment on the revival of our language, heritage, political power, and the recognition of our identity.
On Sunday, sitting among the other 24 Shiite, Sunni, Turkoman and Kurdish representatives, he seemed motionless. Here was an Assyrian leader sitting among his Moslem counterparts in an auditorium on the banks of the Tigris River, basking in the flashlights of a myriad photographers. Perhaps he was reminiscing about the early days of the Struggle along with his comrades in the North, or remembering the dozens of Assyrian martyrs whose names he was murmuring as the Shiite leader gave his protracted speech.
Mr. Kanna may be the Secretary-General of an Assyrian political party, but today he represents the aspirations of every Assyrian nationalist in Iraq and in the Diaspora. For the next few years he will remain the central figure of our nation’s political life, playing a critical role in transforming us from a global community of mini-societies into a true nation with legitimate territorial and administrative rights. With the help of the United States and the support of our Moslem neighbors, an elite culture is about to burst into its golden age in Iraq and illuminate an astonishing transformation with enormous consequences for both Iraq and the Middle East.
July 13 marks an important turning point for the Assyrian people and every Christian community in the Middle East. Every summer, let us celebrate this day as the “Assyrian National Recognition Day”. How appropriate is the rise of the Assyrian nation on the month that depicts the rise of Tammuz from the lifeless landscape of history.
*Amorite Miracle, see http://www.zindamagazine.com/html/archives/2002/7.22.02/index.php#ZindaSays
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CHURCH OF THE EAST ON SATURDAY?
An impressive memorial service to extol His Beatitude Mar Raphael I Bidawid, the late Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church took place on Saturday in Beirut, Lebanon. The heads of the Lebanese government and several Christian churches were among the nearly 700 attendants at the Malakha Raphael Church which was built by His Beatitute during his bishopric life in Lebanon prior to his consecration as a patriarch. Attendees included the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir; Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud, Prefect of the Office for Eastern-rite churches in Vatican, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud’s son; and the Chaldean Archbishop Mar Jacques Ishaq of the Babylon College in Baghdad, Assistant to the Patriarch Mar Shlemon Warduni from Baghdad and Mar Andraos Abouna, Chaldean Bishop in Europe. Mar Abouna was the master of the funeral ceremony, where Patriarch Sfeir read a passage from the Bible, Mar Bidawid’s family spoke about their departed member, and the Lebanese Minister of Defense, Chief of Army, and the military choir and band paid final respect to His Beatitude. A representative of the Lebanese Presidential office then presented his country’s highest honor, the National Order of the Cedar, to the late-Patriarch Mar Raphael I Bidawid.
The Assyrians present at this funeral were Mr. Amanoel Khoshaba from the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Mr. Ashor Giwargis, Mr. Shukri Morad, and Mr. Aprim Shapera. Three priests from the Church of the East were also present among the attendees: Qasha Yathrun Guiliana, Qasha Sapar Khamis, and Qasha Andre Odisho.
The question remains: Why did no official representatives or one or more bishops of the Church of the East attend the funeral and pay their respect to our Chaldean-Assyrian Patriarch? Mar Narsai, Bishop of Lebanon, was in Chicago at this time and could have immediately returned to his seat of power and represented the Church of the East during this momentous event. The presence of Mar Bawai Soro was also essential, as he was instumental in improving the relations between the two branches of the Assyrian Church during Mar Bidawid’s patriarchy.
A telegram from Chicago, a phone call from a remote location, and a few email messages cannot replace the ultimate act of reverence for a man who was so loved by every Assyian from every church or denomination. The Church of the East’s absence from the funeral of Mar Bidawid was an inexusable and regretful act. During such historic times when we are witnessing the political recognition of our people in all our cultural, ethnic, and religious splendor, the Assyrian people demand more support and cooperation from their religious leaders. An explanation to the Assyrian people and the members of the Chaldean Catholic for the absence of the Church of the East is expected from the office of the Patriarch of the Church of the East in the United States.
See AINA’s report: “Assyrians Mourn the Passing of Patriarch Raphael” at http://aina.org/releases/2003/marraphael.htm
THE ASSYRIAN MANIFESTO
In 1977 Mr. Ivan Kakovitch published the Chartered Constitution of the Assyrian Provisional Government or ICAN (International Confederation of the Assyrian Nation). Three years earlier on 15 December 1974, he had introduced the “The Assyrian Manifesto”, a plan of action toward the formation of an autonomous Assyrian state in North Iraq, the Mosul Vilayat in particular.
Mr. Kakovitch has recently published a novel titled “Mount Semele” and will be a guest of the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock on 7 August to discuss his book and ideas for cohesive Assyrian operations throughout the world.
Mr. Kakovitch lives in California. The following is a reprint of the original Assyrian Manifesto published in Washington, D.C.
* * * * *
In order to attain our goal and eventually meet our national aspirations within the framework of international law and without cultivating enmity and harboring opposition of any kind, from any government, in particular the Government of the Iraqi Arab Republic in relation to our justifiable claims and demands for a long-delayed act from its part, which is that of endeavoring the granting of THE AUTONOMOUS ASSYRIAN STATE in the Vilayat of Mossul (renamed Province of Ninewah), Iraq, our sole duty is to enact a constitutional bylaws, which would allow us to proceed in formation of organizational governing, administrative, executive and functional departments of self-rule and operation of all Assyrians throughout the world.
The above "Declaration" was made during the most turbulent period in the Middle East. United Nations Bylaws had described it as controversial and inflammatory. Even a warning letter was issued by a Representative of the Non-Government Organization to that effect, informing the author, that this provocative "Declaration" is tantamount to interfering in the affairs of a sovereign nation, namely, Iraq.
All has changed in less than 30 years. Now, it is criminal and unfriendly act not to interfere in the affairs of sovereign nations. Just look at former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, as of press time.
In 1974, nine out of ten Assyrians lived under dictatorial regimes, at best, and tyrannical, at worst. Today, ninety-five percent live under the banners of democracy. Hence, if we dared to proclaim our rights then, we must zealously combine our efforts to form a functioning governmental body without fear or persecution, practically in all areas of the globe. No force on earth can stop us from proclaiming for what the nations of the world go to war, namely liberty and freedom of expression.
Nothing less than NATIONAL AUTONOMY with properly designated geographical boundaries entered into the annals of the United Nations and duly recognized by the same body will be acceptable to the Assyrians of the world, Iraq included.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The solution to a problem is an answer. Numerous venues are employed to attain this answer. The more the problems, the more the outcry for answers. The answers are nowhere to be found, simply because they do not exist. They need to be created, invented, might be a more apt description. The difficulty of a problem is similar to the answer. It also does not exist. It has to be perceived, imagined, or merely advocated.
Do the Assyrians have a problem? Yes. No Assyria is the problem. Hence, a simple answer. Create Assyria.
Fruition of a project depends on three elements: (a) idea, (b) plan, and (c) execution.
Perception of the idea still has its roots in the hearts and minds of the Assyrians in general. The zeal to attain it, though, has been drastically reduced. This lack of nationalism, by no means, has been forced upon the Assyrians, nor has it been ferociously thwarted. Ironically, it is the kindness and a great deal of developmental success of the communities in all phases of life, e.g., education, economy and financial security. In other words, generosity and kindness have supplanted the sword in eradicating nationalism to a certain degree. Most of the advanced nations of the world have opened their borders, and have funded their social programs to accommodate the multitude of Assyrian immigrants into their countries. Obviously this migration takes place at the expense of our placating the dwellings, the farms, positions, businesses and the land their ancestors lived on it for six millennia.
Hence, we face our major problem. Depopulation.
In some circles of our leadership a platform of making waves wherever, for whatever purpose, and whenever possible is fervently advocated. It is time to eschew this venerated, but wanton agenda. It is both wrong and harmful to our cause. To be heard by everyone, for any insignificant event and all over the world, should be placated and substituted by actively working on what counts most. One single arena, one single plan and one cohesive idea are the tools to be employed. This work becomes imperative when it is conducted from the focal point, The Province of Ninewah, and namely the city of Mossul, Iraq.
The process of slowly reestablishing the political bases in Mossul must take precedence above all else. This move will precipitate a migration of the population back to their ancestral home.
There are no more than four to five thousand Assyrians living in Mossul, and perhaps as many as forty thousand in the neighboring towns and villages. There are geographical demarcations in the Iraqi governmental annals for all the Provinces. Neither Kirkuk nor Arbil, are within the Ninewah Province borders. These two cities are in Kurdistan, not de jure, but de facto.
Mossul is the third largest city in Iraq. With over 1.5 million inhabitants, the city is complemented with excellent weather, fertility of land, and internationally known cultural center. Kurdistan, in general, and Kirkuk and Arbil, in particular, heightened by our leadership political presence is not a sound policy. Encouraging some forty thousand souls to live and function politically among fervent nationalists of some two to three million souls, is tantamount to national suicide.
A project, in concert with international community of nations is to be launched to reestablish the Assyrians of Kurdistan into the Province of Ninewah, in general, and in Mossul, in particular. All funds raised for Assyrians in Iraq, are to be put forward for purchasing real estate, in any form or shape as it fits both, economic and mechanical demands. It is more feasible, economically, to executive this plan at this time. The purchases could be made on voluntary basis by Assyrian investors. At a later date, when an Assyrian Monetary Fund (AMF) is created, most anyone could purchase shares in it. This fund will be based on rules and regulations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). All Assyrian-owned ventures could be leased at minimal fees for the newcomers from Kurdistan. All properties though, shall bear the names of the purchasers. They may want to part with it at their discretion for the benefit of those who can't afford to purchase it by themselves, in the future.
This is a protracted, long-term and a precarious project. The success of repopulation is not foreseen for years. It would take ten, twenty, or even fifty years, but the results shall be ominous.
This is the most complex of all the problems. It has to deal with individual beliefs, rather than mechanical structure. However, once mechanical structure is in place, individual opinions and beliefs will fit into such a mechanism.
A stringent point to be made is that the vanguard of leadership for Assyria must be made of Assyrian population in Iraq. However, one must also point out that it is imperative the non-residents of Iraq to extend their hand, on any level to their brethren. Another emphasis is that any aid from outside of Iraq must be directed solely for reestablishing the Assyrians in the Province.
A Constitutional Assembly (amendable), or Congress of Assyria (COA) is hereby presented in its preliminary form. A number of facts must be taken into consideration in formatting this Assembly. The seats in this Assembly are distributed among all the communities in the world to work hand-in-hand with the Iraqi delegates. Another point of preponderance is that the Iraqi delegates must have the majority of the seats, so as not to be overruled by the non-resident delegates. A precarious rule to be inserted into the Constitution is that the non-resident delegates can use block-voting criteria, for economic reasons, however, the Iraqi delegates must use individual voice vote. This is a safety factor that is ought to be instituted. This is important, because it will avoid one person to have too much power.
CONGRESS OF ASSYRIA
The Congress is to consist of sixty-three (63) delegates. A fair distribution of power must be respected on any level. The delegates from twenty-four (24) countries-including Iraq are to be elected on international suffrage. The non-resident pro-temp President, responsible for block voting, is also to be elected by the majority of the delegates of his/her country. All legislation is to be carried by a simple majority vote. A forum of 45 delegates or votes is, therefore, determined to be legal.
The distribution of delegates is recommended to be as following:
Once these delegates assemble on one or two occasions, then, it will be their first task to assign portfolios for the governing body of Assyria.
The preceding pages are strictly preliminary recommendations, and by no means, are dogmatic rules and regulations.
YONADAM KANNA REPRESENTS CHALDEAN-ASSYRIAN CHRISTIANS IN THE INTERIM GOVERNING COUNCIL
The Interim Governing Council held its inaugural meeting on Sunday, 13 July in a Baghdad auditorium, representing religious and ethnic factions in Iraq. The council will have substantial but limited powers, under the guidance of post-war U.S. administrator in Iraq, Mr. Paul Bremmer.
One of the 25 members of the Governing Council is Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. The official title of Mr. Kanna in the Council shall be “Secretary-General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Representing the Chaldean-Assyrian Christians of Iraq”.
In a report by the Associated Press today the following comment was noted about Mr. Kanna: “An Assyrian Christian, Secretary-General of the Democratic Assyrian Movement and active member of the Assyrian-Chaldian Christian community. He was a former minister of Public Works and Housing and a former minister of Industry and Energy. He began activism against Saddam in 1979.”
The Council announced that April 9, the day U.S. troops toppled a statue of Saddam in central Baghdad's Firdos Square, would be a national holiday.
In an interview with Zinda Magazine, Mr. Kanna explained that he will work diligently to promote the political and cultural rights of the Chaldean-Assyrian Christians in Iraq.
The Governing Council is the principal body of the interim administration of Iraq called for in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483. It will exercise specific powers in addition to representing the interests of the Iraqi people to the Coalition Provisional Authority and the international community.
Mr. Kanna will be a guest of the Socialist International Organization in Rome, Italy between July 18 and 20. A delegation of SIO leadership met with the ADM leadership on 19 June and discussed ways to establish a multi-ethnic and representative democratic and secular government which respects the equal rights of all ethnic groups, religions and genders in Iraq.
KHATAMI RECEIVES REPRESENTATIVES OF RELIGIOUS MINORITIES TO MAJLIS
(ZNDA: Tehran) On Monday, 14 July, President Mohammad Khatami of Iran received the representatives from the Assyrian and other minorities to the Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majlis (Iranian Parliament).
President Khatami noted the demands of the Assyrian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian Iranians and asked that the representatives of these minority groups to act quickly and more efficiently in fulfilling their demands and duties with the cooperation of his government.
His Honorable Yonatan Bet-Kolia is the current Assyrian representative in the Majlis and serves on the executive board of the Assyrian Universal Alliance as its Asia-Secretary.
President Khatami also stressed the government's efforts to solve
the problems of religious minorities in Iran. Mr. Bet-Kolia and other
members of the Majlis outlined the current conditions of their respective
communities and the challenges each group faces as a religious minority.
HOW SADDAM TRACKED FOES, ASSYRIANS IN U.S.
Courtesy of Chicgo Sun-Times (14 July); by Dave Newbart & the Chicago Tribune (11 July); by Jon Yates and Oscar Avila
(ZNDA: Chicago) The documents kept by the Iraqi Intelligence Service were meticulous in detail and sweeping in scope.
In some, Iraqi intelligence officers in the United States are directed to use informers to track the "criminal'' actions of one current and one former Chicago area resident, both Assyrian Christians from Iraq who founded an anti-Saddam Hussein political party. Another accuses the group of being influenced by "imperialists'' and "Zionists.''
Others include the exact dates of the group's meetings and conventions in Chicago and elsewhere, the names of the people who ran the events, those in attendance and what statements were made. Trips taken by group leaders also were noted.
"It was as if somebody was sitting among us and recording our actions,'' said Shimon Khamo, a former Chicago resident who is secretary-general of the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Alliance, founded in Chicago in 1976 to oppose the then-ruling Baath party. It now has 500 members, all Assyrian Christians, a segment long persecuted in Saddam's Iraq.
Group members now know their party probably was infiltrated. The Arabic-language intelligence documents, some of which were provided to the Chicago Sun-Times, show just how extensive Saddam's network of informants ran in the United States, the dissidents say. They also show to what degree Saddam--even as his country was strapped by economic sanctions--went to find out information about his foes.
An estimated 25 tons of the documents are only now being analyzed by the alliance and members of the Iraqi National Congress, which seized them from Iraqi intelligence headquarters after the fall of the Iraqi government. Some were seized after the first Persian Gulf War in areas under Kurdish control.
There are as many as 200 informants in the United States, Mahdi al-Bassam, a member of the central committee of the Iraqi National Congress, estimates. Most are concentrated in large cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Houston.
Khamo, who was in Baghdad last month, returned with 60 pages of documents dealing with his organization between the mid-1980s and 2000. The documents uncovered recently were produced by a handful of informants, including a man who still lives in California, he said. Khamo declined to identify the informants, some of whom are referred to only by initials or code names. Federal authorities said Dumeisi was referred to in documents as "Sirhan.''
"It was very surprising,'' said Khamo, of Modesto, Calif. "I did not think the Iraqi government put so much effort and concentration to delay or stop our movement.''
Another target of the spy network was Guliana "Glenn'' Younan, 58, of Skokie, Illinois. A father of five who runs a photo and office supply business in downtown Chicago, he is one of the founders of the Bet-Nahrain group--and was thus viewed as a threat by Iraq.
In a document dated Nov. 25, 2000, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry directs Iraqi officials in New York and Washington to use its "paid sources''--which Khamo believes refers to informants--to gather information on Younan, Khamo and other members of the Bet-Nahrain group. The document accuses the members of being paid agents of another government.
Other documents tell of a 1988 meeting between Younan and Assyrian church leaders in an "elegant restaurant in downtown Chicago.'' It details what was said and the length of the dinner--41/2 hours.
"There were guys all the time reporting on us,'' said Younan. "It's scary. A lot of the information was very accurate. Our trips, our meetings, our statements we issued--they all end up in Saddam's file.''
How the information was used is not known, but Younan has received phone threats, his cars were vandalized, and a previous business of his was broken into and torched. No arrests were made in those incidents, he said.
While in Germany in the late 1980s, Iraq native Joseph Markhay joined a protest against Iraq. Police visited his parents in Iraq and threatened them with violence if he continued to speak out against the regime.
"Every single movement of mine was given to my parents," said Markhay, who is Assyrian, an ethnic minority in Iraq. "They know our movements. They've got spies all over."
When Markhay moved to Skokie, Illinois in 1996, he focused on humanitarian activities instead of political opposition out of fear that his brother in Iraq would be punished.
"I kept my mouth shut," Markhay said.
Dissidents suspect that informants also helped Iraqi intelligence agents carry out unsolved, execution-style murders of other opposition leaders in the United States. Still, dissidents complain that in the past they had trouble getting law enforcement to pursue individuals suspected of spying for Saddam.
''Those who gather information in the United States about people living in America for the purpose of providing the information to hostile governments should understand that the FBI will pursue them vigorously and the government will bring charges,'' Fitzgerald said.
CHALDEAN CHRISTIANS CONNECT WITH OTHER BELIEVERS
Courtesy of Christianity Today (14 July)
(ZNDA: al-Qa’im) Adel Hermiz Marogi, 47, proudly thumbs through the pages of a thick Bible. The green cover is etched with elaborate Arabic script traced in gold. Then Marogi disappears into the bedroom and reemerges holding a painting of the Last Supper in one hand, a portrait of Jesus in the other. These are among his family's most prized possessions.
But when talk turns to houses of worship here in Al Qa'im, the cheerful Iraqi with the salt-and-pepper moustache and thick black hair shakes his head and sighs.
"Our fathers and mothers tried to build one," Marogi said. "But they could not find the money to do it."
In the barren wastes that stretch from Al Qa'im up to the Syrian border, no one has the resources. The old Iraqi constitution under the despotic rule of Saddam Hussein explicitly protected freedom of religion. It did not protect against poverty. While the dictator would provide free building materials—and even pipe organs—for some churches, this kind of government largesse never reached isolated communities such as Al Qa'im.
Beginning to reach out
Today, however, some are daring to dream again. American soldiers arrived recently and encamped just down the road, at the local railroad station. Marogi plans to visit the camp and ask the Presbyterian chaplain, Capt. Sungjean Kim, to conduct a service, and maybe even help build a church.
"I will speak with the captain and tell him I can collect all the Christians," Marogi said. "We want to have relations, Christian to Christian, and we will be very happy if he can help us have a church."
As Iraq grapples with its newfound freedom, Christians of all types are beginning to reach out, both to outsiders and to one another. Clive Calver, president of the evangelical World Relief agency, just returned from a trip to the country.
"There's the beginning of an opportunity to do something that's never been done before and that is communicate between churches," Calver said. "I went north and found eight churches where there was only supposed to be one. That tells you something. These folks don't know each other exists. It's amazing what can be done to network. It's a moment of opportunity."
Al Qa'im is actually a cluster of villages in northwestern Iraq. To get here, you have to traverse desert wastes dotted occasionally with scrub brush. Most of Al Qa'im's 40,000 people are Muslims. The 20 or so Christian families in this dusty border enclave near the Euphrates are Chaldeans. They are part of the largest Christian denomination in Iraq, which is in communion with the Roman Catholic Church but worships with an ancient Syriac liturgy.
In the Al Qa'im area, the locals still talk about that Sunday back in 1980 when a visiting priest conducted a service at a local home—an event that has not been repeated since.
The Christians have plenty of experience keeping the faith through tough times. In the absence of a church building, Marogi and his wife have filled their squat cinderblock house with religious items. A wooden cross hangs from one wall, a picture of a son standing at the altar in a distant church on another. Christmas cards ring the room. Photo albums overflow with pictures of family trips to Mass and baptisms.
Every year after school is out, Marogi sends his wife and four children to their ancestral home in Mosul. They attend Sunday prayers, in churches so full "you cannot find a chair to sit on all day," and take Sunday school classes.
As the war approached, family members made their way to a house down the road to huddle with other Christian families. There was no priest to preside. But those present lit candles, knelt in prayer for peace, and read the Bible.
Many Christians considered their situation to be better than in many other Arab nations. "There's not much you can say about the old regime," said Samuel Rizk, a spokesman for the Middle East Council of Churches in Beirut, Lebanon. "But one thing you could say is that Christians enjoyed freedom to worship."
Rizk said it might be possible to enhance that freedom now. "In the months ahead, there will be lots of redevelopment and lots of reconstruction," he said. "It's reasonable to assume that churches could be reconstructed, and they may even build new ones, depending on the new constitution."
Meanwhile, up the road, Sungjean Kim ministers to 650 Christian soldiers
in his squadron, which is spread out for hundreds of miles. But if
the locals will accept a non-Catholic clergyman, he says, he will
likely make time for at least one sermon. "It sounds like they
could use one."
JEWISH LOBBY IN THE U.S. & DICK CHENEY OPPOSE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE BILL
Courtesy of the Zaman Newspaper & the Armenian Assembly of America (11 July)
(ZNDA: Anakara) The American Jewish Committee last week sent a letter requesting the exclusion of the so-called Armenian genocide recognition bill from the 2004 US budget bill.
The budget bill, which was proposed by the US State Department, is being discussed by the Senate. The letter was sent to US Vice President Dick Cheney and the members of the Senate.
Meanwhile, Armenian Parliament Head Artur Bagdasyan announced last week in Yerevan that Armenia was ready for dialogue with Turkey and the Turkish parliament in order to normalize relations between the two countries. In addition, the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vartan Oskanyan said that the US could play a significant role in normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations.
In an effort to mend strained Turkish-US relations, through a series
of `telephone diplomacy' U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney succeeded
in preventing a resolution indirectly recognizing the so-called Armenian
genocide from being scheduled for a full US Senate vote, Washington
sources said last week. US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz,
a traditional friend of Turkey, and Assistant Secretary of State Richard
Armitage also pitched into the efforts to persuade senators to oppose
a vote, top Senate sources added. The resolution was designed to implicitly
recognize the so-called genocide while commemorating the anniversary
of a United Nations human rights pact. Sources stated that Cheney's
efforts demonstrated Washington's desire to keep good ties with Turkey
and not further unsettle relations. President George W. Bush was touring
Africa during this time and so was unable to lobby the senators himself.
ASSYRIANS TO DEMONSTRATE IN HOLLAND TO PROTEST THE GENOCIDE
The hanging of the Christian leaders was one of the first acts of the Genocide perpetrated by the Turks in 1915.
To Turkish and the International Opinion, and Media:
In 1915 over two million Assyrians, Armenian and Pontic Greeks were slaughtered in Turkey. There will be a gathering at the Hague (Netherlands) to protest against the Seyfo Genocide in front of Holland’s House of Parliament. We demand the recognition of the Seyfo Genocide and an apology for the atrocities committed.
At this demonstration we will re-enact the scene depicted in the above picture
Place and time: Thursday, 31 July 2003, at 1.00 PM (13:00)
Binen hof Tweede Kemer
Stichting Asssyria and Centrum Informatie Dokumantaci (CIDA)
70TH ANNUAL NATIONAL CONVENTION OF THE ASSYRIAN AMERICAN NATIONAL FEDERATION
Please join us as we gather to celebrate our Assyrian Culture through great entertainment, insightful programs, inspiring events and good fun!!! http://www.aanf.org
Come see long lost friends and make some new ones.
Location: The Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, IL (near O'Hare Airport).
The Convention Website is online and registrations are being processed.
Telephone registrations are also accepted.
Assyrian American National Federation, Inc.
AANF Registration - Chicago Office
Hope to see you there!!!!
IRAQI ASSYRIANS? LET’S STAY WITH THE FACTS
A Critique of Rev. Ken Joseph’s Presentation
Alas, I was not present for Rev. Ken Joseph’s San Jose presentation (June 11, 2003) on the Assyrian situation in Iraq. However I believe I have a general understanding of it, based on various sources, including Fred Aprim’s commentary (in Zinda, June 19, 2003), other published letters, and observations received from actual attendees. What Rev. Joseph shared with his audience was both depressing and disturbing, not so much for the grim scenario he painted, but because a good deal of what he said appears dogmatic and not grounded in fact.
Indeed, Rev. Joseph’s presentation was eerily reminiscent of the message delivered in the mid-eighteenth century by Western missionaries plying their way through north Assyria (Hakkari and Urmia). It conjured for me visions of Dr. Asahel Grant, the then head of the Presbyterian Mission, and author of “The Nestorians; or, the Lost Tribes”. According to Grant, the cumulation of tragedies and misfortunes visited upon the Assyrians would have the felicitous result of turning them away from heretic Nestorianism and steering them on the “right path” to the Lord.
Having made a recent visit of my own to Baghdad, I can confirm
that Assyrians in Iraq are indeed lacking basic necessities, particularly
in terms of food, medicine, and security. While this is a deplorable
situation, it is just one side of the coin. Yet it so frustrated
Rev. Joseph that he allowed it to color his judgment about the general
spirit and capacity of Iraqi Assyrians. By jumping to conclusions,
I feel he has seriously misread the attachment of Iraqi Assyrians
both in terms of their national and religious affairs, at the present
time as well as in their future.
This is not to suggest that there are no points of agreement between myself and Rev. Joseph. Some of these similarities and differences in our positions may be of interest. Of course, I agree with Rev. Joseph that Iraqi Assyrians are in need of moral support and financial or material assistance from the Diaspora Assyrians. However, I totally disagree with the idea that Iraqi Assyrians “are not qualified to carry on sophisticated dialogue in English …[;that] they lack the basic communication skills in the language of those making the decisions, i.e. English…[;that] they are not in a position to make any demands because they are afraid of the Kurds and the Shi’as. Whatever demands the Assyrian representatives are making, are coming from a point of weakness and not from strength …they lack self-confidence; and are hesitant from presenting their rightful demands … therefore… they need qualified Assyrians from the Diaspora to negotiate with the Americans aggressively”.
Regarding the ability of Iraqi Assyrians in the English language, I would repeat a fact well known to the Diaspora Assyrians of Iraqi origin, every one of whom knows that the Iraqi Assyrians, since early last century, were—and still, up to today, are—the most proficient in using English among any of the other Iraqi ethnicities. As I recall my schoolboy days in Iraq, other Iraqis suspected us of being Western sympathizers not only because of our Christianity, but also because of our unusual strength in the English language. Habbaniya, the Iraqi Petroleum Company (IPC), Ain Zala, the Basrah Petroleum Company (BPC), the Training Centre in Kirkuk and the many private banks in Baghdad and Kirkuk are some of the employment venues which eagerly employed Assyrians, attesting to their capability in English. .
In respect to Assyrian representatives in Iraq, I am sure they are far more qualified in sophisticated dialogue in English than other ethnic representatives are, and they can make their demands in a clear and logical manner. I have witnessed more that one session of negotiations and the wording of statements of such demands in English by Assyrian representatives (for instance see Mar Gewargis letter of May 11. 2003 to Mr. G. Garner).
Rev. Joseph also misses the boat when it comes to the issue of Iraqi Assyrians lawyers, qualified individuals and legal experts. A number of my student colleagues at the University of Baghdad became practicing lawyers. I view them and their colleagues as amply qualified to articulate and formulate constitutional protections for our people. In fact, two of them were recently elected to the Kirkuk city council. But in any case, Rev. Joseph and other readers need to keep in mind that the Iraqi constitution and its statutes will be drafted in Arabic, not in English. A number of Iraqi experts are at this very time working with American advisors on this project. No doubt once this initial task is completed, both the new Constitution and the new laws will also be translated to Kurdish, Syriac and Turkish.
I believe that Rev. Joseph’s limited grasp of our people in Iraq has also led him to exaggerate the Assyrian dread of Kurds and Shi’as. I am wondering whether or not Rev. Joseph is aware of the remarkable national achievements realized in Gerbia. This commendable record was produced thanks to the bravery of Assyrians, not because of any intimidation on their part. Assyrians in Gerbia have met with success through hard work, but not as by begging for charity, nor due to any chimeric political posturing, which all too often characterizes the dialogue among Diaspora Assyrians.
Is it possible that Rev. Joseph has not heard of our valiant martyrs, such as Yousip Toma, Youbert Binyamen, Youkhanna Eshoo, and the like? Was he aware that several months before the liberation of Iraq, a group of Assyrian youngsters raised the Assyrian flag during a cultural activity at the Ashurbanipal Society in Baghdad which was witnessed by a Baáth agent and eventually the incident was reported to security police and chairman of the Society was summoned and questioned?
Many are the acts of courage by Assyrians during the years of the
dictatorship, well before the arrival of American and British protective
forces. Rev. Joseph should be reassured that Assyrian representatives
will not be intimidated by either Kurds or Shi’as in demanding
their national rights in the period ahead, as the country slowly
enters a democratic era.
With regard to the Muslim fundamentalists, there is no arguing that they pose a most serious threat to the future of Assyrians and I believe that Assyrians, as Christians, will be a prime target of this group. Yet we must understand that this particular problem is not exclusively to Assyrians. Other Iraqis face a similar risk, whether they are Arabs, Kurds or Turkemen and each of these ethnicities has previously been involved in armed clashes with the fundamentalists. Americans are well aware of such a threat, and they view it as an extreme destabilizing element to their plans for Iraq and the region. For this reason, the role of Muslim fundamentalists will be restrained by democratic rules; otherwise they will be ruled out of the game in the same way as Imam M. Fartoosi, who called for terrorist actions against women, cinemas and other symbols of modern life, who eventually was imprisoned by the American forces. While Imam Fartoosi was recently released from his detention, his voice has been muted, and he has basically disappeared from the politic scene. We should know that the coalition forces liberated Iraq from a brutal dictator and it is safe to assume that they have no intention of handing the country over in to another dictator. Iraq is not Somalia or Afghanistan or Lebanon. To Americans the political and economic significance of Iraq means a lot, more than of other countries in the region.
Perhaps most surprising of all is Rev. Joseph’s opinion about the Christian faith of the Iraqi Assyrians. If you read his comments without knowing Iraqi Assyrians first hand, you would be led to believe that they have turned their back on their faith, and have become infidels, rather than faithful followers of the great Church of the East. How else to interpret Rev. Joseph when he wails that “… the Assyrians of Iraq have almost completely forgotten how to believe and pray … Assyrians have been, for all practical purpose, culturally Islamized … they have forgotten their saviour Jesus Christ, and have forgotten the promise of God that Assyrian will rise again …”?
A couple of observations on this are in order:
First, in a time of crisis and desperation, survival is uppermost
in people’s minds. This means that food, shelter and safety
take precedence over such issues as nationalism or politics which
will be seen as luxurious and secondary things- even to some people
as nonsense. Those in charge in critical periods – such as
the Americans in Iraq today -- place greater stock on political
parties, religious and social institutions, and prominent personalities,
and they have little time for public referenda or opinion polls.
Under the circumstances, I am sure the Iraqi Assyrians were far
more appreciative of Rev. Joseph when he provided them food and
bottled water than about the lessons of Isaiah 19:23-25. The same
could be said of the empty speechmaking in the Diaspora. Physical
sustenance is the word of the day in Iraq.
On the same day I visited Saint Rita’s church of the Chaldean Catholic Rite in Baghdad (Karrada), where I used to kneel at the front of the statue of Saint Mary and pray during my youth, I found hundreds of people visiting the church to pray. A similar situation prevailed at St. Peter and Paul, a Syriac Orthodox church. Though I did not enter the church, but from the number of vehicles blocking the street, one could assume hundreds of Assyrian worshippers were in attendance
I have to ask how such large turnouts at these various Assyrian churches managed to escape Rev. Joseph’s attention. Perhaps he failed to attend Sunday mass at any of the churches I’ve mentioned, for otherwise he would surely have to revise his opinion and reconsider his statement that the Assyrians of Iraq have lost touch with their faith, and on contrary he would see that the Assyrians of Iraq are real Christians, not infidels.
If I may conclude with some modest advice to Rev. Joseph, it would be the following; in your previous visit to that embattled country, you took our people food and bottled water, which was highly appreciated not only by Iraqi Assyrians, but by Assyrians everywhere in the world. If you should make any further visit to Iraq, I highly recommend that you bring along more food and bottled water, as the need for these is far more urgent than the homily of Isaiah 19: 23-25.
PATRIARCH RAPHAEL I BIDAWID
Calling Saddam Hussein a "real gentleman" was hardly likely to endear a clergyman to the outside world. But as head of Iraq's largest Christian church for 14 years - all but the last few months under Saddam's rule - Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid had to tread carefully to protect his 600,000-strong flock.
It was not just the United States that believed he had overstepped the mark. The Vatican was highly concerned by his defence of Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait - the action that triggered the first Gulf war - and diplomatically distanced itself from his remarks, insisting that the invasion was a breach of international law and the UN Charter.
The Chaldean Church - an offshoot of the Assyrian Church of the East - accepted the authority of the Pope in the 16th century and is the only Eastern-rite Catholic church to have grown larger than the church from which it sprang. Iraq's Chaldeans take pride in continuing to use Aramaic - the language Jesus spoke - among themselves and during the liturgy.
While relations between the Assyrians and the Chaldeans are close, Patriarch Raphael failed to bring about the unity between the two he so desired. At the same time there were some Chaldeans who criticised his Latin style, believing he was drawing his church away from its Oriental roots.
Born in British Mandate Iraq soon after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, Bidawid attended a Dominican-run primary school in Mosul (the Biblical Nineveh) and at the age of 11 entered the Chaldean junior seminary in the town. Identified as a promising student, he was sent to Rome three years later to study theology and philosophy. He remained in the city during the Second World War.
Ordained a priest in October 1944, he obtained a doctorate in philosophy with a thesis on the Islamic theologian Al-Ghazali and a doctorate in theology on Patriarch Timothaos the Great. In 1947 he left Rome and returned to Mosul as vice-rector of the seminary, where he also taught French and moral theology.
From 1950 he served as chaplain to Chaldeans working in the field for the Iraq Petroleum Company. In 1956 he was appointed patriarchal vicar for the diocese of Kirkuk and a year later, at the age of just 35, was appointed Bishop of Amadya in northern Iraq, at the time the youngest Catholic bishop in the world. He attended sessions of the Second Vatican Council in Rome (1962-65). In 1966 he was transferred to the diocese of Beirut, where he stayed for 23 years, having the difficult task of leading his church through the bitter Lebanese civil war.
A synod of the Chaldean Church elected Bidawid Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans in May 1989, following the death of Mar Pulus II Chekho the previous month. His installation in Baghdad's Chaldean cathedral was attended by 10,000 faithful.
As economic and political conditions worsened in Iraq and across the Middle East, Chaldeans emigrated in droves, leaving a dwindling flock at home but a vibrant diaspora, with 170,000 in the United States (with two dioceses of their own) and communities in Europe, Canada, Australia and the Caucasus. Patriarch Raphael was a regular visitor to his scattered flock.
But he is most likely to be remembered for his public endorsement of Saddam's regime. He attacked the Western coalition for launching the first Gulf war (though he was criticised for spending the war outside Iraq). "These nations should feel pretty guilty. It was a vendetta, a shame for humanity," he said.
He also bitterly criticised the subsequent United Nations embargo:
It is a tragedy, not to say a genocide, inadmissible in our times considered civilised. If this is the new world order that is talked about, then we rebel.
On his trips abroad he campaigned vigorously for sanctions to be halted:
You Westerners do not realise that an Arab can do without everything except his dignity. If you touch his dignity he will be as ferocious as a lion.
Raphael had hoped to be able to welcome Pope John Paul to Iraq on his much-desired papal Millennium pilgrimage to Ur of the Chaldees and other Biblical sites. But the Vatican abandoned the visit as the Iraqi regime set too many unacceptable conditions.
Patriarch Raphael faced a dilemma as leader of a Church that straddled the divide between its Oriental homeland and the diaspora in the West. It had to work with the Saddam regime, which initially followed a secularist model that kept Islamists at bay, while suffering in silence such encroachments on its rights as the confiscation of church-run schools.
With its most prominent layman, Tariq Aziz, as deputy prime minister, the Chaldean Church had some state protection. "Christians here are privileged. Saddam gives us what we want, listens to us and protects us," he claimed, perhaps sincerely. But, as an educated man, Raphael was aware of the precarious state of his flock, divided between Saddam's regime, a self-ruled Kurdish zone and a Western diaspora.
PERSON AND EVENT OF THE YEAR 6752
This year’s votes are in. The Assyrian Person and Event of the year 6752 (April 2002 – March 2003) were chosen from among the 1660 votes received by last Friday midnight – California time.
Person of the Year
Despite a politically-charged round of events, our Person of the Year is neither a politician nor a controversial bishop. We remain puzzled. He is in fact a minister from Japan who left his ministry and home to aide his Assyrian people during the days prior to the U.S.-led attack on Iraq. He remained in Baghdad and Amman until after the end of Saddam’s regime. By capturing 34% of the votes cast, Rev. Ken Joseph of Tokyo, Japan is Zinda Magazine’s Person of the Year 6752. Rev. Joseph will be touring North America to discuss his travels to Iraq and the conditions of the Assyrian people in Baghdad, North Iraq, and Jordan. Stay tune for more tour information in the coming weeks. Here’s what some of our readers had to say about Rev. Joseph:
“Being not politically inclined, he has the ability to speak freely, as he has, about the Assyrian cause without stepping on anyone's toes.”
“There is too much arrogance, jealousy, envy, pride and self-centeredness in American society and it has infected many of our own people. We need more Assyrians like Rev. Ken Joseph, to give our young people, a better example. Rev. Ken Joseph puts the needs of his people ahead of his own needs. He is kind, humble, gentle, caring, charitable and practices what he preaches.”
“Able to speak on American television and get his point across, Rev. Ken Joseph as has followed in his father's footsteps and gone beyond by educating Assyrians on the PROCESS and AMERICANS on ASSYIRANS...teaching them we are the indigenous people of Iraq. Laying out a roadmap to obtaining our beloved OMTA. Reaching out to disheveled Assyrians in Iraq, soliciting funds to send to Iraq and get the many needed supplies to the many needy ASSYRIANS, taking life threatening risks in doing so and finding a way to communicate with family and loved ones with his Iraqi Locator. Always being a positive, educated and enlightened advocate of the Assyrian Plight...through the western media and congress. God Bless you Reverend Kenneth Joseph.”
“I chose Rev. Ken Joseph because he represented the part of the Assyrian history that I'm most proud of. In his interview with CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network), he indicated that the Assyrians were the first among gentiles to convert to Christianity, and emphasized on the role they played in fulfilling the Great Commission. Their mission work not only encompassed all of Middle East, but extended all the way to China.”
“Non-Biased and a man with little red tape "the common Assyrian", speaks for his people without incentives. A great help and a great disciple of the Assyrian Nation.”
Event of the Year
The honor of this year’s Zinda Magazine’s Event of the Year goes to two non-political events, farthest away from the war-zone and presidential speeches and determinations. By each securing 28% of the votes cast, the Building of the St. Hurmizd Primary School in Sydney, Australia and the First Satellite Television (AssyriaSat) tie for this year’s Event of the Year. Our readers said the following:
“A huge step towards increasing the power of the worlds most effective tool. Now all we have to do is understand how to utilize it.”
“Only with education we can learn how to take a place in the world.”
“Media controls the world's community You can enter your ideology, love and nationalism through a wider window i.e., the TV set at your own home.”
“We need to educate our children in the west. Educate them about where they are from, who they are, what is their mission in these countries. We need Assyrian schools.”
“Assyrians were never in closer than they are now. AssyriaSat is completing print and Radio in media. The potencial is enless.”
“The idea of establishing an Assyrian school outside of our homeland is a wonderful and very important one. It is the best way of preserving our culture, language & religion(which we all strive for)in a country outside of our roots. It's unfortunate though, that the chain has rather broken then linked. I was hoping that this would have motivated our Western/European organizations to act up and do the same. It's sad to see that highly Assyrian-populated cities in the United States have not accomplished such task.”
“To retain our identity, language and culture even if we live thousand miles away from the home land of Iraq. Children of today are the Assyrian future of tomorrow. We encourage every Assyrian around the world to follow this step and build more schools and educational institutions to have the right and most powerful weapon in our hands. Building of the school brought Assyrians of Sydney closer and broke the barriers amongst different communities.”
Congratulations to this year’s winners!
Top 5 Winners of the Person of the Year:
Top 5 Winners of the Event of the Year:
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