12 Tishrin II 6754
2 November 2004
Z I N D A M A G A Z I N E
Where on Earth is Mr. Kanna?
The most critical requirement of a political leader’s prolonged success in politics is his continued public recognition, particularly during hours of need. In the case of Iraq this truth holds greater importance as most current leaders fashion their popularity in the eyes of the non-Iraqi observers in Washington, London, and Vatican. Assyrians in the Diaspora fear that Mr. Kanna, once the most prominent and popular leader of the ChaldoAssyrians in Iraq, is promptly losing distinction as the representative of his people. In a recent Zinda poll, 50% of the readers did not approve of Mr. Kanna's performance after June 30, where 36% approved and 12% remained unsure. In a similar poll six months earlier a strong majority of the readers approved of Mr. Kanna's effectiveness.
Four months after the transfer of power in Iraq, from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the current government in Baghdad, Assyrians around the world remain skeptical if Mr. Yonadam Kanna retains his exclusive political power over the majority of ChaldoAssyrians in that country. The panic that struck the Assyrians in the Diaspora three months ago after the attack on the churches in Baghdad and Mosul has not fully subsided. For most observers the question remains: Who is representing the ChaldoAssyrians of Iraq today?
The attacks on the Christian Churches in Iraq have done much to chart the course of ChaldoAssyrian politics in that country. Since 1 August there has been a shift in the attitude toward the Christian leadership in Iraq, where Mr. Kanna’s place in the limelight has given way to that of the Churches. The Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Mar Emmanuel Delly, since the bombing of the churches has effectively played a crucial role in mending the tattered relationship between Christians and Moslem and has even successfully helped with the release of a few European hostages. Other than a few comments during brief interviews with the media, these days little is heard from Mr. Kanna, the Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) and a former member of the Iraqi Governing Council. Is it possible that the leadership of the ChaldoAssyrians in Iraq is slowly swinging from that of the Assyrian Democratic Movement to the Chaldean patriarchate in Baghdad?
Mr. Kanna is currently a member of the Iraqi National Council, the group responsible for the next transition of power in 2005 when elections are held across the Iraqi governorates. Since his transition from the Iraqi Governing Council to the Iraqi National Council, Mr. Kanna’s focus has moved away from the cultural and political rights of the ChaldoAssyrians to growing consensus among the political parties prior to the January elections.
On 20 October Mr. Kanna met with the heads of several leading ChaldoAssyrian groups at the Babil Chaldean Club in Baghdad. These included the Chaldean National Congress, the Fraternal Democratic Christian Union, Beth-Nahrain Patriotic Union, The ChaldoAssyrian Coalition of the Iraqi Communist Party, the Assyrian Patriotic Party, the Chaldean Democratic Union Party, and the Suryani Independent Assembly Movement. A common understanding and greater collaboration was sought among the members present.
In order not to alienate the Moslem constituency in Iraq, Mr. Kanna has held fast to a carefully calculated policy of leaving the business of churches to the churches and instead putting a spotlight on the issues which affect ChaldoAssyrians and other smaller minority groups – namely the Yezidis, the Shabaks, and the Armenians. The Shabaks live mainly in the Mosul area and adhere to a mix of Sunni and Shiia beliefs, even some Christian values.
One day after the gathering at the Babil Club, Mr. Kanna explained in an interview with al-Hayat that the Mosul Municipal Office is selling land belonging to minorities and leasing it to others. He specifically commented on the oppressive measures against the Christians, Shabaks, and Yezidis.
During the 18th Session of the Iraqi National Assembly, Mr. Kanna addressed the escalating troubles in Mosul.
In an interview with al-Sabah al-Jadeed (The New Morning), Mr. Kanna commented that what is happening in Mosul is not done by the Iraqis, rather foreign groups trying to impose their own form of power by intimidating the Christians and other minor groups. Mr. Kanna noted the recent oppressive acts against the students at the Mosul University and the families abandoning the city of Mosul and moving to Dohuk and other neighboring towns.
On the subject of the creation of a safe haven for the Christians in Iraq, Mr. Kanna opposes the use of the term “safe haven” and its status as a protective region against attacks from non-Christian elements. In an interview with Elaph Newspaper, Mr. Kanna agreed that an administrative region in Iraq where ChaldoAssyrians (possibly to include Yezidis and Shabaks) would exercise their political, cultural and religious rights would be in the best interest of the said groups. Mr. Kanna is cautious about the implications of demanding a “safe haven” three months before the general elections in Iraq.
Another issue of contention in the Iraqi politics is the status of the Kurdish people in the North. Turkish newspapers this week are reporting that the Turkish government has formulated a contingency plan that would place at least 20,000 Turkish troops inside northern Iraq in an effort to prevent Kurdish leaders from changing the demographic structure of the highly contested city of Kirkuk which has vast oil reserves.
"Milliyet" reported on Monday that the plan calls for the deployment of two army corps divisions to the area, including a 40,000-strong force to stand ready to enter northern Iraq on 18-hours notice. The Kurdish peshmerga forces are in the meantime moving troops further north and digging tunnels and establishing military outposts near Dohuk, close to the Turkish border.
Mr. Kanna has a clear objective in maintaining close contact with the Kurdish leaders in the north and Ankara. Hundreds of Assyrian villages are scattered in the Kurdish-dominated northern region and a substantial ChaldoAssyrian population inhabits the cities of Dohuk, Kirkuk, and Mosul. A call for the formation of a Kurdish state or the incursion of the Turkish troops into Iraq will quickly tilt the political dynamics of north Iraq against the smaller Christian population – the basis of a call by the Assyrians in the Diaspora for a safe haven in the first place.
The crisis facing the Christians in Iraq, beginning with the August 1st bombings in Baghdad and Mosul may seem to have threatened the head of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. But this could not be farther from the truth.
Much like it is in the United States, power in any Middle Eastern country lies in the hands of a few leading political and mainly religious powers. Mr. Kanna is orchestrating a strong political base in Baghdad, Mosul, and Dohuk, leaving the messy Moslem-Christian issues to Mar Emmanuel and Ayatollah Sistani. He is also building up backing from Yezidis, Shabaks, and the Armenians whose vote of confidence will guarantee renewed prominence for his political party after the elections in January.
There is no political benefit in offering to commit the ChaldoAssyrians in Iraq to an anti-Islamic spin, be it the creation of a safe haven or blaming Moslems for the attacks on the churches in Baghdad and Mosul. Mr. Kanna remains a strong majority leader of the ChaldoAssyrians in Iraq. On the other hand, a few tips in campaigning American-style from Barazani or Talabani would not hurt Yonadam Kanna’s popularity in North America, Australia, and Europe either.
Syria's Christian Churches Face Challenges
Catholic News Service
(ZNDA: Damascus) The ancient Christian churches of Syria, small in numbers but vibrant in faith, are facing new challenges brought by political instability and religious extremism outside the country's borders.
The war in Iraq has unleashed violence and terrorism by groups claiming to act in the name of Islam, sending tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians -- along with many Muslims -- fleeing into Syria.
Although the Syrian government has steered a moderate course and clamped down on any form of fanaticism, the percolation of Islamic fundamentalism throughout the Middle East worries Christians in Syria.
Internally, the churches also face a major demographic problem, as many of their younger members continue to emigrate to places of prosperity and security abroad. Syria's Christian community has shrunk in recent years to about 10 percent of the population.
Despite these problems, most Syrian pastors and lay faithful speak hopefully about their churches' future in a country that has taken pains to protect their religious rights.
"I think we can be optimistic. Christians have been here for many centuries and are generally well seen by our Muslim brothers. There can be no 'clash of cultures' because we share the same culture," Armenian Orthodox Bishop Shahan Sarkisian of Aleppo said in an interview in late October.
Catholic leaders echoed that sentiment.
"When you look at the fundamentalism outside of Syria, I wonder if this government could become a tool to help stop it. Perhaps Syria could become a model for other countries," said Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo.
Syrian Christians and Muslims categorically reject the accusation made by the Bush administration that Syria supports terrorism. The topic often provokes an animated response.
"I read that Syria is on the list of countries supporting terrorism. Can you imagine such a thing? This is not true at all," said Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Damascus.
Most Syrians say the terrorism accusation is simply U.S. politics. They say Syria's ruling Baath Party, which maintains total political control, would never allow Islamic militancy to sprout here. And as one Christian in Aleppo put it, the Syrian government is "too smart" to get into a showdown with the United States.
But the arrival of so many Iraqi refugees is a daily reminder of how quickly things can change. As in Syria, Iraq's Baath regime ruled over a secular state, and the Christian minority was well protected. Now, many of them are fleeing for their lives from religious persecution in Iraq.
"The Americans came and now the whole country has been opened up to fighting. Every border is open, anyone can come in. Fundamentalist Muslims are flowing into the country," said one Iraqi Christian woman who arrived with her family in Aleppo in October.
Syria's Muslim leaders are among the most vigilant against extremist manifestations of Islam.
Sheik Salah Kuftaro, who runs a highly influential Islamic foundation and school in Damascus, said in an interview that Syrian society is currently "free from the seeds of terrorism and extremism," and he predicted it would remain that way. His father, the late Syrian Grand Mufti Ahmad Kuftaro, welcomed Pope John Paul II on his historic visit to the Umayyad mosque in 2001.
The younger Kuftaro said one guarantee of continuing religious tolerance in Syria is that his father trained hundreds of Islamic teachers who will follow his example. One of them was recently named by the government to head the Ministry of Religious Affairs, he said.
"So we have good hopes to be able to deal with any form of extremism that may arise," he said.
Syria's bishops also make frequent speaking appearances at Islamic meetings to preach tolerance and dialogue. Melkite Archbishop Isidore Battikha of Damascus recently found himself cheered by a Muslim audience when he declared that Christians must never be labeled "infidels."
"I see no serious clouds on our horizon. On the other hand, Syria is a nation of young people, and young people are easily influenced. My concern is that outside forces don't end up influencing our Muslim youth," Archbishop Battikha said.
What appears to bother Syrian Christians much more than potential problems with Muslims is that they feel somewhat forgotten in the West. Media portrayals of Syria, they say, typically leave out the country's rich Christian heritage. Few Westerners would guess that Damascus is the Arab capital with the largest number of Christians in the Middle East, they say.
Syria was the land of the apostles, where St. Paul had his conversion, where some of the first Christian writers and theologians lived and where important monastic, liturgical and theological traditions grew up.
That tradition survives in the 11 main church groupings, including the Melkite, Syrian, Maronite, Chaldean, Armenian and Latin rites of the Catholic Church, that form the Christian community in Syria today. Church leaders and ordinary faithful cooperate ecumenically; two "shared" Catholic-Orthodox churches have been built in recent years, and it is not unusual for members of one church to attend Sunday services of a different rite.
Weekly liturgical attendance in Syria is very high, according to all the churches. Many young people return during the week for catechism, charity clubs, Scouts or prayer meetings. One expert estimated that 60 percent of Syria's Catholic youths belong to some kind of church movement or group.
One is 25-year-old Nizar Matta in Damascus, a member of the Fraternity of Holy Mary in his Damascus parish. He and about 100 other young Catholics get together for activities that focus on prayer and service, like helping the handicapped or city cleanup campaigns. There is no strict agenda or regimen.
"We are just trying to live as Jesus taught," Matta said.
At the same time, the evolving Syrian culture -- complete with Internet, cell phones and satellite TV -- is changing the way young people relate to the church and traditional values, several sources said.
"Materialism and globalization are confusing young people and creating a gap between faith and technology. More of their time is given to pursuing material goods, and this is new," said Ghassan Talab, an Orthodox Christian in Damascus who heads the Syrian branch of an international Catholic youth movement.
In a first-of-its-kind meeting in Syria, Catholic young people in Aleppo organized a three-day Christian youth festival last summer. It attracted some 5,000 people and was considered a huge success.
"I've had about 300 e-mails since then, thanking us and asking when the next one will be held," said Majd Maqdessi, a 24-year-old Catholic who helped organize the event.
Emigration has taken away many young Christians, often the most educated, and that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, church sources said. Most are seeking a better life in a more secure part of the world, they said.
"If you ask young people, most of them would want to emigrate," said George Barnotty, a 30-year-old Christian agricultural engineer who is trying to decide whether to go abroad. Housing and jobs are the biggest problems in Syria, he said.
In Aleppo, the Melkite church has taken preventive action, offering low-rent housing to some 300 Christian families. The archdiocese also operates a small institute that trains young people for jobs in the tourism industry, which some expect to grow rapidly if peace ever comes to the region.
Increasingly, the churches of Syria are operating elementary and secondary schools, too. Catholic schools were confiscated by the government in 1967, but some exceptions have been granted in recent years.
In an interview Oct. 27, Suleiman al-Khatib, a top official of the Syrian Ministry of Education, said a recent law opens the door to church-run schools, as long as they teach the government curriculum, which includes some general religious education.
That news pleased Aleppo's Archbishop Jeanbart, who has embarked on major educational projects in his city. He is opening a new wing of the Catholic high school this fall; it is financed largely by Catholic donors living abroad.
The Pontifical Mission for Palestine, the operating agency in the Middle East for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, also helps fund Syrian church projects, such as the new Catholic-Orthodox "ecumenical church" in a suburb of Damascus.
Archbishop Battikha said the Pontifical Mission also has provided significant funding in areas of catechetics, summer youth activities, residences for priests and a new theological institute in Damascus.
In Aleppo, Archbishop Jeanbart said Catholic social and educational institutions offer needed services to Christians and Muslims alike. One unique example is the 65-bed St. Louis Hospital, where seven Sisters of St. Joseph do double duty as administrators and nurses. Most of the patients are Muslims.
bart said it was important to keep expanding church programs for two other reasons: They remind Muslims that the church is a global institution with big resources, and they show local Christians that the church is planning ahead.
"Communicating confidence in the future is one of the greatest things we can do for our Christians here," he said.
Assyrians Arrested in Syria
Courtesy of Agence France Press
(ZNDA: Damascus) Sulaiman Yousuf, a high-ranking member of the Assyrian Democratic Organization, reports that 12 Assyrians have been detained in Hasaka, northwest Syria.
Earlier two Assyrians, Naseem Abraham Abd al-Ahad and Yalda Yacoub, were murdered in Syria and the 12 arrested Assyrians were demonstration against their murder.
Naseem Abraham Abd al-Ahad, 35, was killed on October 16 by members of an Arab family known as the al-Radhi's. He was murdered in front of his home. The Arab attackers mutilated Naseem's body, dragged his body in the street, and insulted the Christians in that quarter of the city.
Mr. Yalda Yacoub attempted to assist his friend, Naseem, but the attackers shot him also. He was injured and transferred to Damascus hospital. Yacoub died on Saturday.
In retaliation, his family and relatives in al-Hasaka of Naseem Abd al-Ahad and Yalda Yacoub burned the homes and shops of the al-Radhi family. Later, some 2000 Christians demonstrated in front of the governorate building and clashed with police.
Representatives from the Abraham and Yacoub families met with the governor and demanded the deportation of the al-Radhi family from al-Hasaka and the execution of the killer.
According to ADO, the situation in al-Hasaka was calm on Sunday as the Christians were waiting for the the body of Yacoub to arrive from Damascus. The Assyrian Democratic Organization asked the authorities to control the situation quickly and resolve the reasons that led to the killings.
Mr. Yousuf stated that a Church and Moslem tribal dialogue is underway seeking to deport the al-Radhi family by next Monday at the most ahead of Naseem's burial day to avoid any clashes with the Abraham family.
The Assyrian Democratic Organization stressed on the urgency to get the matter under control and resolve its reasons fearing sectarian strife.
Radio and TV Broadcasts in Mosul Halted
(ZNDA: Mosul) Director of Mosul's radio and television stations, Ghazi Fayisal, has order the closing of all non-Arabic audio-visual media departments including those of the Kurdish, Turkmen and Assyrians. All broadcasts in these languages have been halted and the staff laid off.
According to Kurdish sources from Mosul, some staff members have been offered work in the radio and television stations which broadcast in Arabic language.
Iraq's Ayad Allawi to Visit Pope John Paul
Courtesy of the United Press International
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Iraq's interim prime minister is planning to visit Pope John Paul II this week in Vatican, according to Mar Emmanuel Delly, the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church. .
The Pope strongly opposed both Gulf Wars in 1990 and 2003. But he strongly supports the reconstruction of the country.
Last Wednesday Pope John Paul II condemned hostage-taking and the "blind barbarity of terrorism" striking innocent people in Iraq and asked all Christians "to rebuild the institutional structures of their county," together with the other religious communities
On Thursday a delegation of Iraqi Christian churches went to visit the Great Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani in Najaf, Iraq's most highly esteemed Muslim leader, to discuss security concerns.
Mar Delly Meets with Ayatollah Sistani
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most powerful Shiite Muslim cleric has met a Chaldean church delegation, in what Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Emmanuel Delly has described as a "very cordial meeting, like between brothers who love each other ".
Patriarch Delly commented that the discussion focused upon how to "treat a sick country".
His Beatitude said: "Together, we are trying to find ways to achieve peace."
The delegation met Ayatollah Sistani at his home in Najaf. Patriarch Delly said Al-Sistani warmly welcomed them.
"I am very satisfied and he, too, was very happy," he reported. "Let us hope that it will bear the desired fruit. As the Holy Father said this week, we are working for peace by our actions and our prayers. We know that the Pope never stops thinking about Iraq."
The consensus of the discussion was that religious authorities must "further encourage those who are working hard to establish security and stability in the country".
"All we can do is pray that the Lord show us the path to peace," he said.
Assyriska in the Playing Field on 3 & 7 November
(ZNDA: Stockholm) The Swedish Soccer League has determined the qualifying match and Assyriska in third position in the Superettan (Super One), will play the first match against Örgryte, in the 12th position in the Allsvenskan (Premier League), on 3 November. The second match will be on 7 November.
If Assyriska wins the aggregate (combination of the two matches, home and away), it will advance to the Premier League in Sweden, while Örgryte will be demoted to the Super One.
If Assyriska loses, both teams will remain in their current standings.
At time of war and uncertainties, His Holiness Mar Emmanuel Delly,
Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church at age of 78, stands tall
amongst the people of Iraq and like a good shepherd he stays on with his
flack and is ready and fully alert, to take whatever action necessary to protect
Christians and to make sure that their well being and integrity are not
Mind you, His Holiness was called back from his retirement at his age. He could avoid the troubles and enjoy the safe heaven and manage his flock remotely from the comfort of his retirement, but he had to answer his calling.
My brothers and sisters, these are the characteristics of a true spiritual leader. For our reality today, words means nothing, unless they are espoused with solid deeds.
And, what makes His Holiness Mar Delly even a better leader, he is distancing himself from any ethnic or religious sectarianism for he constantly speaks and acts on behalf of all Christian as if they (as they should be) are his own!
May God bless you Your Holiness and may the rest of us learn from your example of faith and devotion.
Not A Spiritual Father For Us Any More!
We are Assyrians in Iraq and seeing your internet sites and messages in the Assyrian sites in America. I want to say that the message about Patriarch Mar Dinkha’s celebration, Youbala, from one Father George Bet Rasho “Press Secretary, Assyrian Church of the East” Western United States was very sad for us Iraqis Assyrians. For too many years Patriarch has been far from us, and he doesn’t remember we are his sons. We have been in wars for 24 years and without spirit father, why? Why he left us in Iraq in war? Why he didn’t stay in Iran, or Syria, or Lebanon, because America is better and more comfort than Iraq or Middle East.
Also, how does Patriarch celebrate when we Iraqis Assyrians are everyday seeing killings and murders and explodes cars?
Father George Bet Rasho says “We, the Assyrian Church of the East parishioners take much pride in celebrating the patriarchal inaugurations." How can he speak in our place? We Iraqis Assyrians are not “parishioners” of Assyrian Church of the East? We do not take pride in celebrating “Youbala” during killings and murder and bombing churches here in Iraq.
Only Mar Gewargis and Patriarch Mar Addai also, are showing us spiritual love and they care for us because they are here with us, and they are accepting all of this suffering with us! We don’t need Patriarch Mar Dinkha to come when everything comes okay and there is peace, we need him when we are in pain. If he doesn’t want to come when we are in pain, let him not come at all! If he wants to deny his sons, we too will deny him as our father!
It is easy to write letter to President Al Yawer when you are okay in Chicago! He should come here to be with us, if not then he should not come anytime at all! Not him or any bishop in the West cares for us!
They came before only for some days or few weeks, then they went back and don’t care about us anymore! Please don’t come, if you come like a guest and go back home to Chicago.
We have Mar Gewargis and Patriarch Mar Addai, they are enough for us. We don’t want someone who is spiritual father only for name or show!
You want people to defend you, like Fr. George Bet Rasho. He says it is spiritual celebrations in Chicago. How is it spiritual celebrations! With music, only because they don’t dance it is spiritual celebrations? No, spiritual celebration is when you have celebrations with your sons that are in pain.
I agree with words of Mr. Sargon Y. Yonan and Mrs. Ashuriena E. Baba that Patriarch’s celebration should have been cancelled for a remembrance of the Iraqis Assyrians and their suffering. Mrs. Baba wrote: “If Youbala is so important to the church, push it back or cancel it to respect your fellow Assyrians suffering and dying in Iraq to preserve our identity—that includes Rev. Bet Rasho, me, and the rest of the Assyrian community. By continuing on with this nonsensical event, the church leaders are disrespecting their fellow Assyrians in Iraq by simply mocking their efforts for a better tomorrow in Iraq. Church loyalists hold Youbala as an important day for the church, but I pose this question to them all: Is human life not more important than mere tradition?”
Yes, of course, human life is more important than tradition and celebrations! Our Patriarch and bishops, we also heard Bishop Mar Bawai Soro is also doing celebrations for his ‘syameeda’ in California, USA just like his teacher Patriarch Mar Dinkha, they are only thinking about themselves and their celebrations.
They are too selfish people, and not real bishops and spiritual teachers. Rev. George Bet Rasho writes to us “In conclusion, my dearest Assyrian brothers and sisters be assured His Holiness is aware of the suffering and pain of his people; like all of us, his heart is full of sadness when he hears Christ’s Churches are desecrated and destroyed. Be certain his heart is in the right place; and is willing to return to the homeland and take hold of his ancestral history.”
No, No, not Rev Rasho and not Patriarch Mar Dinkha or all other bishops care for us, and they are not suffering pain for us! They are all okay and well in America!
Don’t come to Iraq, Patriarch Mar Dinkha, because we Iraqi Assyrians don’t want you and you are not our spiritual father like before!
The Professor & the Nationalist
“Why would an Assyrian professor … respond to what an Assyrian nationalist would say,” wrote Mr. Aprim last week in Zinda Magazine (Issue 36: 20 October) in his response to the comments of Emeritus Professor Joseph in this magazine (Issue 35: 18 October).
By the same token, one can ask what reasons nationalists have to question the profound researches of distinguished scholars as regards the history and identity of nationalists. Needless to say, both the scholar and the nationalist are equally entitled to their opinions. When it comes to the writing of history, however, both are bound to the same objective criteria. The author’s “intellectual integrity,” to use Prof. Joseph’s words, being one of them.
It is in this respect that I can understand the sincere concerns of Prof. Joseph, who probably saw himself morally obliged to reprove the biased methods of Mr. Aprim, who profiles himself as a “nationalist” as well as an “author and historian” (see some of his articles here).
But why did the “author and historian” Fred Aprim had to resort to serious accusations, indecent and unfounded as they were, in his reply to John Joseph instead of sharing with the Zinda readers a sincere, constructive and educational examination of Joseph’s convictions? Perhaps all of us, including Prof. Joseph himself, could learn from Mr. Aprim and modify our views. Thus, I could only deduce from Mr. Aprim’s reply that his empty rhetoric and his practice of ad hominem arguments debunked his very own intellectual shortcomings.
Errors & Cited Scholars
Since Joseph has convincingly corrected some of Aprim’s remarks, this writer would like to point to other uncomfortable statements that were embedded in Aprim’s cited response.
Fred Aprim: “First, in his 1961 book “The Nestorians and Their Muslim Neighbors”, page ix, Joseph wrote that the name Assyrian did not appear before the 19th century, and in page 14 he attributed the emergence of this name to archaeological finds and Western missionaries who brought the name to the local people.”
This whole sentence is quoted almost verbatim by the copycat Fred Aprim from Prof. Frye’s article (see below) without giving Prof. Frye the credit he deserves. Still, a fairer representation of Joseph’s studies would mention that he rather attempted to objectively examine the use of the appellation ‘Assyrian’ throughout the different centuries when this name did appear in different contexts – to be sure, even “before the 19th century.”
Besides, has not Dr. Gabriele Yonan, as well as many other reputable scholars, expressed similar remarks? Yonan wrote that the name ‘Assyrian’ was suggested by outsiders (read: Westerners) and that this nomenclature, when it turned into a national designation, was first applied to the ‘Nestorian’ Christians by “missionaries, archaeologists and travellers.”
Regarding the referenced article of Prof. Frye, the readers may also be referred to the comments of Prof. Joseph’s and the this writer. Moreover, as highlighted in my evaluation, Prof. Frye stated (JNES, 1992:282): “The Greeks never use the term ‘Aramaic’ or ‘Aramaean’ but only ‘Syrian’, while the ancient Hebrews did use the word Aram for Syria.” Peculiarly, though, this quotation could not be found in the same article that was later distributed on the internet or in the republished version in the JAAS.
Joseph’s assertion concerning the Aramaization of the ancient Assyrians, which is well-documented, was rejected by Mr. Aprim, saying that “Prof. Joseph is not [an] expert in ancient history; he is not an Assyriologist and his information here is wrong.”
Perhaps we have to assume that this confirmation, founded upon first-hand evidence, must also be incorrect according to Aprim’s self-contradictory logic, which is hopefully not to be repeated: “Nothing in the publication world, whether a book, an article, or a piece of art, is objective. Every one in life has a mission and an agenda and we manifest this agenda in our work.” If he really believes so, then by what measures did Mr. Aprim condemn Prof. Joseph’s analyses as “wrong”?
Without referring to any sources, Aprim further averred that “recent discoveries show that Assyrian Akkadian language and the cuneiform writing system was still in use well into Christianity. Who would use Assyrian Akkadian but Assyrians?”
En passant, this is a similar argument as the one put forward by O.M. Gewargis in JAAS, p.86; see also Joseph’s notes in JAAS 17/1 2003. If both these writers truly had a profound knowledge regarding their self-confessed Assyrian history, they would have known that neo-Assyrian cuneiform, based on the latest findings, ceased to exist in less than two decades after the fall of Nineveh. Prof. Parpola (JAAS 12/2 2000:6) may convince both writers that after 600 B.C., “[c]uneiform writing (now in its Babylonian, Elamite and Old Persian forms) continued to be used for monumental inscriptions.” Has Mr. Aprim himself, who referred us to Prof. Simo Parpola as well as Prof. Edward Y. Odisho, carefully read Parpola’s writings?
Regarding Prof. Parpola’s theories, Assyrian Zinda contributor Francis Sarguis (Issue 21: August 6, 2001) already observed that “admiration for Dr. Parpola of Helsinki University seems to be avidly [held] by a number of pop historians in the Assyrian community, even if his thesis raises eyebrows among his academic peers.” (This line reminds me of the words of Dr. George Kiraz when he, too, criticized “Mr. Aprim’s pop history-style objections.”)
Let me recall to Mr. Aprim the conclusions of Prof. Odisho (pp.17-18): “Nestorianism as a religious identity seems to be a continuation of the ethnic and historical presence of the remaining Assyrians and the Arameans with whom they merged … [The] Christians of the highlands of Turkey and the plains of Azerbaijan are historically affiliated with the ancient population of that region, namely, the Assyrians and the Arameans.” In my opinion, this view is basically not that far from what Joseph (2000:32) concluded; even so, compare Joseph’s latest book (2000:27-29) for a brief discussion of Odisho’s argumentation.
Prof. John Joseph Deserves Respect
The reason I noted down these remarks has nothing to do with our deplorable name-issue as such, on the contrary; to my mind, this national dilemma requires a practical, political solution. Nor am I interested in arguing with Mr. Aprim about history; especially because in his vision objective history cannot be written and every writer seems to have his/her own agenda.
If he wishes, Mr. Aprim – or other readers – may discuss our history with a professionally accredited historian like Prof. John Joseph. The Professor himself was even generous enough to send interested readers pages from his book by e-mail. Thus, he indirectly invited those who do not agree with him for an honest and intellectual debate about his own deductions; even though Joseph’s study is extensive, one has to admit that it is by no means a complete discussion of the respective historical names that are used by our people today.
After I could not refrain from exposing Mr. Aprim’s bias á la Joseph, my actual intention was, since nobody else did, to express my opinion that Prof. Joseph really did not deserve an offensive response – despite his personal convictions, which we all may, or may not, agree with.
I think there are many among our people, even among the Zinda readers, who have a one-sided view of Prof. Joseph. This is regrettable, because he is often solely associated with his opinions regarding our historical names, whilst his discussion of this subject does not even represent 15% of his books that were published in 1961 and in 2000. What else do his critics among our people know, or rather want to know, about this intriguing personality?
As a member of the Syriac-Orthodox community, I can bear witness to the fact that his Muslim-Christian relations and inter-Christian rivalries in the Middle East: The case of the Jacobites in an age of transition (1983) remains hitherto a lonely volume in academic libraries describing in details the modern history of the ‘Suryoye’; I really would look forward to an updated revision of this precious work as well.
So here you have already a scholar who has written two priceless books about the modern histories of the West- and East-Syriacs respectively. Not just a scholar, but an intellectual who belongs to our very own people and who has devoted a lifetime of study to the history of his people. Now, if this remarkable achievement in itself does not suffice to receive any appreciation or respect from ones own people, I truly would like to know what does.
How many Arameans/Syriacs, Assyrians or Chaldeans – be they nationalists or be they scholars – can boast this same reputation as Prof. Joseph? Moreover, when it comes to the portrayal or defending of our people in the academic world, I believe I am correct when I say that Prof. Joseph’s record speaks for itself.
See, for instance, his “The Turko-Iraqi Frontier and the Assyrians,” in J. Kritzeck and R.B. Winder (eds.), The World of Islam: Studies in honour of Philip K. Hitti (New York, 1959), pp. 255-270, or his refutation in the International Journal of Middle East Studies 6 (1975), pp. 115-117, of a piece of writing written by a biased Iraqi Professor, Khaldun S. Husry, who wrote about “The Assyrian Affair of 1933.” Also, a similar critique in Zinda (January 28, 2002), “Exploiting the Assyrian presence in Iraq,” comes to mind in this regard.
Thus, I suggest Zindamagazine to interview Prof. Joseph so that the readers can get an honest impression about this scholar, his intentions and motivations – rather than having prejudiced people misinterpret or even accuse him of many things for no sound reasons only because they believe that he has a controversial view of our history. This is not to say that people necessarily need to agree with him, for everyone is entitled to his/her own way of thinking.
By way of concluding my remarks, I would like to quote some of Dr. John Pierre Ameer’s words taken from his critical but respectful peer review of Joseph’s last book (JAAS 15/2 2001), p.72: “The most important point to make in this review is to encourage readers toward this outstanding work of scholarship––scholars of the Middle East will find that it contains a wealth of information, with comprehensive footnotes and a bibliography as extensive as one would wish…For Assyrians of my generation, my children’s generation, and my grandchildren’s generation, this book is required. Nothing compares to it in presenting a clear, detailed, and balanced narration and summary of our recent history.”
i. Without any reasonable arguments or proofs, Fred Aprim declared John Joseph to be “a blind antagonist” and an “Anti-Assyrian,” who has a – hidden – agenda. Aprim even implied that Joseph started his academic career as an agent of the CIA and, consequently, insinuated that Prof. Joseph is a renegade and betrays his own people.
American Mid East National Conference Endorses Bush
Prof. Walid Phares
(ZNDA: Washington D.C.) The American Middle Eastern National Conference (AMENC), based in Washington, D.C., is pleased to announce that they have endorsed George W. Bush to be re-elected as President of the United States.
The AMENC is a coalition of Americans of Middle East descent who express the aspirations of various religious and ethnic backgrounds including: Arab, Maronites, Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac, Persian, African, Copt, Berber, Sunni, Shiite, Orthodox, Melkite, Jews, Druze, Lebanese, Iraqi, Syrian, Egyptian, Libyan, Sudanese, Palestinian, Jordanian, Algerian, Yemeni, Arabian, Kuwaiti, Afghani, Iranian, Turk, Moroccan, Mauritanian, Ethiopian, and others.
We the undersigned, declare our endorsement of President George W Bush for a second term as a President of the United States. We base our endorsement on the President's support of policies we deem in line with the aspirations and agendas of the majority of Americans from Middle Eastern descent. We especially support the principles which the President has articulated in the areas of U.S. national and homeland security, the international campaign against terrorism and the promotion of human rights, democracy and self determination in the Middle East.
This endorsement is based on the following:
1. The War on Terrorism: We support the Campaign against al Qaida and the other Jihadist Terrorist groups, including Hizbollah, and consider this war as a historic confrontation with an ideology which must be uprooted and denounced worldwide. The War on Terrorism is not only about arresting and eliminating Terrorists, but is also about creating changes in the region producing this ideology of mass death. We support the doctrine which considers any regime which protects the Terrorists and support them as a Terror regime which should be removed.
2. The War in Iraq: We thank the US Congress for authorizing this campaign, and we thank President Bush for taking the risk of conflict so that more than 24 million Iraqis are now freed from one of the most genocidal dictators in modern History. The removal of Saddam Hussein is a central part of the War against Terrorism. We denounce those who opposed the liberation of Iraq as indirect associates of Saddam's mass murderer. We support the democratic process in Iraq and feel that the re-election of President Bush would bring hope to the Iraqi democratic forces and ensure international support to the emergence of Iraqi democracy.
3. Democracy and Human Rights: We thank President Bush for declaring a campaign to spread Democracy and freedom in the Broader Middle East. We as Americans from Middle Eastern and North African descent reject the notion that our mother societies do not deserve democracy. We praise the President's agenda of supporting Human Rights, especially the rights of Women, youth and minorities in the Middle East.
Good News from Iraq
Rev. Ken Joseph Jr.
Amidst all the `bad news` emanating from Iraq these days, there is some good!
A meeting with the director of the UN Election Commission currently putting together the January elections, brought a further concern.
George Mourad, a rising star in the sport of football (soccer) in Sweden, plays for IFK Göteborg, the top football team in the Swedish Premier League "Allsvenskan."
Mourad, 22, has attracted a lot of attention during the 2004 Swedish soccer season. He scored 7 goals out of the first 21 matches for IFK Göteborg. He is nominated with two other players to receive the top accolade for the best players from an improved team. IFK Göteborg finished twelfth in 2002, seventh in 2003. In 2004 the team is in third place, only trailing the leader team with one loss
Several European teams have shown interest in Mourad, including Panathinaikos, the top Greek club and currently in second place in the Greek League. Ajax Amsterdam, Spanish and French teams are eyeing the Assyrian-Swedish football star also.
The following individuals contributed in the preparation of this week's issue:
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