15 Tishrin II 6754
5 November 2004
Z I N D A M A G A Z I N E
Plan for Iraqi Church Haven
An Iraqi priest has attacked plans to provide persecuted Christians with a safe haven in Northern Iraq. Instead, they should emigrate to Britain, Fr Toma Dawod said, after a meeting in the House of Commons last week.
Fr Dawod, the parish priest of the Syrian Orthodox Church in London, was speaking after the Assyrian Democratic Movement had outlined plans to establish an autonomous region around Mosul to protect Chaldo-Assyrian Christians.
This ancient Christian Church says that it represents the only indigenous people of Iraq, descended from the ancient Assyrians. It has been persecuted, especially since the Iraq war. But Fr Dawod said that, instead of trying to set up an autonomous region: “It would be better for the Christians to leave, because the Muslims are becoming active and they will kill them.”
The meeting in the House of Commons was organised by the Labour MP Stephen Pound, in conjunction with the Assyrian Democratic Movement and the Jubilee Campaign, a Christian human-rights group.
“I hope Her Majesty’s Government will come to realise the danger and the necessity for action,” Mr Pound said. “People fear a gathering storm, reminiscent of the earlier genocide and massacres.” Thousands of Christians were leaving Iraq because there were no safe areas for them.
The Government should act: first, to support an autonomous administrative region as a safe haven; second, to support the infrastructure of the region; and third, to oppose “the active and passive ethnic cleansing” of “the only indigenous people of Iraq”, Mr Pound argued. “The fate of the Chaldo-assyrians in Iraq will define the socio-political structure of the Middle East.”
At the weekend, a further five churches were bombed, although no one was hurt. John Michael, the British representative of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, said of the Iraqi Christians: “Their very existence is at stake.” The Wall Street Journal had estimated that 30,000 had left since August. “There have been hundreds of cases of threats, intimidation and violenc against Christians, the vast majority not reported because of fear of reprisals,” he said.
Wilfred Wong of the Jubilee Campaign said that, along with moderate Muslims, Middle Eastern Christians would resist the imposition of shariah law. “It is in the self-interest of the UK and the international community to back these Christians,” he said. But, he said, the British Government tended to regard the Christian communities as “a footnote, as peripheral to the greater good”.
The Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Basilos Georges Casmoussa, said that the attacks at the weekend were designed “to create fear among Christians and push them out of Iraq”.
The Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni clerical group, condemned the attacks. “Islam doesn’t support the ongoing terrorism,” said one of its members, Sheik Abdul Sattar Abdul-Jabbar, Ecumenical News International reported.
Assyrian Family Attacked in Dora
(ZNDA: Baghdad) An Assyrian family was attacked in Dora this week in the Mechanic quarter of Baghdad's south section by an unidentified group.
Alaa Andrawis, 39, his wife Evelyn Malkizdaq, and their 10-years old son were shot while driving in their car. Mr. Andrawis and his son were killed instantly. Mrs. Andrawis was critically injured in the head region transferred to a hospital where she is undergoing surgery. The Andrawis couple have three children; the oldest is 12.
Only two weeks earlier, Mr. Andrawis' cousin, Mrs. Yasmin Boodagh, and her daughter were also killed in Dora car bombing.
The attacks on the Christians of Dora continue as violence against Iraqi Christians increase elsewhere. Earlier, the son of the Assyrian poet and writer, Odisho Malko, was also kidnapped in Dora. Sargon was released and returned to his parents only after the kidnappers were handed the family's car and a large sum of money.
More Assyrians Detained in Syria
Courtesy of Ankawa.com
(ZNDA: Hasaka) As many as forty Assyrians have been detained in Hasaka, Syria. 25 of these detainees were transferred to a military post where a millitary judge will be reviewing their cases. The rest are held without trial.
The families of the detainees report that the prisoners are tortured before their appearances in the court.
The Syrian authorities released two of the 12 Assyrians who were detained earlier.
Chaldean National Congress Delegation Demands Exclusive Recognition for Chaldeans
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Judge Wael Abdel-Latif, the Iraqi Minister of Provincial Affairs, met with a delegation from the Chaldean National Congress this week. The delegation included Mr. Fou'ad Bodagh, CNC President, and CNC members Zuhair Nkara, Sabah Damman, Nadhim Poola, and Sabah Mikhael.
Mr. Abdel-Latif's deputy and several ministry consultants also attended the meeting.
The delegation discussed the constitutional recognition of the Chaldeans as a separate ethnic group within the Iraqi society. The delegation addressed the recognition of the Chaldeans administrative, cultural, political, and fair representation in all governmental agencies (legislative, executive, and judicial).
Furthermore, the delegation addressed the cultural rights of the Chaldeans, especially language, private schools, and civil affairs.
The news of this encounter between CNC officials in Iraq and the Iraqi ministry officials has surprised many Chaldean-Assyrian observers in America, as the members of the Chaldean National Congress in the United States continue to throw their support for the term "ChaldoAssyrian" in recognizing the rights of the Syriac-speaking Christian population of Iraq.
Iraqi Christians Face Escalating Violence
Courtesy of the Christian Post
The Christian community in northern Iraq is facing ever-mounting intimidation and violence as part of an effort by Islamic extremists to force believers out of their homeland. According to a report issued by a UK-based lobby group Wednesday, the situation has escalated and tens of thousands are fleeing since the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began Oct. 15.
The first reported incident following the beginning of Ramadan, occurred when explosions hit five churches in Baghdad just after 4:00 a.m. on Saturday October 16, although other threats and attacks on Christians have gone largely unreported.
In another incident, photographs of three senior bishops in Mosul were reportedly being circulated around, with the message that they were agents of the U.S. and infidels, and that action must be taken against them.
Shortly after, church leaders serving the Christian community of Karakush, Mosul, received two letters from Islamic militants making demands and threats concerning Christian women. According to the Barnabas Fund, the first letter ordered Christians to allow Christian women to marry Muslim men—which in their eyes would mean that the women had effectively converted to Islam. This, the letter said, would enable the women to be “blessed” and “purified” by their marriages.
The second letter to church leaders, received on Tuesday, Nov. 2, announced the militants’ intention of killing one person in every Christian family as a punishment for female university students who did not cover their heads. The threat was a follow-up to pressure and threats from Islamic extremists against all women in Mosul, requiring them to cover their head with the hijab (Islamic headscarf). So far, two Christian women who were seen with their heads uncovered were reportedly attacked with nitric acid, while another Christian woman was killed around Oct. 26 for having her head uncovered. Specific threats about the clothing of female students at Mosul University have caused an estimated 1,500 Christian women to stop attending their classes.
Leaflets have also been distributed with the message: “Christians go; leave Iraq,” the Barnabas Fund reports; while word is being passed around in the mosques, telling Muslims not to buy anything from the Christians. The leaflets, which label Christians as infidels, also say Christians will soon be leaving, so the Muslims will be able to take their homes and property for free.
“In this grave situation, the Christians in Iraq beg for the prayers of their Christian brothers and sisters elsewhere,” the Barnabas Fund wrote. “Ask the Lord to protect them from those who would harm them, and to fill their hearts with faith and hope.”
The Barnabas Fund is calling for the Christian community to write to their local political representative and the U.S. embassy asking them to raise the suffering of Christians in Iraq as a “matter of utmost urgency” and call for their immediate intervention to protect Iraqi Christians.
The group also intends to send out a lobbying request through its Rapid Lobbying Network to include further information about writing letters of petition.
Iraqis Living Abroad Allowed to Vote in January
Courtesy of the Agence France Press
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Iraqis living abroad will be allowed to vote in the planned January elections after months of debate over the thorny issue, according to a spokesman for the organisers of the landmark polls.
"The board of the electoral commission has decided to allow the participation of Iraqis living abroad in the election process," Farid Ayar said.
"They hope that this decision will contribute to giving more freedom and transparency to the election process through the participation of some of our brightest intellectuals," he said.
Millions of Iraq's most well-educated citizens fled the country during the oppressive reign of toppled president Saddam Hussein.
Many have returned to the country since the collapse of his regime after last year's US-led invasion, but more than three million Iraqis remain overseas.
There has been much debate over whether or not they should be allowed to take part in the election due largely to logistical factors.
The electoral commission, with help from UN experts, has had to create an electoral register from scratch using ration cards that most families living inside the country own as a leftover from a UN oil-for-food programme.
There were concerns about how to acknolwedge an overseas vote as well.
Iraqi Prime Minister Visits the Pope in Vatican
Courtesy of Zenit News Agency
(ZNDA: Vatican City) Pope John Paul II condemned the present "senseless violence" in Iraq and encouraged the establishment of democracy in the country, when he received Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi in audience.
During the meeting on Thursday, the Pope called for respect of religious minorities in the country, especially Christians.
"I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to assure you of my continued closeness to the Iraqi people, so sorely tried by the tragic sufferings of recent years," the Holy Father began by saying in his brief address to Allawi and his companions.
"I pray for all the victims of terrorism and wanton violence, for their families, and for all those who generously work for the reconstruction of your country," the Pope added.
"I wish to encourage the efforts made by the Iraqi people to establish democratic institutions which will be truly representative and committed to defending the rights of all, in complete respect for the ethnic and religious diversity which has always been a source of enrichment for your country," he said.
"I am confident that the Christian community, present in Iraq from apostolic times, will make its own contribution to the growth of democracy and to the building of a future of peace in the region," John Paul II said.
Shortly before, the Pope and Iraqi representative had a private, 10-minute meeting in the Holy Father's library.
The prime minister introduced his entourage, which included his wife, Thana Allawi; the minister for planning and development, Mahdi Hafedh; the minister for human rights, Bikhtiar Amin; and the minister of state, Wael Al Fadel.
Subsequently, the prime minister and his aides met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, according to a statement issued after the meeting by Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls.
Also present at the meeting with the secretary of state was Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states; Monsignor Pietro Parolin, undersecretary for relations with states, as well as two officials of the Secretariat of State, Monsignors Franco Coppola and Joseph Murphy.
"In these talks," said Navarro Valls, "there were further discussions on different aspects of the situation in Iraq, prospects for pacification and reconciliation that will make possible the healing of profound wounds of the past, and the consequences for peace in the region."
"Also analyzed was the need to ensure full religious freedom and the contribution that the Christian community can make to the moral and material reconstruction of the country," he added.
The Vatican spokesman emphasized that "the prime minister deplored the attacks suffered by some Christian churches and assured the Pope of the government's determination to restore them."
During a press conference before arriving at the Vatican, Allawi appealed to governments that have not been involved in the conflict, to contribute to Iraq's reconstruction.
"I address countries that have been content to be spectators on the Iraqi question," he said after meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, "to build a better Iraq, a country determined to return to the international community and to bring the international community back to itself."
Ayad Allawi, a Shiite, was born in 1945. He was appointed prime minister of the transition government on June 28. A neurologist and businessman, he lived abroad in England as a dissident.
Assyriska Beats Örgryte
The ever-popular Assyrian football (soccer) team in Sweden beat the Premier League Allsvenskan's Örgryte, 2 to 1 on Wednesday.
Assyriska, a Superettan or Super-1 Leaguer, now has a chance to advance to the Swedish Premier League if it beats or even holds a draw against Örgryte in the second match on 7 November.
Photos by Reuter's Fatih Saribas visiting the Gilgamesh crew on location in Turkey
...A job well done, not only on the articles but on the entire website. It's nice to have a place to read up on news affecting Assyrians, rather than general news of people with Middle Eastern decent. Keep up the good work!
[Zinda: Ms. Pathieu is an anchorwoman at KCRG-TV Channel 9 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. For a quick bio click here.]
Assyrian Youth Volleyball Tournament in Germany
The Assyrian Youth Federation of Central Europe (AJM) invites all youngsters once more to a volleyball tournament to be held between 5 and 7 November in Gutersloh.
The event begins on Friday evening with a small welcome party at the Assyrian Mesopotamia Association of Gutersloh.
On Saturday the volleyball tournament commences in the Carl Miele Gymnasium where a lecture and party will start after the games. Noman Hanna, Ninos Cacan and Michael from Giessen will provide this evening's musical entertainment. The program will also include handing of the winner's cup, a raffle, and a performance by the dance group Ishtar.
For more information contact:
Grigo Simsek +49 / 0 179 51 51 422 firstname.lastname@example.org
Urgent Appeal from Barnabas Fund:
Barnabas Fund Rapid Lobbying Network
The Christian community in northern Iraq is facing ever mounting intimidation and violence. Since the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan (15th October) the situation has escalated, with the apparent aim of forcing the Christians out of their homeland. Churches have been bombed, church leaders threatened, Christian women attacked for failing to wear the hijab, money has been extorted from Christian families and death threats made against them. The situation has reached an extreme and desperate level.
1. Please send a letter or fax to your MP or other local political representative.
Then if you have time please also write to:
2. The President of the US and the British Prime Minister (as the leaders of the two main nations in the coalition in Iraq) 3. The US and UK embassies in your country (if you live outside of the US or UK)
Points to Make in Your Letter
General Points in All Letters
1. Christians in Iraq are facing a marked increase in intimidation and violence at the hands of Islamic militants. Use some of the examples from the Background section below to show what you mean. (You can even enclose the whole Background section on a separate piece of paper if you like.)
2. The US, UK and Iraqi security forces and authorities in Iraq should be fully briefed on this situation and should redouble their efforts to do all they can to ensure the full protection of the Christian community, to bring to an end these threats and attacks and uphold their human rights.
3. Urge the recipient of your letter to do all they can to call for this and to work to end the suffering of Iraqi Christians as a matter of urgency (see Specific Points below).
Specific Points for Some Letters
1. Ask your MP (or other local political representative) to raise the suffering of Christians in Iraq as a matter of utmost urgency with the Foreign Secretary (or equivalent in your country) and call for their immediate intervention to protect Iraqi Christians. 2. In writing to the President of the US, the British Prime Minister or the US and UK embassies argue that they as the two main nations in the coalition in Iraq have a special responsibility to ensure the protection of Iraqi Christians. 3. Ask your MEP to urge the European Commission to look into the suffering of Christians in Iraq urgently and do all it can through diplomatic and political channels to urge the coalition nations to pay special attention to the persecution of Christians and to ensure their protection.
Points to Remember in Letter Writing
* Be polite and calm: facts and reasoned argument will be more effective than emotive phrases and pleas
Please write a letter using your own words. A personal letter from you will be much, much more effective than a standard one, which are often ignored.
MPs for British Supporters
Find out name of MP by calling House of Commons Information Line: Tel: 020 7219 4272
President of the US and the British Prime Minister
The Christian community in northern Iraq is facing ever mounting intimidation and violence. Since the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan (15th October) the situation has escalated, with the apparent aim of forcing the Christians out of their homeland.
International media reported the first incident, when explosions occurred at five churches in Baghdad just after 4.00 a.m. on Saturday 16th October (2nd Ramadan). But the other threats and attacks on Christians go largely unreported. Photographs of three senior bishops in Mosul are being circulated around, with the message that they are agents of the USA, infidels, and action must be taken against them. The church leaders serving the Christian community of Karakush, Mosul have received two letters from the Islamic militants. The first ordered them to allow Christian women to marry Muslim men (which in Muslim eyes means the women effectively convert to Islam). This, said the letter, would enable the women to be "blessed" and "purified" by their marriages.
The second letter to church leaders, received yesterday 2nd November, announced the militants' intention of killing one person in every Christian family, as a punishment for the women not covering their heads and not going to university. This follows up pressure and threats from Islamic extremists against all women in Mosul, requiring them to cover their head with the hijab (Islamic headscarf). A Christian woman was killed around 26th October for having her head uncovered. Two other Christian women who were seen bareheaded in a market had nitric acid squirted in their faces. Specific threats about the clothing of female students at Mosul University have so frightened the Christians that an estimated 1,500 Christian women have stopped attending their classes.
Islamic militants are knocking on the doors of Christian homes in Mosul, demanding money. They argue that since the Christians do not contribute weapons and do not fight, they must make a financial donation instead. This follows exactly the model of classical Islam, whereby Christians and Jews were excluded from fighting for the Islamic state but instead required to pay a special tax - jizya - to cover the costs of their protection.
Leaflets are being distributed with the message: "Christians go; leave Iraq." Word is being passed around in the mosques, telling Muslims not to buy anything from the Christians. Not only are they infidels, it is said, but also they will soon be leaving, so the Muslims will be able
In this grave situation, the Christians in Iraq beg for the prayers of their Christian brothers and sisters elsewhere.
* Pray that Iraqi Christians (especially women) will have a special sense of the Lord's presence near them at this time. Ask that they will receive an abundance of faith, courage, strength and enduring love from the Lord to enable them to continue on with their faith in these dark days.
* Pray for the protection of Iraqi Christians. That no further attacks or violent incidents will occur.
* Pray for the US, British and new national authorities in Iraq. Ask that through your letters and the other reports they receive, their hearts will be moved to a special concern for Iraqi Christians. Pray that in the midst of many other serious problems the authorities will take seriously their responsibility to also protect the Christian community and do everything that is in their power to achieve this.
* Pray for the Islamic militants who are currently targeting Christians in Iraq. Pray that God will soften hard hearts and that they will be convicted with the horror of what they have done and turn to the Lord in repentance. Pray that they will come to faith in Christ, and in years to come (like Paul of Tarsus) will turn from persecutors to great champions of the Gospel.
Please do share these requests with your Christian friends and churches. All lobbying requests are available on our website in a more colourful user-friendly presentation format which you can access, print and pass on.
The World of Our Artists
All Assyro-Chaldeans, from the age of 7 to 77, know and appreciate the exceptional music of Linda George, Janan Sawa, Juliana Jendo and Manuel Simon. But very often, we know them only by their songs or their names. What do we know about them personally? Who are they really? What are their opinions, their dreams? What life did they have before they became celebrities? What are their passions, their plans for the future? What do they think of our people that suffer and our young people?
I wanted, as a fan and a producer, with my team (Ayten Karatay & Antoine Yalap), to try to find answer to all these questions! Very often, we devoted ourselves so much to our politicians that we forgot to speak about those which make our moments of joy, of sadness, who accompany our unhappy love affairs, our strong moments. These people who accompany our loneliness are exceptional people with pure hearts. The politicians certainly do much for our people. But, our singers deserve our homage for their devotion to the Assyro-Chaldean art and music? They sing the hope of our people and this sometimes dangerously, like Linda George or Lida Lawando who did not hesitate to go to accompany the difficult life of our people in Iraq. As David Kas, the organizer of the last great Assyro-Chaldean evening of France said: "Singers are the sun of our life; if the sun does not exist, the man cannot live".
Juliana Jendo spoke to us about her faith; I saw in her a woman of courage, a cultured woman who handles in an exceptional way both beauty and the French language. She spoke to me, very frankly, about her life! If I should compare this Assyro-Chaldean diva with another diva of another time, I would do it with Dalida!
Linda George, called Kawkha D' Ninwé (Star of Nineveh), is the embodiment of gracefulness. She is a woman who skillfully combines simplicity and perfection. Her voice warms our hearts, as when one falls in love and does not know what to say. The young Assyro-Chaldean people feel the same thing that a French or an American feel standing before Celine Dion. Linda is not only a beautiful woman, but also a woman to be loved, simple and extraordinary at the same time.
What can we say about the modesty and humour of Janan Sawa, Arya d’Babel (Lion of Babylon)? Under his moustache, always so well groomed, his smile cannot be missed. He laughs at this world. He has not forgetten his past, the sufferings of his people on his native land. He has not forgetten how he has arrived at this place and time!
I did not see any complexity in his glance when he spoke to me very frankly about his past, the exile, first jobs. His daily life is like ours. When he spoke about women, he had the charm of Alain Delon and the charisma of Jean-Paul Belmondo! He will be for ever the man who left an undelible mark on the Assyro-Chaldean music.
Manuel Simon spoke to us about his last child, the 15th called "Only You", who opened her eyes to the world in Paris in a small bar in Sarcelles. His last songs are like anthems of a nation to a beloved girl. With songs inspired by the poetry of Baudelaire, his voice and his songs, his style and his charm remind us of Julio Iglesias. I thought he was unmarried. Imagine my astonishment when he said that he was married and father of three children, who are already adults.
Why did I compare these four artists to international singers or artists? Since they are on the same level as them for their people dispersed throughout the world and which finds its unit in the songs which rock its dreams and its hope to find one day... the beautiful Bait-Nahrain! I thank them all the four for their cordial reception and their frankness!
[Zinda: Mr. Yalap is the producer of the radio program, the Assyro-Chaldean Voice in France.]
The following individuals contributed in the preparation of this week's issue:
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