Ice Cream in Baghdad !
The Al Jaiha Ice Cream Parlor in Baghdad is booming! The TV Monitors blare Egyptian Music Videos while a line is developing at the counter for the house favorite - a huge Ice Cream Sundae and customers are talking at a steady buzz!
Ice Cream in Baghdad ?
The news from Baghdad is bombing, terror and all bad these days but one must be careful to make a distinction. For the foreign journalist, soldier and others targeted by the non-Iraqi terrorists who are determined to block any progress in Iraq it may be dangerous. But for the average Iraqi hope is in the air!
The two William sisters - Vinos 23 and Florence 21, the two Lazar brothers - Remon and Simon, 25 and 21 and Robert George, 25 are digging in.
To the question `how does Al Jaiha compare to when Saddam was in power` they are quick to respond. `When Saddam was in power we would be watching one of the three Saddam TV Channels with him on TV or some old, boring black and white movie. Nobody would be talking freely and we would quietly eat and leave`, says Remon.
`We lived in constant fear` continues Robert George. `You never knew when someone would be taken away for saying the wrong thing. It was a constant state of low level terror` he continues as he shares the story of his dear friend, Amir who was imprisoned for 3 years for simply trying to assert he was an Assyrian and promote the use of the language of the indigenous people.`.
The Al Jaiha Ice Cream Parlor is a good barometer of how things are in Iraq . Ignored by the international media who for some reason, at least according to the regular Iraqi have a bias towards any good news from Iraq , Iraq is doing just fine, thank you!
Ice Cream is not exactly a staple, and when people have enough extra money and hope to be packing out the Ice Cream Parlor on a Sunday night things must not be too bad.
A quick look outside the window shows the real problem in Baghdad these days - massive, hour long traffic jams, crammed stores overflowing with everything imaginable for the Iraqis finally freed from decade long pariah status.
And the future? `We are getting married in July!` chimes in Remon and Venos. `Everything is completely better` continues Robert George. `For the first time in our lives we have hope! We are getting jobs - not for $60 a month that would be the regular but for $600 and more. It is because the Americans cared for the people of Iraq and were the only ones with the courage to set us free.`
`For the first time we can travel overseas, we can watch Satellite TV, we can surf the internet freely, we can buy cars and things from all over the world. Most of all, though the best is we no longer live in fear.`
Prices are booming and the value of the Iraqi dinar is rising. A house that would go for $30,000 months ago is nearing $100,000. The Iraqi dinar which before the war fluctuated in the 2500 to 3,000 to the dollar range is now nearing 1200.
For the average Iraqi it is the best of times. Something they never even dreamed of.
27 year old Weena Aref, a Kurd agrees. She is the manager of an Internet Shop. `Business is booming. On a recent afternoon all the terminals were occupied with paying customers paying $3 to get online!
`It is wonderful Saddam is gone. We always lived in fear` she says. `As Kurds we were always persecuted and although we had our own relative autonomy in the North it was difficult for those of us living in Iraq. `
`The best part is that we no longer live in terror! We do not fear somebody taken away` she says, echoing other Iraqis.
It is the best of times, but at the same time the worst of times
The `bad`? It is the deep, palpable, undercurrent of fear that is gnawing at everybody, although few will speak of it.
It is the planned July 1 handover of power in Iraq . While the original plan, as in Japan and Germany , was to have a constitution, elections and a government in place, due, the Iraqis say to fears of the impact of Iraq on the upcoming US Presidential election the schedule was suddenly changed.
`If the current plan goes forward there will be civil war in Iraq beginning on July 1` says an American official asking to be anonymous. `I have been told privately by both senior officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority as well as the Iraqi Governing Council this. In addition, the airport will close as no airline will fly into an airport without a government in charge` he continues.
`I do not understand why the United States, the champion of freedom and democracy wants to leave Iraq before her job is finished - before a secular constitution, elections, government and local autonomy are in place and risk undoing all the good she has done in liberating Iraq` says Hekmat Hakem, a member of the Constitutional Committee charged with drafting Iraq's constitution.
`The members of our committee do not want a Muslim government. We do not understand this at all.`
Robert George goes further. `I am an Assyrian. The Assyrians are Christians and we are the original people of Iraq . If the July 1 schedule goes forward we will be massacred. The last time this happened 2/3rds of the Christians of Iraq were slaughtered in the Assyrian Holocaust. We will not allow it to happen again. We cannot understand why the Christians of the world do not support us and demand that Iraq be free, democratic and secular.`
A trip south shows the reality on the ground. Town after town in southern Iraq does not fly the Iraqi flag over government buildings, but the green flag of Sistani, the Iranian leader of the Shiites.
`Why does the American Government talk to this man`. Robert George continues. `He is not even an Iraqi - he is an Iranian. The Americans should simply say that only Iraqis can have a say in the future of Iraq and send him back to Iran where he came from.`.
Few in the rest of the world seem to realize this little known fact - the main source of trouble to the US authorities is in fact not an Iraqi but an Iranian.
`We do not want to become like Iran . We do not want a muslim government.` echoes Shiite muslim Sadek Tarik, 36. We just want to be normal. We are finally free.`
Sunni Muslim, Ahmed Tarik, 23, joins in `We just want to be left alone. Saddam was terrible, but becoming like Iran would be worse.`.
As the July 1 date nears a sense of doom is quietly growing underneath the outward sense of optimism, hope and joy that one sees everyday living outside the elite hotels where the foreign journalists are.
`Did the United States go to war and lose so many lives to create an Islamic Government of Iraq` says Robert George? `I do not think the American people would ever agree to that. I think they want for us what they have - freedom, opportunity and a better life. As Christians we get along good with our muslim neighbors and as the original people of Iraq we pray for autonomy in our homeland in Nineveh and Dohuk provinces so like the American Indians we can administer our local affairs.``
It took the United States seven years to move Japan from a police state to a free and democratic society. The outbreak of civil war on July 1 would seem to even the most casual observer to have a far greater negative impact on the November elections than the improving situation in Iraq .
For a first hand look, the Al Jaha Ice Cream Parlor is living testimony to the fact that the war was worth it, that good times are truly around the corner and the worst possible thing for Iraq would be a premature handover of power.
Education Minister has Disappointed Assyro-Chaldeans of France
[Z-info: A proposed French law prohibiting the wearing of religious symbols in public schools banned Islamic headscarves, Jewish yarmulkes and large Christian crosses. Those were the three items singled out last month in a speech by President Jacques Chirac and in a report by a blue-ribbon commission on religion and the state.
In its current draft form, the law states that in public schools, "Signs and dress that ostensibly show the religious affiliation of students are forbidden."
Recently, Luc Ferry, the Minister of National Education, went even further. He told the National Assembly's legal affairs committee that any girl's bandanna that is considered a religious sign (as opposed to a fashion statement, presumably) will also be banned.
Mr. Ferry is a philosopher and political scientist by education. First came out publicly against proposals from the parliament to pass a law banning religious symbols in schools. Now he is calling the Muslim veil "a militant sign that calls for militant counter-signs."
Pope John Paul II told Vatican diplomats last week that religious freedom in Europe was endangered by people seeking to ban religion from the public sphere. He did not specifically mention France .
Mr. Anton Yalap of the Assyro-Chaldean Voice radio program and a commentator on the affairs of the Syriac-speaking communities in France tells Zinda Magazine that the “Assyro-Chaldean” students have also been impacted by the new rulings. Here's why.]
* * * * *
Luc Ferry, the French minister for national education has disappointed Assyro-Chaldeans of France , by indicating they may be a danger to secularity in the schools. For several months, the debate on secularity in schools has impassioned the French people and the media. The wearing of religious signs at school occupies the scene and risk to keep its dominant place until the vote of the law which would prohibit the Islamic veil, the kippas and other signs too visible.
France is, with Turkey , one of the two secular countries of the world. With the difference of Turkey where the religion is under the control of the State, France had separated the religious area and the State in 1905. Then, why did it have problem with secularity and why France felt the need to legislate on this level? We will try to describe briefly what occurred in France and explain, then, how Assyro-Chaldeans were mingled with this history with law which did not relate to them?
A few months ago, having a presentiment that secularity is in danger, the president of the French Republic, Mr. Jacques Chirac, asked Bernard Stasi to gather a commission which would prepare a report allowing him to know which political measurements were essential to guarantee separation of the State and the religion at the school and in the public institutions. The Stasi Commission, composed of French or Foreigner intellectuals and specialists, met for two months, heard many testimonys and finally prepared a report submitted to Jacques Chirac.
The report advised in Jacques Chirac to transform the Moslem and Jew feastdays into official non-working days. Indeed, nearly 600 000 Jew and five million Moslems live in France . This proposal was not adopted. The president of the republic then asked the government (to the right) of Jean-Pierre Raffarin to make vote a law prohibiting the wearing of open religious signs at the school (veil, kippa, large cross). The debate began.
Why this law? This law was initially related to the Islamic veil. Two Turkish girls, inhabitant of Flers, had refused in 1999, to remove their veil before attending the classes. In addition, they did not want to take part in sports or biology classes, which they regarded as contrary to their female condition and to Islam. They were expelled from school. The business of the scarf returned, a few months ago, when two girls, suddenly decided to wear the veil in their school.
Jacques Chirac wanted to prohibit the veil at school. His request for the ruling to prohibit the religious signs at the school revolted the Moslems and particularly the Islamic organizations which organized demonstrations against this rule. Thousands of women, behind whom the Islamists hid, protested in the streets of Paris against this new law. An anti-semitic founder of the Moslems of France' Organization, Mohammed Latrèche, did not hesitate to threaten Jacques Chirac and in his person, the laic republic.
The government, weakened by these demonstrations and these threats, wanted to justify its law differently, to find another solution and especially a bait. The bait was the Assyro-Chaldean community! Indeed, A few days after the manifestations of the Moslem women, Luc Ferry, Minister for national education, declared at the Parliament that this law did not relate only to the Islamic veil but also to the kippa, the turban of Sikhs and the "large crosses out of wooden carried by Syro-Chaldeans". Luc Ferry said that around fifty of case had been noted in the Paris area. What was completely false! The Assyro-Chaldean community of France highly reacted to this misinformation. Luc Ferry was victim of itself.
The Assyro-Chaldeans' Association of France immediately distributed a press release saying that the community (16 000 people) is completely integrated into the French Republic . It refuses to be used as a "exotic folding screen" in the vote of a law which does not relate to it. The media lengthily echoed this information.
Tens of articles and audio-visual reports were diffused. Nobody believed Luc Ferry. Indeed, the young Assyro-Chaldean people of France do not carry large crosses. Assyro-Chaldeans defend the principles of secularity and regard France as their new Mesopotamia . Luc Ferry tried to show us like a christian sect. The French, who regarded us as people missing for a long time, now had an false image of us. Assyro-Chaldeans (Luc Ferry had mispronounced our national name in Syro-Chaldean), are respectful to this country which had welcomed them and now they was nothing any more but one danger for secularity as well as for the republic.
French chains of television like Canal + and newspapers such Le Parisien, La Croix, Le Monde, Libération, The Daily Telegraph and Hürriyet published many articles concerning this affront against Assyro-Chaldeans of which 80% are naturalized French. Many politicians, organizations and intellectuals gave their support for the community specifying that Luc Ferry had made a fault.
Joseph Yacoub, Assyro-Chaldean intellectual, specialist in minorities, teaching at the Catholic University of Lyon (France), author of many works on Assyro-Chaldeans and the minorities addressed a mail to Luc Ferry, saying him that the community is very well integrated in France and that it maintains a major friendly relation with the French State.
Questioned by the Assyro-Chaldean Voice concerning his position concerning the law project, Joseph Yacoub was reserved on the need for such a law. France is a laic country and separation was done between the religion and the State in 1905. Concerning the remarks of Luc Ferry in connection with Assyro-Chaldeans, Joseph Yacoub was astonished and surprised by such remarks which he did not expect. The government, he said, creates problems where there is not. The remarks of Luc Ferry are unjustified according to the Assyro-Chaldean academic. The minister was surely very badly informed on our community.
Which attitude against Luc Ferry ? Joseph Yacoub recommends his information on the Assyro-Chaldean case: "it is necessary to point out the historical bond which binds Assyro-Chaldeans and France ", he said to the Assyro-Chaldean Voice. Professor Yacoub estimated the reactions of AACF as very positive. The official statement diffused by our Association did nothing but "restore the truth" concerning our people in France . Nevertheless, Joseph Yacoub considered that this "misunderstanding" gave the opportunity to us to inform the public opinion. Assyro-Chaldeans love France and will respect all the laws.
Car Bomb Attack on Mosul Police Station Injures 2 APP Reps
(ZNDA: Mosul ) A car bomb exploded Saturday, around 10 in the morning, outside a police station in Mosul , killing at least nine people and wounding 45. Witnesses saw severed limbs and decapitated bodies on the street in front of the police station. Windows of buildings were shattered and plumes of smoke could be seen in the area.
The police station is next to the University of Mosul campus. Mosul is about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad .
Police Centre and Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) office in Mosul targeted in a terror act
The Assyrian Patriotic Party office in Mosul is located nearby the police station. According to reports received at Zinda Magazine the explosion caused serious damage to this office building and the cars parked in the front. Two APP members, Mr. Odisho (no last name given) and Mr. Adnan (no last name given) were taken to the Republican Hospital for treatment.
Top Kurdish Officials Killed in Two Suicide Bombs in Arbil
(ZNDA: Arbil) This week the two main Kurdish political parties blamed the Islamic militant group, Ansar al-Islam - an al-Qaida-linked militant group- for suicide bombings that killed at least 101 people in Arbil on Sunday.
Thousands gathered to mourn at the ancient Assyrian city of Arbil 's largest mosque in a show of unity. The attacks Sunday devastated the Kurdish parties' offices. Over 250 other people were wounded in the two blasts.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said a video camera captured images of the man who blew himself up inside its office, slipping in alongside hundreds of well-wishers greeting PUK officials on the first day of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha.
Only the back of the bomber's head was visible in the footage. The man, apparently in his 20s or 30s, shook hands with one of the Arbil office's deputy chiefs, then stepped forward and put his hand in that of another. Almost at the same time, the second bomber struck a similar ceremony at the office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
Ansar al-Islam, or "Helpers of Islam," is a group of several hundred Kurdish militants who have vowed to establish an independent Islamic state in the north. It was formed in 2000 and began stepping up its activities in October 2001.
Among the dead are leading KDP and PUK representatives party officials including:
Sami Abdulrahman, Deputy Prime Minister of the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government), Secretary of the political office of the KDP
Shawkat Sheikh Yezdin, Coordinations Minister of the KRG, member of the Central Committee of the KDP;
Saad Abdulla, Minister of Agriculture, member of the political office of the KDP
Shakhewan Abbas, PUK advisor
Khasro Shera, PUK advisor
Mehmod Halo, Deputy Minister of Finance, KDP
Akram Mentik, Governor of Arbil, KDP
Mehdi Khoshnaw, Deputy Governor of Arbil, KDP
Ahmad Rojbeyani, Administration Manager of Arbil, KDP
Neriman Abdul-Hamid, police chief of Arbil
At presstime it is not known if any Assyrian officials were among the victims of these bombings. The killing of the KDP and PUK officials also coincided with the third anniversary of the assassination of the former Assyrian governor of Arbil, Mr Francois (Franso) Hariri. Mr. Hariri was shot dead by unknown gunmen in his car while driving in the city of Arbil , the capital of the province. The Arbil province, prior to the occupation of the U.S. forces, was controlled by Massoud Barzani's KDP. Mr. Hariri was an active and trusted high-ranking member of KDP's Political Bureau and in charge of Branch Two of the Party. This position was held by Mr. Saad Abdulla until his death in the suicide bombing on Sunday. The KDP officials blamed Islamic militant in North Iraq for the assassination of Mr. Franso Hariri in Arbil.
Assassination Attempt on Mayor of Telkefe
(ZNDA: Telkefe) The Central Bureau of Information & Culture of the Assyrian Democratic Party in Iraq has reported a failed assassination attempt on 24 January on the Mayor of Telkefe (Tel Kaif), Mr. Wadhah Giwargis Elias. The Mayor was returning to Telkefe after ending a meeting with the Governor of Nineveh Province, when unidentified criminals concealed among a group of citizens near the College of Dentistry in Mosul began shooting at his automobile. The car was damaged, however, neither the Mayor nor his security personnel were injured in the assassination attempt.
The Assyrian Democratic Movement has issued a letter of condemnation asserting “those who committed and stood behind this act of violence, and similar others, are a terror group who are not pleased with the environment of freedom and the path of democracy that Iraq is experiencing. They wish to see that insecurity and instability continues, against the aspirations of the Iraqi people.”
Mar Emmanuel III's Letter to IGC
(ZNDA: Baghdad ) On 22 January the newly-elected Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Mar Emmanuel III Deli, offered a letter of appreciation to the officials of the Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad . In the letter His Beatitude writes: “I thank you and wish you success for the work done for our people and our Iraqi brothers.” Mar Emmanuel continues to say that with the effort of these officials Iraq can once again establish itself in the world community.
In his letter, His Beatitude desires greater unity among Iraqis and asks the officials to promote stability, security, and prosperity for the people of Iraq .
Mar Emmanuel then continues to write: “I promise you…that we are ready to cooperate in order to establish a better Iraq , that will be an example in the areas of religious, political, cultural and social freedom for all her sons without exception”.
Mar Emmanuel qualifies “We” by continuing to say: “We, the Chaldoassyrian Christians, owners of the Syriac culture and language for many millennia, have worked together with our Muslim, Yezidi and Sabbean brothers with our hearts and soul.” Mar Emmanuel is the first head of a Syriac-speaking church to personally endorse the title of “Chaldo-Assyrian” in Iraq in an official capacity.
Mar Emmanuel concludes his letter by saying “We demand the recognition of our legitimate religious, cultural, social
and political rights in the new Iraqi constitution.”
Yonadam Kanna Meets President Assad & Mar Zakka Iwas
(ZNDA: Damascus ) On 29 January a delegation from the Iraqi Governing Council met with the Syrian president, Dr. Bashaar al-Assad, in Damascus to review the current situation in Iraq and future diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The Honorables Yonadam Kanna and Mouwafak al-Rabii also met with the Syrian Vice President, Mr. Abd al-Halim Khaddam and Mr. Mahmood al-Sayed, Syrian Minister of Culture.
On the same day, Mr. Kanna also met with His Holiness Moran Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church.
On 30 January, the IGC delegation visited Lebanon and met with the Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. Later that day, Mr. Kanna also visited Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarch of the Maronite Church . In the evening, Mr. Kanna met with several heads of the Lebanese political parties and diplomats in Beirut .
Aramaic, language of Jesus, lives on in Cyprus
(ZNDA: Cyprus ) If the people of this remote village were to travel back to Jesus' time and hear him preach, they wouldn't need an interpreter to understand the Sermon on the Mount or the parable of the prodigal son.
That's because they speak the same language as the Son of God. Literally.
Spoken in the Middle East during Jesus' time, Aramaic is still used in everyday life by most of the 130 elderly Maronite Catholics in Kormakiti, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea .
This could be good news for Mel Gibson. If the megastar has trouble finding an audience for "Passion," his upcoming movie about the final hours of Jesus' life on Earth with dialogue mostly in Aramaic, due to be released next month, the folks here should have no trouble with the original biblical tongue.
Still, Kormakiti's unique diluted version of Aramaic, called Cypriot Maronite Arabic, is in danger of extinction. Once the thriving center of the island's Maronite community, Kormakiti now has the eerie atmosphere of a ghost town.
Many of the village's stone and mud-brick houses are derelict, their wooden-beam roofs sagging and broken, letting in sunlight. There is bird song but no sound of children, because there are none left in the village. "Sometimes we're like astronauts in the sky - no one's here," says villager Elias Kassapis.
The elementary school, run by Mr. Kassapis until 1991, closed down a few years ago when the last pupil left to attend a secondary school across the island's dividing "green line" in the Greek Cypriot region.
Under Cyprus 's 1960 Constitution, following independence from Britain , the island's Maronite, Armenian, and Latin religious minorities had to choose to belong to either the Greek Cypriot majority or the smaller Turkish Cypriot community. They chose the former.
After Turkey 's invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974, the island's four Maronite villages found themselves on the wrong side of the cease-fire line. The majority of the 6,000-strong Maronite community was displaced, moving south.
A stalwart few stayed behind in Kormakiti and three nearby villages in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus , and are viewed by those who left as heroes protecting Maronite land.
The Rev. Antony Terzi, the village priest, negotiated with the invading Turkish Army on behalf of those who refused to be uprooted. And he said the village was safeguarded by the Pope's personal protection.
The community nevertheless suffered. Families were forced out because of lack of opportunities, especially schooling. Those who left to study in the south were allowed to visit Kormakiti but not permanently return. Nor are villagers allowed to bequeath property to outside heirs.
Providing a lifeline to those enclaved in Kormakiti are Maronite Catholics in the south of the island who send food, medicine, fuel, and other humanitarian supplies, which are delivered every two weeks by UN peacekeepers.
On weekends, Kormakiti is transformed when hundreds of uprooted worshipers cross back north to celebrate mass. The main parts of the liturgy are read in Aramaic, Kassapis says.
Kormakiti's long isolation from the main currents of the Arab world helped to keep alive its exotic strain of Aramaic, which incorporates Greek, Turkish, French, and Italian words.
Hopes for Kormakiti's renaissance were stirred last April when the Turkish Cypriot authorities unexpectedly allowed limited access across the "green line" for the first time in nearly three decades. Now Maronites can visit for longer periods but are still not allowed to reside there.
Sensing more of a future for their ancestral village, some are renovating their old homes for weekend use. Their hopes are pinned on a comprehensive settlement plan for Cyprus , which was submitted last year by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, but which has been rejected by the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash. Under the plan's terms, the Maronite villages in Turkish-held northern Cyprus would come under Greek Cypriot administration. According to some in the Maronite community, the provision was included after intervention by the Vatican .
Without a solution to the long-running Cyprus problem, the Maronite community - and its ancient language - in northern Cyprus could vanish, members say.
Syriac Alphabet for Children
A guide to children, parents and student of Syriac, with 22 illustrations. Each pair of facing pages introduces a single letter of the alphabet with a word that begins with the letter in question on one side, and an illustration of that word on the other side. The letters are hallow and can be filled and colored by children. Notes on each page give the name of the letter on that page, how the letter sounds, a phonological transcription of the sample word, and the meaning of the word.
Kiraz, George. The Syriac Alphabet for Children
ISBN: 1-59333-112-6 (Paperback), 1-59333-113-4 (Hardcover)
Price: $15 (Paperback), $25.00 (Hardcover)
Size (in): 8.5 x 11
Publication Year: 2004
Online orders: www.gorgiaspress.com
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Address: Gorgias Press, 46 Orris Ave , Piscataway , NJ 08854 USA . Email: email@example.com
An Appeal from The Syriac Digital Library
In 2002, Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute launched The Syriac Digital Library Project—codenamed eBethArké—with the objective of creating the largest digital collection of Syriac manuscripts, books, journal articles, pictures and maps, and making all this material available on the Internet. During the past two centuries, the Syriac manuscript heritage was moved from the Middle East to Western libraries and museums; hundreds of books were published from these treasures. Now, for the first time, Beth Mardutho will bring together all this material from East and West, preserving Syriac manuscripts and printed books, and making them accessible worldwide. Students, clergy and seminarians, scholars, and the general public will be able to access the entire collection anytime from anywhere in the world. Our goal is to have 2,000-3,000 holdings in our library within three years. Your support is crucial to meet this objective.
In January 2004, The Catholic University of America (CUA) gave Beth Mardutho full access to digitize its Syriac collection, from March 1 until July 31. This small window of time—due to construction work at the library—should not be missed. CUA's collection is indeed unique and one of its kind in North America . Beth Mardutho plans to secure scanning equipment and hire two students on full-time basis to have as many books as possible digitized for inclusion in The Syriac Digital Library. The budget for this task is around $35,000. We have already raised $10,000. Working together, we can raise the remaining $25,000 to funds this important project.
During 2002 and 2003 we succeeded in building a coalition of library partners who agreed, like CUA, to give us access to their collections. This coalition includes the libraries of Brigham Young University , Brown University , Duke University , Harvard's Dambarton Oaks, the Peshitta Institute of Leiden University, and Princeton Theological Seminary. Our partners have already contributed over 30,000 digitized images. During 2003, Beth Mardutho built a prototype interface for the eLibrary on the Internet.
Now, it is time to digitize CUA's collection, by far the largest collection in our coalition group, and include it in The Syriac Digital Library for you and everyone else to use worldwide. We ask you to be part of this exciting work...
How Can you Help?
To give everyone the opportunity to take part, we have devised various donation plans. All donations are tax-deductible (in the U.S. at least), and can be made online or by sending a check (see detailed information on the next page).
We also welcome donations of any amounts from those who cannot contribute at the above levels. Simply, donate any amount of your choice towards the project. Your name will appear in the donors list in our newsletter Mardu.
How to Send Donations?
Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute, Syriac Digital Library Project
46 Orris Ave. , Piscataway , NJ 08854 . USA .
[Zinda Magazine is a corporate sponsor of the Syriac Digital Library and has adopted two books in 2004. We urge our readers to support the preservation of the Syriac text and documents by supporting the Syriac Digital Library.]
Nusrotho: A New Music CD by Gabriel Aydin
Who will not be amazed at the richness of the Syriac music and who will not be delighted with the flavour of its antiquity? Who will not rejoice in thanksgiving at the beauty of its melodious variety? Across the waves of the centuries and from the magnificent sanctuaries of churches and monasteries in that sacred land of our forbearers, we hear the echoes of its melodious chants coming sweetly to our ears. In “Nusrotho” Gabriel Aydin is producing some liturgical hymns and songs taken from the Beth Gazo (the Treasury of Syriac Music) and other liturgical books together with some newly arranged and composed songs.
Gabriel Aydin was born in 1975 in the village of Gundukshukro near Nisibin in the region of Tur Abdin – southeast of Turkey . He studied Syriac language and literature as well as Syriac theology and liturgical music at Mor Gabriel Seminary. In 1994, he entered Istanbul Conservatoire and studied there for two years. Following this, he moved to Lebanon for further studies in music where he entered the University of Holy Spirit in Kaslik (USEK) to learn scientifically the history, nature and development of Syriac Music. He earned a Bachelor of Music from USEK in 2003 and the same year produced his first Syriac CD entitled “Nusrotho”.
“Nusrotho” consists of selection of unique pieces from the Syriac liturgical tradition. Gabriel Aydin selected hymns that have distinct musical features and characteristics in terms of their melody, tune, rhythm and scale, as well as their place within the Syriac liturgical services. For example, “Mor Dalon” is a unique hymn. It has a wonderful melody, which carries within it some of the most characteristic features of the Syriac Music.
“Nusrotho” is a combination of choir and solo songs. Even it is a mixture of antique and modern music. “Bnahlo dYoushofot” with deacon Youssef Afram takes the listener to the magical mountain of Tur Abdin, while “Yeshou´” and “Óbouraw Kulmedem” of Abir Nehme gives the listener the mysterious fragrant of a new Syriac music derived from the ancient melodies of the Syriac Church music.
“Nusrotho” is performed by the members of St. Jacob of Serug Choir in collaboration with The Holy Spirit University of Kaslik Choir. It also has the non-forgettable touch of Rev. Georges Safar (‘Ewardnoyo).
Ten uninterrupted times of listening to “Nusrotho” is not enough, because in every time you will find a new and tastier flavour of the Syriac Music.
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Road to Nineveh at www.shlimonbetshmuel.com
Shlimon Bet-Shmuel has released an official website, offering his music to be experienced in more ways than one. Downloads, streaming audio, and video footage of Assyrian homeland, a strong influence in Shlimon's songs, is included on the website. To accompany the music and video, some lyrics have been posted for the listener's convenience. More information about Shlimon regarding his life and inspirations are provided by his unabridged biography, and articles and transcripts featuring the purpose behind his songs and the structure of his music are also included.
Click here to experience Shlimon's website: http://www.shlimonbetshmuel.com
Come and Visit the Historic Assyrian Communities of Russia
In May 2004 the Assyrian village of Urmia, near the city of Krasnodar in the Northern Caucasus of Russia (approx. 1000 kilometers from Moscow ) will celebrate the 80 th anniversary of its establishment. This village was founded in 1924 by a group of Assyrian refugees who fled the Turkish genocide of our people between 1915 and 1918. Before their escape, they lived in the Armenian village of Arasdayan , near the Turkish border. They arrived in Armenia from the the Urmain (in Iran ) village of Atlakandy .
The village has grown into a large settlement as other non-Urmian refugees from Turkey and Iran continued to arrive. In addition to Urmijnai founders, other Assyrian settlers include Albaknai, Gavarnai, Shaputnai, Diznai, Jilwai, Nudisnai, Livinai, Talnai, and others. Currently, there are up to 800 people, mainly Assyrian living in the village of Urmia in Russia . The inhabitants of the village are engaged in agriculture, growing vegetables, and breeding cattle.
Being the only Assyrian settlement in Russia , the village of Urmia serves as a cultural center for all Assyrians communities of Russia . The celebration between May 1 and 5, therefore, will consist of music and dance contests, and soccer tournament.
We, the Assyrians of Urmia and the Kuban region, cordially invite every Assyrian from around the world to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Russia and meet the historic Assyrian communities and settlements in our beautiful country. On your visit to Russia , you will have the opportunity to see the city of Krasnodar and Rostov-na-Donu were thousands of Assyrian families call home.
To take advantage of this special occasion we have arranged for exclusive hotel and transportation accommodations:
Hotel Accomodations (all prices include breakfast)
Registration fee: $150
Registration includes transportation from Krasnodar airport to Krasnodar ; from Krasnodar to Armavir, and everyday transportation from Armavir to Urmia and back, and meals (lunch and dinner) in Urmia.
Dinner Banquet: $20
In order to reach the village of Urmia , plan on flying to Moscow first, then to Krasnodar . Airfare for the round trip from Moscow to Krasnodar is about 150$.
If you decide to stay in Moscow before traveling to our region, the approximate hotel prices in Moscow may be as follow:
3-star hotels, single room $100; double room $130
4-star hotels, double room $200
We can also assist you in obtaining your visa. Please send us the following information:
-Passport No and Expiration Date
-A Fax number to which you can receive an invitation.
Please, indicate also your E-mail address for returned communication.
All request/information can be sent to: Michael at <email@example.com> or Eugene at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Please send your request for invitation no later than March 15, 2004 .
We look forward to see you in Urmia , Russia .
The Organizing Committee of Urmia Celebration 2004
Iraq : Assyrians & a Federation For Iraq
Fikret Bila reports for the Turkish Press (12 Jan), “Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, the US civilian administrator in Iraq , said that a federation would be the best regime for the country. The Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq are pushing for an ethnic-based federation. They are planning a dual federation based on the Kurds and the Arabs. The ethnic Turkmen and others would not be taken into consideration. Bremer's approach shows that the US is leaning in the same direction.”
The civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, announced however that the U.S. would agree on establishing federalism in Iraq, but based on geographic and not demographic, ethnic partition, although he would be happy for the Kurds to control the northern regions with the exception of Kirkuk. (“Washington And The Kurds.” By Abdullah Al Ashaal. Al-Hayat. 19 Jan 2004 )
Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party regime exercised a policy of Arabisation, whereby Arabs were moved in to regions formally dominated by ethnic minorities, in order to change the demographics. The Kurdish claim is for an ethnic federation and a reversal of Arabisation. One thing that is not being talked about is the effect such a situation would have on the other inhabitants and ethnic minorities of northern Iraq , such as the Assyrians, who are the indigenous inhabitants of northern Iraq and are Christian.
The Assyrian Christian Remnant
According to Nineveh.com, “The Assyrians of today are the indigenous Aramaic-speaking descendants of the ancient Assyrian people, one of the earliest civilizations emerging in the Middle East , and have a history spanning over 6750 years. Assyrians are not Arabian, we are not Kurdish, our religion is not Islam. The Assyrians are Christian, with our own unique language, culture and heritage. Although the Assyrian empire ended in 612 B.C., history is replete with recorded details of the continuous presence of the Assyrian people till the present time.”
Peter BetBasoo has produced an excellent summary history of Assyria and the Assyrian people on the website of the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA). He describes Assyrians as “a Semitic people indigenous to Mesopotamia ”. With a map he shows the historic Assyria as located in north Mesopotamia , spanning four countries – from the Euphrates River in north-eastern Syria , through the eastern corner of Turkey , western edge of Iran , and northern Iraq to about 100 miles south of Kirkuk . The plains of Arbil and Nineveh ( Mosul ) were the breadbaskets of the Assyrian people.
The Assyrians converted from Ashurism to Eastern Christianity in the three centuries after Christ. The Assyrian Church of the East was founded in 33 A.D. Once Assyria had been major military Empire, but after 33 A.D. it was to become a great religious empire with a large active missionary movement that took the gospel into China and beyond. Arab Islamic invaders captured Mesopotamia in 630 A.D. and subjugated the Assyrians under Muslim domination.
Kurds swept into Assyria in 1261 A.D. after King Salih Isma'il ordered them to emigrate from the mountains of Turkey to the Nineveh plains. Assyrians left their homes and fled to Arbil. Many lost their lives. When Timurlane the Mongol arrived in 1300 A.D he found the Assyrian people already traumatised and decimated. He massacred the Assyrians and drove them out until only a remnant remained.
Only a decade after the genocide of the Armenians (1915-23), the Assyrians suffered a major massacre in Iraq during the post-WW1 mandate period (1933). Actually the history of the Assyrian people, particularly since the arrival of Islam in the region, has been one of frequent massacres and almost continual oppression and persecution.
The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reports that the present Kurdish proposal “to establish an ethnically based autonomous area even beyond the current occupied northern provinces has alarmed various Iraqi communities including Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs), Arabs, Turkman, and Yezidis within Iraq and abroad. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's (PUK) Barham Salih recently declared that the Kurdish autonomous area ought to be extended beyond the three occupied and already diversely populated and contentious provinces of Dohuk (Nohadra), Arbil, and Sulaimaniya to include large portions of Diyala, Nineveh, and Karkuk.
“According to a December 25, 2003 Jordan Times article, Mr. Barham Salih asserted that, ‘Karkuk is an integral part of Kurdistan , administratively, geographically, and historically.' In addition, Mr. Salih affirmed that the Kurdish map includes the historically Assyrian provinces of Arbil and Dohuk and now unabashedly extends the proposed area to occupy the remaining Assyrian towns and villages in the plains of Nineveh , the ancient Assyrian capital, which up until the war of liberation were under government control.”
The escalation of fighting along ethnic lines in northern Iraq is cause for great concern. AINA quotes Mr. Abgar Maloul of the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) as saying that "ethnic federalism built on the premise of the subjugation by one ethnic group of other minorities is not what we envisioned a liberated Iraq would resemble. We have long stood for a free, sovereign, secular, and democratic Iraq for all Iraqis." (Link 4)
Ashor Giwargis, born in Beirut in 1970, is a researcher and writer concerning the Assyrian cause. He writes out of great concern for the future of Iraq 's Assyrian Christians. “Before the coming of the Ba'ath regime to Iraq in 1968, Assyrians constituted 65% of the population of the northern region, and the Kurds were about 15% and Arabs about 20%. During the 1st Gulf War, Kurdish tribes came in from Iran , supported by the Iranians to fight against Iraq . They destroyed our villages. As a result, the majority of the Assyrians fled their towns and migrated to Syria , Lebanon and Jordan , seeking refugee visas to U.S.A, Europe , and Australia . That's why today we have some 3.2 million Assyrians in the Diaspora. The Assyrians make up 30% of Iraqi immigrants.
“In Iran the Assyrians were more than 150,000 before the coming of Khomeni in 1979, but now they are only about 30,000. We have churches that date back to the 1st century, built by St. Thomas and other churches from 2nd, 3rd, 4rth century. The indigenous people of Assyria are today scattered around the world. We are watching the news and hearing how the invaders are announcing their ‘ Kurdistan ' in Assyria , but we are unable to say a word for the great powers are busy with more important issues.”
This is a situation to watch very closely. Christians worldwide must make it known that we regard the future and fate of our Assyrian Christian brothers and sisters as a very important issue.
[Z-info: Elizabeth Kendal is the Principal Researcher and Writer for the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC) www.worldevangelical.org/rlc.html. This article was initially written for the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis mailing list.]
Quest for Christian Unity: Where It Stands
[Z-info: The following is an excerpt from the interview conducted with Bishop Farrell, Secretary of Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Vatican . At the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Bishop Brian Farrell assessed the state of the quest for full unity among the disciples of Christ.]
Q: What is the present state of the search for Christian unity?
Bishop Farrell: There are lights and shadows. Significant ecumenical achievements are visible at the local level of parishes, dioceses, associations. All kinds of shared activities and cooperation are being implemented.
Generally, people are convinced that there is no turning back from the search for the unity that Christ wishes for his followers. There is a new interest in "spiritual" ecumenism, that is, in prayer for unity and in purifying the idea that communities have of one another.
Among the shadows: Some become discouraged that things take so long; it is not always easy to involve the younger generation, which has perhaps less experience of how relations between divided Christians have changed in past decades.
And then, importantly, after the various ecumenical dialogues have focused on the many things Christians have in common, we are now reaching the point when we have to face the deeper differences between the Churches, and this requires more patient and more penetrating effort. Impatience is a great temptation against ecumenism.
Q: How are relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches ?
Bishop Farrell: Enormous progress has been made in recent years in improving relations and cooperation with the various Orthodox Churches individually.
With practically all of them there is regular contact and exchange of ideas. There are frequent visits of delegations -- impossible to list them all here.
There is an increasing effort to face common challenges together, especially in Europe . Unfortunately, all of this is sometimes overshadowed by the media insistence on the tensions and misunderstandings which can and do exist in some cases.
In the new situation in Eastern Europe since the fall of Communism, the Catholic presence is more visible, and this is sometimes perceived as a threat by the Orthodox. They have a wider concept of proselytism than we do in the West, and therefore tensions do arise. This is especially true in many of the events surrounding the re-emergence of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine .
Only in a fraternal love that excludes rivalry and competition, and is truly an exchange of gifts, can we overcome these serious difficulties.
Another important sign that we are making headway is the great effort which has been made on both sides to restart the international theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and all the Orthodox Churches together, stalled for the past few years. The coordinating committee of the dialogue will be convened in the near future to suggest a path forward.
Q: How are relations with the ancient Churches of the East?
Bishop Farrell: These are the Churches which remained outside the influence of the Roman Empire and developed their own specific traditions in theological and ecclesiastical matters: the Copts, the Syrian Orthodox, the Armenian Apostolic Church , the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, the Malankara Church . With these the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has begun a new theological dialogue.
There is also a dialogue in course with the Assyrian Church of the East. These Churches are especially present in the Middle East .
In the present situation of conflicts and divisions, the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Churches are conscious of the need to strengthen their cooperation on the pastoral and social levels. Ecumenically they tend increasingly to work together as a family of Churches.
After a preparatory meeting with representatives of these Churches here in Rome last year, the first session of the dialogue will take place this coming week in Cairo . The Holy See will be presented by Cardinal Kasper, and it is hoped that the meeting can, above all, strengthen already existing forms of cooperation and communion.
Q: What is the motor that fuels ecumenical work and progress?
Bishop Farrell: As you can see, the ecumenical world is a vast and varied one. The overall picture is of achievement and progress. We know that unity will be God's gift and not a human feat.
It is important to return to the core concept of the ecumenical movement, the impulse that has sustained and inspired it from the beginning, and to develop on that basis a new energy for and a new commitment to true dialogue.
Crucial at the beginning of the ecumenical movement was the spiritual ecumenism that inspired the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and sustains it still. The ecumenism of life and love must be renewed at all levels, from theology to pastoral activity.
If ecumenical cooperation could create ever increasing numbers of "meeting places of unity in diversity," this would open up a field of intensive learning and action; it would offer the experience of a reconciling and enriching communion in action as a way of deepening the bonds between Christians on the basis of their common baptism and faith in the one Lord Jesus Christ.
Opponents of Allegory
There are people who take great pains to twist the sense of the divine scriptures," wrote the fourth-century biblical scholar, Theodore of Mopsuestia, a prominent voice of the exegetical school centered at Antioch, "and make everything written therein serve their own ends. They dream up silly fables in their own heads and give their folly the name of allegory. They misuse the apostle's term as a blank authorization to abolish all meanings of divine scripture."
At the beginning of the third century, Origen of Alexandria introduced to the church an exegetical method that searched for the hidden, spiritual meanings of Old Testament passages, treating the Old Testament as a great allegory of Christ. Most biblical interpreters who followed him worked in this tradition.
But not all. A few Christians recognized the danger posed by the allegorical method. Someone must hold the "spiritualizing" interpreter accountable, or Scripture meanings might be warped into forms the biblical authors never intended.
Home of hermeneutics
As Paul once said of Tarsus , Antioch was "no mean city." We know it as the place where Jesus' followers were first called "Christians," but its secular fame was also well-established. Founded three hundred years before Christ, this city on the Orontes River in modern-day Turkey became the Roman empire 's third largest city.
Antioch stood at an east-west crossroads and exerted enormous cultural and political influence throughout the empire. "In what land or sea had the fame of this city not entered?" asked Libanius, chief rhetorician of the Hellenistic school in Antioch . "Attractions of all kinds bring people from all sides [of the empire], from Africa , Europe , Asia , from the islands, from the mainland."
Libanius's school of rhetoric dominated the intellectual environment of Antioch . In Greco-Roman culture, young men wanting higher education trained in schools of rhetoric and philosophy. When rhetoricians read classical literature, they looked for moral principles and ethical models civic authorities could follow, while philosophers, particularly the Stoics, searched for symbolic meanings. Libanius swayed Antiochians (Christians included) toward the rhetorical perspective and away from the metaphysical, even mystical bent of men like Origen.
Lucian of Antioch (d. 312) was the first to offer an alternative to Origen's approach. Emphasizing the need for textual accuracy, he set about revising the Septuagint. Jerome, translating the Hebrew Bible into Latin years later, praised Lucian's work.
Eustathius (c. 270-360), bishop of Antioch , directly criticized Origen in his treatise On the Witch of Endor. For example, Origen had apparently claimed that in 1 Samuel 28, the witch's calling up of Samuel from Hades foreshadowed Christ's resurrection. Eustathius countered that only God can raise people from the dead, and that the devil used the witch to deceive Saul into thinking Samuel spoke to him.
Whether Eustathius was correct is not the point; his concern for the integrity of the text led him to directly confront Origen's premise for finding Christ there.
It was Diodore of Tarsus (d. 390), though, who founded the "school" of Antioch that fully challenged Origen's method. "We demand them [the Alexandrian exegetes] to know that we prefer much more the historical comprehension of the text than the allegorical," he wrote.
Diodore believed Origen's method disparaged Scripture, and he encouraged Christians to retain its literal meaning. Doing so did not rule out theoria, or higher "contemplation" of the biblical passage. But it must be consistent with the author's intentions and the text that surrounded it.
While Origen felt spiritual truth lay beyond the words, like a code to be cracked, Diodore felt meaning lay within the words, pregnant with spiritual significance but still rooted in history.
The "less inspired" Scripture
Diodore's most famous student, Theodore of Mopsuestia (ca. 350-428) carried Diodore's ideas even further. He questioned the canonicity of some of the books in the Bible—especially the apocryphal books in the Septuagint—and preferred the more limited "Jewish" canon. He refused to place the "wisdom" literature on the same level of inspiration as the rest of Scripture. The Song of Songs, he said, was simply a conversation between lovers and nothing more. And he aggressively criticized Paul's epistolary writing style, thereby departing from the traditional understanding of biblical inspiration.
Like Diodore, Theodore was determined to set the biblical text in its historical context. In his commentaries on the psalms and minor prophets—the only works still extant—Theodore wrote an introduction in which he discussed the date, authorship, historical occasion, the purpose of the writer, and a summary of the plan and perspective of the book. In this, his work resembles modern scholarship to a remarkable degree.
The literalists' risky divisions
But Theodore had some radical ideas. Fidelity to the text, he argued, demanded that scholars drastically reduce the number of Old Testament passages that Christians had traditionally held to be messianic prophecies of Christ. In virtually every case, the prophecies of the minor prophets and psalmists referred not to Christ, but to the events of the post-exilic period.
In fact, he limited messianic psalms to just four—Psalms 2, 8, 45, and 110. Even Psalm 22, the psalm Jesus quoted on the cross, was not prophetic of Christ. "Those commentators who claim that this psalm is related to the person of Christ ought to know that they can be accused of recklessness because the second half of the opening saying of the psalm does not allow such an interpretation. How could Christ ever speak of his sins?" By so limiting Christ's presence in the Old Testament, Theodore ran the risk of divorcing it entirely from the New—in a sense creating two Bibles.
Theodore also emphasized to perhaps an unfortunate degree the humanity of Christ in his writings. One of his students, Nestorius, held that Christ had "two natures which are adored in the one person of the only-begotten by a perfect and unconfused conjunction." But Nestorius was later condemned by the Council of Ephesus (431) for dividing Christ's person into two, and Emperor Theodosius II branded him as a heretic.
In 553, more than 100 years after Theodore's death, the Council of Constantinople condemned Theodore's views as heretical and ordered that his commentaries be burned. Only the Nestorian church remembered and preserved his writings. Ironically, orthodox Christians are once again rediscovering the scholar who most effectively challenged the school of Alexandria —and provided another way of understanding the Bible.
[Z-info: Mr. Gertz is editorial coordinator of Christian History.]
History of Resolution AJR 31 (The Assyrians in Iraq )
On Friday January 30, 2004 , Assembly Member Greg Aghazarian (R-Stockton) presented Mr. Albert Gabriel of Nineveh.com; author and commentator, Mr. Fred Aprim, and editor of this publication, Mr. Wilfred Bet Alkhas, with framed copies of resolution AJR 31 recognizing their efforts in writing, promoting, and publicizing the resolution.
It was on April 23, 2003 , that California legislators introduced the resolution to recognize the Assyrians in future Iraq . On June 24, 2003 , the California Joint Assembly filed Resolution AJR 31 (The Assyrians in Iraq ) with the Secretary of State as the Resolution passed both houses of the State of California with an overwhelming approval.
The idea of the Assyrian resolution was originally initiated in spring 2003 by Mr. Albert Gabriel. He suggested to Fred Aprim that it would be beneficial if Assyrians passed a resolution in California to honor and recognize the Assyrian Levy for their services for Great Britain and the Allies from 1920-1955, especially during WWII. Mr. Aprim quickly drafted the initial proposal. Assemblyman Aghazarian and his staff added further information about the ancient Assyrians and their contribution to mankind, send it back to Albert and Fred, who put the final touches on this draft. Other minor modifications were made on the draft while on the House floor, and finally it passed overwhelmingly as the State of California Assembly Joint Resolution No. 31 (AJR 31).
Zinda Magazine's founder and editor, Mr. Wilfred Bet-Alkhas, played a great role in gathering support for the resolution through a special web page that was designed for that specific purpose. The website accounted for hundreds of international and out-of-state letters to Assembly Aghazarian in addition to more than 500 in-state responses.
We want to thank all fellow Assyrians who took the time and sent their support to the office of Assembly Member Greg Aghazarian (the final figure of supporters stood at 866 individual Assyrians worldwide). If this resolution proved something, it is then that we as individuals can make a difference.
Please take a moment and send a thank you note to Assembly Member Greg Aghazarian for his efforts at this address:
Assembly Member- 26th District
4557 Quail Lakes Dr. , # C-3
Stockton, CA. 95207
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