11 Adaar 6753              
Volume X

Issue 1

1 March 2004
Where Assyrians Get Their News & Information
Internet Fax 208-723-1240 info@zindamagazine.com

This Week In Zinda

Because Assyrians Deserve the Best   Wilfred Bet-Alkhas
A Movie Review of Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ
Politics, Passion in Mel Gibson’s Depiction of Jesus
Aramaic: An Ancient Language Comes Alive
  Ivan Kakovitch
Prof. Habib C. Malik
Assyrian Patriotic Party Office in Nineveh Attacked
Security Concerns Facing Iraqi Christians in Syria
Attacks Could Mean Exodus for Basra's Christians
Yonatan Bet-Kolia Wins 2004 Majlis Elections
Iraqi Owners of Liquor Stores in Detroit Allege Bias
Assyrian Aid Society Report in New Zealand
Assyrians Hear Native Tongue in Mel Gibson's Passion
Ancient Assyrian Jewels to be Auctioned in Delaware
Watch Your Languages. They're Ancient.

Happy 10th Volume, Zinda!

Gibson's Passion Provides Us Great Opportunities
Thank You, Rev. Joseph!
Unfair Acts by the Kurdish Unions in North Iraq
Sarkis Aghajan Replaces Murdered Kurdish Leader
Confederation is the First Step to a Constitution

  Regina Salim
David Gavary
Edward Odicho
Johnny Chamaki
Nihat Bakus
Gina Benjamin
Youth Union
Ramsin Danialzadeh
Richard Griffis
A Press Release of the Human Rights Without Frontiers
An Invitation to a Press Conference in Paris
AAS Annual Walkathon in Santa Clara, California
Antiochene & Syriac Modes of Interpretation
Seeking Assyrian Translators
Freedom for All in Iraq
The Fabled History
War for Souls
Anti-Zowaa Meeting Fizzles!
  Angela J. Phelps
Fred Aprim
Bill Berkowitz
Rev. Ken Joseph Jr.
The First Assyro-Chaldean Church in France   Samuel Yalap

The First Chaldean-Assyrian Church in France is inaugurated outside of Paris.

Zinda Says

Because Assyrians Deserve the Best

Wilfred Bet-Alkhas, Editor

Welcome to the 10th volume of Zinda Magazine! This editorial is not about politics or policies. Neither is it about the living martyrs, dying languages, and the struggle for national rights. It's about an email 10 years ago sent out to a dozen friends using a PC at work (Some of us did not own a computer then). That brief message has now become the largest Assyrian magazine and the most trusted name in news and information for over 18,000 readers from 60 countries around the world. Zinda Magazine's latest subscriber lives in the African country of Côte d'Ivoire.

Week after week, Zinda Magazine questions the authority, praises the talented performers, and argues against the shadowy claims of the charismatic influencials with cold, in-your-face facts. In the eyes of Zinda Magazine everyone deserves to be mentioned: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Last week, the former political activist-turned-comic disc jockey, Sargon Dadesho, called Zinda Magazine "the spark that became the ash". Zinda Magazine stands tall among the myriad of high-budgeted, low-impact Middle Eastern media outlets, including those with questionable sources of revenue, for one simple fact: the equivocal support of its readers. No prince or pauper escapes the pitiless wrath of Zinda's mighty cyber-pen.

Those in power must be held accountable to the people. It is our duty as the voice of reason and the people to maintain a firm and objective stand in asking the tough questions and expecting a reasonable answer. For the last 10 years it has been our privilege to shine a dim light in the darkness perpetuated by the deceiving soothsayers and the corrupt leaders.

What is also very unique about Zinda Magazine is its aptness in pursuing political and cultural timeliness. If this week a bishop is ridiculed for indulging in sexual activities, a month later he is praised for his scholarship. Today a speaker from North Iraq may be chastised for his use of the word "Kurdistan" and a year later congratulated as an able representative of his people.

People change, so do magazines and their editors. But somehow the truth - after many cycles of revisionist mentality and misinformed public opinion - boomerangs back to its point of origin. If Assyrian changes to Syrian, and Syrian turns to Nestorian, and the Nestorian transforms to Syriac and then politically amends to Chaldo-Assyrian, in time the powerful and invisible hands of the Divine will shine the light of truth onto darkness and rightness from within ignorance. These facts cannot be changed: the Syriac-speaking people around the world are Assyrian; the northern land of Mesopotamia is Assyria, not that "K" word; and the ultimate aspiration of every Assyrian is the return of his and her full political rights.

As a news magazine, political commentator, art critic, and so much more (we seem to be wearing too many hats these days), Zinda Magazine carries an enormous weight. It influences the public opinion, changes policies, and impacts the society in general. For a publication produced and nurtured on its dozens of volunteer crew members, Zinda Magazine has not done too bad in the last nine volumes. Yet, this is just the beginning. We must do more, because time demands it of us and of our readers.

On the Tenth anniversary of the publication of Zinda Magazine, we invite you to a crisper looking issue. Our readers complained about our look and feel. Therefore, we have taken a great deal of care in making sure that our font types and sizes do not change as you jump from one article to another. We promise to infuse better cosmetic changes with every issue. But this is no progress as compared to our greatest source of pride.

This week on Friday, 5 March, Zinda Magazine debuts its first non-English issue: "Journal Zinda" - a complete translation of our popular magazine into Russian. The year 2004 marks the 175th anniversary of the presence of Assyrians in the Russian territories and the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the first Assyrian colony in Russia, namely the village of Urmia in the Kuban province. What better way to celebrate the stories and successes of hundreds of thousands of Assyrians living in or from Russia than to offer them our entire publication in the language of Tolstoy, Pushkin, and Chaikovskiy. We welcome our thousands of future readers to Zinda Magazine in Russia and around the world. Journal Zinda is made possible by the support of a dozen news writers, translators, and graphic artists from Moscow, Krasnodar, Kaliningrad, Rostov, and Tatarstan.

Imagine Zinda Magazine in Assyrian (Syriac), Arabic, German, Farsi, Swedish... We simply cannot wait for the next 10 years will be even more exciting.

The word "Zinda" means "the spark", as in the spark of fire. It defines a special moment in the history of the Assyrian people - a time when the darkness created by years of ignorance and timidity is slowly surrendering itself to the light of hundreds, then thousands, and finally millions of small, yet undying sparks of truth and courage. Are we ever satisfied then? Not until every stone has turned and every small splinter is lit. Until then this show must go on.

Thank you for your abiding love and support.

Advertise with Zinda Magazine


The Lighthouse

A Movie Review of Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ

By Ivan Kakovitch (California)

Let No One Write My Epitaph, But Mr. Mel Gibson, [Up Kha Nasha Khtamti La Katula, Shuk Min Mel Gibson], would, be the words spoken by Jesus Christ himself, had he been able to see this splendidly produced pictorial Bible, and its Biblical version.

'The Passion of Christ' thrives on three levels of lecturing humanity and its concerns with faiths.

Firstly: The portrayal of a man mostly admired by all universal standards, as well as universally most revered personage for the past 2,000 years-give and take a few hundred-is in itself a challenging of tasks undertaken by any of the predecessors of Mr. Gibson's presentation.

The man as we know as Jesus Christ, is humble, yet arrogant; polite, yet uncompromising; mesmerizing, yet humane; addictive, yet solvent; soft-spoken, yet ardent; and, derelict, yet promulgator.

Not a fraction of hesitation should persist in all those faithful in their religion, to avoid seeing this Biblical process, turned into a motion picture.

No one shall be offended, discouraged, disgusted, antagonized, and become downright disrespectful to the images portrayed-although bloody, as they are-to facilitate the continuity of the story, which is the omnipresent of the culmination of faith and belief in a predictable dogma, that is, a unified religious aspect for a large part of the world population of yore, today, and even tomorrow.

Secondly: The nostalgia for arts and science fluctuating throughout the film in the mode of transmitting the picture in its original languages, Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin, renders it as an emotional passage through the times and the avenues of momentous scripture-type realizations.

The music, the costumes, the mise-en-scene, the photography, the scope of lights and the shades over the insatiably staged scenes, topped by exceptional portrayal of the characters, familiar to all, perhaps, through the readings of the passages of the Bible, the emotions, the catapulting of characteristics of human behaviors, and, finally, best of all, the formidable epilogue of unconformity, compel the story more plausible that it could ever have been described on paper.

Thirdly: 'The Passion of Christ' contains no defamatory tirades toward any society, religion, or any faiths or religions of yore or those of today.

It simply doesn't have to dwell into the lethargic state of mind of the community involved in the most analytic or arguable event overtaking their curiosity of the moment. The tempo of the multitudes is simply that of a passing of an enigmatically geared trial-not dissimilar to the ones we are faced from day to day-in which the parade of observers is merely that of uncontested thinkers.

The cast of thousands, is simply there as a decorum, with, of course, the exception of a few main characters surrounding the life and death of the man they knew as Jesus Christ.

The most astounding facet in the motion picture is that it does not analyze, or passes judgment on the perpetrators and procrastinators of life or death, nor does it discern the good and the evil.

The Most Prominent Question

Does the film offend, in any way a nation or a religion? Yes, and No, would be an apt response.

Yes, 'The Passion of Christ' depicts the Hebrew religious hierarchy as anachronistic and archaic in its precipitous verdict. How can we presuppose this?

No, 'The Passion of Christ' in the same manner, reinforces the spectrum of humanity among all nations, even the Hebrews.

In view of the fact that the term 'Semite' is an uncontested Biblical, rather than a scientific nomenclature, and no science or scientist would infer as to the possibility that Noah's Arc, Noah and his sons, especially Shem--from which the word 'Semite' derives--were extant. Hence, the word 'Semite', being unordained, and nonsensical, therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to discuss the semantics of it being anti-Semitic.


'Passion of Christ' is a must see for all. All shall pass the ticket counters, on their way out, pensive and perhaps, even more humane. Most even will forget the $10 they paid to see the film, they could see in a few months for $1 on the Video.

Even this writer tried to remain nonchalant, to no avail.

Politics, Passion in Mel Gibson’s Depiction of Jesus

By Prof. Habib C. Malik (Lebanon)

Last July, in Washington, I was privileged to be included among a handpicked group that attended a private screening of Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ. Gibson himself was there and we had a full hour of animated discussion with him following the screening.

To say that the experience made my summer would be an understatement. Spiritually, it was nothing short of a bombshell, even for a believing Christian like myself. Others in the room must have felt the same way judging by the two minutes of audible sobbing and sniffling at the end of the movie, right before the lights went on. After seeing so many cinematic depictions of the gospel stories, I had become convinced, because of their sheer inadequacy, that the story of Jesus was fundamentally unfilmable ­ until I saw what Gibson had done.

Of all the advance praise the film has elicited, one phrase sticks in my mind as capturing the essence of the work: “An icon in motion.” The Pieta, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the great Russian Orthodox icons, all present riveting snapshots of the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Gibson’s The Passion, however, offers two hours of total immersion in the finest specimen of Christian art brought to life through authentic visuals and mesmerizing sounds. It literally transports the viewer back to the year 33 AD, to that Passover in Jerusalem, to those final 12 hours of Jesus’ earthly life.

Helping create this convincing setting and distancing audiences from Hollywood are the languages used in the film: Aramaic and Latin. English subtitles are provided, but kept to a minimum and serve, so to speak, as a “page locator.”

Gibson’s strong personal faith was something I had only heard about, but in Washington I was face to face with the man himself, who was certain beyond a shadow of doubt (as he told us) that the Holy Spirit was at work through his remarkable project. He didn't’t mince his words: The film, he declared, was intended to evangelize.

Gibson is a devout Catholic living a stable marriage with seven children. Although very much a Hollywood superstar, he is light years away from the decadence and “new ageism” associated with that place. He has built a church near his home in Malibu where every morning he has a Catholic priest conduct mass in Latin for him and whoever wishes to attend. His preference for the Latin mass has been used by some of his critics to suggest he is not on good terms with the Holy See, and that he rejects the outcome of the Second Vatican Council, which, among other things, allowed for mass to be said in any language. But to my knowledge the council never forbade or abolished the Latin mass; it simply opened up that time-honored form of sacramental worship to all the remaining languages of humankind.

From day one a fierce controversy has brewed around Gibson’s film. Mainly, it has involved accusations of anti-Semitism leveled against him. The fear in some Jewish circles is that a literal depiction of the gospel, as the film strives to present, risks inflaming anti-Semitic hatred by blaming the crucifixion and death of Jesus on the Jews collectively, a position the Second Vatican Council has emphatically rejected. With the recent surge of anti-Semitism in Europe, no Jew can be faulted for being apprehensive. A number of liberal Christian theologians also weighed in, questioning Gibson’s selections from the gospels and warning against too negative a portrayal of the Jewish authorities and the crowd of Jews assembled before Pontius Pilate.

This has turned out to be probably the most talked-about movie before its release in the history of filmmaking. Over the past several months a number of articles sharply critical of the film and its director have appeared in American newspapers and magazines. Prominent among these were commentaries by Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, by Frank Rich in the New York Times, the liberal theology professor Paula Fredriksen in the New Republic, Peter Boyer in the New Yorker and, most recently, Jon Meacham in Newsweek. What they all had in common was an insistence that a literal reading of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ Passion is a dangerous thing that is neither ethically nor theologically warranted.
According to established canons of biblical exegesis, dating back at least to St. Augustine in the 4th century, the Bible can be read on several levels including the literal, allegorical, historical, anagogical, typological and moral. But I am not aware that any of the leading churches ­ Catholic, Orthodox or mainline Protestant ­ discourages a literal reading of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ final hours, following the arrest in Gethsemene, up to and including his resurrection.

But that said, no person reading the gospels in the true Christian spirit ought to emerge with anti-Semitic feelings. The fact that some do arrive at such warped conclusions is certainly to be condemned, but it is no reason for anyone to question the legitimacy of a literal reading ­ or, for that matter, a graphic cinematic depiction ­ of the culminating events in the gospels. Christians believe Jesus, who is the Messiah, came to die and arise from the dead so as to destroy death and sin for all mankind, forever. Anyone who would hinder such a divine plan is the real culprit, and of course that is none other than Satan himself.

In his film Gibson has just such a demonic figure appear at least three times ­ before the arrest in the garden, during Jesus’ whipping by the Roman soldiers and right after his death on the cross. At the first encounter, the devil tries unsuccessfully to dissuade Jesus from going through with his intended sacrifice. From a Christian point of view, everyone who helped fulfill this plan of salvation, whether knowingly or unknowingly, deserves to be thanked by the redeemed on behalf of the entire human race ­ and that certainly includes those Jews present: “Forgive them (both Jews and Romans) Father,” Jesus said, “for they know not what they do.”

What relevance does all this have for potential Arab audiences? Given the Islamic denial of the very historicity of the crucifixion, little of substance in the movie stands a chance of eliciting more than a passing curiosity. If, however, the film manages to bring to Muslims a greater understanding of what Christians believe actually happened and how they interpret its larger meaning, then the purposes of authentic inter-religious dialogue may be modestly served.

At the same time, it would be most unfortunate if the film’s promotion in Arab lands were based mainly on expressed Jewish anxieties. There are many Christian Arab communities scattered throughout the Middle East, where viewers would be advised to approach this film as a magnificent artistic production cradling a spiritual experience through which the believer is invited to reflect upon the Lord’s supreme redemptive act of love for all peoples everywhere. Much good could come out of Gibson’s Passion if it is viewed with the proper spectacles.

[Zinda: Prof. Habib C. Malik teaches history and cultural studies at the Lebanese American University. He wrote this commentary for The Daily Star.]

Aramaic: An Ancient Language Comes Alive

One of Mel Gibson's earliest decisions as director of The Passion of The Christ was to have the Jesus of his film speak the same language that the historical Jesus spoke 2,000 years ago. That language is Aramaic, an ancient Semitic tongue closely related to Hebrew that today is considered by some linguists to be a "dead language," still used in dialects by only a small number of people in remote parts of the Middle East.

"Once, however, Aramaic was the lingua franca of its time, the language of education and trade spoken the world over, rather like English is today. By the 8th Century, B.C. the Aramaic tongue was widely in use from Egypt to Asia Major to Pakistan and was the main language of the great empires of Assyria, Babylon, and later the Chaldean Empire and the Imperial government of Mesopotamia. The language also spread to Palestine, supplanting Hebrew as the main tongue some time between 721 and 500 B.C. Much of Jewish law was formed, debated and transmitted in Aramaic, and it was the language that formed the basis of the Talmud.

Jesus would have spoken and written what is now known as Western Aramaic, which was the dialect of the Jews during his lifetime. After his death, early Christians wrote portions of scripture in Aramaic, spreading the stories of Jesus' life and messages in that language across many lands.

As the historical language of expressing religious ideas, Aramaic is a common thread that ties together both Judaism and Christianity. Professor Franz Rosenthal wrote in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies: "In my view, the history of Aramaic represents the purest triumph of the human spirit as embodied in language (which is the
mind's most direct form of physical expression) . . . [It was] powerfully active in the promulgation of spiritual matters." For Gibson, too, there was something ineffably powerful about hearing Christ's words spoken in their original language.

But to bring Aramaic to life on the modern motion picture screen was going to be an enormous challenge. After all, how do you create a film in a lost First Century tongue in the middle of the 21st Century?

Gibson sought the help of Father William Fulco, Chair of Mediterranean Studies at Loyal Marymount University and one the world's foremost experts on the Aramaic language and classical Semitic cultures. Fulco translated the script for The Passion of The Christ entirely into First Century Aramaic for the Jewish characters
and "street Latin" for the Roman characters, drawing on his extensive linguistic and cultural knowledge. After translating the script, Fulco served as an on-set dialogue coach and remained "on call" to the production, providing last-minute translations and consultations. To further authenticate the language, Gibson also
consulted native speakers of Aramaic dialects to get a sense of how the language sounds to the ear. The beauty of hearing this dying language spoken aloud, he recalls, was very moving.

Ultimately, the entire international cast of The Passion of The Christ had to learn portions of Aramaic – most doing so phonetically – becoming perhaps one of the largest groups of artists ever to take on an ancient tongue en masse. For Gibson, the film's "foreign language" had another benefit: learning Aramaic became a uniting factor among a cast made up of many languages, cultures and backgrounds. "To bring a cast from all over the world to one place and have them all learn this one language gave them a sense of common ground, of what they share and of connections that transcend language", he says.

It also compelled the cast to look more deeply into their physical and emotional resources above and beyond the use of words. "Speaking in Aramaic required something different from the actors", observes Gibson, "because they had to compensate for the usual clarity of their own native language. It brought out a different level of
performance. In a sense, it became good old-fashioned filmmaking because we were so committed to telling the story with pure imagery and expressiveness as much as anything else".

[Zinda: The article above appears on http://www.thepassionofthechrist.com. At this year's Academy Awards, the host Billy Crystal, referring to the controversial Mel Gibson film and the ancient language for much of its dialogue jokes: "For the very, very first time, we're being simulcast in Aramaic."]

Good Morning Assyria

Assyrian Patriotic Party Office in Nineveh Attacked

(ZNDA: Mosul) According to unconfirmed reports from the Cultural and Information Bureau of the Assyrian Patriotic Party in Mosul, the office of the Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) in Mosul came under attack on Thursday, 26 February at 9 in the morning.

According to this report Mr. Stephen Markhai Slivo was injured during this attack. He was taken to a nearby hospital. The attackers apparently used hand grenades.

Security Concerns Prevent Iraqi Christians in Syria from Returning Home

By Laurie Kassman
Courtesy of the Voice of America
24 Feb 2004

(ZNDA: Damascus) Many Iraqis who fled to Syria for safety before, during and just after the war in Iraq say they still are afraid to go home.

Nearly a year after the war in Iraq, Seita Daoud sits in a sparsely furnished, badly heated apartment in a poor neighborhood of Damascus. She says she is afraid to go home. "It was not easy to leave my country," she says. "I was born in Iraq. I raised my children there. But it is too hard and too uncertain there now."

A few days after Baghdad fell to U.S. forces, Seita Daoud packed up her family of nine and headed for safety across the border in Syria. She had already sold off most of their possessions, keeping only a few family photos, including a portrait of her husband who had died years before.

Speaking the ancient language of her Assyrian Christian community, Seita says she is still not sure what to do. "I am ready to go back," she says, "but first I must be sure of security to raise my children. They all left their schools and their jobs. What will we find when we go back," she asks.

Seita is not alone. She says most of her Assyrian Christian neighbors, several hundred families, are here in Damascus with her. "Some," she says, "have arrived in the past few months. They say Iraq is too unstable for religious minorities."

Her son Yvan is blunt. "We number fewer than two-million," he says, "with no strong tribal leaders or big politicians to protect us."

U.S. officials and members of the Iraqi Governing Council insist ethnic and religious minorities, which make up about three-percent of the population, will be legally protected by any future government.

Yvan is not convinced. He says minorities suffered under Saddam Hussein and he does not want to see it happen again.

He acknowledges that Iraq's majority Shiite Muslim community was harshly persecuted by Saddam Hussein. Now, he worries how Christians and other religious minorities would be treated if strict Islamists gain control of a future government.

His mother worries more about the violence and lack of jobs. "Where would we find work," Seita asks. "You need a connection to get work with the Americans." But she shakes her head. "And, those who do work with the Americans are afraid," she says, "because the Americans are targets and Iraqis working with them are too."

For 26-year-old Taygor, the decision to leave was easy. Like other university students, he says he had to sign up for military training and he did not want to fight to defend Saddam Hussein. He left school and Iraq well before war began. "Saddam ruined our lives. He ruined our society," Taygor says. "Everything that is happening now is a result of what he did when he was in power.

Taygor cheered when the U.S.-led coalition took control of his country, but he says he has no desire to go back even now that Saddam Hussein is gone.

Neither does 33-year-old Anwar Deriyawish, another Iraqi Christian from Baghdad. The former welder lived in a rented house with his wife and children. "I have nothing there. Why should I go back," he asks.

Anwar has applied for a visa to Australia, but speaks no English and is not optimistic he will ever go there.

In contrast, Seita Daoud has no doubts she and her children will return to Iraq one day. She just cannot say when that day will come.

Attacks Could Mean Exodus for Basra's Christians

Courtesy of AFP
6 February

(ZNDA: Basra) A campaign of violence targeting Christians in Iraq's main southern port of Basra could succeed in driving the minority from the city as a series of assassinations blamed on religious extremists begins to hit home.

The recent attacks have badly shaken the city's tiny Christian community, with gunmen systematically killing off traders linked to alcohol sales, which were tolerated under the mainly secular regime of ousted president Saddam Hussein.

Newly-powerful Muslim Shiite leaders, released from the oppression they suffered under Saddam, have ordered the closure of some 200 liquor stores across Basra and ushered in a new era of fear for the Christians, many of whom now say they will flee the city.

"There was no reason for him to be killed, he wasn't selling alcohol any more," said Jinan Butris Habeeb, 45-year-old mother-of-seven, whose husband Basheer Toma Alias was shot dead while shopping for vegetables at Christmas.

"How can we live in Basra now? There is no security at all, we are terrified and we have no money to live," Habeeb, dressed in black robes, told AFP.

Basra, which has been under control of British troops since the US-led invasion of Iraq early last year, has largely escaped the violence blighting much of the rest of the country.

But although the mixed faith community has always enjoyed a friendly co-existence in the city, 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of Baghdad, the recent spate of attacks has prompted many Christians to think of getting out.

"Most of the Christians have had these thoughts about leaving, anyone with relatives elsewhere or money to leave the country will not hesitate to go," said Muwafaq Butris, Habeeb's brother, speaking at their home next to a mosque.

Archbishop Gabriel Kassab, who presides over Basra's estimated 1,150 Syrian Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and Chaldean Christian families, also warns of an exodus.

"Before, under the previous regime, there was security, there were no big problems. Now at least six people have been killed from our community," he said.

"There are some Muslim radicals who see the Christians as feeble. My people are now afraid, some of those with family outside are leaving."

Kassab, originally from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, said he was optimistic the situation would improve, blaming the attacks on non-Iraqis and insisting that relations between Basra's religious communities were still strong.

"The trouble that comes here is not coming from Basra's citizens. We have good cooperation here, at Christmas all the Muslims came here and now it is Eid I am visiting all the mosques," he said, referring to the Eid al-Adha feast of the sacrifice.

At one Basra Christian household, hit by a grenade blast on Tuesday which blew out windows and sent shards of shrapnel flying through the building, Kassab's optimism is not shared.

"Before they were just attacking us in the street, now we are not safe in our own homes," said the head of the household, another former alcohol vendor, who requested not to be identified.

"I would leave Basra if I could, but I cannot afford to as I am putting my children through college, and I have nowhere else to go. Instead, we must stay up all night guarding the house and worrying about another attack."

The man said he had even sought help from Shiite political groups in the city, asking them to endorse a statement in which he denounced alcohol sales and begged forgiveness. He said he would circulate copies to other Shiite leaders.

"Somebody sent us a warning note telling me we were being attacked because I sold alcohol. But I haven't been selling for a long time. My shop was looted during the war and then someone took it, so now I do nothing," he said.

"No one can say things under Saddam Hussein were good in Iraq, but now with the situation we are in now, we look back on them as perfect."

News Digest

Yonatan Bet-Kolia Wins 2004 Majlis Elections

(ZNDA: Tehran) The incumbent candidate for the Majlis seat representing the Assyrians and Chaldeans of Iran, has won his second term in office after beating his rivals, Freidoun Bet-Yonan and Shamasha Yonatan Babila Khanishan..

According to the information obtain by Zinda Magazine, the total number of Assyrian voters at this year's elections in Iran was 5,578. Mr. Bet-Kolia received 4,083 votes compared to Mr. Bet-Yonan's 1,379. Shamasha Babila Khanishan from Urmia received less than 116 votes.

Compared to over 7,000 votes cast in the last Majlis elections, the voters' turn-out was over twenty percent less in 2004. The Assyrian voters cast their ballots into the boxes made available in Tehran, Tabriz, Urmia, Ahwaz, Esfehan, Kermanshah, Hamedan, and Fardis-e Karaj.

Mr. Bet-Kolia is also the Assyrian Universal Alliance Secretary for the chapter in Asia.

Iraqi Owners of Liquor Stores in Detroit Allege Bias

By Robert E. Pierre
Courtesy of the Washington Post
22 February

(ZNDA: Detroit) The signs -- some flashing, others covering entire external walls -- at Norm's Liquor Express leave no doubt as to what's for sale. Lotto. Liquor. Beer. Wine.

On this evening, after sending in a minor to buy beer, police Sergeant Esther Lightfoot and her vice team find something else: scores of expired food items on the shelves. Butter and bottles of creamy French salad dressing were more than a year old. Sandwich spread, two years old. A box of cornmeal had expired three years earlier.

"There must be bugs in it," said Lightfoot, disgusted, and her partners cited the owners for violations.

Every evening for the past two months, vice squad officers have been cracking down on such stores. It's part of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's plan to push liquor stores farther from schools, forbid new ones from opening, and crack down on businesses that are not abiding by the letter of the law.

"No more new liquor stores in Detroit," Kilpatrick said in announcing the plan in December. "No more selling drug paraphernalia. No more selling single cigarettes out of the pack, no more signs with big, pink Tweety Birds holding liquor bottles."

Detroit has more than 700 stores authorized to sell liquor or just beer and wine. Because of the dearth of grocery stores in many communities, a number also double as mini-grocery stores and delis, selling meat, eggs, milk, and even baby food.

City officials said because liquor stores have been the only game in town for so long, many have become complacent or even reckless.

Now, Kilpatrick says he is trying to build a city that businesses respect and where residents no longer accept whatever they are given.

"The city of Detroit can no longer be disrespected," Kilpatrick said in an interview in his City Hall office. "It's a new way of doing business. You can't just do anything you want to in Detroit. We need to provide better neighborhoods, better quality of life."

But longtime business owners are crying foul over what they call heavy-handedness by police.

Store owner Ziad Shammami, who has been in business 30 years, said officers spent 30 minutes at his store without finding anything. On the way out, one officer found half-consumed bottles of ketchup and salad dressing in the back of the dairy cooler. They were for the personal use of employees, who often work long hours, Shammami said.

"This is harassment," he said. "If I was selling to minors, fine. But we are little small guys. It's hard to make a living. Work is slow, and this is what we get?"

Business associations have come to their members' defense.

"It seems more like a political program to me," said Mike Sarafa, president of the Associated Food Dealers of Michigan. "We don't take exception to cleaning up stores that need to be cleaned up and issuing tickets to people who sell drug paraphernalia. But they're going into every store and finding something to write a ticket for." The nitpicking, Sarafa said, was particularly galling because Detroit police remain under federal monitor after a 30-month investigation by the US Justice Department found widespread civil rights violations of residents, prisoners, and suspects. The city police force agreed as a result to sweeping changes in how it trains officers and detains and arrests prisoners.

The issue of race has also come up. The vast majority of the liquor store owners are Chaldeans, or Iraqi Christians, who fled their home country more than three decades ago because of persecution. Although many have good relations with their customers, there is a feeling that the crackdown may have more to do with a racial backlash toward them than city officials are letting on. "These are honest people who feel as if they are getting harassed," said Martin Manna, executive director of the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce.

Kilpatrick and business leaders periodically meet to discuss their differences on the matter.

The mayor has raised good issues, Manna said. If it's about signs, he said, also go after beauty salons and others with gaudy displays. If it's about expired food, he said, also go after chain groceries with similar problems.

"Otherwise, it becomes a race issue," Manna said.

Assyrian Aid Society Report in New Zealand

(ZNDA: Wellington) On Tuesday, 17 February, the executive committee of the Assyrian Aid Society in New Zealand and Mr. Hormiz Benjamin, the representative of the Assyrian Democratic Movement in New Zealand, met with Mr. Narsai David, president of the Assyrian Aid Society in the U.S. and his wife in Wellington.

"We were delighted and overwhelmed by Mr. David’s enthusiasm and commitment. We found him to be a truly dedicated Assyrian with a spirit of devotion. We were convinced that our nation has only been surviving until this day, because it had brought some patriotic sons like him," said Mr. Emil Odisho of the AAS-New Zealand.

The representatives discussed the AAS-America’s enormous projects, including Narsai’s Taste of the Mediterranean, the Assyrian community in Wellington and AAS-NZ's future projects.


Assyrians Hear Native Tongue in Mel Gibson's Passion

Courtesy of the Associated Press
26 February
By Sarah Karush

(ZNDA: Detroit) Most viewers of "The Passion of the Christ" will find little familiar in the ancient language spoken by Jesus and other Jewish characters in the movie.

But for Chaldeans and Assyrians in the United States, Mel Gibson (news)'s film, which opened Wednesday, is an unprecedented chance to hear their native tongue — Aramaic — on the big screen.

Nobody knows exactly how first-century Aramaic sounded, and the language in the movie is just one scholar's best estimation of how Jesus would have spoken. It varies greatly from Syriac, the form of Aramaic used today by some Christians.

Still, it is familiar to today's Aramaic speakers — and for many, the language's role in the controversial movie about Jesus' final hours is a source of pride.

Aramaic is spoken by a handful of small Christian groups from Iraq (news - web sites) and other parts of the Middle East, including Chaldeans, who are Catholic, and Assyrians, who have their own church.

There are an estimated 250,000 Chaldeans and Assyrians in the United States — mostly in Michigan, California and Chicago — said Martin Manna, executive director of the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce (news - web sites), based in Farmington Hills.

In metropolitan Detroit, where Manna says the Chaldean community numbers about 120,000, Chaldean Catholic congregations have organized special outings to see the movie.

"The reality is we're very religious," Manna said. "But to add to it the fact that the language is a language that we speak a dialect of, to us, is very exciting."

Community leaders and scholars say they fear the language is dying, as Chaldeans and Assyrians leave the Middle East for the United States, and as people leave Aramaic-speaking villages in Iraq for the cities. Among Jews, spoken Aramaic has all but disappeared, although the Talmud and other religious texts are written in it.

Aramaic-speakers in the United States are struggling to maintain the dialects among generations born here.

For Ismat Karmo, 48, hearing Aramaic in the movie caused mixed emotions.

"It makes me feel proud and sad at the same time. Proud that we always carry this language that at one time was the dominating language in the region and a language that was spoken by Jesus, and sad that today there is not enough support for it to preserve it," said Karmo, a businessman who came to the United States from Iraq when he was 21.

Assyrian and Chaldean are "demonstrably Aramaic dialects, but they're about as different as, say, Chaucer is from modern English," said the Rev. William Fulco, who translated the script of "The Passion" into Aramaic and "street Latin."

Fulco, director of ancient Mediterranean studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, said his version of Jesus' language is "a calculated guess."

But Joseph Amar, a classics professor specializing in Christian Aramaic at the University of Notre Dame, strongly criticized the endeavor, saying there is no way to know how similar the Aramaic spoken in Jesus' time is to the forms preserved today.

"It has no intellectual integrity. The very enterprise is bogus," he said.

Ancient Assyrian Jewels to be Auctioned in Delaware

(ZNDA: Delaware) A lapis lazuli jewelry collection will be offered in the Live Auction portion of the Nanticoke Health Services Auxiliary's annual Dinner-Auction 3 April at the Seaford Golf & Country Club.

Ancient Assyrian jewelry that has survived nearly 5,000 years is among the items on the auction block at the Nanticoke Health Services Auxiliary's 18th annual Dinner/Auction.

This year's major fund-raiser and its "Survivor" theme will play out at the Seaford Golf & Country Club on April 3.

Tickets are $55 per person; $25 is tax deductible. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Currently on display at Heritage Jewelry in Seaford and donated by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Miller and family of Seaford is a lapis lazuli jewelry collection, which includes beaded necklace, bracelet and earrings mined, shaped and hand-polished around 3000 B.C. in ancient Assyria, now Northern Afghanistan.

The silver-clad settings were done in Egypt at an unknown later date.

The beads were acquired from a licensed antique importer. They were not taken from a tomb or protected historic site.

The Miller family owns Seaford-based NoUVIR Research, which specializes in advanced lighting found in hundreds of museums throughout the world.

NoUVIR stands for "no ultraviolet or infrared" light, which can damage rare artifacts.

The ancient jewelry collection is a featured attraction and will be "on sale" during the "live" portion of event, which includes a silent and Chinese auction during cocktails and dinner, and the live auction starting at 8 p.m., with popular auctioneer Don Moore orchestrating live bidding.

Co-chairs for the event are Nancy Brown and Nancy-Cook Marsh. Each has served the Auxiliary in many roles, including holding the office as president.

Virginia "Mike" Barton was recently sworn in as Auxiliary president.

The Nanticoke Health Services Auxiliary is more than 50 years old, and has donated more than $1 million dollars to the Nanticoke Health Services in Delaware.

For more information and tickets call Nanticoke Health Services Volunteer office at 629-6611, Ext. 2301.

Watch Your Languages. They're Ancient.

By Clyde Haberman
Courtesy of the New York Times
24 February

Wednesday is the big day for Mel Gibson, the actor-director who apparently considers himself in some respects to be more Catholic than the pope. His much-debated film, "The Passion of the Christ," will open in theaters.

George A. Kiraz can hardly wait.

His interest, though, is not in the theological and social disputes the movie has generated. He is curious about the dialogue, which Mr. Gibson chose to render entirely in Aramaic and Latin, not exactly the hottest languages on the planet.

"I want mainly to see if I understand any of the Aramaic, and what form of Aramaic it is," said Dr. Kiraz, director of the Syriac Institute in Piscataway, N.J. His organization promotes the study of Syriac, an Aramaic dialect that is the liturgical language of the Syrian Orthodox Church and some other churches with Middle Eastern roots.

"I call it BBC Aramaic - the standard form that continues to be used today," said Dr. Kiraz, 39. He began speaking it as a boy in Bethlehem (as in Little Town of Bethlehem, not the place in Pennsylvania). He uses it today with his daughter, Tabetha.

"Since she was born three years ago, I've only spoken the classical Syriac, which is Aramaic, to her," he said. "Now when she speaks to me, it's always in Aramaic. It's mostly a language used among bishops and priests. It would be like someone speaking Latin to his kid."

Aramaic, a Semitic language that in one of its forms is a cousin to Hebrew, has been around for 2,500 years or more. In Jesus' time, it was the lingua franca of the Middle East.

"Jews were probably not speaking Hebrew in the first century," said Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary. "They were speaking Aramaic."

With the rise of Islam, the language was shoved aside by Arabic. It endures in some Syrian villages and a few other places in that region. A couple of Christian schools in New Jersey teach it, Dr. Kiraz said, and it is heard in church services.

Aramaic is familiar to Jews as well. Portions of the books of Daniel and Ezra were written in Aramaic, as were some of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Talmud. Observant Jews hear Aramaic every day in the Kaddish, an exaltation of God that also serves as a mourner's prayer.

"You have to know Aramaic to be a serious student of the Bible," said Rabbi Stephen A. Geller, chairman of the Department of Bible and Semitic Languages at the theological seminary, in Morningside Heights.

While it might be a mistake to pronounce the language dead, it would be silly to call it thriving. By contrast, this film's other language, Latin, is faring rather well for an ancient tongue once given up for lost.

(Mr. Gibson's use of Latin, by the way, is deemed a blunder by experts. He'd have done better with Greek, which was widely spoken in Jesus' day. "No one in the Mideast spoke Latin," Rabbi Geller said. In other words, don't expect every scholar to walk away from "Passion" saying, "Si fractum non sit, noli id reficere" - "if it ain't broke, don't fix it.")

THESE days, Latin is enjoying a resurgence. "The nadir came in 1970, right after the Roman Catholic Church gave up Latin," said Thomas J. Sienkewicz, vice chairman of the National Committee for Latin and Greek, a group that promotes studies in those classical languages.

But all indicators point to a turnaround in the last two decades, said Professor Sienkewicz, who teaches classics at Monmouth College in Illinois. Indeed, one problem now is a looming shortage of qualified teachers for the growing numbers of students. A nationwide campaign to recruit instructors is planned for the first eek of March.

Some young people like studying Latin for its own sake, Professor Sienkewicz said. Others are persuaded by evidence that high school students who take Latin do far better than average on the verbal SAT.

There is, too, the "Gladiator" factor, said Nancy McKee, chairwoman of the Latin and Greek group and a former Latin teacher in Lawrenceville, N.J. The Russell Crowe movie "prompted an interest in the Roman culture," she said.

Might "Passion" similarly breathe new life in Aramaic? No one is betting on it. The language, Dr. Kiraz acknowledges, has obvious limitations in today's world.

"Sometimes we have to coin a new word to describe things," he said. "Pancake, for example, is kind of difficult. In Syriac, there is a word for cake, kuko. Basically, for pancake we say 'pankuko.' "

For moviegoers, unfortunately, there is no Syriac word yet for popcorn.

[Z-info: Dr. Kiraz, pictured above, is the Director of the Syriac Computering Institute and the publisher of Hugoyo. Dr. Kiraz is also a language/computing consultant to Zinda Magazine. Zinda Magazine invites its readers to support the activities of the SCI. See Zinda Magazine for detail.]


Surfs Up!
Letters to the Editor

Happy 10th Volume, Zinda!

By Regina Salim (U.S.)

Congratulations on your 10th anniversary Zinda. We truly enjoy reading your news. May God continue to Bless you, your efforts and your staff.

David Gavary (California)

As always, I congratulate you for your ponderous prime and sophisticated magazine and as always I am suggesting for having sections in Arabic & Persian. God Bless you and every patriotic Assyrian.

Edward Odicho (Sweden)

I'm writing this letter to thank you for the great job which you are doing. I always used to ask myself how did the Assyrians stay as a great nation all these years. It's true that we had a great culture which no one can deny and that was the reason for us to stay as living nation, but because of some honest and hard workers like you, our voice and culture is still appearing until today. Your web site is the best one I've ever seen. I feel proud of myself as Assyrian when I see such people like you working hard for their nation honestly. I like to thank you all, wishing you to stay as great as you are now.

Gibson's Passion Provides Us Great Opportunities

Johnny Chamaki (Minnesota)

Mel Gibson's movie not only can it help improve our beliefs in Christianity, but improve our relationship with the rest of the world, in a very powerful way. The movie, which is entirely in Aramaic, will encourage non-Assyrians to learn more about it. In fact I believe it will go further than that. Those Assyrians who are teachers of the Assyrian language (Aramaic) need to tell the rest (non-Assyrians) about this amazing language of Christ. There is no better opportunity than now!

Thank You, Rev. Joseph!

Nihat Bakus (Germany)

Taudi eloch u aloho msagadluch. I would like to give thanks to Reverend Joseph and his continuous work for our Assyrian nation worldwide and especially in our motherland ASSYRIA.

Gina Benjamin (U.S.)

I love the article you wrote in Zinda Magazine I pray it will be an awakening call for the Assyrian community. I wanted to ask what can I do to help the Assyrians in Iraq? Do they need bibles, I am trying to get some bibles donated to them. Where can I send them?

Unfair Acts by the Kurdish Unions in North Iraq

ChaldoAssyrian Students and Youth Union
17 February

Members of the Kurdistan Students Union are indulging in activities that do not reflect democratic practices. On February 17, 2004 at the Ankawa Boys High School, a group of students from the Kurdistan Students Union entered classes against all rules and regulations and while classes were in session and distributed applications to student to join the Kurdistan Students Union.

The ChaldoAssyrian Students and Youth Union protests such inappropriate, illegal, and unfair activities that interfere with the students studies.

[Zinda: According to reports from Iraq on 25 February, a Kurdish grassroots group, Referendum Movement, presented the United States civil administration in Iraq and other Iraqi leaders with a 1.7-million-signature petition for a referendum on transforming the Kurdish enclave into a completely independent state, outside the proposed Iraqi federal system. The Kurds who volunteered to obtain signatures from the general public in north of Iraq forced themselves into Assyrian schools, homes and businesses and in a show of force obligated Assyrians living in the region to sign the petition.]

Sarkis Aghajan Replaces Murdered Kurdish Leader

Ramsin Danialzadeh

The KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) official mouthpiece, the Khabat Newspaper, reported that Mr. Sarkis Aghajan has been assigned the position of Deputy Prime Minister in the local northern Iraq Kurdish government. Aghajan is replacing Sami Abdul Rahman who was killed in the attack on the KDP headquarters in Arbil in early February 2004. I got this information from www.ankawa.com.

Sarkis Aghajan has been a member of the KDP for a long time; he occupied the positions of deputy of the minister of finance (budget and economy) in the northern Iraq local Kurdish government and most recently the position of minister of the said ministry.

The Kurds continue their unfair tactics to divide the Assyrians across religious denominations by using such individuals and create phony organizations such as that headed by another KDP member, Abd al-Ahad Afram.

By Nahira Rabbani

Can you tell me if other people were appointed to other official places in Iraq except Mr. Yonadam Kana? Thank you for your magazine. I read it regularly. Good information. Keep up the good job.

[Zinda: According to our sources in the United States, there are three Assyrians (Chaldo-Assyrians in Iraq) among the 80 ministers appointed by the Iraqi Governing Council: Mr. Andrius Youkhanna Giwargis (Deputy Minister of Education), Mr. Frederick John (Deputy Minister of Water Resources), and Mrs. Soriya Hanna Esho (Deputy Minister of Labor and Civic Affairs).]

Confederation is the First Step to a Constitution

Richard Griffis (Washington)

The first step to an American Constitution was a confederation of our 13 States. I know state is a bad word in Iraq. I would say you have 'regions' in Iraq that are the home of many individual secular cultures. Respect is the key to make Iraq whole. First you must define the 'regions' of Iraq. This will solidify the boundaries where the many cultures live. Elections of Executive, Judicial and legislature in the 'regions' will allow for the people to have a say in the National Elections. You must first build the foundations of freedom.

The defense of the region will be the responsibility of the Governor elected by the people of the region. We call those people National Guard here in America. Your Guard should be equal in numbers to each region. No one region or secular belief should have a better-armed force or guard. I would say that there are three regions in Iraq. You may say five. The point is that every region should have the three components of the people to govern. The military is in control of the regional governors. This takes care of Baghdad power grabs.

The National Governments should deal with international contracts for your national benefit and social services such as roads, utility, food assistance etc. The National government takes in revenues and then disburses those equally to all regions to build. The Regions may send their elected representatives to a National Congress to put forth a President. To run to National Elections before you solidify 'confederated regions' may put you back into the cycle of evil. The people must elect the Regional governments before they elect the National Government. Power must flow up from the towns to the cities to the regions and to the president. This is how America began.

Got to Say Something Now? Visit Assyrian Forums & Chat Rooms

Surfer's Corner

A Press Release of the Human Rights Without Frontiers International

Subject: ChaldoAssyrians in Iraq
From: International Secretariat (Brussels-Belgium) http://www.hrwf.net
Date: 24 February 2004

Critical discussions now underway at the Governing Council (GC) in Baghdad hold the key to the fate of ChaldoAssyrians in Iraq. This community, indigenous to Mesopotamia, has been subjected to prejudicial treatment in all constitutions of Iraq since 1921 to the present. Persecution intensified during Saddam Hussein when about 250 ChaldoAssyrian villages were destroyed and their populations displaced internally, or scattered in neighbouring states. Their return is currently being impeded.

Now again, the ChaldoAssyrians are facing a crisis situation when the rights they expect as equal citizens of a free Iraq are in danger. Should this crisis prove detrimental to the rights of ChaldoAssyrians, there is a strong possibility that the remaining population of this community, so ancient to Iraq, will flee into the growing Diaspora in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States.

The rights that the ChaldoAssyrians seek are as follows:

  1. Language: that the language of the ChaldoAssyrian, Syriac (based on ancient Aramaic), be specific, together with the Turkoman language, as a language that may be taught wherever members of the community reside
  2. Representation: that ChaldoAssyrians be constitutionally guaranteed fair representation in the three branches of government – the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.
  3. Recognition: that ChaldoAssyrians be recognised as the indigenous people of Iraq, and as a community with its own distinct culture.
  4. Self-administered territory: if a form of territorial federalism is accepted, there must be provisions for an administrative unit on the Nineveh plain to protect the culture of ChaldoAssyrians and similarly persecuted neighbours (Yezidis and Shabaks).

An Invitation to a Press Conference in Paris
"The situation in Iraq & the future prospects"

Association des Assyro-Chaldéens de France

A Press conference for Mr. Sargon Lazar, Deputy-Mayor of the city of Kirkuk in Iraq

Mr. Deputy-Mayor Lazar will be discussing the current situation in Iraq, notably in the North, in particular the city of Kirkuk, the issues of oil production and the future Iraqi Constitution.

When: Tuesday, 2 March
Time: 3:00 pm
Location: Center of Reception of the Foreign Press (CAPE)
House of Radio France
116, Avenue du Président Kennedy
75016 PARIS

For further registration information click here.

Lecture in Toronto: St. Jacob of Serugh

A Canadian Society for Syriac Studies event
"St. Jacob of Serugh, His Life, Scholarship, Orthodoxy & Writings"
Speaker: Very Rev. Dr. Joseph Tarzi, St. Ephrem's Cathedral, Burbank-California

This lecture will survey the life and scholarship of a great Syrian poet, prolific writer, and outstanding theologian, Saint Jacob of Serugh who died in November 421.

The lecture will concentrate on his writings, mostly poetical, to highlight his orthodoxy. Thus some major themes found in his writings will be explored, particularly baptismal themes.

The discussion will be illustrated through excerpts drawn from some of his homilies pertaining to the Virgin Mary and the crucifixion, as well as to education.

Time: 8 PM
Date: Wednesday, 3 March
Location: University of Toronto, 4 Bancroft Avenue, Room 200B

For more information call 416-978-3184 or email: csss@chass.utoronto.ca

AAS Annual Walkathon in Santa Clara, California

Assyrian Aid Society of America
Santa Clara Valley Chapter

The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the Assyrian Aid Society of America is once again participating in the Human Race Walkathon. The Walkathon is a festive occasion where thousands of people gather every year to support honorable causes funded by charity organizations of their choice. Last year's event was a great success. We raised over $5,000 for the AAS, all of which was used to provide emergency and humanitarian relief to the Assyrians in our Homeland during the war. With your help we are determined to make this year's event even more successful. The proceeds of this event will fund the Assyrian Aid Society’s Resettlement Project, recently established to rebuild Assyrian villages and to help our displaced people return to their homes, especially in the towns and villages in the Nineveh province.

You can participate in this great cause by either walking 5K on behalf of the AAS or making a pledge to sponsor the participants. This year again National Semiconductor is sponsoring our chapter and will match your donations. The Walkathon will be held on Saturday May 8th at the Shoreline Park located on 3070 North Shoreline Boulevard in Mountain View. We urge you to support this event in this critical time of our nation’s history.

If you would like to sponsor this event, please make your check payable to the Human Race and mail it to the address below by April 9th. Your donation is tax deductible. For more information regarding the registration or making pledges, please contact Jermaine Soleymani at (408) 460-4957 (jermaine.soleymani@nsc.com), or Nora Joseph at (408) 595-8516.

[Zinda: The Assyrian Aid Society is a charitable 501 (c) (3) organization. All contributions are tax deductible.]

Conference in June: Antiochene & Syriac Modes of Interpretation

A one-day conference on the use of Antiochene and Syriac modes of interpretation (patristic to contemporary) to interpret the Bible theologically will be held on 25 June 25, in Emmitsburg, Maryland, hosted by Mount Saint Mary's Seminary.

For more information, please contact: Dr. Robert D. Miller II, SFO, Mount Saint Mary's Seminary, Emmitsburg, MD 21727 (email: romiller@msmary.edu)

Seeking Assyrian Translators

Nicholas Awde (United Kingdom)

I am looking for Assyrian-speaking contributors (preferably anyone with journalistic/broadcasting background) to help supply the romanized translations for the English part of a small phrasebook/dictionary. I'd like to include standard Swadaya as well as Turoyo if possible. Full credit given, not much money. I have produced similar books for the rest of the Middle East but feel I have saved the best for last!

[Zinda: if interested contact Mr. Awde at phone: +44-(0)7961154590 or email: nickawde@hotmail.com]


Freedom for All in Iraq

By Angela J. Phelps (Washington, D.C.)

To the glee of Iraq’s religious minorities and women alike, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer suggested on Monday that he would block any interim constitution that would make Islam the chief source of law, as some members of the Iraqi Governing Council have sought.

Article 4 of the Interim Constitution of Iraq calls for Islam to be the official religion of the state and that Islam shall be considered “a source of inspiration for the law” – but not the main source for that law.

Until now, many women and religious minorities in Iraq feared for their future and have been frantically calling upon their U.S. allies to give them a voice on this issue. In a press conference on Capitol Hill last week, sponsored by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Iraqi Americans representing Christians and women of Iraq had an opportunity to express their concern over the language set forth.

“Even though on the surface, this provision appears to be reasonable, in the hands of an extremist majority, this provision can easily be exploited to use Islamic Sharia as a primary source for legislation,” said Joseph Kassab, president of Michigan’s Chaldean National Congress. “This is problematic and dangerous, not only to other religious groups that may find the laws of Sharia unwillingly imposed on them, but also to the protection of the rights of women, other ethnic groups and even other Muslim sectarian groups who may interpret various aspects of Islam differently.”

This week’s declaration by Bremer was likely the result of courageous efforts by various Members of Congress in recent weeks. Earlier this month, 45 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter to President Bush urging him to act quickly to preserve women’s rights in Iraq. They wrote, “It would be a tragedy beyond words if Iraqi women lost the rights they had under Saddam Hussein, especially when the purpose of our mission in Iraq was to make life better for the Iraqi people.”

In recent letters to Ambassador Paul Bremer and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, signed by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), each articulated how Article 4 could be interpreted as a negation of the bill of rights, and urged that the language also specify other basic sources of law, particularly “the principles of democracy, pluralism, rule of law, and individual human rights.”

In the letter to Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the Senators pointed out that by omitting the key concept of individual rights to religious freedom, it jeopardizes freedom for women, dissidents, and religious minorities.

For instance, without this individual right, a Muslim woman’s basic legal rights could be determined by her family’s imam. They wrote, “Despite the provision in the draft guaranteeing gender equality, Iraqi Muslim women may not have the right to opt out of Islamic dress codes, or discriminatory inheritance and marriage structures.” Islamic law also allows for polygamy and often permits marriage of girls at a younger age than secular law.

The letter also explained how the section on “other religions” or non-Muslims provides only for the communal practice of their rites. This provision may allow for members of congregations to attend worship services, but could prohibit them from carrying a Bible, wearing a cross, or operating a religious school or hospital. This is of particular concern to Assyrian Christians, the indigenous people of Iraq. Assyrians lived under relatively peaceful conditions under Saddam since one of his top aides, former Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, was himself an Assyrian Christian. However, according to Willeam Warda, head of the Culture and Information Department of the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Iraq, “a number of Assyrian Christian churches have begun to receive threatening letters and leaflets -- and the threats appear to be credible.” "All the churches now are paying attention to these kinds of threats, and they are changing the time [of their services]. Even churches which used to hold meetings for youth and things like this are postponing them and neglecting some lectures for youth and for women." It is likely that these threats are coming from Muslim radicals and insurgent groups who link Christians with the U.S. led coalition, and targeting them for their support of the troops, however under this proposed language, Christians and other religious minorities will be relegated to second-class citizens are they are in many Muslim countries.

Equally important and quite essential to democracy in Iraq is how the language could silence or even threaten the lives of reformers and dissidents. The Senators wrote, “Reformers and dissidents from prevailing orthodoxies would be vulnerable to state blasphemy prosecutions if they do not have individual protections for freedom of belief.” “Apart from the plight of these individuals, it is a matter of America’s own security interests to ensure that reformers are afforded the political space to identify, debate, and develop the more tolerant principles within the religion of Islam.”

As last week’s press conference, advocates stressed that women and religious minorities in Iraq need to see a clear separation between state and religion. They agreed that there should be a proper recognition and respect to Islam as the religion of the majority of Iraq, but at the same time include strong guarantees of freedom of religion for all individuals and especially for all other religious groups.

Individual freedom to think and to believe are two of the most basic human rights that each person on the planet possesses. As President Bush said in his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, “Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.”

[Zinda: Angela J. Phelps is an Assyrian American whose mother is a native of Baghdad, Iraq. Phelps is the producer of Concerned Women for America's national radio program Concerned Women Today.]

The Fabled History

By Fred Aprim (California)

I read the report of Vanessa Denha on the new The Chaldean Times, posted on Zinda Magazine (issue of 16 February 2004) under title "An Ancient People in Modern Times, Chaldeans: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow" with great concerns.

As true Christians, we must follow God's commandments and what Jesus Christ teaches us. Truthfulness and honesty must be the foundation of our leaders' activities, whether religious, civic, or political.

Some four years ago, and while preparing for the U.S. Census 2000, few members of the Chaldean Catholic Church headed by Mr. Ghassan Hanna Shathaya, claimed that the Chaldeans were the descendents of the ancient Chaldeans and that they were a separate group than the Assyrians. With specific scholarly-based articles, we proved that such claim was false and that the modern-day Chaldeans could not be the descendents of the ancient Chaldeans.

Soon after, a shift in tactic slowly began to shape up. His Grace Bishop Sarhad Jammo, having realized that they have absolutely no case with the above claim, modified their claim and began to claim that the modern-day Chaldeans were the descendents of all the ancient people of Mesopotamia (Iraq). Bishop Jammo states, as the above article puts it, quote: “The Chaldeans of Beth Nahreen, once known as Mesopotamia, present day Iraq, east Syria, and south east Turkey, are a living continuation of all the indigenous people of that region, regardless of their tribal names,” unquote. With this, the Bishop speaks in general and under vague terms that it is hard to challenge because the argument proves that Chaldeans belongs to no specific ancestry and that their origin is lost in history. There is no other way to describe it. When people say that their ancestry is, for example, a mix of Arab, Persian, and Turk, they in reality have no idea where they belong.

His Grace Bishop Jammo brings the issue that the Chaldeans speak Aramaic. This fact on its own does not prove anything, especially if we keep into consideration what his grace' is trying to prove. Language on its own merit proves nothing. The Chaldean congregation predominantly speaks Arabic as well, does that prove that the congregation is Arab? The Chaldeans speak Aramaic because they are simply Nestorian Assyrians who speak Aramaic (or a dialect of it) for 2,750 years. The Mandeans of southern Iraq speak Aramaic as well; therefore, I suggest that his grace takes the Mandean name then since the presence of Mandeans in Iraq is reported much earlier than the modern Chaldeans. It is interesting that the Mandeans who live in the exact region where the ancient Chaldeans lived and speak the language of the ancient Chaldeans, do not call themselves Chaldeans; however the Catholic Assyrians who always lived 300 – 400 miles to the north do! I have asked Mr. Shathaya repeatedly and for over four years now to provide specific references where they indicate clearly that ancient Chaldeans, and under this specific name, migrated to Assyria; however, I am still waiting.

Vanessa Denha claims in the above article that His Grace Bishop Sarhad Jammo is a historian with a doctorate degree. I need to correct the writer and assert that his grace is not a qualified historian; his degree is in theology, i.e. religious matters. He is not qualified to make such claims when he is not providing serious scholarly material to back up his claims. What his grace provides is very general information that any other group in Iraq can provide. Some of today's Arab Moslems in southern Iraq specifically can claim that they are the descendents of the Sumerians, Babylonians, Arameans, Chaldeans, and Kassites; but what does that prove when they speak a language; live a culture; and practice a religion that are completely different from that of the groups mentioned above. At least Assyrians speak a language that in certain ways is linked to ancient Assyrians; practice certain cultural practices that have pre-Christian traces; and most importantly, they lived in the same land uninterruptedly.

Vanessa writes later, quote: "It was not until 1552 that a large number of people came back to union with Rome. In order to distinguish them from the rest of the church that remained separate, the term 'Chaldean Catholic Church' was given," unquote. I am not sure if this quote is for His Grace Bishop Jammo or it is hers, either way, the quote contains many false statements. There are many known facts, attested by many qualified scholars and historians. Here are some of them that are in contradiction with the above quote:

  1. The Vatican did not give this name Chaldeans to the Nestorians of Mosul in the beginning. In fact, it gave it to the Nestorians of Cyprus first who converted to Catholicism in 1445.
  2. It was in 1553, that the Vatican gave that title to Youhanna Sulaqa, who did not return to Mosul rather to Diyar Bakir in Turkey.
  3. Those who joined Rome and became Chaldeans in Diyar Bakir, were not large group in (1552). In fact, almost all of those who became Chaldeans later returned to the Nestorian fold.
  4. It was only in 1830 that the Chaldeans (Catholic Nestorians) began to find foothold in Mosul with the conversion of Youhanna Hurmiz, who became the first patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
  5. To distinguish those who followed Rome from the original Nestorian body (Church of the East), Rome did not only establish the Chaldean Catholic Church, but gave the congregation the name Chaldeans as well.
  6. All historical and church records show clearly that until early 1800s, there, for all practical purposes, were no Chaldeans or any Chaldean bishops in Mosul.
  7. The censuses, official and estimated, clearly indicate that it was only on the eve of World War I (1914 – 1918) that the numbers of Chaldeans and Nestorians were almost identical. Records indicate that it was post World War I that the Chaldeans began to surpass the Nestorians in numbers. This was because of many reasons including: The greater numbers of Nestorians that perished in the Great War; the protection offered by the French monks; greed for money; and various support services that the Vatican monks were providing at the time for the Catholics. I am not suggesting that the Catholics did not suffer loses during the war; however, comparatively, the Nestorians lost much more than the Chaldeans.

The reader can read (only for example) the figures provided by the following historians, scholars, and theologians who prove the above:

  1. David Wilmshurst, "The Ecclesiastical Organisation of the Church of the East: 1318 – 1913." In Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium. Vol. 582. Tomus 104. (Lovanii: Peeters, 2000.
  2. Rev. George Percy Badger, "The Nestorians and their Rituals." vol. I, Darf Publishers Limited, London, 1987, first published in 1852.
  3. Attwater, Donald. The Christian Churches of the East. Vol. 1: Churches in Communion with Rome. Second Printing. 1935. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1948.
  4. Sarah D. Shields. "Mosul Before Iraq: Like Bees making Five-Sided Cells." New York: State University of New York Press, 2000.
  5. H.L. Murre-Van Den Berg, “From Spoken to a Written Language.” Leiden, 1999.

The article tries next to explain why these Nestorian Assyrians were Chaldeans and states, quote: "They were not Romans, Medes, Turks, Mongols, or Macedonians. Therefore, the name Chaldean has come to bear national significance with its linguistic, cultural and religious connections," unquote. The above explanation is poor and scanty; it means nothing in a scholarly argument. Imagine if a Korean stated: Well, I am not Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, or Hindu; therefore, I am Korean. How would the reader evaluate such statement?

Then the article brings Mary C. Sengstock, Ph.D. professor of sociology, to say few words. Sengstock of course wrote her piece from the sociologist point of view (nothing to do with real history) to support the group of the separatist Chaldeans who started the Census 2000 mess. A sociologist cannot prove the historical background of any people. A sociologist (who in certain cases is paid by a certain group to conduct a study about that group) interviews people and observes their lives and then draws conclusions based on the people's testimonies and statements. Well, how can a sociologist prove who the modern Chaldeans are truly by simply speaking to people who are bias about the issue and most importantly do not have the appropriate education to make a sound decision; people who are greatly influenced by Church!

The rest of the article is general information about Iraq that bares no relation of proving how or why these Chaldeans should be called as such.

I need to remind Venassa Denha that while she is embarking on this project, she should try to gain some credibility for her publication by providing the people with solid information; this is the moral obligation of a true journalist. Today, we are living in the 21st century and many educated people find it offensive when such nonsense is being published in newspapers. I ask His Grace Bishop Sarhad Jammo in humbleness and in Christian spirit to concentrate on his religious duties and leave such issues to those qualified in the field to address. I support the POLITICAL decision in Iraq that our people have agreed upon, i.e. using the term Chaldo-Assyrians, because I understand the importance of unity today and in these crucial circumstances. However, that does not mean that I will accept fable history to be propagated. The Nestorians and Chaldeans are one people; they are the indigenous people of Assyria and not from any other region. It is in Assyria where they have always resided from times immemorial; they are the descendents of the ancient Assyrians.

War for Souls

By Bill Berkowitz
Courtesy of AlterNet.com
20 February

Last March, in anticipation of a quick U.S. victory, several U.S. Christian evangelical organizations set their sights on delivering bandages and Bibles to Iraq. More than eleven months later, concerned that the window of opportunity will soon be slammed shut, evangelical groups are still hustling about the country. Ironically, while these U.S.-based Christian missionaries are struggling to convert Muslims, the country's Christian community – numbering less than one million out of a population of 23 - 25 million and made up of mostly Assyrian Catholics – is under ongoing attack.

Most Iraqi Christians are Assyrian Catholics, known as Chaldeans. There are also followers of other Catholic rites, Orthodox believers, and smaller numbers of Protestants.

In the face of the increasing persecution of Iraqi Christians, conservative U.S. evangelicals have been silent, columnist Glen Chancy charged in September of last year. In a piece entitled "Christians in Iraq," Chancy wrote that evangelicals have not vigorously protested "the inability/unwillingness of U.S. forces to protect Iraqi Christians ... [and] their cause has not been championed by any of the televangelists." Evangelicals haven't made "Christian persecution in post-Saddam Iraq ... a centerpiece article in any of the Evangelical magazines," Chancy noted.

The London Telegraph reported in late December that "American Christian missionaries have declared a 'war for souls' in Iraq ... [and] are pouring into the country, which is 97 percent Muslim, bearing Arabic Bibles, videos and religious tracts designed to 'save' Muslims from their 'false' religion." Evangelical groups were organizing "in secrecy, and emphasizing their humanitarian aid work."

Leading the evangelical onslaught is the International Mission Board, the missionary arm of the Southern Baptists.

In a December appeal, John Brady, the IMB's head for the Middle East and North Africa, pointed out that "Southern Baptists have prayed for years that Iraq would somehow be opened to the gospel," but he expressed concern that the "open door" for Christians may soon be shut. "Southern Baptists must understand that there is a war for souls under way in Iraq," his bulletin added, listing Islamic leaders and "pseudo-Christian" groups also flooding Iraq as his chief rivals.

"In public," the London Telegraph report noted, "the largest groups put the emphasis on their delivery of food parcels and their medical work. However, their internal fund-raising materials emphasize mission work. One IMB bulletin reported aid workers handing out copies of the New Testament and praying with Muslim recipients. Another bulletin said Iraqis understood 'who was bringing the food ... it was the Christians from America.'"

On December 9, the IMB announced that it wanted to send more missionaries to Iraq but it lacked financial resources and volunteers to do so, the ASSIST News Service reported. "We've been asking and praying for years for God to open the doors into Iraq so we can do something. And now that it's happened we just have a handful of workers" said the IMB's Mike Creswell. "We're scraping for money to be able to really take advantage of the opportunity there."

Glen Chancy elaborated on his charges that US evangelicals were not interested in the plight of Iraqi Christians in a mid-January e-mail exchange with TomPaine.com: While "I am happy anytime anyone is willing to give food, blankets, and medicines to the victims of war ... I do have concerns about the presence of Evangelical's in Iraq," Chancy wrote.

"Evangelizing Muslims is difficult work, not the least because convincing a Muslim to change his religion can get missionaries killed. ... Historically Evangelical missionaries operating in situations such as Iraq have focused on a far safer mission field. That is – converting Christians to Christianity. No one gets violent if a Roman Catholic Assyrian becomes a Protestant fundamentalist. If the current situation runs true to historical form (Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Egypt, etc), then the Evangelicals will end up making a fair number of converts among the indigenous Christians, and almost none among the Muslims."

Ironically, as Chancy points out, converting Assyrian Catholics could have a deleterious effect on that community because "Evangelical missionaries sow dissension and form rifts. It is its unity and community spirit that have allowed the Assyrian community to survive in a hostile environment, by making converts among them, Evangelicals make them more vulnerable."

As in his September article, Chancy pointed out that from the beginning "the announcements of relief efforts in Iraq did not focus on Iraqi Christians. Rather, they played up the opportunity to help Muslims. In fact, there is a major dearth of conservative media/Christian media coverage of the plight of Iraqi Christians ... there just aren't many people talking about the Assyrians.

"If the Evangelical power structure truly cared about Assyrians, then they would be busy demanding that the U.S. administration under Paul Bremer do something to protect them, or at least clamor for our withdrawal before we radicalize the place to the point that we get them [Assyrians] all killed."

Conditions for Iraqi Christians continue to deteriorate. A recent Reuters report pointed out that "More than 400 liquor stores run by Christians, the only community allowed to sell alcohol under the former Baathist government, were forced to close in the immediate aftermath of the US led occupation of Iraq."

In addition, Christians have expressed fears that "Shiite religious parties now wield power [in Basra] and seek to impose strict moral regulations, similar to Iran."

"Alcohol selling has changed from Christians to Muslims. Now it's Muslims who sell after taking the trade from us," Joseph Hanna, a Christian property developer and hotel owner who blames militant Shiite groups for the killings, told Reuters. "We fear for our lives and our interests from the extremist Shiites who are targeting us as Christians," said Misak Victor, another liquor merchant.

Armed Shiite groups – God's Vengeance, God's Party and the Islamic Bases Organization – "roam the streets to chase mobsters, drug addicts and prostitutes, exacting their brand of what they call God's law," according to Reuters. "The number of parties carrying Islam's banner is a force to reckon with in the post-Saddam political order, holding sway in local councils and competing with a beleaguered police force in imposing order in the unruly streets."

In December, the Boston Globe, pointing out that that attacks against Christians had reached Baghdad as well, said that "radical Shiite Muslims have begun tacking up leaflets in Christian neighborhoods [in Baghdad] warning women to cover their heads in Islamic fashion, threatening death to anyone wearing a cross in public, and boasting that Iraq, like neighboring Iran, will become a religious dictatorship with no tolerance for those who refuse to proclaim Mohammed as the true prophet."

More than 2 000 families in Basra – out of a community of some 100,000 Christians – have already left the city, going to the northern cities of Mosul and Baghdad. "If this situation continues there will not be one Christian in Basra," said goldsmith Naji Ahanyous.

In mid-February, the U.S. military confirmed that Iraqi gunmen had murdered John Kelley, the pastor of Curtis Corner Baptist Church, an independent Baptist church in South Kingstown, R.I., as he was riding in a taxi outside Baghdad. According to Baptist Press News, Kelley "was traveling with about 10 other ministers who went to Iraq on a two-week trip to explore the possibility of starting a church there."


Anti-Zowaa Meeting Fizzles!

By Rev. Kenneth Joseph Jr. (Iraq)

A. The Meeting

Tuesday, February 17 saw a strange gathering at the Sheraton Ishtar Hotel in central Baghdad.

Situated across the street from the more well known Palestine Hotel, the Sheraton is the scene of daily meetings of various groups in Iraq and is the home to many in the US Military and others.

An Assyrian Meeting to discuss the Constitution and the future of the Assyrian Cause called. Called by five political parties essentially the `anybody but Zowaa` group the meeting fizzled.

Out of 72 attendees an amazing 38 were Muslims and among the Assyrian Community many who received a very expensive Gold Lettered invitation the day before - some the night before the meeting was perceived not only as anti-Zowaa but Kurdish Funded.

The word in the community is of a mysterious four member shadowy group of Kurds who seem to fund various groups within the Assyrian community to divide and weaken it.

Notable absences were those from the Church, any government or other leaders of the Assyrian Community.

The 2 hour meeting focused on the upcoming Constitution and ways and methods of Assyrian unity but with the attendees themselves not representing the community it appears that this last attempt by the `anyone but Zowaa` groups who have previously held meetings in Baghdad among them a late summer gathering in which about 20 met in an abandoned building it appears to be the end of the road.

B. The Issue

While among the Assyrian Christian community in Iraq there is no fierce love and loyalty to Zowaa otherwise known as The Assyrian Democratic Movement who many feel works more for themselves than for the Assyrian Community, at the end of the day it is clearly the only game in town.

With the Assyrian Church of the East who has historically led the Assyrian People abandoning its role of such leadership with the arrival of its leader Mar Dinkha still `delayed` the community has only ADM to turn to.

For all its faults, and they are many, including lack of effective leadership, trained experts and a group of people who for all their fierce loyalty and energy are clearly a rag tag army of the willing it has nonetheless accomplished much that those who criticize it simply cannot match in either word or deed.

A huge multi acre compound in central Baghdad across the highway from the headquarters of the Assyrian Church of the East, a TV Station, Radio Station, Newspaper, Yonadam Kanna as an actual leader serving on the Governing Council, a Woman's and Student Group ADM has accomplished much on the ground.

While the `anyone but Zowaa` groups had their final Hurrah on Tuesday in an embarrassing show of failure the fate of the Assyrian people is far from secure.

The greatest need as can be clearly seen not only from Tuesdays meeting but from the general movement on the ground in Iraq is an urgent need for professional assistance in the form of lawyers, Bankers, historians, effective negotiators and those for whom English is their first language.

For all its accomplishments and they are huge, ADM clearly is out of its league fighting such well armed professionally organized forces as the American Administration in the form of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the huge and well organized Kurdish leadership, the Shiites and others.

With only four months left until the planned handover the only hope for the Assyrian Community is for an immediate abandonment of the foolishness that the conference at the Sheraton showed and a prompt joining of four forces - Zowaa, the `anyone but Zowaa` groups in Iraq, Assyrian Organizations overseas and the Church.

A joint effort putting aside the foolish attempts at grandstanding as was seen on Tuesday should be immediately initiated to provide a common voice and a clear message.

C. The Plan

The goal is quite simple but must be made and done effectively on two fronts - first on the ground with effective, professional and experienced negotiations with the parties involved which ADM clearly is not capable of doing by itself. Frankly, many of its leaders are not proficient in English well enough to handle such negotiations with various authorities who do this all in English and a very clear lack of understanding of democratic principles, the rule of law and constitutional frameworks.

Second and this is where the Assyrian Christian Movement has completely failed is in communicating the message. An abysmal ability to handle the media has hampered all efforts at negotiating even the proverbial `crumbs from the table` for the Assyrians. Until fairly recently most media outlets in Iraq itself did not even know who the Assyrians were left alone their role in Iraq.

A clear and understandable message presented by various leaders coordinated to have one voice.

The following is a last ditch plan that with Gods help can fulfill the dream of generations of Assyrians.

I. Operation Nineveh!

First, the restoration of the leadership of the Assyrian Church of the East. One of the tragic sides of the rise of ADM is that it has usurped the historic authority and role of the Church in the Assyrian Community. Instead of going to the Church as the central part of the community Assyrians in Iraq go first to Zowaa for help.

At this time of confusion and attempts to grab power the only organization that is capable of exercising authority and organizing the various groups together is clearly the Church.

A demand by Assyrians living throughout the world for His Holiness, Mar Dinkha to immediately return to Iraq and take charge of the Spiritual Leadership of the Church along with Mar Addai of the Ancient Church of the East and the issuance of a a joint declaration of a `Day of Prayer` for the Assyrian vision. A clear message to the Assyrian People that the only hope for the people is an Act of God and for all parties to stop their grandstanding, political intrigue and join forces in a spiritual battle for the future of the Assyrian People.

This is not simply a spiritual excursive but a clear acknowledgement of the total failure to attain even one goal of the Assyrian people in the current situation and a realization of history - that the only victories for the Assyrian people have been when they returned to God and sought His intervention.

An immediate `Call for a day of Prayer and fasting` by his holiness Mar Dinkha, Mar Addai and other Church Leaders.

II. Operation Emergency Committee

Second, a joint `Emergency Committee` under the leadership of The Assyrian Church of all parties involved in the struggle and a clear mandate through Yonadam Kanna, the political leader of the Assyrian People in Iraq to demand the minimal rights of the community,

A demand that as representative of the Assyrian People on the Government Council Yonaddan Kanna truly represent the interests of all the Assyrian People, immediately stop the `crumbs from the table` mentality of current negotiations and demand without apology the following minimum demands.

1. Cancellation of July 1 - An immediate demand that the July 1 handover of power be stopped.

2. Constitution - An immediate demand that the Assyrian Community will settle for nothing less than a secular constitution in which there is NO MENTION OF ISLAM, however gracefully done based upon the clear decision of the Constitutional Committee.

3. Elections - A system of elections that will grant to the formerly persecuted minorities special provision to reflect their past situation and allow them to retain power in their former regions. Immediate Voter Registration of all Assyrians living within Iraq and outside and a system of absentee voter registration coordinated to win elections in all major districts of Nineveh and Dohuk Provinces.

4. Autonomy - A clear form of absolute autonomy and local self government for the regions of Nineveh and Dohuk regardless of how any other area is granted. Autonomy and local self government are absolutely essential for the future of the Assyrian Community in Iraq.

5. Bank - Immediate Creation of an Assyrian Bank to fund the purchase of homes for any Assyrian desiring to live in either Nineveh or Dohuk Province and to buy up as much property en masse as financially possible for other needs of the community.

III. Operation Return!

Third, an immediate return to Iraq of all talented Assyrians living abroad to help with the current emergency to provide immediate assistance to the `Emergency Committee` in the form of professional assistance at Iraqi Governing Council Meetings, discussions with the UN and other bodies and in drafting laws, constitutional frameworks and all other needs of the community.

IV. Operation Communicate!

Fourth, Operation Communication to immediately arrange for Assyrians living overseas and in Iraq to speak in the International Media of the above Demands of the community and the clear danger to the future of Iraq and the Assyrians if they are not accomplished in a clear and unified voice.

D. Conclusion

As the failed Sheraton meeting showed, the only hope for the future of the Assyrian People is what can best be termed humble, intelligent unity.

An immediate call is to the Church Leaders to come together and declare a day of prayer and fasting as the Assyrian People did at the call of Johan to repent. To call the people together to repent of their sin and come back to God.

An immediate gathering in Baghdad to facilitate under the leadership of the Church a committee to move forward with the demands of the community and a clea4r message to ADM that the community will no longer tolerate the `crumbs from the table` mentality and lack of professionalism that exists and `hat in hand` begging will no longer be the way of the Assyrian People.

Is it possible? In this late hour can the tide be turned? Yes it is but the future rests clearly on one man - His Holiness Mar Dinkha. Can he at this time, along with Mar Addai in Baghdad and other Church leaders restore the leadership of the Assyrian People from ADM to the Church and do the only thing that can provide a last minute miracle - call the people to a day of prayer and fasting for God to intervene.

If His Holiness Mar Dinkha can rise to the challenge, return and provide the spiritual leadership to lead the Assyrian People back to the only source for victory at this crucial hour it is possible.

`If My People Who Are Called By My Name Will Humble Themselves and Pray and Seek My Face And Turn From their wicket ways then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will return their land.`



The First Assyro-Chaldean Church in France

By: Samuel Yalap, Producer of the Assyro-Chaldean Voice (France)

An event awaited for long time

The project of an Assyro-Chaldean church occupied the spirits of the persons in charge for the Assyro-Chaldean community of France (16 000 people) since nearly twenty years. This community mainly coming from the Assyro-Chaldean villages of the south-east of Turkey and, to a lesser extent, Iraq and Iran, concentrated themselves on the Paris area. The Community perfectly integrated into the French people and its members acquire French nationality more and more massively.

For the majority of them (80 % of this community belongs to the Chaldean Catholic Church), under the jurisdiction of Mar Emmanuel III Delly, they needed a place worship well to them, near to them. A Centre existed already in Paris for the Chaldean Mission (which exists in Paris since 1937). Until now, Assyro-Chaldeans attended the churches lent by the French catholic churches. This situation could not last. A ground had been acquired in 1993. After several years spent to require the necessary authorizations and to conform to the standards, the first stone of the new church Mar Thomas Apostle, name of the evangelist of Mesopotamia, was posed on July 3, 2001, in the feast of Mar Thomas, in Sarcelles, by the cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger.

After more than 22 months of construction, a church set up with the image of the temple of Ishtar, symbol of Mesopotamian civilization. The dedication of this new place of worship, which has a capacity of 600 people, took place on Saturday February 7, 2004 in presence of many bishops and of 1000 participants. This ceremony was retransmitted on line by a chain of French television diffused by satellite, KTO TV. Nearly 200 young Assyro-Chaldean people were mobilized for the good organization of this ceremony of dedication followed by a reception.

His Eminence Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger who is in load of the Eastern catholic Christians, chaired the ceremony. The dedication and the blessing of the church Mar Thomas Apostle were carried out by Mar Ibrahim Ibrahim, Chaldean bishop of Detroit (USA) who came to represent Mar Emmanuel III Delly who had not been able to come. The official reason of his absence was that he could not leave Iraq, at a crucial time for the future of this country. Mar Ibrahim was not the only Chaldean bishop. Mar Rabban Al-Kass, bishop of Amadiyya-Shamkâne in the north of Iraq was present. Mar Paulus Karatas, bishop of 'Amed (Diyarbakir) celebrated the mass after the dedication. Many other French bishops and representatives of other religious communities were present. However, the great majority of the Chaldean bishops missed; we do not know if they were not invited or if they could not make the displacement.

About fifty priests and as many deacons were present. The priests of the community welcomed the priests from Belgium and especially from Georgia (Beni Father who was accompanied by a golden voice choral group). Political representatives also took part in this ceremony, among whom the mayors of different cities and senators but the absence of a great number of political guests was noticed. More than 1000 people among whom French and foreign personalities took part in the inauguration followed by a reception. The first mass was decorated by very beautiful songs, sung by the France’ Chaldean Church’s choral and by the Georgian choral especially come from Georgia.

The Press Conference

A press conference brought together many journalists around Mar Ibrahim Ibrahim and Father Petrus Yousif, patriarchal vicar of the Chaldean church. The majority of the questions, which had a political nature, were asked to Mar Ibrahim. With the question of knowing which was the situation of Assyro-Chaldeans in Iraq and if an Islamic threat weighed on them, Mar Ibrahim answered that the situation was very bad for the whole of the population but that there was perhaps a little more pressure on our people. The Islamic threat is real and its dissipation will depend only on the new rules that will be settled, has he said. In addition, he underlined the fact that Assyro-Chaldeans of the United States were against the Bush’s intervention in Iraq. Always on the same Iraqi question, he was not against the representation of the Assyro-Chaldean people by Yonadam Kanna but he insisted on the fact that the Chaldeans should have representatives within Governing Council.

On the question of the name of our people, we were astonished by the fact that Mar Ibrahim Ibrahim (like besides, Mgr Philippe Najjim) never used the assyro-chaldean term but always chaldean. And this, although Mar Ibrahim endeavoured to give messages of unity to our community. Mgr Petrus Yousif said as for him that the churches of our people could not be called as Assyro-Chaldean.

Concerning the dialogue between the Chaldean catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Ibrahim made understand that the dialogue is suspended for a long time because of practical questions and no dogmatic issues because a common christological declaration had been signed. Joseph Yacoub questioned the bishop of Detroit on the course of the two last sessions of the Synod the purpose of which was to elect the new patriarch, whose absence to this major event caused the astonishment of the community. Other more theological questions were proposed to the debate.

The Great Mar Thomas Apostle Party. Photo by Jacques Kas

A festival in the honour of the new church

The interest of the media to this event (without precedent) was very significant the day after the dedication of the new church. Indeed, several tens of articles and reports were published in the newspapers and magazines. The Assyro-Chaldean Voice had also covered entirely this event which audio and video extracts will be presented very soon on Internet website of the France’ Assyro-Chaldeans Society: www.aacf.asso.fr.

The Chaldean Mission organized a free festival the day after the dedication of the church Mar Thomas Apostle. Several thousands of people (nearly 4000) took part in this great evening animated by the singers of our community in France. The members of the clergy were present: Mar Ibrahim Ibrahim, Mgr Philippe Najjim and many priests among whom Father Beni from Georgia.

The speech of the Chaldeans patriarchal vicar in Rome, Mgr Philippe Najjim, struck the spirits. Indeed, this priest declared that "we gathered to this evening as members of the Chaldean nation". It is significant here to raise a question settled in the Conference of Baghdad: the name ChaldoAssyrian was adopted by an assembly of delegates came from the whole world among whom representatives of the Chaldean church. Then, why Philippe Najjim didn't he make use of the assyro-chaldean term, adopted by the French and international authorities and especially by our community in France? This member of the Chaldean clergy isn't he aware about international meetings in which his church takes part? Doesn't he agree with this term or has he the aim to make believe that the various religious confessions of our people form each one different people? Doesn't he agree with the decisions of the Chaldean Patriarch? How can we reproach to the politicians who defend the chaldean cause not to follow the decisions of the patriarch whereas the direct representatives of the patriarch in Europe do not do better?

Chaldean Church Guests received by François Pupponi

The Mayor of Sarcelles (commune where live nearly 4000 assyro-chaldeans), François Pupponi made a meeting with bishops and Assyro-Chaldean representatives who had come for the dedication of the new church. They were received in the Town hall, on Monday February 9, 2004. François Pupponi is the only French mayor who receives officially all the Assyro-Chaldean political or religious personalities. Were present Mar Ibrahim Ibrahim, Mar Paulus Karatas, Mgr Philippe Najjim, Mgr Petrus Yousif and many other priests. The representatives of the France’ Assyro-Chaldeans Society were also present. The Assyro-Chaldean Voice covered the event. An exchange of gifts intervened between the mayor of Sarcelles, François Pupponi and the Assyro-Chaldean representatives.

Mar Rabban Al-Kass, Chaldean Catholic Bishop, Amadiyya Shamkane (Iraq). Photo by Jacques Kas

Meeting between Mar Rabban and young people of the community

Mar Rabban Al-Kass, Assyro-Chaldean catholic bishop from Amadiyya Shamkâne (Northern of Iraq), who had escaped to an accident, was the only bishop who required to meet the young people of the Assyro-Chaldean community to give them councils, to listen to them and to talk the in French; he was also the only one to have pronounced the term "assyro-chaldean" from where the great sympathy of young people towards him. This meeting was organized by the France’ Assyro-Chaldeans Society in the new church, on Friday, February 13, starting from 8:30 pm in presence of Mgr Petrus Yousif, patriarchal vicar in Paris, and of Father Sabri Anar. Nearly 400 young people had come to the meeting with this bishop full with simplicity.

The meeting started with a speech of Mar Rabban on the problems which the Church encounters, on the protection of the faith, on the new vocations of the young people. He also covered the subject of the increasingly visible lack of priests. He also spoke about the couples that prefer to have pets rather than children. The media constituted one of the tackled subjects: they transmit a negative image of the society to the young people. He said that our young people do not manage to differentiate the good and the evil, under the influence of television.

Mgr Petrus Yousif spoke and said that there is a plot of the media against the Christian religion. It is thus necessary to be wary of what tell the media and of the message that they diffuse. After having listened to more than one hour and half Mar Rabban Al-Kass, the young people could speak and ask questions.

The intervention of a young person was particularly noticed. This young man put the persons in charge for the France Chaldean Church in the embarrassment. This man said that it was not any more question of "vocations" but rather of "convocations". One thus should not, he said, that the Church waits until the young people present themselves to it saying "we want to become priests". The church must go to their meeting and attracting them towards it. This remark followed upon the remarks of Mar Rabban: "you are here in France since nearly 30 years and you have no one priest". The purpose of the young man was to criticize the management of the religious affairs by the persons in charge for the church.

Pictured below: Mgr Petrus Yousif, Mar Rabban, Father Sabri Anar. Photo by Jacques Kas.

Of course, Mgr Petrus Yousif and Father Sabri Anar answered these criticisms: when a young person fails in his vocation or when there are no young people who intend themselves for the religious life, it is the church which suffers from it even more than the young people themselves. The young man in question intended himself to become priest but had failed in his attempt. The young man addressed himself to Mar Al-Kass by criticizing the Church: not having made higher studies, the Church requires much more university competencies than spiritual ones. One made him understand that the Church needs "erudite" priests.

Another essential question was tackled: isn't the lack of Chaldean priests due to the problem of the obligatory celibacy? Didn't it come time to return to the traditional methods of the Chaldean Church, even at the price to disappoint Vatican? Mar Rabban said that the problem was not the marriage, because there are always married priests (they are 5 in France) and their function is completely recognized, but the availability of the priests: an unmarried priest is more "flexible" whereas the married priest cannot easily accept the change because of his family obligations.

To the specific question ask by the Chairman of France’ Assyro-Chaldeans Society, Naman Adlun, namely: Some married men, often deacons, who have the necessary capacities to become priests, could they become priests because there are in France some cases? The answer was a CATEGORICAL NO! The conference finished late in the night. Mar Rabban granted several interviews to the media, in particular to Radio Notre Dame and to the Express, famous weekly magazine. Mar Rabban also visited our community in Lyon and Marseille. He left to the young people the image of a clergy man open minded, free, opened to criticisms. He believes to the values of the Assyro-Chaldean nation and is equipped with a burning desire of the protection of our identity. He has especially something that many chaldean bishops do not have: humility!

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