3 Eelool 6754
24 August 2004
Z I N D A M A G A Z I N E
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How did the Assyrians in Iraq reach a point where the Kurds decide their representation in the Iraqi National Council? (See Literatus) Why do the heirs to the first defenders of Christianity in the whole of Asia now fear for their lives in their own homeland? The most common answer is our mediocre national leadership. In reality, this is an excuse for a greater problem among us: lack of desire on the part of the general Assyrian population to bring about change in status quo.
The division in our leadership is the result of our own disinterest in our future in the Middle East and in the Diaspora. How many of us even know and care about the proceedings of this week's Holy Synod in Chicago where the future of the Assyrian relations with the Catholic Church are being discussed and decided upon?
To eliminate the division among our leaders and to unite our resources we must first develop a sincere desire to achieve more for ourselves in Iraq, the rest of the Middle East, and in the West. In short, we must follow the ancient Assyrian path to greatness, Lamasu's Passion for Excellence.
Most of us know Lamasu as the winged-bull or the Assyrian Guardian. Yet only a few of us recognize the symbolic meaning of the icon of Assyrian nationalism.
The Ancient Assyrians believed in the greatness of humans embodied in their powerful rulers and capitals, the religious centers, and the military complex. An individual was thought to be superior if he or she possessed a passion to excel above all others at work, school, the temple, and the military. What transformed any citizen of Assyria into an "Assyrian" was his or her willing to demonstrate her passion for excellence by realizing the three components of excellence: speed, strength, and knowledge.
The three ancient ingredients of superiority were beautifully and symbolically represented in the sculptures of the Assyrian lamasu or the winged-bull. The head of the king represented wisdom and knowledge, the body of a bull, strength, and the wings of eagle, the speed of execution.
In today's fierce and competitive global economy we are still reminded of the importance of Lamasu's Passion for Excellence. Any political or economic machinery requires the agility, strength, and knowledge to perform in a manner that would guarantee domination, not just survival.
The fall of Saddam Hussein marked a turning point for the Assyrians. It has given us a golden opportunity to undo hundreds of years of general apathy, division, and disinterest, and reignite our ancient passion for excellence.
Our desire to excel at the national level must first begin at home, school, work, and churches.
By developing a discipline to excel and build solid foundations for lasting results, we guarantee our domination of local and national politics, economic might, and a resolve to join the world community of nation-states in the second half of the 21st century.
The first step is to apply the three ingredients of Lamasu's Passion for Excellence in every aspect of our social existence including excelling at work, school, even hobbies, and family relations. The winged guardian of the Assyrian palaces reminded the citizens of Assyria to obtain the highest accolades for their work at places of employment, classrooms, the temple studies, and during the military campaigns. The result was the formation of an aggressive national and local political infrastructure that guided the citizens of the land of Ashur from a pedestrian urban living around the Plains of Nineveh in 1850 B.C. to the greatest ancient Empire centuries before the Roman, British and American ascendancy to power.
In 2005 once again we shall begin the journey from insignificance to dominion, starting (again) from the Plains of Nineveh. In Iraq our immediate concern is providing Assyrians with a safe haven, an administrative unit as noted in the Transitional Administrative Law’s Article 53D, around Mosul in the Nineveh Plains, and transforming this area into an economically robust region -to benefit the Assyrians and the free Iraq in general.
Elsewhere, there are a myriad other projects that need our immediate attention around the world.
We begin by enlisting ourselves, our families, and our friends in Operation Tammuz: a carefully coordinated effort to mobilize hundreds or thousands of individuals with the common goal of transforming the status quo into a significant global economic and political infrastructure that can guarantee an equal footing for Assyrians in business, politics, and international issues.
Instead of focusing on our divisions, our lack of confidence, others' sense of apathy, and the timidity of our leaders, we ought to remind ourselves of Lamasu's path to excellence. The wings, body, and head of this monumental Assyrian sculpture is an aide memoire of our excellence in the past and significance in the future.
Then what are we doing sitting alone in our living rooms, listening to mindless chattering Assyrian puppets or typing words of wisdom on various forums instead of acting responsibly within an organized operattion? Urgent action is required today!
Firstly, we must emancipate ourselves from centuries of struggling with our inferiority complex developed via the historic books written by the same people we had subjugated for centuries, and the false information disseminated by our so-called intellectuals who prefer the praises of our enemies. To free ourselves from these chains of social oppressions we must instead develop a passion to excel. We must standout among co-workers, other students, team members and all non-Assyrians. To outrival them we must constantly be reminded of the three Lamasu ingredients: strength, speed, and knowledge.
This transformation should also applies to our political parties, media outlets, churches, and so on. For example, our most effective and popular party in Iraq, namely the Assyrian Democratic Movement, must now transform itself to a administrative body that represents over one million ChaldoAssyrians in Iraq. Our Churches must become the beacon of hope for the weary and oppressed, Christians and non-Christians alike. Our athletes, professionals, scholars, students, writers, artists, and most importantly the youth - everyone has a place in the realization of this transformation.
Any transformation of this magnitude requires large financial and human resources - millions of dollars and thousands of volunteers and paid workers. Forming a volunteer-based operation in the Diaspora linked to the valiant Assyrians in the Middle East shall be our first construct step.
Operation Tammuz dwells not on the political, religious, or ethnic differences among its members, rather with the challenge of transforming the Assyrian nation from an insignificant entity to one that rivals the top 100 nations of the world. As we shall see in our next editorial, the structure of Operation Tammuz reveals an all inclusive approach to solving our nation's immediate and long-term challenges.
Our journey will begin on Friday as we take the first step to building a new empire from the ashes of injustice, genocides, oppression, and indifference.
Part 3: The Rule of Twelve
Assyrians in London Demonstrate For Protection in Iraq
(ZNDA: London) On Sunday 22 August 2004, a demonstration was organised by the Assyrian community of London, through the efforts of Mr. Nineb Lamassu of Firodil Institute, who was assisting Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. The latter has now left London for Washington DC to further lobby the case of the Assyrians.
The demonstration took place opposite the guarded entrance of Downing Street, the permanent residence of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The demonstration was organised in an attempt to raise awareness of the plight of the Assyrian Christians in Iraq, particularly in light of the current church bombings, and demand that Assyrian rights be protected in any future Iraq through Article 53 of the present Iraqi Constitution which grants the Assyrians an Administrative Region in the north of the country.
The Assyrians, the native people of the land in question, have been persecuted for many years by foreign rulers in their own homeland of Assyria, and now, through the medium of Article 53, have the opportunity to lift the veil of oppression from them and govern themselves in an Assyrian Administrative Region.
The demonstration commenced at approximately 1:00 pm with around 100 gatherers waving the eye-catching Assyrian flags, together with the flags of the United Kingdom, and chanting: “What do we want? Assyria! When? Now!”
Taking into account the fact that they only numbered around 100 people, one would think they numbered in hundreds from the noise they were making. Thanks to the good weather, tourists and sightseers were abundant, with many taking photos, stopping and enquiring about the Assyrians and the reasons for the demonstration.
Many showed support and sympathy towards the cause, and some people even participated in the demonstration!
A sight I thought I would never see!
In preparation for the demonstration, a letter had been written imploring the Prime Minister Tony Blair and the British people to help protect the Assyrians of Iraq by granting them an Administrative Area in accordance with Article 53.
The letter was duly delivered to the Prime Minister’s Secretary at 10 Downing Street at approximately 2:00 pm by Mr. Younan Michael (left) and Ms. Juan David (right), with a short introduction given by Mr. Michael to the Secretary on behalf of the demonstrators regarding the plight of the Assyrian people and the demands of the demonstrators.
The demonstration lasted for approximately an hour and a half and was brought to an end with some traditional Assyrian singing and dancing, albeit short-lived!
Among the demonstrators were representatives of various Assyrian political parties. Young children were also present, sending out a poignant message of hope and peace for young and future Assyrian generations living in the homeland. The demonstration was concluded peacefully, but loudly, and the London Police expressed gratitude to the demonstrators for making their voices heard peacefully and in an atmosphere of goodwill.
In conclusion, the demonstration was an extremely successful event, and was the first of its kind for the Assyrian Community in the United Kingdom. One negative view, however, which can be put forward, is that notwithstanding the fact that there are an estimated 6,000-8,000 Assyrians living in the UK, only around 100 attended the demonstration. Such a status quo is unacceptable, and, although the event was a success, more attendees would have been appreciated and are needed. Nevertheless, it is hoped that more will attend in the future.
[Zinda: As the US renewed its assault on rebels in Najaf, Iraqi Christians in London were hoping to shift the focus to their own problems. The Reverend Ken Joseph, an Assyrian Christian brought up in America and Japan, led a demonstration outside 10 Downing Street on Sunday. He maintains that Iraqi Christians are being persecuted by Kurds and denied their right to autonomy. For his interview with BBC click here.]
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Jordan Seized Ancient Mesopotamian Artifacts
(ZNDA: Amman) Today, the Jordanian officials said that they had seized 1,050 Iraqi artifacts, including 600 pieces dating back to ancient times, after the U.S.-led invasion.
Fawwaz al-Kharisha, the head of Jordan's department of antiquities, was quoted in the daily al-Arab as saying the smuggled treasures were seized last April and are being documented before they are handed back to the Iraqi authorities.
He said 600 pieces are authentic and date back to the Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian eras as well as the Islamic age.
"We are documenting and registering every and each piece and sending information about them to the concerned Iraqi authorities," al-Kharisha said.
He said the treasures will be stored in special government warehouses until they are turned back to Iraq.
Among them are also oil painting of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his family members.
Iraqi museums were looted in the aftermath of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq in April 2003.
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Mor Severius Saliba Passes Away
Courtesy of the Syriac Orthodox Resources
(ZNDA: Beirut) On 27 July, His Eminence Mor Severius Saliba Tuma, the first metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Archdiocese of Zahle, Lebanon, entered into eternal rest, succumbing to a tumor in the brain.
His Eminence was born in the city of Qamishli in Syria on Nov 21, 1969. His theological education was at the Patriarchal Seminary in Damascus. In 1989 he was tonsured a monk and in 1992 was ordained priest. From 1994-98 he was engaged in doctoral research at the Oriental Institute in Rome. He returned to Damascus and became vicar there. On May 14, 2000, he was consecrated the first Metropolitan for the Archdiocese of Zahle in Lebanon by H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I at the Sts. Peter & Paul's Patriarchal Cathedral at Ma'arat Saydnaya, Damascus. This diocese was created out of the Beirut diocese.
During the last few days Mor Severius had lapsed into a comma. The mortal remains were laid to rest at 5 pm on 29th July at the St. George Church, Zahle, Lebanon.
Mor Athanasius Paulose Canonized as Saint
Courtesy of Suryoyo Online News
(ZNDA: Kerala) The late Malankara Metropolitan Mor Athanasius Paulose of the Syrian Orthodox Church of India, known as the “defender of faith” and the “Valiya Thirumeni of Aluva”, was canonized as saint by Patriarch Moran Mar Ignatius Zakka I, head of the Syrian Orthodox Church.
The announcement was made by His Holiness at the Patriarchal Cathedral at Damascus. His Beatitude the Catholicose Mor Baselios Thomas I also made the announcement at the Mar Sabor Aphroth Jacobite Syrian Church, Akapparambu, the parish church of the saint on 20 August 2004.
In a press statement the Catholicose said that the announcement revealed the recognition given to the members of the Syrian Orthodox Church in India by the Holy See of Antioch and All of the East.
The announcement had been made prior to the apostolic visit of the Patriarch to India from September 20. Mor Athanasius Paulose is the second Indian to be raised to the status of sainthood after Geevarghese Mor Gregorious (Parumala Thirumeni).
Mor Athanasius Paulose (Valiya Thirumeni) was born on 23rd Jan 1869 to 'Mathai' of Ayyambillil Thekkekarayil family and `Anna' of Kuttikatt Painadath family of Nayathodu, Akaparambu, Angamali. His Eminence was christened as "Paulose" at the ancient Akaparambu Mor Sabor Mor Apfroth church. Mor Paulose was ordained Metropolitan by H.H. Patriarch Ignatius Abded 'Aloho II in 1910. His Eminence became the Malankara Metropolitan in 1918 and died on 25 January 1953.
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Weeding Out the Crack-pot Historians Among Assyrians
I write in response to Shooma Bet-Malik's lengthy article "General Perspectives of Aramaic Language. While generally an entertaining and thoroughly informative exposition of the history of the Aramaic Language, it contains some serious factual distortions and hyperbole that ought to be brought to the general reader's attention. Sadly, these distortions, rather than promoting the most ancient Aramaic language, serve, to an outside reader at least, to be put off by the jingoistic sentiments that accompany and almost obscure the facts contained therein.
While it is perfectly acceptable to make claims about Aramaic being a special language and a precious language, given that all languages are special and that Aramaic in particular has had a long and distinguished pedigree that not only the Assyrian people, but the entire world should be proud of, it is folly to make the claim that alone of all the languages in the world, Aramaic has a Spiritual Dimension. The same claim could be made of Tibetan, Hindu, Greek and a multitude of other languages. Additionally, Mr Bet-Malik's assertion that only in Aramaic can there not be found divisions between Past, Present and Future is also incorrect. Chinese, a language spoken by over a billion people also shares this interesting characteristic.
The main thrust of Mr Bet-Malik's article seems to be to prove that the Gospels were first written in Aramaic. When dealing with this issue, Bet-Malik sheds all pretence of writing in an unbiased and scholarly fashion, launching into flaming invective against the West and all those scholars who dispute the opinions of George Lamsa. As a non-Assyrian reader, I can only be mystified by such hyperbole.
Firstly, it is not settled fact that the Peshitta is the sole original source of the Gospels. The general consensus of Biblical scholars throughout the world seems to be that the Peshitta was compiled in the third century, from a range of sources. The Aramaic speakers who compiled the Peshitta may not have been the only persons compiling an account of the life of Eshho Msheekha at the time. This does not preclude the validity of the four Greek Gospels. The reasons why this is the generally held belief, have nothing to do with Bet-Malik's ridiculous assertion that the entire western world wants to attribute all civilization advances to Europe but rather on the basis that archaeological finds, in the form of manuscripts denotes an earlier origin to the Greek Gospels, save that of Matthew, of which many scholars are still searching for an Aramaic original. It is of course, settled that Luke, a Greek-educated doctor would have written in Greek at any rate.
Given that the Peshitta includes neither the Second Epistle of Peter, the Second and Third Epistles of John, the Epistle of Jude or the Revelation, it is the height of folly to reject a Biblical Canon that has been accepted for thousands of years by hundreds of millions of Christians simply because it assuages Bet-Malik's sense of national superiority to denigrate the beliefs of other Christians. As a Christian, I find those sentiments as contained in his article offensive.
Most enlightened people know of the great contribution that the Aramaic language has made to the world. Yes, it was the language of Christ. However, if Bet Malik seeks to inform the general reader about the beauty of the Assyrian language, he should go about it a different way. Beauty and worth is not synonymous with superiority. One would have thought that all languages of the world are equal in status, especially since God chose to confuse the tongues of the world and introduce different languages at Babel in Mesopotamia so many years ago. It is therefore irrelevant whether the Peshitta is the original account of the New Testament or not. What is relevant is that it certainly is a native, Aramaic account of the Life of Eshoo Msheekha, an account that could be concurrent with the Greek Gospels or may even pre-date it once evidence is found, that is of unparalleled beauty and an important landmark in Aramaic literature.
If Bet Malik wishes to extol the value of the Aramaic language he could have explained how it was the Aramaic texts that influenced not only the development of Armenian Christianity but also Armenian literature, poetry, theology and alphabet. He could have also provided a deeper exposition as to how the vibrant Aramaic language was the key tool that preserved the knowledge of the Greek philosophers in the East, permitting the Crusaders to re-discover that knowledge and take it back to Europe with them. He could also explain that the Persian Pahlavi and Sogdian scripts, and the Mongolian and Uigur scripts used in China are direct derivatives of Aramaic.
Unfortunately, Bet Malik's inaccuracies do not restrict themselves to language alone. While the missionary history of the Church of the East is vast, it certainly is not unparalleled, when compared to the mass proselytisms and conversions practiced by the Catholics and Protestants in America, India and even Bet Nahrain itself.
Lastly it is necessary to deal with an anti-Greek bias which is prevalent throughout Bet-Malik's diatribe. The reason for what appears to be his virulent hatred of the Greeks is obscure but it does cause him again to distort the truth in order to gain cheap shots and this tends to shed further credibility from his article. The Greek language did not stem from Aramaic as he claims. The Aramaic tongue is a Semitic tongue, morphologically, syntactically and phonologically different from the Indo-Aryan Greek tongue. While it can be argued that the basis of the Greek alphabet is that which existed in Phoenicia in the 8th century BC, all other similarities end there. Again there is no evidence to support Bet Malik's assertion that 'Assyrian-Aramaic' became the source of enrichment for Greek theological and philosophic works. What actually occurred is that the Persian Empire 'swallowed' Assyria whole, and the Christian Byzantine Empire was cut off from the rich and valuable Aramaic
Bet Malik, who is not a biblical scholar and has no knowledge of Greek also claims that there is no philological beauty on the 'Greek' bible and claims that it is a 'messy translation; of the Aramaic bible. This is not only offensive but false. The Four Greek Gospels take a different format from the Peshitta. Though the Evangelists may have used Aramaic sources to compile their works, it is ridiculous to suggest that the Greek bible, ostensibly THE BIBLE to all Christians save those of the Church of East is clumsy or incorrect. Disrespecting Christian scriptures does not seem to be the way one discusses the Aramaic language.
Bet Malik then takes his time to speculate that Greeks have the propensity to claim that Jesus was Greek and that the world will follow them in such and assertion. This is false, offensive and calculated to stir up racial hatred. The only source for such a blasphemous remark is his own imagination. Again his comment that Greek civilization owes everything to the Assyrians is in the same vein. Contacts between the Assyrian Empire and the Greek world were limited owing to geography. Indeed, if anyone could claim to exercise an influence over Greece, that would be the Egyptians, who were in constant contact with that country. That is not to downplay the cultural exchange between the Greeks and the Assyrians, but it needs to be put into perspective.
Bet Malik purports to expound the history of the Aramaic language ands ends up trying to prove that Assyrians are a superior people and that the rest of the people of the world are inferior. This type of attitude does not create friends. It certainly does not create sympathy for the Assyrian cause among uneducated readers who cannot see beyond Bet Malik's agenda. This attitude of superiority is what drove Hitlerism, and the Ottomans and Kurds towards the Genocide of Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks earlier last century and it is this sense of superiority be certain sections of Iraqi society that is fueling the mass exodus of Assyrians today.
Thankfully, the vast majority of contributions to Zinda Magazine are responsible, supported by evidence and have this feature: that while they rightfully extol the greatness of Assyrian history and culture, they do so not by denigrating other peoples, but by examining their culture in its own right. If Assyrians are to create sympathy for their cause, they must continue in this manner, and weed out bigotry and crack-pot historians among them. Whatever the case, the great Assyrian people should be assured of the unconditional and continuous support for their struggle by survivors by another group of people extirpated from Anatolia and the Middle East, the Greeks.
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Employer Rewards AAS Student-Member with $1000 Check
Caroline Odisho, one of many young members of the Arizona Chapter brought in a $1000.00 payment from her employer, Best Buys Company. "Caro" as she is known to all of us, has been an active member of the chapter since she moved to Arizona with her family last year. She is a full time employee with Best Buys as she continues her studies at Arizona State University.
Best Buys rewards the volunteer activities of their employees as long as the work is in support of a non-for-profit organization and the employee puts in at least 40 hours of work per year. When Caro found out about this policy she did not hesitate to apply.
On August 22, 2004 she presented a $1000 check to the Chapter President, Youkie Khaninia.
Caro has one message to her peers; "I am proud to be a member of this organization; I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to get money or grants through community involvement at work to apply for it. You have nothing to lose but the cost of a stamp. Besides, what a better way to help the ChaldoAssyrian Community by getting your employer involved too".
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What Did Really Happen at the Iraqi National Conference?
On August 21st, Mr. Toma Khoshaba, an Assyrian Democratic Movement Executive Committee member appeared on Ashur TV live. He explained the circumstances and events that took place during the Iraqi National Conference that took place between August 15th and 18tt in Baghdad in which the members of the National Assembly were elected and/or selected.
Mr. Khoshaba stated that the Iraqi National Conference selected 81 delegates from the 1,300 gathered to be part of the Interim Iraqi Parliament (National Assembly). Added to these 81 were 19 from the dissolved Iraqi Governing Council for a total of 100 representatives in the Interim Parliament. He added that ChaldoAssyrians had over 50 delegates in the conference and expected to show a strong presence. However, when the time came to elect our representatives from these delegates, we were not given the opportunity to select our own.
Khoshaba stated that there were two issues important for us: the percentage of representation and the right to choose our own delegates.
After lengthy discussions and deliberations, it was decided that we would have 4%, i.e. four members. The election of our own representatives turned out to be a more complex issue.
Therefore, the ChaldoAssyrians at the Conference decided to make a list and present it to the 50+ ChaldoAssyrian delegates to vote on it.
We had thought that the fall of Saddam regime would bring democracy to Iraq; however, it seems that Saddam's breath is still present within some of those participants at the conference.
What we witnessed here was: First, the 4% percentage allocated to us was dropped to 3%. Second, the removal of one name from the list and the inclusion of another by the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party). This act was non-democratic and disrespecting to our nation.
Our people had many groups and individuals present at the Conference, including members of the APP (Assyrian Patriotic Party), BNDP (Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party), Abd al-Ahad Afram (Chaldean Democratic Party?) and others. It was these groups that contacted the KDP and stated that they did not like the set up and how elections were to be conducted and asked for the KDP's interference.
These groups realized that they have only ten (10) people out of the 50+ and that they would have no chance to get in if a simple and straight forward voting took place. Mr. Khoshaba stated that "we have pride in people like Dr. Hikmat Hakim, who works closely with the ADM and Ibtisam Giwargis, who is very active among our people. However, added Khoshaba, we did not like the method that was applied and forced upon us to elect our representatives and the interference of the KDP in our affairs. How could these groups claim to be patriotic?"
"What was more painful during the conference," continued Khoshaba, "was when we saw a declaration signed by Mar Giwargis Sliwa, Archbishop of the Assyrian Church of the East and Mar Addai II, Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East (Old Calendar) asking to have George Bakos as our representative in the Interim Parliament."
"The bigger problem yet and what hurts us the most was that we did not know about this from our own people, rather we knew about it when 'Aarif Tayfour, an official with the KDP, presented the declaration to us in the conference.
" Well, if this is how we carry ourselves, the Kurds will not only be able to stick their hands in our affairs, but they can stick their legs in our affairs as well. Our clergy have told us repeatedly that they do not want to interfere in politics and they want to stick to the religious matters only. However, they continue to prove otherwise and interfere in politics to a large degree."
This is what happened during the conference. This is what our political groups did during the conference. All they cared about is not to have the ADM in the parliament; they cared less about the damage they were bringing to our nation.
"The KDP," added Khoshaba, "was forcing Romeo Nissan Hakkari to join the parliament. However, we knew this earlier because the KDP told us this in plain language. The KDP told us clearly and openly that one of those 3 or 4 ChaldoAssyrian representatives must be a person who is close to them [KDP]; someone who is with them. We told the ChaldoAssyrian delegates that we do not care even if Raabi Yonadam Kanna was the only member from the ADM in the parliament; however, we needed to elect the other representatives ourselves. There were 46 delegates who were supporters of the ADM in the conference. We believe that it is not fair and not right for the 10 delegates who did not agree with the rest to go to the KDP and force their way in."
Khoshaba concluded that in few months (perhaps January or February 2005), new elections would take place in Iraq. It is time that we learn from our past. It is time to understand how much damage the "I" is doing to our nation and cause. This selfish "I" and only "I" is breaking our backs. Khoshaba said: "We in the ADM care less about holding chairs and positions; however, we want to see real patriotic and intelligent politicians occupying those chairs. History has shown that we have been hurt more by our own people than foreigners have hurt us and we must learn from that."
We have to ask ourselves: Why did the KDP demand that a close person to the Kurds be in the parliament?
Iraq's Disappearing Christians
Courtesy of the Jewish World Review
The Middle East is undergoing ethnic cleansing — again. Does anybody care?
"What are the Muslims doing?" asked Brother Louis, a deacon at the Our Lady of Salvation, an Assyrian Catholic church in Baghdad minutes after it had been bombed. "Does this mean that they want us [Christians] out?"
Well, yes, it does. Our Lady of Salvation was just one of five churches attacked in a series of coordinated explosions in Baghdad and Mosul on Aug. 1, a Sunday, between 6 and 7 o'clock in the evening. In total, these car bombings killed 11 persons and injured 55. In addition, the police defused another two bombs.
The timing of the assault guaranteed a maximum number of casualties. August 1 is a holy day for some Iraqi Christian denominations and because Sunday is an ordinary workday in mostly Muslim Iraq, Sunday services take place in the evening.
The five bombings were by no means the first attacks targeting Iraq's Christian minority since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Others, according to the Barnabas Fund (an organization assisting persecuted Christian minorities), were bunched together at the end of 2003 and included a missile attack on a convent in Mosul; bombs placed (but defused) in two Christian schools in Baghdad and Mosul; a bomb explosion at a Baghdad church on Christmas Eve; and a bomb placed (but defused) at a monastery in Mosul.
In addition, Islamists have attacked the predominantly Christian owners of liquor, music, and fashion stores, as well as beauty salons, wanting them to close down their businesses. Christian women are threatened unless they cover their heads in the Islamic fashion. Random Christians have been assassinated.
These assaults have prompted Iraqi Christians, one of the oldest Christian bodies in the world, to leave their country in record numbers. An Iraqi deacon observed some months ago that "On a recent night the church had to spend more time on filling out baptismal forms needed for leaving the country than they did on the [worship] service. ... Our community is being decimated." Iraq's minister for displacement and migration, Pascale Icho Warda, estimates that 40,000 Christians left Iraq in the two weeks following the Aug. 1 bombings.
Whereas Christians make up just 3 percent of the country's population, their proportion of the refugee flow into Syria is estimated anywhere between 20 and 95 percent. Looking at the larger picture, one estimate finds that about 40 percent of the community has left since 1987, when the census found 1.4 million Iraqi Christians.
Although Muslim leaders uniformly condemned the attacks (Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani termed them "criminal actions," while the interim Iraqi government bravely declared that "This blow is going to unite Iraqis"), they almost certainly mark a milestone in the decline and possible disappearance of Iraqi Christianity.
This seems all the more likely because Christians, due mainly to Islamist persecution and lower birth rates, are disappearing from the Middle East as a whole.
Bethlehem and Nazareth, the most identifiably Christian towns on earth, enjoyed a Christian majority for nearly two millennia, but no more. In Jerusalem, the decline has been particularly steep: in 1922, Christians slightly outnumbered Muslims and today they make up less than 2 percent of the city's population.
In Turkey, Christians numbered 2 million in 1920 but now only a few thousand remain.
In Syria, they represented about one-third of the population early last century; now they account for less than 10 percent.
In Lebanon, they made up 55 percent of the population in 1932 and now under 30 percent.
In Egypt, for the first time ever Copts have been emigrating in significant numbers since the 1950s.
At present rates, the Middle East's 11 million Christians will in a decade or two have lost their cultural vitality and political significance.
It bears noting that Christians are recapitulating the Jewish exodus of a few decades earlier. Jews in the Middle East numbered about a million in 1948 and today total (outside Israel) a mere 60,000.
In combination, these ethnic cleansings of two ancient religious minorities mark the end of an era. The multiplicity of Middle Eastern life, most memorably celebrated in Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet (1957-60), is being reduced to the flat monotony of a single religion and a handful of approved languages. The entire region, not just the affected minorities, is impoverished by this narrowing.
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U.S. Army Begins Relationship with Assyrian Community
Courtesy of the Recruiter Journal
The recruiters of Chicago Battalion made history last August
by being the first military recruiters to attend the Assyrian
The convention’s more than 5,000 participants were supportive of the Army’s recruiting message and to the sacrifices made by our forces in support of Assyrian and other citizens of Iraq. The convention’s leaders gave recruiters and commanders a chance to meet with the community’s centers of influence in the hopes of breaking down barriers and enhancing understanding between the Army and the Assyrian community.
The Army was represented at the five-day American Assyrian National Federation convention by recruiters and company leadership teams from the Chicago and Glenview Recruiting Companies, along with Lt. Col. Patrick Healy, commander of the Chicago Recruiting Battalion.
The Chicago Recruiting Battalion was faced with the difficulty of introducing the Army to a tightly knit ethnic community for the first time. What’s more, the introductory event was to take place at an annual convention full of competing vendors, displays, and activities in the heart of one of the largest cities in the nation offering countless shopping and sightseeing opportunities to convention goers. This challenging recruiting environment called for the most effective event marketing strategy possible. The solution was the time tested tactic known to marketing teams around the world as give away stuff. Lots of stuff. All with the Army logo and branding.
Actually, that’s an oversimplification even if somewhat accurate. “The hardest part of these first events in new communities and markets is breaking the ice and making introductions,” said William A. Kelo, Chief Advertising and
"The main mission for the convention operation was to develop centers of influence among the leaders in the community
In light of this, Chicago Battalion implemented a threefold strategy. Establish and draw people to the Army interactive
To attract individuals to the Army’s booth for initial brief contact the battalion called on the USAREC national convention team. The national convention staff worked some of their professional magic by establishing a large booth display that was inviting, well lighted and beautifully branded. Prior coordination with the convention organizers had secured a prime location for the Army interactive site opposite the convention’s main entrance and adjacent to the common gathering area in the main lobby. Chicago Battalion continuously staffed the booth with recruiters and battalion advertising and public affairs personnel who were augmented at key periods in the convention schedule by members of the companies most directly involved with the Arabic mission and by Lt. Col. Patrick Healy, Chicago Battalion commander. Also working the convention at critical points in the schedule were Lt. Col. John Vernon, commander of the Great Lakes Battalion and members of the Great Lakes Battalion advertising and public affairs staff and Sgt. 1st Class Brian Oakley, 3rd Recruiting Brigade’s linguist.
Use of personal presentation items drew convention goers to the booth. Standard Army branded items available through the Recruiter Store were used for these initial contacts. Items such as lanyards, key chains, Army Game CDs and pens served as “icebreakers” early on.
The second part of the strategy, to get contacts to return to the Army booth on a recurring basis to build rapport with Army personnel manning the interactive area, required a different approach. This phase hinged around continuously drawing for Army-branded merchandise specially purchased for the event.
Attendees filled out tickets (LEADS cards) to win a variety of prizes. Tickets for smaller prizes were drawn every half-hour by the recruiters. These prizes kept people returning to the booth to see if they’d won, allowing Army personnel to strike up conversations with returning convention goers.
The winners of the often-hourly drawings were then posted on boards in the main lobby next to the Army recruiters.
More than 2,500 items, including keychains, lanyards and basic items were given away. These items drastically increased the amount of leads and community leaders’ information. The amount and quality of the Army-branded merchandise worked extremely well in a community where gift giving is extremely important.
While the recruiters working the interactive area were establishing initial contacts, another recruiting team was working the floor of the convention making themselves available to people and encouraging them to sign up for the raffles. The two groups of recruiters were occasionally rotated so that convention goers who had talked to a particular recruiter at the booth could walk up and continue earlier conversations.
The scope of the program and quality of giveaways had an effect on Tony Lazzar, who hosts an Assyrian radio program, as well as working with the Assyrian Media Center.“It was the products that made it. They loved you guys,”
Lazzar commented that communicating through advertising does well for awareness of the Army but it is very important to attend events in a community such as the Assyrians.“It is different when you are right there. You build a rapport,” said Lazzar. He added that because the community is close-knit, you reach well beyond those attending the events.
Interest in the Army presence resulted in a live interview when Lazzar, broadcasting live from the convention floor,
Army exposure was further increased when Healy was
invited to attend the convention’s formal dinner as keynote
Additionally, recruiters supported the convention’s worldwide
soccer match that brought in teams from as far away as
“The measure of the success of this marketing strategy is contracts. Going into RCM December we’ve already achieved 400 percent of the battalion’s first quarter’s total Middle Eastern IRR mission.” said Kelo. “The integrated marketing brought everything together.”
Assyrians, who make up 5-10 percent of the population of Iraq, are what remain of one of the most ancient cultures in the Middle East. While they are not Arabs, they live in Arab-speaking countries, speak the language, and understand the culture. However, since Assyrians are predominately Christian, much of the original population has fled the region due to persecution and ethnic based massacres over the past 100 years.
“Most Assyrians are very anti-Saddam due to being
oppressed in Iraq. Consequently, they are very pro-American
The Army was enthusiastically received by the convention’s leaders and members. “Whenever someone new comes into the community, people decide whether to accept them or not. It is the first impression that makes a difference,” said Tony Lazzar, host of a popular Assyrian radio program in Chicago and one of the convention’s leaders.
“It is the first impression that makes a difference. We’re a
small community and having the Army here was a big deal.
At the conclusion of the event, the Army was extended an invitation to attend this year’s convention in California.
Finding qualified Arabic-speakers to fill the urgent need
for translators and interpreters, while never easy, can be
To succeed in even this market, however, recruiters must
understand the market they are recruiting from. The most
“The Assyrians are a Christian community, not Muslim. If a
recruiter approaches an Assyrian, without knowing they are
One of the difficulties facing recruiters in enlisting Arabic
speakers is the inability to immediately recognize different
In formulating ways to approach this community, Sangari
has some suggestions on how to be direct without being
“The best way not to offend them is to go right out and ask‘are you a Middle Easterner’?” said Sangari. “Ask them which languages they speak. If they speak Aramaic or Syriac, they are most likely Assyrian or Chaldean.”
According to Sangari, Chaldeans are part of the Assyrian
community but have unique religious and political differences
“Regardless if he says he speaks Assyrian or not, he might say: ‘I’m not Assyrian.’ If he says he is not an Assyrian it could be that he is a Chaldean,” said Sangari. “The best way to do it is to just ask those basic questions. Some of them speak different languages. Let them tell you what their background is. They will say Chaldean or Assyrian. They are proud of their heritage.”
If they are Assyrian, the recruiter should address it. Sangari suggests handling it this way: “we know about the contributions of Assyrians to our operations in Iraq both as military and contracted interpreters and in other positions. They have helped us out tremendously in the current situation.”
Sangari said that when approaching prospects, recent immigrants are also a great target market. Sangari came to Chicago from Iran in 1980 following the Islamic revolution. During periods of unrest, Assyrians have traditionally migrated to the United States.
“If they come here and they really don’t have a job, (becoming an) Army interpreter or translator could be a great opportunity for them. And it would help them gain their U.S. citizenship too,” he explained.
Assyrian culture places great respect for family and community
elders and Assyrian youth often defer to the advice and
“They are a very close-knit community. Word of mouth is
our best advertising,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Brian Oakley,
Nor are recruiters likely to find Assyrians only in the large select metropolitan areas (Detroit, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles among others) normally associated with Middle Eastern groups. Because many second and third generation Assyrians have become integrated into American society, they don’t necessarily show up on government data. This may change in the future though. “There has been more of a push on the census this time. The community has actually become more aware of the importance of putting ‘I’m an Assyrian or Chaldean’ on the census form,” Sangari said.
The following individuals contributed in the preparation of this week's issue:
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