|A Political Conflagration Under the Guise of Religion
The Babylonian Captivity of the Church and Nation
|Iraqi Leaders Walk Out of Cairo Due to Assyrian Comments
Reconstruction Team Launched in Babylon
Pascale Warda Attends Conference on Gender Justice
|Inauguration of the “Syriac Sources” Project|
In Support of Mar Meelis Zia
|Assyrian Culture on UC-Berkeley Campus
Film Documentary "The Last Assyrians" on Polish TV
|20 November, Speeches of Mar Meelis & Mar Narsai
A Miracle in Babylon
|Rick Shadrach Lazar and Montuno Police|
A Political Conflagration Under the Guise of Religion
Beginning with the last weeks of October and contiguously throughout the month of November of 2005, monasticism is at the helm of whatever there was of nationalism of Assyria.
The web publication [Zinda], the Forum [Assyrian], , the air waves [AssyriaSat], the churchyards, the Sermons, the demonstrations, all seem to have been inflicted with the philosophy of religion and religious schisms. At press time, only one institution has not jumped on the monastic bandwagon, and it is 'Ashur TV'.
Bearing in mind, that a political party of the former Iraq, belatedly occupied territory of Mesopotamia, namely ADM [Zowaa] seems to have issued a declaration distancing itself from all comments, so as not to be enmeshed in a partisanship of either side of the purportedly religious, but in fact, a stern political conflict. However this declaration -- diligently translated, and offered by Mr. F. Aprim -- is not signed. Therefore it is not a viable one. It is improper, invalid, and bears no legitimacy. Zowaa is an accredited political establishment with its executive board and its leadership. In the absence of a single signature authenticating such a declaration, it is unwarranted. Hence, it is outright obtrusive, since it lacks courteousness and civility.
Zinda reports that over 3,000 ballots were cast in its survey, with over 60% critical of the decisions of the 10th Synod, culminating in the elimination of functions of a Bishop whose tendencies were considered alien, by the unanimous decision of the Executive Board of the Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, converging in Chicago between October 31 and November 8, 2005.
To verify the authenticity of such a poll is tantamount to muddy the waters that are not potable anyhow.
The Missing Dynamism
No less than 250,000 Assyrians bear some kind of degrees in higher education worldwide. Are they involved in such a debate? Are they interested in seating and unseating of the clergies? Are they conscious about the state of their ancestors' predicaments? Are they categorically insensitive to the amenities of rebuilding the nation Assyria? Is anyone approaching them? Is any Church touching them? Is any political party making an effort to convey a message to them? Are any of the two-dozen or so Forum and web essayists and editors sensing the brunt of a loss of such a powerful army? Is there any organization that has prepared an agenda for presentation and implementation of a machinery to enlist the aid of this most vital of corps?
The nation Assyria as it is representing itself throughout the globe is in dire need of its striving efforts to enliven their lives and to elevate the zeal and fortune of their inborn generation, so that it can mingle within societies it lives in, acquire alien cultures, learn foreign languages, and attend the institutions of higher learning of its host countries. Yes, and definitely so, the parents who suffered, no less than their grand and great grand parents, cherish the success and the happiness their children can attain, by alienating themselves from the roots of metaphysical nationalism, as they see it.
Another part of nation Assyria is simply withdrawn and does not partake in any harangues, rallies, nationalistic works and slogans, and altogether, it retains a certain distance from all that what happens in and among their brethren, wherever they might be.
Causes of the Schism
1. Immediately in the aftermath of the Gulf War of 1991, the most inspiring political machine of Assyria in Mesopotamia, saw it fit to enter the Kurdish Parliament in the Northwest of Iraq, thus formally recognizing Kurdistan at the expense of Assyria.
2. The Baghdad Conference of October 24-26, 2003 denounced Assyria as a nation and forfeited its rights to a non-extant and illegitimate nation, by trying to abrogate its ancestors' indigenous rights and privileges. The participants in this ill-fated Conference taunted the name Assyria and supplanted it with Chaldoassyria
3. The Assyrian establishments -- political as well as religious and social -- embarked to energize the efforts of the political parties in Mesopotamia, rather than concentrating on developing a lobbying international political machine. Little did they know that no matter what occurs in Mesopotamia, their efforts then, just as now, shall bear no fruit, since all decisions affecting occupied territory of Mesopotamia have been pre-conceived, and all that hiatus about slates, voting, polls, and ballots is a mere sham.
4. The Assyrian American National Federation (AANF) suddenly threw all its thrust into the fortifications of a single political party, namely Zowaa. This move manifested itself in the rebirth of a political party that had been around for 35 years, namely Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA), which saw its efforts of over three and half decades evaporating, due to incapable leadership in its ranks and file, its Secretary General, in particular, who lacked the zeal to lead the organization's path toward a workable agenda.
5. Polarization exploded in the political arena between AUA and Zowaa. The first, [AUA], abruptly changed its course, and diplomatically asked its leader of over 15 years to step down, and replacing him with a more popular and an able individual. The latter, [Zowaa], unwilling -- and perhaps, justly -- to copycat the first, used a great political tact, and aspired to place a person of high influence in its ranks and file.
6. Main organizations of Assyria, AANF, ADO, ANCI, AAL, AAS, AUA, Bet-Nahrain Organization, BNDP I, BNDP II, ZOWAA and numerous, never ending associations, are musicians without an orchestra, and an orchestra without a conductor. Each musician plays his own tune, at the same time, and to the same public.
7. Suddenly, the AANF is running a mock as a be-saddled rider. ADO flips flaps between its sister-organizations, unable to designate its own path. ANCI, a multi-thousand-member organization of Chicago, led by a few academicians, is at the helm to uproot the oldest Assyrian establishment, The Assyrian Church of the East. AAL has been sacrificed in favor of AAS -- a combination of name associations, under the same patronage. AUA seems to be reacting, rather than acting, although in capable hands. Bet-Nahrain Organization is at its usual flame, chastising all, at all the time, and in any location, through its $50,000 a month establishment of AssyriaSat. No one really has an idea what is going on between BNDP I and II -- that is if, both or a single one of them still exist. Zowaa, although schematic, bounces back and forth between its past and present courses. It can't rectify the embraces with the Kurdistan Regional Government and its Parliament, since 1991, and the course it may have to take to proclaim its affable relation with the quasi-Government of Kurdistan.
The Menace of the Weak and Not the Wicked
The course taken by Zowaa was rather short and to the point. It didn't have to look far for such a personality. Mr. Ashour Soro, a.k.a. Mar Bawai, Bishop of Western California, residing in a hospitable domain of San Jose, bastion of Zowaa adherents succumbed to the aims the whims of Zowaa.
For the past two years, Mr. Soro, feverishly defended the emancipation of national and political agenda from the ranks of the clergy, namely, the Assyrian Church of the East. Mr. Soro's speeches rather than sermons have become anathema to everything Assyrian. Without the slightest of reservations he has swerved from what he was to what he desires to be.
Mr. Soro is a remarkably able and highly educated individual. No one has the right to chastise, nor criticize his ideals, nor his platforms. He is to be respected and commended for his zeal and courage among many of our brethren in the world. The only fallacy in his act of disobedience was that he was led to believe that his quixotic approach fared better than the removal of the robe of the Church of the East he had donned, and the Church Canons he had taken an oath to respect and to obey.
Mr. Soro, although out of the scope of his realm, is not out of political, ecclesiastic and social arena among Assyrians. Very many will continue to respect him and his views, and they are to be commended for their clarity and wisdom.
Mr. Soro is not a criminal nor is he a sinner. Perhaps, just as all the rest of us, a certain degree of weakness enveloped his persona to attain results, and he pursued his aims at a high speed.
Mr. Soro's actions, perhaps adamantly and nonchalantly, cost dearly national efforts for Assyria, all Assyria, and all Assyrians of the world. The only vital point in his hasty move was that while trying to unite, he created a schism that is irreparable, and shall reduce all our efforts - whichever side we might take - for generations to come.
But, again, that is not a crime. It could be simply reiterated as an error in judgment. Mr. Soro might be weak, but certainly not a wicked person.
"Le plus ça change, le plus c'est la même chose" [the more it changes the more it is the same thing].
For the past incalculable centuries, perhaps fourteen, perhaps sixteen, Assyria saw it fit to renounce the earthly life in favor of a heavenly one. The monks of Mesopotamia, ancient seat of the Assyrian Empires, had spread themselves, like ants, in all corners of the world, seeking to enlist new worshippers for the army of God. From the Gates of Constantinople, all the way to the Khanates of South Central Asia, through India, China, Mongolia, and beyond, the monks of Mesopotamia [Assyrians] enshrined themselves in the conquest not by the sword, but the conquest by a spiritual realm.
Today, from the volume of commentaries, essays, articles, innuendoes, falsehoods, lies, and fabrications, the few activists, along with one or two of our prestigious editors, have embarked on the same religiously ecclesiastic approach as their forefathers before them.
This writer wrote, posted and advised in two or three short articles the shortcomings of such commentaries, to no avail. Thus, this article is presented here, once again.
Presupposing that unity is warranted to do away with name, nationality, family, children, Church, language and culture, to attain one's aims, then why is it necessary to become an obsolescent non-existing nation, such as Athoroyo, Ashoroyo, Chaldean, Chaldoassyrian, Soroyo, or Syriac, at the expense of Assyria proper?
Wouldn't we fare better by simply abandoning all, and proclaiming 'Christian Republic of Assyria'? And if our ecclesiasts would think of it as being preposterous, then, perhaps, we could select a prairie, a town or a village in Mesopotamia and proclaim it The Vatican II.
Ecclesiastic quagmire evidences the fact that Assyria is going through a political turmoil under the guise of religion. Perhaps haphazardly it might be a blessing in disguise, that eventually could lead us toward a political sanity, to finally espouse and expand our political horizons in the world dominated by politics, and political machines, that result in political deliberations, and eventually, in political decisions.
Sadly, but factually, our political parties just as well as our ecclesiastic denominations shall always pursue parallel lines, and no force on earth can bridge them.
To all those that have abandoned Assyria, its faithful, and their ecclesiastic hierarchy of twenty centuries, we can only say:
The Babylonian Captivity of the Church and Nation
On November 15, I posted a message on the Assyrian Forum under the title “Will we ever know the truth?”. That message was in response to the censure of Mar Bawai by the Synod of the Assyrian Church in Chicago on November 7, 2005. In that message I reviewed the history and progress of the Unity movement between the Assyrian Church of the East and the Roman Catholic Church and I pointed out that it appeared to me that we may have hit a roadblock in the talks over the issue of Papal Primacy and that it was not surprising to me because no other church has been able to overcome this issue without loosing its independence to the Roman Catholic Church. Furthermore, I recalled that from the very outset of the talks, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church each defined its basic principles and intents in the document entitled “Joint Synodal Decree for Promoting Unity”. In that document, the Assyrian Church of the East stated that “the recognition of her freedom and self-governance” was one of the “principles that must be preserved continuously throughout the process of dialogue and in any achieved model of unity”. The Chaldean Catholic Church likewise stated that “the preservation of her full communion with the Roman See” was one of her primary principles. I ended the post with the following:
“So what is the truth behind these recent events? Just like the old calendar split, I suspect that the issues are not religious at all. I suspect that they are political and personal. Clearly they are a drain of our time and resources and promoting disunity at this critical stage of our history is especially destructive. Let us all refrain from ugly attacks against each other and exaggerations of each others positions. Let us first seek to understand each other and what the real issues are and let us all pray that these events do not result in another spilt in the Church which will certainly bring harm to both the Church and the nation.”
In a further post I drew attention to the problem of separation of religion and politics in the current debate. I believe that most Assyrians, regardless of what they call themselves or which church they attend, agree that there should be a separation between religion and politics. However this seems impossible to achieve. While many fault religious leaders with interfering in our politics, it is abundantly clear to me that politics and avowedly secular political people spend a great deal of time and effort commenting on and inserting themselves into religious issues and debates. This is not surprising to me at all because this issue is clearly a difficult one for all nations. No nation that I know of has come up with a perfect solution. Religion and State can be separated, but religion and people cannot. If we had a state, I would hope that we would not fall into the age old trap of declaring a state religion or allowing the state to interfere in the free exercise of religion among the people. As a member of our nation I am naturally concerned with political and religious issues. How can I expect members of the clergy, who are also full members of our nation, to refrain from being concerned with political issues? Likewise, how can I expect fellow lay people to not have an opinion on our religious issues? Is it never appropriate for the leader of a Church to have dealings with governments? Look at the example of the Vatican and Pope John Paul II. The Roman Catholic Church has treaties with other governments and even exchanges ambassadors. These treaties do not deal with relations between the tiny Vatican State and other governments; they deal with the relations between the Roman Catholic Church and governments. Everyone applauded the Pope’s political role in the fall of Communism and yet we also saw that same Pope condemn the involvement of his clergy in politics. He even made it a law that no cleric could hold a position in any government. Are these merely inconsistencies, or is there something else behind these practices? My feeling is that a complete separation between religion and politics is impossible. Rather than try to pursue something that is impossible to achieve, I suggest that it is more profitable for us to examine issues in depth to determine if they are religious or political or both. If we can be clear about the issues we are facing and debating we can better understand different points of view and hopefully move these debates to a successful conclusion so that we can concentrate on the other pressing matters facing our nation.
The issue of unity between the Assyrian Church of the East and the Roman Catholic Church is basically a religious issue. Nevertheless, it has obvious implications for the unity of our nation. Many of us were hoping that the unity that could come between the Assyrian Church and the Chaldean Church through this rapprochement with Rome would be the catalyst to healing the division between these two parts our nation as well. A veritable euphoria surrounded the initiation of the process. We experienced what we call in the business world many initial “quick wins”. In 1994 the “Common Christological Declaration” was signed by Mar Dinkha and Pope John Paul II. It was absolutely amazing to understand that the theological issues which caused the church in the Roman Empire to condemn the Church of the East in the 5th century were cleared away in a document of three pages. The basis of the agreement was that the issues were misunderstandings due to the use of certain terminology and preferences of expression. Each side recognized that the other believed in the same faith concerning Jesus Christ and each accorded the other the right to employ the terms and expressions that they preferred. Although the document recognized the two churches as “sister churches”, it also stated that full communion between the two could not be established until there was “unanimity concerning the content of the faith, the sacraments and the constitution of the church. In 1996 the patriarchs of the Assyrian and Chaldean churches met and signed a “Joint Patriarchal Statement” which endorsed the unity effort and asked for the cooperation of the faithful of both churches. This was followed by the “Joint Synodal Decree for Promoting Unity” in 1997. This document contained the famous principles mentioned above. The next steps were to continue the dialogue in order to cover the outstanding theological issues. The “Joint Synodal Decree for Promoting Unity” also envisioned all sorts of programs and cooperation between the clergy and faithful of the Assyrian and Chaldean Churches in order to help prepare the faithful of both churches to accept each other and the desired unity.
In retrospect, it is easy to see that these documents allude to an issue which could cause the whole effort to ultimately fail, i.e. lack of agreement on the constitution of the church or Assyrian independence vs. Chaldean full communion with Rome. In our euphoria we put this issue out of our minds for the time being.
Dialogue continued following two tracks. An unofficial dialogue was sponsored by the Pro Oriente Foundation which included representatives from all traditions of Syriac Christianity, as well as representatives of the Roman Catholic Church. These discussions and the papers that resulted from them helped pave the way for understandings on many issues. The official theological dialogue continued with the Catholic Church via the “Joint Committee for Theological Dialogue”. The “Common Christological Declaration” was considered as the first phase of this dialogue. The second phase was to be concerned with the sacraments of the church and would result in a similar common declaration. The third phase was to be concerned with the constitution of the church, arguably the most difficult subject to work through. A “Common Statement on Sacramental Life” was prepared via this committee. The final draft was completed in 2000 and presented to both churches for ratification. The Assyrian church proposed changes that were incorporated into the document in 2001 and the changes of the Catholic Church were incorporated in 2002. It appears that this document, which has not been published, may have been the communication that is alluded to in the recent Synod of the Assyrian Church. After completing the draft of the “Common Statement on Sacramental Life”, the committee began work on the issue of the constitution of the Church. Various papers were prepared but none appear to have been published. The first glimpse that I have seen of what appears to be related to the work on this issue is the document that Mar Bawai presented in the recent Synod entitled “The Position of the Church of the East Theological Tradition on the Questions of Church Unity and Full Communion” and was published in the November 19, 2005 edition of Zinda Magazine.
It is impossible to go into all of the history and details of the dialogue over the past eleven years here. I have tired to give a general outline of the process and events in order to better understand where we were headed. I have depended on published documents, many of which are available from the website of the Assyrian Church of the East (http://www.cired.org). No documents appear to have been published to the site concerning the dialogue after 2002. I have been unable to find any of these documents on any Chaldean Church website which seems odd to me as the Chaldean Church is a participant in these discussions. Furthermore, none of the provisions of the “Joint Synodal Decree for Promoting Unity” appear to have been put into practice by either side. In his well known article “Contemporary Chaldeans and Assyrians: One Primordial Nation, One Original Church”, Mar Sarhad Jammo concluded with this statement:
“At the dawn of the new millennium, waking up after two centuries of the last major ecclesiastic split of our people, we have to realize that having established two ecclesiastic jurisdictions, within the frame of the legacy of the Church of the East, has led gradually to the formation of two distinct communities, each one of them having developed different liturgical practices, as well as variant cultural and social patterns.
Therefore, to restore this Church to its primordial unity, and to bring its Chaldean and Assyrian people to share, in a united nation, the same heritage, and walk together toward a common destiny, will require to deal not only with theological and ecclesiastic matters, but with cultural and social issues as well. That is the challenge of our generation.”
Nothing appears to have been done on either side to address this challenge.
Papal Primacy vs. Papal Supremacy
The paper that Mar Bawai presented in the synod confirms in my mind that the dialogue with the Catholic Church was the primary reason for calling the Synod. Well before the synod met, I had heard that the Assyrian Church had received a document from Rome to which they had to respond. It appears that this document may have been “Common Statement on Sacramental Life”, which now included the amendments of the Catholic Church. I do not know the contents of the statement, but we can see in the previous work done on sacraments in the Pro Oriente Foundation discussions some of what we could expect would be in the document. None of that work appears to me to have had a potential to cause a problem. However, until we can see the document, we simply cannot know.
What little is known about the state of the dialogue at this point is to be found in the paper Mar Bawai presented to the Synod. That paper deals with issues affecting the constitution of the church. In this document, Mar Bawai clearly accepts and defends the Papal Primacy over the whole Christian Church and clearly states that the Pope of Rome as the supposed sole successor of Peter has primacy over all other Patriarchs and heads of churches, including the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. With all due respect, I believe that this is a very unfortunate position to take. I consider it completely incompatible with the history and beliefs of the Church of the East.
At the outset Mar Bawai claims that the Assyrian Church of the East is “isolated and alone” because it is not in “full ecclesial communion with other Apostolic Churches”. He lists these other apostolic churches as “the Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox”. He argues that a “true Apostolic Church cannot possibly remain” in this state. In reply, I would clarify:
The concept of the primacy of Peter as the head of the Apostles is in no way equal to the current doctrine held in the Roman Church of the Supremacy of the Pope of Rome over all Christian Churches. The Roman Catholic argument concerning this is based on the claim that the bishops of Rome are the successors of Peter because he was martyred in that city. The heads of other churches claimed that they were successors of other Apostles (e.g. the Patriarch of Alexandria is the successor of St. Mark). The structural organization of the early church in the Roman Empire was strongly influenced by the government. This is particularly true following the conversion of Constantine and the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire. The persecution of the church ceased and the Christians started to build the structure of the Church with the help of the government. They modeled the organization of the Church on the organization of the Roman Empire. Rome was the civil capital so the bishop of Rome was designated as the head of all bishops in his provinces. This is the original primacy of the bishop of Rome. The bishops of other important cities exercised the same primacy (Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem). Later on the same primacy was given to the bishop of Constantinople as the bishop of the new capital of the empire. Based on the biblical primacy of Peter, the other chief bishops did accord the bishop of Rome an honorific primacy as the “first among equals”, but this primacy of honor cannot be equated with the doctrine of the supremacy which developed gradually into what we see today.
As the Church spread, different ranks were added to the organization of the Church and territories were organized and re-organized as needed. Towns and cities were given bishops to preside over them and organize the clergy and church functions. The bishops of major cities were designated as Metropolitans or Archbishops. Eventually the bishops of the five major cities were accorded the title of Patriarch or Pope. Both simply signify “father” or “father –ruler”. Each of the five major bishops held primacy over all the bishops in their defined areas and none had primacy over the other except for the primacy of honor that was held by the Pope.
The Church of the East developed outside of the Roman Empire and was never under any direct administrative or theoretical control of any bishop in the Roman Empire. The Primacy of the bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon in the Church of the East developed in the same way as the primacy of the Pope in Rome. As the bishop of the capital city of the Persian Empire, he came to be regarded as the head of all bishops in the East. The canons of the Church of the East attest to the fact that this was a gradual process as its was in the Roman Empire.
Although the Church of the East was completely administratively independent, it was not isolated or alone when it came to being influenced and being open to the theological developments in the Roman Empire. It was always open to learning what was happening in the whole Christian Church and accepted whatever was accepted by the whole of the rest of the Church. Therefore, the Church of the East recognized the first two ecumenical councils of the Church as soon as it was made aware of them and it was able to hold synods to learn about them and officially accept them. The Church of the East, along with many in the Church in the Roman Empire, refused to accept the decisions and unfair condemnation of Nestorius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, in the council of Ephesus which was held in 431 when they learned of it many years after the council was held. Because of this refusal the Church in the Roman Empire condemned the Church of the East and split the unity of the Christian Church. This split survives today. The responsibility for the split rests with those that condemned. The Church of the East condemned no other church. It split from no other church. It always enjoyed compete independence. It merely refused to accept the decisions of a council which it could not recognize as valid and binding for all Christians.
The Church in the Roman Empire continued to divide thereafter. The Oriental Orthodox churches separated over the next ecumenical council. The Maronites separated soon after. The remaining Eastern churches separated from the Roman Church in 1054 over the very issue of Papal Supremacy. In the 16th century the various Protestant churches separated from Rome over issues of corruption. In doing so they too rejected the Papal Supremacy.
All of the Eastern Churches have always been willing to accord to the Pope of Rome the primacy of honor. And yet none, except the Uniate churches that have submitted to Rome, have been willing to accept Papal Supremacy. Mar Bawai quotes Mar Audisho Bar Brikha to defend the Papal Primacy. I believe Mar Audisho’s words, and similar statements that can be found in other documents and in all of the other Eastern Churches, refer to the primacy of honor. If this primacy was more than honorary, how can it be that Mar Audisho remained aloof from accepting this authority? If he believed in the supremacy of the pope why did he not attempt to lead the Church of the East into union with Rome? Furthermore, it has been shown by modern (Catholic) scholars that this text comes from the 8th canon of the “Arabic Canons of Nicea” which is an apocryphal document. The true canons of the Council of Nicea portray the Pope’s primacy as equal to the primacy exercised by the bishops of Antioch and Alexandria. In canon 6 we read:
The Bishop of Rome did not even attend the Council of Nicea. He was represented by only two priests.
Instead of relying on a week proof text, we should rely on the example of our history, on the example of the other Eastern Churches and on the accepted and ancient synodical canons of our church:
Mar Bawai concludes his paper by asserting that he cannot change or abandon his beliefs and position as stated in the document for to do so “will be a betrayal to my church fathers and to my duty as a bishop of the Church and a shepherd of my people.” This seems odd and out of place in the context of a synod in which issues are discussed before a decision is taken by the whole body. In effect, Mar Bawai seems to be saying that his opinion on the matter is the only right one and that no other opinion or person can change his mind. This is the first glimpse into an attitude that will be exhibited over and over again in his open letter to the synod and his sermon entitled “Cleaning the House of God”.
I am disappointed that Mar Bawai, in spite of his education and high office as a bishop of the Church of the East, has presented such a weak and unconvincing argument for the acceptance of Papal Primacy as the correct mode of establishing Christian Unity. History has shown that the Papal Primacy as it developed into Papal Supremacy is unjustified on religious and practical grounds and has caused more division in the Body of Christ than any other teaching I can think of. Papal Supremacy is a doctrine of pride and arrogance clothed in a pretended Christian humility. I had hoped that in this day and age we could come up with new ideas to address this problem. Often the solution to problems we face today in the Church can be found in the ancient Christian practices which are best preserved in the ancient Eastern Churches. For example, the Roman Church stubbornly insists on priestly celibacy in spite of the great shortages of priests in the church and the refugee the celibate priesthood has become for so many mentally disturbed men who molest children. Standing right before their eyes in all clarity is the example of the ancient Eastern Churches which allow married priests. And yet they insist on preserving a medieval custom which has proven to be impractical in the modern world. The same is true for their vision of Christian Unity. No matter how you tone it down, no matter how humbly it is presented, no matter how great and extensive the “autonomy” is that they promise in exchange for our submission, the Papal Supremacy is a man made yoke and those of the ancient Eastern Churches who place themselves under it submit themselves to the status of second class citizens.
My heart is full of love and respect for the Roman Pope and the Roman Church. I fully recognize that they are true Christians and that their Church is a complete and Apostolic Church which lacks nothing that is necessary for its members to attain salvation in Christ. They are our brothers in Christ. I respect them as I respect all baptized Christians, but I utterly refuse to accept and recognize any authority they claim over me. I reject the offer of Uniate status. Their often repeated claims that the Uniates and the Eastern Christian traditions that they represent are as fully Catholic and equal to the Roman Rite hold no weight with me. Their claims are not supported by their practice. Most Roman Catholics could not even tell you what a Uniate or Eastern Rite Catholic was. In the Roman Catholic Church, a full member of the Church is one who belongs to the Latin Rite. The Pope of Rome, whom Catholics believe to be the sole Vicar of Christ on earth and the supreme and infallible head of the entire Christian Church is, has, and will always be a Latin Catholic. An Eastern Rite Catholic will never hold this position. This alone tells me in clear and certain terms that a unity based on Papal Supremacy is unnatural and invalid. If I reject the status of a Dhimmi in Islam, why would I rush to seek the status of a Dhimmi under Rome?
The love of Jesus is for all mankind. His message is for all peoples and resounds in the Earth now as it has for 2000 years in all languages. The diversity that we experience in the world and in the Churches is by the hand of God and a gift from Him. Does Mar Bawai really expect us to think that Our Lord and Saviour favors one language or one people over another? In appointing Peter the head of the Apostles, did Jesus really intend this primacy to be the sole possession of the Roman Church and the Latin rite? I see no justification for such beliefs. Let the Church of the East stand firm in its witness to its God given independence. Let it serve to enrich the one Body of Christ by its example to its sister churches that ecclesial unity does not have to mean submission or subordination. The Church of the East suppressed no other Church. It forced itself on no other Church or people. Its hands are clean of the stains of persecution and intolerance. Its history and authentic traditions are part of the cultural heritage of the whole Church. It does not deserve to be consumed or placed under a foreign yoke. Its sons and daughters, its lay people and clergy, should always be at the forefront of defending its integrity and authenticity.
Synod and Schism
The recent Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East was held in Chicago from October 31 through November 7, 2005. Some have alleged that this synod was called only for the purpose of dealing with Mar Bawai and troubles that he had been experiencing in his diocese. The censure of Mar Bawai has been characterized as “premeditated”. I am not convinced that this characterization is accurate. Many supporters of Mar Bawai have asked what canon has he broken to deserve censure. After reading the letter of the Synod and Mar Bawai’s response and his sermon, I believe that he was censured for being disobedient and plainly rude and insolent in his judgment of the Patriarch and other bishops. No one in the Church of the East is infallible and without sin. These are not our beliefs. But the Synod of Dadishu of 424 A.D. clearly shows that the Patriarch is the head and judge of his bishops. Mar Bawai swore his obedience to the Patriarch and the canons of the church in his ordination as bishop. Therefore, he is bound by them. What right does a bishop have to address his Patriarch in this manner:
All of Mar Bawai’s supporters endlessly testify about what a good and humble Christian he is and that he is the only one who is educated and is bringing the light of Christ to our people. Is the above an example of Christian humility which should be the chief characteristic of a shepherd of the church?
Maybe this is taken out of context. Maybe I am wrong. I do not have the text of the letters that Mar Bawai sent. The Synod did not publish them. The Synod did not publish their letter to Mar Bawai. It was published by his supporters. Will they also publish his letters so that we can see what they contained?
The other quote from Mar Bawai’s letters is:
I find this very interesting. The dates of the letters are supposed to be April 2, 2005 and July 30, 2005. Yet in an interview on Ashur TV on August 6, 2005 Mar Bawai stated:
Mar Bawai has experienced problems in his diocese. That is no surprise. Our people are not generally known for their restraint when they are inflamed about an issue. I have witnessed disturbances in our churches for one reason or another (e.g. the consecration of Mar Gewargis). I find this practice of creating disturbances in the church, particularly in the presence of the holy sacrament, disgusting. I don’t know all of the details about what happened in the diocese, but I can imagine. What I do not understand is why Mar Bawai refused help in dealing with these matters. He talks about his parish as if it is his own personal property. He seems to think that as a bishop he is equal to the Patriarch. It is true that no bishop has the right to interfere in the diocese of another, but the Patriarch has the absolute right to involve himself in any and all aspects of all parishes. In is very interesting to me that already in his paper on primacy Mar Bawai lays down the groundwork of an argument by which he can claim he is free of his obedience. He says that the Papal Primacy is the foundation of all primacy in the church, including that of all Patriarchs, and if a church does not recognize it, then the Patriarch of that church has no right to expect bishops under him to recognize his primacy. So Mar Bawai can, in effect, argue for a split in the church, but the synod is wrong to deem him disobedient and censure him? I don’t follow this train of thought.
Mar Bawai’s response to the letter of the synod is full of accusations of all sorts against the Patriarch and bishops of the church. I will not go into detail about each one, but even if they were all true, the tone of his letter is astonishing in its rudeness. Can we believe that this extreme tone is only in response to the censure? Did it not exist in his dealings with the clergy and laity before this date? I remember Mar Bawai as a priest and as a bishop as a humble and kind person. I can scarcely believe that he is even the author of this document. But if he is, I have no doubt that Mar Bawai has undergone a dramatic change in character. His comments are full of self-aggrandizement and self-pity. He is the only one who is right and everyone else is wrong. Nowhere do we see even the slightest acknowledgement that maybe, just maybe, anything that he has ever said or done could ever possibly be considered wrong. The path he is following is the only correct one and that of others is wrong.
In truth I am sorrier for Mar Bawai than he can know. He has chosen the path of arrogance instead of humility. He has chosen schism over unity. He has chosen to harm the church of his fathers rather than to build it up. His path may seem justified to him now and he may feel strength in the warmth of his noisy following, but it won’t last. His following will dwindle. He is not the messiah that he thinks he is. His actions will not be accepted by the Church and the nation. Other churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, will not approve his course. He will add his name to the history of our beloved Church and nation as a divider and a destroyer. Instead of following the path of that blessed man Nestorius, who was happy to be condemned as long as unity was restored, he has followed the path of Cyril: he is the chief; he is the accuser, and he is the judge.
Iraqi Leaders Walk Out of Cairo Conference
(ZNDA: Cairo) About 100 Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish, and Assyrian leaders, many of whom will run in the election on December 15, signed a closing memorandum on Monday in Cairo, Egypt that "demands a withdrawal of foreign troops on a specified timetable, dependent on an immediate national program for rebuilding the security forces," the statement said.
For the first time, Iraq's political factions collectively called for a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces, in a moment of consensus that comes as the Bush administration battles pressure at home to commit itself to a pullout schedule.
The announcement was backed by the Arab League, and a public reaching out by Shiites, who now dominate Iraq's government, to Sunni Arabs on the eve of parliamentary elections that have been put on shaky ground by weeks of sectarian violence.
The meeting was intended as preparation for a much larger conference in Iraq in late February. The recommendations made here are to be the starting ground for that meeting.
In Washington, Justin Higgins, a State Department spokesman, said, "The United States supports the basic foundation of the conference and we certainly support ongoing discussion among Iraq's various political and religious communities."
But regarding troop withdrawal, he said: "Multinational forces are present in Iraq under a mandate from the U.N. Security Council. As President Bush has said, the coalition remains committed to helping the Iraqi people achieve security and stability as they rebuild their country. We will stay as long as it takes to achieve those goals and no longer."
Almost all the delegates belong to political parties that represent the spectrum of Iraqi politics. Two among them were Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and Mr. Ibrahim Menas al-Youssefi, who represents a general Christian Iraqi constituency.
Iraq's interior minister, Bayan Jabr, said American-led forces should be able to leave Iraq by the end of next year, adding that the one-year extension of the mandate for the multinational force in Iraq by the United Nations Security Council earlier this month could be the last.
Perhaps the biggest winner of the meeting was the 22-member Arab League itself, which has entered the political scene in Iraq hoping to repeat its success in 1989, when it brokered an end to Lebanon's 15-year civil war in a similar conference.
The Arab League's secretary general, Amr Moussa, said that the results of the meeting were a success, but he warned that expectations should remain modest.
The Iraqi politicians thrashed out their differences in the most open debate about the country's future yet. Starting Saturday, they wasted no time expressing their complaints and differences, after more than two years of sectarian violence. Shiite and Kurdish delegates stormed out after a speaker accused others of being beholden to the United States, briefly halting the effort to patch over Iraq's ethnic and religious fault lines.
The delegates later were persuaded to return after the speaker apologized.
The walkout and resumption highlighted the difficulties of trying to bridge deep divisions among the sectarian delegates at the meeting, which the Arab League called to prepare for a bigger reconciliation conference to be held later in Iraq.
Hours into the meeting, Iraqi Christian delegate Ibrahim Menas al-Youssefi took the podium and accused fellow delegates of being U.S. stooges. He said the entire Iraqi political process was illegitimate and orchestrated by Washington.
The Shiite and Kurdish delegates then left the closed session in disgust.
Arab foreign ministers, particularly Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, promptly engaged the Shiite and Kurdish delegates and urged them to return.
Within the hour, Sunni delegate Ahmed Shehab al-Dulaimi told reporters the conference had resumed after the delegate apologized and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa ruled that al-Youssefi's comments would be deleted from the record.
Al-Dulaimi said al-Youssefi belonged to the Christian Democratic Party, a Chaldo-Assyrian group. A Shiite delegate, Sami al-Askari, said al-Youssefi was a former member of the intelligence service under Saddam Hussein.
Reconstruction Team Launched in Babylon
Courtesy of the Associated Press
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Standing next to the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon, the U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad inaugurated a provincial reconstruction team in central Iraq on Monday — launching a civilian-led approach to rebuilding the country that could take the burden off the U.S. military.
The teams, made up of U.S. government workers led by a State Department official, are modeled on a program that has been considered a success in Afghanistan.
Khalilzad said the new teams — known as PRTs — will focus on developing the ability of Iraqi provincial officials to take the lead in rebuilding Iraq.
Each of Iraq‘s 18 provinces will eventually have a team made up of 70-100 people. A U.S. diplomat will head each PRT with a senior military officer as a deputy and a membership that includes civil affairs soldiers, experts from the U.S. Agency for International Development and representatives from the departments of justice and agriculture, among others.
Khalilzad said the development of governing skills at the provincial level will be critical when Iraq‘s new government takes over following elections next month. The new government will work under a federal constitution, moving power away from the strong central government in Baghdad.
While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice launched the first two PRTs in the northern city of Mosul during a visit Nov. 11, none of the teams will begin work in earnest until after the Dec. 15 election, officials said. The teams for Babil, Nineveh and Tamim will serve as a test for the rest, which will start work early next year.
In Afghanistan, the PRTs melded military operations with humanitarian and reconstruction work. But they were criticized by humanitarian agencies, who accused the military of blurring the lines between fighting and relief, thus endangering neutral civilian aid workers who were then perceived to be part of the U.S. military.
NATO troops have taken control of nine PRTs in the north and west of Afghanistan. NATO is expected to take on eight more PRTs next year for a total of 17 out of Afghanistan‘s 34 provinces.
In October, U.S. Gen. B.B. Bell, commander of NATO‘s Allied Land Component Command Headquarters, pointed to the success of Afghan legislative elections in September as proof of the PRTs value in Farah province, near the western border with Iran .
The U.S. Institute of Peace, a nonpartisan group created by the U.S. Congress, last month issued a report praising the PRTs in Afghanistan.
The PRTs in Iraq have evolved considerably from the first teams deployed in Afghanistan, with a civilian in command and the focus concentrating on training and equipping local officials, police, engineers, farmers and judges.
The Institute for Peace, however, said it doubted the PRTs could succeed as well in Iraq.
"PRTs fare well in reasonably permissive environments, where even a small, lightly-armed military force can make a meaningful contribution to regional security," the institute said. "PRTs would not be appropriate for Iraq, with its large population centers and high-intensity combat operations."
For more than 1,000 years, Babylon was one of the world‘s most celebrated cities, where King Nebuchadnezzar II built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The city 50 miles south of Baghdad declined and fell into ruin after it was conquered by the Persians under Cyrus the Great around 538 B.C.
Pascale Warda Attends Conference on
(ZNDA: Amman) The International Human Rights Law Institute at De Paul University Law School in Chicago began its coordination of major projects for Iraq in 2003, when the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded IHRLI a $3.8 million grant for "Raising the Bar: Legal Education Reform in Iraq", a broad-based initiative aimed at providing rule of law training in Iraqi law schools and encouraging legal education reform in Iraq.
IHRLI has a field office in Baghdad staffed by Iraqi and Arab World legal experts, as well as twenty-one local support staff. As the security situation worsened, IHRLI relocated its staff and base of operation to Sulaimaniya in north Iraq.
Earlier this month a conference titled "Gender Justice in Iraq, Experts Meeting" was organized by IHRLI in Jordan, where representatives from Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Syria, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq discussed topics of concern to the women's role in politics and their constitutional rights.
Mrs. Pascale Isho Warda, Iraq's former minister of Immigration and Displacement, and a member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, attended this conference where she presented a research on the involvement of the Iraqi women in politics.
Mrs. Warda commented that "the Conference was a great opportunity to meet with Arab women from other countries and discuss the role of Iraqi women in making real changes in the politics of this country."
IHRLI has been awarded additional grants for unique human rights and rule of law initiatives in Iraq from the US Department of State, the American Bar Association, and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. These projects gather and analyze narratives of human rights violations committed by the former Ba'athist regime, prepare Iraqis to work as human rights trainers, aid in the drafting of the new Iraqi Constitution; and support post-conflict justice.
Inauguration of the “Syriac Sources” Project
Exclusive report by Afram Barryakoub in Sweden
On Tuesday, 22 November a 3-hour seminar was organized at the University of Stockholm, described as " the beginning of something greater to come." The topics covered at this seminar dealt with the rich Syriac heritage in the form of manuscripts and books from early church fathers and other sources.
The seminar was organized by the "Syriac - Aramaic Union of Academicians (SAAF) in Sweden", in cooperation with the department of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Stockholm, the University of Södertörn and the Centre d’études et de Recherches Oriental (CERO) which is a Lebanese institution founded in 1989 by the Maronite Antonine Order.
The seminar was a prelude to the coming celebration of the 1700 year jubilee of the great church father, Mor Ephrem: Colloque XI sur le Patrimoine Syriaque: "St. Ephrem, Poéte pour notre temps”
The jubilee will be celebrated in the form of a world conference in Stockholm from 2 – 5 May 2006. Many Syriac scholars, including Sebastian Brock, are invited.
The seminar was also the starting point of the project “Mabu'e Suryoye" - or the Syriac Sources. The aim of this project is to produce a series of six books on the writings of the early Syriac church fathers beginning from the 70 AD. Today, only the first book has been completed and was for available for sale during the seminar.
The book series is financed by the Les amis de l’heritage syriac (Friends of the Syriac Heritage), the churches in Lebanon, the Order of the Antonine Monks and several Syriac scholars from around the world. The book series will be printed in German, English, French, Arabic and Italian.
One of the main personalities behind this book series is Father Maroun Atallah from Lebanon. He says: "Much of the content of the book series includes the Syriac manuscripts yet unpublished. There are many Syriac manuscripts who are forever lost. But we have found them in other languages. We have found them in Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopian, Coptic and Greek, because Mor Ephrem (St. Ephrem of Syria)'s work was translated into other languages already during his lifetime.
Father Atallah underlined that the book series does not only contain spiritual manuscripts, but also topics on history, music, science and biblical interpretations.
And later in his speech he noted that the Latin and Greek heritage has been well taken care of and now it is time to take care of the Syriac heritage.
Professor of Semitic languages, Tapani Harviainen, from the University of Helsinki in Finland also attended the Syriac seminar. Syriac has been taught at the University of Helsinki for the last 150 years. Professor Harviainen explained that the publication of the book series is a very important step to introduce the old Syriac manuscripts in a critical edition by professional people and continued to say: "It is very important that Syriac is taught in the universities of Scandinavia and you Syriacs should participate in this field of research since you are the owners of this heritage. You should bring into light your ancient and modern culture and should stress on teaching your children the spoken and written Syriac."
He had with him a copy of poems written in Syriac during the 17th and 18th centuries by Finnish professors: "They wrote these in order to brag about their knowledge in Syriac and say 'look we are wise men who can write poems in syriac' ”, said Prof. Harviainen.
The famous Swedish writer, Sigrid Kahle, a women who has lived many years in the Middle East and has great interest in Islam and orientalism commented: "I am very happy to be here because I don’t know much about your people. I lived in Baghdad from 1958 till 1961 and I have visited Nineveh and Mosul. She was speaking in Arabic. she said and continued speaking arabic with two amazed women.
Also attending were the two bishops of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Mor Julius Ablahad Shabo, Bishop of Scandinavia; and Bishop George Saliba of Lebanon. Bishop Saliba gave a short speech and thanked everyone making this a reality.
Some attendees, however, were upset when both bishops quietly walked out of the seminar after only an one hour. There was no explanation given for their early departure. Two attendees who wish to remain anonymous told Zinda Magazine: "First they say that this is very important and say fine good words about our heritage and church fathers. But soon they leave. What kind of a message does this send to the young people and the academic union who have worked hard to organize this seminar?"
Another commented: "The bishops should be ashamed in first place that it is a Lebanese Church behind this effort on our heritage and not the Syrian Orthodox Church. The least they could do was to attend the entire seminar."
The long list of speakers included Dr. Witold Witakowski from the Swedish University of Uppsala who spoke about the importance of Syriac literature; Prof Sten Hidal from the Swedish University of Lund who spoke about the life and writings of Mor Ephrem; Prof. David Gaunt from the Swedish University of Södertörn who spoke shortly on the Syriac history; and Dr Assad Sawma from Uppsala University who gave a presentation on the Syriac minority in Sweden and its advancement. The moderator of the day was Professor Elie Wardini, a Maronite, and a researcher at the Department of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Stockholm. He is also one of the driving forces behind the "Syriac Sources" project.
The Syriac–Aramaic union of Academicians had also invited the Vice Headmaster of the University of Stockholm to indicate the importance of teaching and studying Syriac language, so that the University may take necessary steps to present the students with the opportunity to study Syriac.
Two television channels, the Christian Lebanese TeleLumiere and the Suroyo TV, covered the seminar.
In Support of Mar Meelis Zia
I write to you in support of Mar Meelis Zia, the Bishop of Australia and New Zealand.
My comments are not in relation to the controversial decision by the Synod to discipline Mar Bawai Soro, Bishop of Western California, as I don’t have any meaningful information about that decision beyond what was published in your magazine.
However before I continue, I want to make it absolutely clear that I support the unification of our churches and the wider Assyrian community, secondly I would like to commend Zinda Magazine for daring to publish the documents and material regarding the dispute between the Holy Synod of the Church of the East and Mar Bawai Soro. I believe that Zinda is doing the right thing in keeping the Assyrian community well-informed and allowing each individual the opportunity to decide who is right and who is wrong.
My one concern is that the reports on Mar Meelis Zia have continued to be extremely one sided and unbalanced. A number of ALLEGATIONS and RUMORS have been raised against the bishop in past issues and they have never been balanced with the UNDENIABLE accomplishments and contributions of Mar Meelis Zia to the Assyrian community in Australia. I only wish to highlight that under the leadership of Mar Meelis Zia, the Assyrian Church of the East in Australia has achieved the following:
The construction of two churches and a cathedral;
An active youth association involved in radio broadcasts, excursions, social and religious gatherings, a bible studies group as well as a seasonal publication; and the historical opening of the St. Hurmizd Assyrian Primary School, the first of its kind in the western world.
It should also be noted that the above list is not exhaustive, nor does it include the churches future plan to create an Assyrian Medical Center and Retirement Home.
Zinda Readers Don't Have a Complete Picture
Fr. Paul Benjamin
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Allow me to introduce myself. I am Fr. Paul (Korosh) Benjamin, one of the 6 students that have been sent to Rome (Vatican) for graduate theological studies.
Regarding the issue of Mar Bawai's suspension by the Holy Synod of our beloved Assyrian Church of the East, and having in mind all that has been said written in the various media, I would like to invite all the readers of this magazine to be patient--and for heaven's sake--to think logically. If the Assyrian Church comes to be damaged, rest assured that Oomta Atorayta will also suffer, because we all know that the only Assyrian institution that we have is the Assyrian Church of the East. Let us not allow the devil to topple our faith, for we are all in the same boat; let us not divide the 'Ark of Salvation' otherwise we will all drown in the surging ocean.
I'm sure that not all those involved, and especially the readers Zinda, have a complete picture of this most critical issue. There are many manipulations which have taken place and not all the truth has been decently revealed.
I would like to add that I have been studying in Rome since 1996 and I know many things which I am certain that most of the readers are not aware of, and these issues and facts most certainly need to be revealed to our public.
Having said this, I would like to invite His Grace Mar Bawai Soro to engage in a public discussion with me; the time, date and place do not matter.
Thank you for your attention and God bless you all!
Bailis Yamlikha Shamun
The current issue of Zinda is quite informative, albeit distressing. I am saddened by the decision of the Synod of the Church of the East concerning Mar Bawai Soro, whom I admire as a prelate and as a friend. Additionally, and this is something to ponder, the timing of the event could not have come at a more inappropriate time as the date for the Iraqi elections approaches. This was a bad move at the wrong time, and has the elements of an action toward a political goal.
Let Me Choose My Own Religion
I have no idea why everybody is asking from Mar Dinkha regarding unity while he publicly announced that keep religious separate from State. Are these people lost? Just imagine you ask the Pope to get united with Mormons or other Christian religions!
Let people be free to worships Jesus and God to any religions they prefer. If you want to make unity, go with political unity not religious. I don’t get it. What is your business with people’s faith? Tomorrow if the benefit of our nation will be to get united with Kurds, Turks or Arabs then we all have to convert. Isn’t it?
Things are Getting Clearer Now
What I find most interesting is how much the Church hierarchy fear
this man, Mar Bawai, and seem to want him completely out of sight.
Don't they realise that the more they fear him, the more people will
Why have they schemed and plotted like the scared and threatened Pharisees in the temple? Is it possibly because what he is saying is true and that he has the support of so many people - that he is daring to say what many of us are thinking? Is this the real danger? Is it the fact that he has aroused an interest in asking theological and socio-political questions which have so far been brushed under the carpet, but if addressed, would help unite our people? Are they afraid of unity? Why? Is it such a dirty word? Who has the most to lose from our church and our people becoming united and stronger? Things are beginning to become clearer, aren't they?
I have just read about this, most humble yet learned man, on the
website which some of his young parishioners have created
(www.marbawai.com). I suggest your readers visit this site if they
Personally, I am simply quite jealous of the people of San Jose for having a Bishop who is so in tune with them - particularly the young. He seems to be a real gem and has one of the warmest and most sincere smiles I have ever seen. Apparently, as part of his 'punishment', he was given the option of immediately relocating to Iran to be responsible over the dioceses of Iran and Russia.
Is the Synod saying that the Assyrians of Iran and Russia are inferior to those in California? This is laughable. Either they deem him fit to be a Bishop or not. They are simply choosing to send him to the heart of Islamic fundamentalism in hope that he will be silenced and have no political influence. Do they not realise that ideas cannot be silenced?
What would we do without Zinda? Thank you for your brave journalism
and for bringing to light the scandalous injustices against someone
who is quite clearly beloved to all who know him. Every time I think
I've seen and heard it all another issue rears its ugly head as the
layers and layers of scandal are exposed. You have helped to mobilise
support for him and given a voice to those of us who do not feel that
it is blasphemy to question our priests and our Church, but rather it
is part of our religious duty. Indeed, all I have seen from Mar
Bawai's speeches and letters is love for his Church. A love hindered
There have been a lot of bible-quotes flying around and I am usually reluctant to do it myself, but one cannot help seeing the startling parallels in our lives today: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honour at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven." [Matthew 23:2]
Judge A Person By His Accomplishments
In the past few months you have spent most of your time and energy on our churches rather than focusing on the homeland. Isn't that what our enemies want to see? As a respected Assyrian media, Zinda should not take sides and instead provide some fair and balanced information to its readers.
It is definitely not fair to publish articles in every single issue of Zinda accusing one group and linking them to Kurds while praising the other just for the message of unity. Don't take me wrong. I strongly support the unity ideology both at the church and nationalistic level. However, you should judge a person or a group not just by a single unity message but also by their accomplishments. Do you know of any accomplishments of the church in San Jose?
You never write about their six figure salaries, luxury cars, executive suite, expensive furniture (not to mention a plasma TV), or their first/business class flights. Most of their respected members have either left the church on their own or were forced to leave. Did you know that a young Assyrian Shamasha-to-be was not ordained because of his parents disagreement with the church in San Jose? A man of God should forgive and forget, live a simple life, and provide service to his people. But maybe San Jose is an exception!
AUA & the Synod of the Bishops
Can you please enlighten us with regards to the role that the Assyrian Universal Alliance played in the decisions made by the latest Synod of the Church of the East? The AUA, which was implicated in the assassination of the late Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun, has turned into one of the most corrupt Assyrian organizations in existence and from all indications, there is an unholy alliance between certain bishops and the AUA.
The Problems of This Nation
The Assyrian nation is confined into a small box of the following three ‘sacred’ and ‘holy’ axes of national interest and for reasons completely different from those announced to the public.
1. The glorious ancient history of the great Assyrian Empire that ruled and dominated for long centuries the whole of Middle East, a region which was by itself ruled before and after the Assyrians by several other people as well whether being invaders or from the same region.
2. The uniqueness of the ancient language ‘Aramaic’ which is also called ‘Assyrian’ that was the official language of the whole region for long centuries.
3. The Church of the East glorious history that was equal and even surpassed the influence of the Roman Catholic Church at certain times along the history of this church. A church at which certain times was completely Catholic in its domination that extended to the Far East (China) and to include all types of ethnicities lived within that vast area.
Let us see what happened to these three ‘sacred’ and ‘holy’ axes:
The Assyrian Empire naturally diminished as same as all other empires that ruled in the region. However, the problem was provoked when we claimed being the ancestors of rulers of that glorious empire and yet we are unable to even have one small town under our control. Not like many other people in the region or around the whole world who once had empires and now shrunk to rule at least their own countries.
The ‘Aramaic’ language was used by the Jews and by other people in the region as well. Furthermore, this language evolved by time into new different dialects, including Arabic, and therefore lost its uniqueness for being used by one single people. In addition, the Aramaic language lost its domination in the region as well and gave control to other languages such as Arabic, Farsi.
The Church of the East gradually shrunk and lost its domination in the region as same as the Assyrian Empire and the Aramaic language did before. However, the church was able to stay alive by its faithful and thus was the Aramaic language maintained in the church by the people and was preserved as a lateral product of preserving the church itself. Yet the church suffered from other problems of multiple successive divisions along its history. The church, as a result was split into several smaller and less effective fractions. Furthermore, some of its faithful even changed faith and merged into other western churches when their missionaries invaded the region.
What does all this mean?
It means a lot of things all of which are not pleasant for any people who loses grounds of domination in all these vital aspects for any successful society.
Therefore and as a direct expression of rejecting this bitter reality, new mentality emerged in the nation in order to change the thinking on both the religious and the secular dimensions. Political parties emerged to take control of the situation from the Church as it failed to achieve any progress on the national level. Of course this was the greatest challenge of all times because it was taking the last grounds of power and control from the church on its own people by its own people.
At the same time, new ‘liberal’ approach has been adopted inside the church itself as a result of its long suffering from isolation. The Church of the East has suffered for long centuries of isolation because of its controversial faith that was connected to Nestoros for which it was even accused of heresy for the last 1500 years. As a result, many attempts were made by the church Patriarchs and his Bishops to approach other churches and regain the natural position of the church in the Christian community. The latest attempt was initiated in early 90s and lead by the current Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV to reconcile and resolve the differences with the Roman Catholic Church.
However, unfortunately both these political and religious reform attempts were challenged forcefully by various internal influential powers or the ‘conservatives’ wing who wants not only to keep the same mentality of the people stick to that of first Christian centuries but even some extremist would go further back and worship god ‘Ashur’ believing that turning into Christianity was the reason behind the tragic collapse of the great civilization of the Assyrians.
The political reform movement was defied fiercely by the ‘conservative’ secular and religious groups. The reasons given to the public were mainly because the reformers were negotiating the future of the nation with the ‘oppressors’ of the nation and the occupiers of the Assyrian homeland, a ‘red’ line that should never be approached. The other non spoken reason was trying to take the control on the historic lead from the church and obviously these are two ‘red’ lines that no one has the right to approach or cross.
However, the reform on the religious front was much more interesting because it was not only challenging the power and the influence of the church on the public but also calling for its merger or reunion with the fractions (sister churches) of the same ancient Church of the East and that was another wider ‘red’ line that must not be even approached.
The conclusion is as simple as we are witnessing now; a nation that is split between the two major effective and powerful wings, i.e. the ‘modernizers’ and the ‘conservatives’ and of course there is in the middle always the third part, or the silent majority, who are watching the developing events with sadness and bitterness praying to their God to bring peace and love back to the nation.
The first group ‘modernizers’ wants to open all doors and accept thoughts of reform in order to play better effective roles in their respective societies on both religious and secular domains. Eventually this ‘liberal’ approach could lead to lose or change some of the cultural traditions as a direct result of contact between various communities and people, a point that is fiercely challenged by the ‘conservatives’ group who wants to keep everything intact even the ancient language that is used in the Sunday masses of which 90% of them, not mentioning their kids, don’t understand!
Ironically on the other side, the ‘conservatives’ won’t even admit that they are gradually loosing grounds with respect to their influence on the new generations in the church and at their own homes as well. The new generations are eventually and gradually merging in the surrounding societies and distancing themselves from these bitter conflicts looking at them as irrational arguments and unable to understand. On the other hand, ironically and at the same time, the ‘conservatives’ would justify for themselves what they denied for others ‘liberals’ in terms of their attempts to approach the same ‘oppressors’ and ‘occupiers’ negotiating the future of the same people and the same land of the same nation.
Indeed it is tragic situation but we must be brave enough to admit and face all the facts in order to find the proper solutions and to resolve this destructive internal conflict that is ripping our nation apart. We must also remember that all reforms in all nations and in all aspects of life faced this same situation at their first steps where they were faced with vigorous attacks and fierce resistance of any change.
Nevertheless, it is quite interesting to watch and see how this historic shake in the Assyrian nation is developing and unfolding.
The Church & Politics
I find your article very interesting and as always controversial. You list a wealth of information that I find surprizing since some of the facts you list here are not public knowledge to the masses. This to greater extent make me anxious to read your commentary and also respect your views. However this is not always true. Sometime you make comments that do not always make sense to a person that knows Iraq from its aspects. I also find your article sometimes uncontiguous in nature. I do not see solid connection between the topics you are trying to link in order to draw your bigger picture.
I have few comments about your article I hope it will help enriching those issues in reader's mind:
1. The Golden Ideology and the AUA:
The AUA was incepted by the Youth Association of Iran (Sita Sapraita). In the early 1970s during the visit of Malik Yakoo Ismail to Iraq accompanied by his swift and survivalist son Zaya. As some of honorable readers know that Zaya has managed to arrange and mediated for the visit of an AUA delegation to Iraq while his father was an official guest of the government. It is thought at that time the Iraqi government has penetrated the AUA. Either by paying money or gaining the support of key AUA officials. etc.
Also as the Assyrian masses migrated to the west from all over Middle East they brought along their native ideologies. Once they settled they started to practice those believes in the new environment. Some of them turned Communists, Baath, Kurdistani and Arab nationals from Syria and some stayed assyrian nationalists.
The AUA failed to manage the infiltration of this ideology diversity due to lack of thinking cadre, rapid
After that the AUA split. The AUA split by design or due to ideological differences into 4-5 groups
The "main stream" AUA today is so fragile with ailing leadership that it cannot make any moves. The AUA is struggling for own survival. The AUA cadre of the 1970s and 1980s switched in the 1990s in masses to join the new star -the ADM- to take top posts and be part of the new era. All those at the Assyrian Clubs or the Youth Association in Chicago and california started to support the ADM.
Hence it is not true to link the ideology of the 1960s to events of the 2000s as the organization and its era faded away the goals of the 1960s are dreams of the 2000s. The AUA even lacks any presence in Iraqi politics.
Mr. Bet Kolia of Iran is not enough to drive the agenda of the AUA. He could not establish any foundation in Iraq in the last 15 years. Actually he has been regular ADM guest.
2. The Assassination of Mar Eshai Shimun:
It is a true fact that Mar Eshai Shimun was the victim of the Middle East politics. He was the 1000% hero and hope of all Assyrians despite their faith and affiliations. He was the single leader polarizing the nation. His elimination was the last nail in the assyrian nationalism coffin by eliminating a unified direction to our national cause.
Mar Shimun was invited to Iraq (before the Malik Yako visit - above) by the central government to form an Assyrian army to fight the Kurds in the north, as the central government was unwilling to launch a war in mountains.
Mar Shimun denied that request. His reply to the Iraqi government was: The Assyrian would not form a sole army and their percentage in the Iraqi army should reflect their population percentage in whole Iraq and not more.
The government later invited Malik Yako and Zaya (his son). Malik Yako was told by Mar Shimun "not to touch the nation". Assyrians are advancing, students attending universities. Do not touch it. Malik Yako was then killed in Baghdad, however his elder Son Zaya whom till this moment puzzled many people as to how he maintained balance between Syrian Baath and Iraqi Baath.
When Mar Shimun arrived to Baghdad there were at least 2 Million people from all over Iraq pouring into the Airport and the road leading to the presidential palace. People marched on the streets for miles. Iraqis that are in their 40s+ can tell you more about it. THAT MARCH BROUGH ABOUT THE ASSASSINATION OF MAR SHIMUN. That is what many believe.
That march puzzled and surprised many including the then president of Iraq who immediately asked Mar Shimun: "Are these people all supporting you"? It showed in plain image the level of support among the masses for their deposed leader. Others such as the British and Israelis may have viewed him as a threat to the oil rich Iraq. That was a factor in in Iraqi politics considering the Kurdish situation at that time.
There is no doubt the assassination was desired by Iraq, but for sure the planning part was beyond the capabilities of
Iraq. Mar Shimun was assassinated on two stages:
The first stage was crucial to the completion of the second stage. It stripped him off his dignity among all Assyrians making him an easy target for assassination. A sophisticated planning like that could not be carried out by the Iraqis by themselves considering their way of assassinations.
It is possible the British or maybe Israel planned the task. That part remains puzzling until this day. However the part that both leaders died as a consequence of their visit to Baghdad within same proximity of time remain a true fact including the assassination later of Mar Youalaha of Barwar (poisoning) by the Iraqi Intelligence.
3. The role of Mar Dinkha in the assassination of Mar Eshai Shimun:
There are no evidence that Mar Dinkha is involved in the assassination. Mar Dinkha flew to the US to conduct Mar Shimun's funeral. He maintains strong ties with Mar Shimun's immediate family and he pays regular visits to them in California and is always welcome. Also Mar Dinkha remains the sole keeper of the Shamoonite ideology as put by the late "Malik Yousif Khoshaba" so how could he act on that. In addition, linking the events at the bottom of item 2 above should provide sufficient evidence of the scenario in place.
4. Linking the ADM to the Mar Bawai ordeal is also lacking lots of credibility. First of all the newly
Mar Bawai was hand picked by Mar Dinkha in 1986. Mar Bawai became influenced by the Catholicism during his 18 years tenur in the sea of Rome. He pushed the church very hard to unite with the church at any cost. Paying no regard to any circumstances or backfire. This proposal was rejected by many as they saw loosing the church own sovereignty This same sovereignty is what Chaldeans envy the assyrians and try to use the Assyrian dialogue with the Catholics to gain some soverignty I personally heard this from Mar Bawai. We can elaborate further on the topic of the Chaldean interest in Assyrian dialogue with Rome.
As Mar Bawai was delegated to the dialogue he misused the responsibility entrusted into him. He told the Chaldeans what they wanted to hear -the Church of East is willing to join the Catholic sea-. On the other side he told the Assyrians what they also wanted to hear -the Chaldeans are willing to disengage with Rome and join Church of the east to form the "Glorious united Church of the East-.
Both groups believed him and he continued with this two sided mediation until the Beirut Synod. During the joint Synod of Beirut in 1998 between the Assyrian and Chaldean bishops the unity subject was brought to the table. It become apparent that each group was told a different story. This was an embarrassing moment to Mar Bawai who was willing to resign from his post right there in Beirut and caused lots of friction with other bishops. His situation was mended by Mar Dinkha to resolve his differences with other bishops (at least on the surface).
Due to this miscommunication, the dialogue took a set back.
This tells the readers that Mar Bawai did not take this business very seriously. This is not a small topic to deal with two synods. It is the first time in my life time to hear or read a lie being uncovered at a Synod. This tells the readers that Mar Bawai has no respect to the Church of the East and its faith. He lied to get his agenda through.
During the last few years, Mar Bawai "The educated" lost respect to many of the senior bishops in the church. This became very apparent during his repeated visits to the Patriarch in Chicago. He backstabbed the same bishops that chose him and shaped him up.
After the Beirut synod Mar Bawai felt helpless and lost the trust and confidence of all. Mar Bawai started to mobilize public support to generate backing for his weak position. His best bet was use his brother in-law (the Shamasha) who is working with some construction investors in Iraq to ally with the ADM. As you know the ADM is highly interested in such projects which involves millions of dollars in cash and as you must have known by now that the ADM only deals with cash. They do not take rice bags or medical supplies. The ADM used their media channels in the US to strongly support his case. The ADM is also using this high profile case in its media circus in order to mix the cards in the upcoming Iraqi election. I am not sure why but maybe an ADM representative could answer that.
Mar Bawai was elevated on 17 October 1986. He stood before 2000 people in a Church in Chicago reading his oath of allegiance and obedience to the Church faith, Synod and laws. Many people still have that piece of evidence on tapes.
Here you see him today challenging the synod and using cases of other bishops to "poorly" justify his own mistakes and rejecting the agreements of the Synod and disengaging his dialogue with the Synod. These agreements were reached by 11 votes against 1. Can we say the Synod is unfair? Or Mar Dinkha is not fair? It seems that Mar Bawai lacks respect to the Synod and Assyrian religious tradition due to his catholic favoritism It is all due to the intensity of Catholicism that he has been nurturing in for the past 18 years.
Mar Bawai was mentored by Mar Dinkha and was his right hand person for the last 18 some years. He was raised to become the next patriarch. It is shocking to all that Mar Bawai is rebelling against the same church that raised him.
Mar Bawai is nobody if he leaves this Church. He will lose all the prestige and recognition that he has gained in the last two decades because he globally represented this church. Who is he going to speak on behalf in the future? Do you think Rome would respect him the way he had been respected?
Mar Bawai should learn from history and not repeat the history. Those that split from main stream church before, at the
end they lost and were sorry and we all lost them and we also were sorry. There is no victory here. This business he is
in is spirituality which means a clean conscious. I cannot lie to my conscious. Do not get misled by politicians. The late
Mar Toma Darmo was very sorry at the end. When he realized that even his closer cousins were not visiting him while in
Baghdad. He was surrounded by politicians who were after their own gains and agenda. After the anger and the tension
5. Regarding your previous article about Nochia connections. Please make the following corrections:
Hopefully this will briefly entertain your prestigious readers.
Church Promoting Unity
Sargon Levi Gabriel
All the Assyrian great leaders, organizations and movements of the past have had one thing in common; they were trying to unify us behind a common goal. Unfortunately no one tried to unify our people in Iraq to gain our rights in the new Iraqi constitution. Thanks to all Assyrians that did not raise their voices against the ones that spread disunity.
Most of us go to church to find unity. Unity unabashedly focuses on and celebrates the original blessing, emphasizing the divine potential with us. During our prayers we condone praying with our enemies. When all of us stand together before God, God has an interest in us, but when we do not stand together, God has no interest in us. This is what happened when the Iraqi constitution was written. God turned His back on us.
The importance of unity is something we must always keep in mind. Expressing extreme opinions may win us headlines, people may listen more, as it is happening today on Assyrian TV’s, and Radio stations but the prize is polarization and disunity.
Unity is committed to spiritual empowerment of our Assyrian Nation, to be of one heart and one mind, at these crucial times, but I am sorry to say we are promoting haltered among ourselves. It seems that no one knows that unity stands for love in the presence of hatred, for peace in the presence of conflict, for forgiveness in the presence of injury. Unity honours God almighty and our saviour Jesus Christ. One cannot be a Nationalist without believing in God almighty and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Believing in God is to abide by His laws. You break one law you broke them all. Greediness, profiteering, selfishness and sexual urge and malice acts are against the God’s will, the teaching of our Assyrian Church, are bad manly qualities, and unacceptable ethically or morally.
The Catholics Patriarch of The Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, as the successor of Shimoun Keepa, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the Assyrian Bishops and of the faithful. He must stop self-abashing acts on the screen that is destroying the Church credibility. The only beneficiaries of such unmannered shows and acts are enemies of the Assyrian Nation. Even the promoters of such shows are loosing their support among our people. They are people that do not believe in unity but in divide and conquer. They are the self-proclaimed petit leaders.
Machiavellian is behind all such undesirable and self-destructive acts. A wily schemer with cunning duplicity and bad faith is in drivers seat. The legitimacy of the Assyrian Church has crumbled and the structure for credibility has disintegrated. Distrust overrides confidence and Assyrian scrutiny is replacing blind loyalty.
Wily schemer’s most vicious efforts are to annul the power of The Catholics Patriarch of The Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, so he will be in control of the Assyrian Church and the Assyrian Nation. Most of the Assyrians and men of the cloth of the Assyrian Church are following his sleazy attempts blindly. The spiritual essence of the Assyrian Church is like a tree, whose sap is healthy but is overgrown by parasites.
The Assyrian Nations problems are problems without solution, due to many petit self proclaimed leaders and the wily schemer that want the control of our destiny. The leaders of a nation receive the right of authority through the consent of the people. Neither the self proclaimed petit leaders and the wily schemer have.
What a poor, and uncertain dying world is this. What a wilderness in itself. How dark and how isolate our world has become without the light of the Gospel and the knowledge of Jesus Christ our saviour. It does not appear to most of us in a state of nature, because we are there in a state of enchantment, the magical lantern blinding us with splendid delusion.
We admire strongly His Grace Mar Bawai and owe him a deep gratitude for his courage, for his valour, for his strength, and for his commitment to our Assyrian Nation. who believes strongly in God and in our Saviour Jesus Christ in our Christian faith, and in our Assyrian Nation and have broken no God’s laws, since he was consecrated as a Bishop. He is a charismatic advocate of peace. In his sermons one can notice the extraordinary power given to him by the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church, the Assyrian Nation and the entire world. He is full of love for and goodwill toward the others. He is kind and helpful toward the needy and those that are suffering. He is benevolent, a true and perfect person. Because of his grace, we are better persons. We thank him for his endless wealth of wisdom. It is indeed gratifying that His grace is giving so much of His energy, talent and time to promote unity among our Assyrian Nation and is inviting all to do the same by seeking the intercession of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.
I was aghast when I found that such heinous article exposing the financial and sex habit one Assyrian bishop on the Internet. The same bishop now judges His Grace Mar Bawai. Our enemies were celebrating the triumph that they had finally achieved. It is creating more division in the Assyrian Church and more abashing. I was in Chicago in September of this year and I heard more dissatisfaction with the Assyrian Church that I have ever heard before, from our educated Assyrians elite.
Today the divisive forces are creating disunity among us. Our denominational differences, our tribal affiliation, and struggle to form ourselves into a nation, we have once again reached another such historic juncture. The external forces and the internal events shaping the geography fortunes, and the political layout of our Assyrian Nation demand a more cohesive and powerful leadership in the Assyrian Church. We must work together to unite. Just observe what happened in Chicago, IL. MOTWA. The united front won easily the election. What does this mean to the rest of our people? This was a very strong message sent to the opposing party. Unity is important.
Preaching of Jesus Christ to His disciples,” Verily, verily I say unto you. Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin.” “ As You have sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world? And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” “ I in them, and You in Me, that they also may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent me, and have loved them, as You have loved Me.” That example is for our clergies, Bishops and all consecrated persons dealing with Church. Love each other and be ONE, UNITE. There might be misunderstandings but they mustn’t be exposed on TVs or Radio Stations, and the correspondence between Church authorities must not fall in the hands of unauthorized persons. Whom we are pleasing by such acts, beside self-proclaimed petit leaders?
All Assyrians were hoping that some fruitful decisions were to be made during the synod meeting in Chicago, IL. No more abashing TV shows. Every bishop has different vision about our Nation. But unfortunately it turned out to the worst.
We must also remember that no single group or single person can have monopoly on The Church No outsider should monopolize The Assyrian Church. The correspondence between His Holiness and the Bishops must be confidential. How come every individual has a copy of the confidential correspondence? Such decisions were urgently needed to be taken at that Synod meeting. But unfortunately it was unsuccessful.
I myself am a strong Assyrian Nationalist but looking at the situation of today in Iraq we should have compromised. To me when one compromises one looses. But we had no choice to gain a safe haven in what is an Assyrian enclave.
I Support Mar Bawai
Shalim Shabbas Tatar
I support every step and measure that His Grace Mar Bawai Soro is taking concerning our church of the East and his actions. Thank you for the great job you are doing.
Thank you for your informative article about the Mar Bawai Soro and his personal crusade about corruption in the Church and his love for his nation. All I can say may God bless him and people like him for taking on the Church Mafia. If Mar Bawai Soro loses this battle, we all will loss. We have to support him anyway we can. I am sure he speaks the truth. This is our fight, crusade and survival. For centuries we were run by corrupt self-centered, cheater and liar leaders. It is good to see there is a revolution in the Church and the public. Our people have become courageous, smart, and demand accountability. I support him anyway I can.
Are Churches in Iran and Russia Inferior?
Youel A Baaba
The 10th Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East held in Chicago between 10/31/05 and 11/7/05 has decided that His Grace Mar Bawai Soro, Bishop of Western California has broken the canons of the Holy Synod and therefore, he has been suspended for not selecting one of the three alternatives offered to him.
The Rise and Fall of the Assyrian Democratic Movement: Is it Too Early to Write the Epithet?
Jonathan S. Davidson, M.D.
The Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) gained international prominence by presenting itself as the champion of the Assyrian people in northern Iraq. Imposition of the no fly zone allowed for further growth and expansion of it’s activity. A fundamental decision by ADM sought to replace the AUA and other prominent Assyrian organizations as brokers of fund raising activity. Creation of the Assyrian Aid Society allowed ADM leadership to effectively compete for sources of fundraising. Infiltration of the Assyrian American National Federation and the eventual recent takeover was an additional step in completely dominating the Assyrian political spectrum.
The ADM political platform forged by the necessities of the Assyrian demographics and Iraqi political and security environment, was exported to the international Assyrian community. This proved to be a grave error in retrospect. Alienation of many sectors of the Assyrian community by the use of a combined name allowed media outlets to destroy the credibility of the ADM. The ADM has not been able to mount a credible defense of it’s position in part secondary to use of mediocre and ineffectual TV personalities.
Pervasive criticism of the combined name in the Assyrian satellite programs made support of the ADM platform by other groups a risky proposition. Growing arrogance of the ADM increased hostility towards it’s leadership and membership in the media. Non secular Assyrian organizations, among others, viewed the rapid expansion of ADM fundraising activity and political power as a threat. It became evident that the ADM sought to dominate all aspects of Assyrian political , nationalistic and financial activity.
A significant milestone in the growth of ADM has been the recruitment of our most educated bishop (’The Bishop’) . Use of the Bishop by ADM afforded it the possibility of influencing the loyal followers of the church. The ‘trial balloon’ of the combined name was championed by The Bishop and initially supported by the Patriarch through his silence. The backlash against of the combined name made further support by the Patriarch not feasible. Collapse of the negotiations with the other church required The Bishop to express his unwavering loyalty to the Patriarch and the church doctrine.
Greece Not Voting?
I've lived in Greece for a long time as are many other Iraqi people abroad. I am Assyrian and there are many Assyrians here, including the office of Zawaa. But unfortunately we were not able to vote vote before. I read in newspapers that they have included all the countries for election except Greece.
I wonder why that is, because we do not belong to Iraq or that we came from another land? I hope my voice can do something. Greece was the first country that had democracy before Sweden, Holland, or etc. So where do we from Iraq stand on this? Does this mean our voice is gone for ever?
For specific information on Iraqi elections and Out-of-Country voting visit the following links:
Link to AINA
I am very happy and proud of Zinda Magazine. You and your staff abide by the integrity of fair and balanced journalism. However, it is sad that you have a link to the AINA forum, where, recently, certain viewpoints on Mar Bawai posts have been censored. I have posted a variety of posts along with friends on AINA in regarding the truths and of Mar Bawai and his various positive accomplishments and they all have been deleted. After a no response from the Admin, I am asking you to investigate the fairness of a forum whose mission is to harbor the thoughts of Assyrians. I understand that personal attacks and other degrading behavior and language should be censored, but when those types of posts are not deleted and innocent viewpoints are, I can only urge you to reconsider your link with to such a forum.
You should only direct your viewers to honest sites like yourself, not one where their ideas can be censored. So it seems that only one side is being presented at AINA forum, but, in reality, I am wondering how many others have posted a different viewpoint that also have been censored.
Thank your for your time and understanding.
Praises for Zinda Magazine
You are doing a wonderful job by getting the truth to everyone around the world in a very short time. Please continue on your path and God will be with you along your way.
Sargon a Odishoo
Until majority of the Assyrians elect a proper leadership to form an international Congress to create an Assyrian provisional government and to make decision on behalf of Assyrian nation, every self-made supposed leader will put Assyrian people in extreme danger. Nobody has been authorized to speak or have meeting or have a shady deal with any non-Assyrian leader in Mesopotamia.
Our present media initiated this secret mission. Until now nobody dared to take any step. Dignified Zinda and other media, also the majority of the real sons and daughters of Ashur will help to accomplish this to bring about the Assyrian provisional government.
zCrew, you are great!
Words enough cannot explain the motives behind this simple way of expressing our gratitude and appreciation for the noble, holy and enlightening news that Zinda Magazine is floating our homes. Your magazine has contributed, beyond any human ability, to focus on the real issues confronting the Assyrian National interest, today. You have been able and successful, thru your intelligent wisdom, to open the eyes of many people who were unfortunately swept away, only because of their firm and blind focus on their religious faith. Today, people are enjoying this " New beginning of our dark end" despite the upheaval created by the Assyrian Church Synod decision.
Assyrian Culture on UC-Berkeley Campus
On Friday December 2nd, 2005, there will be a Middle Eastern culture night at the MultiCultural Center on the UC Berkeley campus. Groups participating include:
Assyrian Student Alliance
There will be plenty of music, dance, poetry, and other performances.
The event will be from 7 pm to 9 pm or so. The MultiCultural Center is located in the MLK Student Union Building on the corner of Telegraph and Bancroft.
If anyone needs directions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Film Documentary "The Last Assyrians" on Polish TV
Francja, 2004, 53 min
Asyryjczycy walczą o zachowanie swoich tradycji i tożsamości narodowej. Czy nie mając własnego państwa mogą ocalić wiekowe zwyczaje?
Asyryjczycy są potomkami semickich plemion, które tysiące lat temu osiedliły się w Mezopotamii. Ich językiem jest aramejski. Są chrześcijanami. Uznają zwierzchnictwo papieża, ale tworzą własną społeczność religijną. Od wieków nie mają swojego państwa - żyją rozproszeni po Azji Mniejszej. W XX wieku setki tysięcy Asyryjczyków wyjechały na Zachód z powodu prześladowań - tureckich rzezi z początku ubiegłego stulecia i wrogości fundamentalistów islamskich. W Iraku, mimo trudności wciąż żyje prawie milion Asyryjczyków. Mają nawet swoją partię. Czy nie jest jednak za późno na ratowanie mającej tysiące lat tradycji?
Film od lat siedmiu
Film z cyklu: NASZA PLANETA
20 November, Speeches of Mar Meelis & Mar Narsai
The following is a report on the speeches of His Grace Bishop Mar Meelis Zia, Bishop of Australia and New Zealand and His Lordship Mar Narsai De Baz, Metropolitan of Lebanon and European presented on Sunday, 20 November 2005 at the Hall of Mar Zia Church in Modesto, California. The speeches were transcribed from Syriac by Mr. Fred Aprim for Zinda Magazine.
Mar Meelis' Speech
His Grace Mar Meelis began by reading the decision of the October 31 to November 7, 2005 Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East. He read all the decisions in its entirety, with the exception of decision item 6 about the complicated Church's Christological beliefs, teachings, etc. Here he read and explained a small section of it in which it deals with the Holy Communion and how the doors of the Church of the East have been always open to all Christians, even non-Church of the East members. Then he talked about the relationship between the Assyrian Church of the East and Roman Catholic Church. He stated that the process of dialogue between the Assyrians Church of the East and Roman Catholic Church began in 1984 and resulted in signing the Christological Declaration in 1994 between the Pope and Mar Dinkha. This was phase one of this long process. The second phase was about the Seven Sacraments of the two churches. If we had signed phase two, that would have meant that we were proceeding to phase three, which is about the Church laws and church leadership and the acceptance of the Pope's leadership. Mar Meelis stated but we received a letter on November 21, 2003 from the Pontical Counsel for Promoting Christian Unity, in which we were informed that the Church's stand must be clear before signing the second phase. The letter explained that singing phase two meant proceeding to phase three and recognizing the leadership of the Pope. Therefore, we decided not to sign phase two. If there was no such condition, we were ready to sign phase two.
Next, Mar Meelis read the Synod letter of suspension delivered to Mar Bawai in its entirety.
Finally, Mar Meelis came to the letter of response by Mar Bawai to the Synod. He stated that the response of Mar Bawai was similar to his previous two letters but the tone is bitterer. He stated that the response was seven pages long, and that he was going to read only few parts of it. The parts that Mar Meelis read where the followings:
Mar Bawai states that His Holiness did not maintain the church procedures during his visit to San Jose. Knowing about the uneasiness, he visited those who are against the bishop and he did not allow having a priest to accompany him as it is the church practice and as he practices in others dioceses. He also had meetings with the church priests without informing me and he spoke to them against me and my working style. Was not this an effort to plant division among the priests and their bishop? Where is the legality when the Patriarch visits and meets with those who are against the bishop and without the latter’s knowledge? Is it not the Patriarch intention to destroy Mar Bawai’s diocese and allow him to appear incompetent and lose his respect among the followers of the church. These are the unlawful activities that the Holy Synod should have addressed and studied. Not wasted its time with peripheral items and creating blame and accusations about a bishop who is trying to awaken the leaders of the church from the slumber that they have the church fallen in.
Then Mar Meelis moved to the issue where Mar Bawai talked about what occurred with our brothers of the Ancient Church (Old Calendar), first you declared that their ordination in not valid, and you dare to say that they are excommunicated and whoever associates with them is excommunicated. You issued a decree stating that their Holy Qurbana, Baptism, and Marriage Services are unacceptable and unlawful. However, when you were obliged to obtain their recognition of you, again you reversed your decision and threat and told them, Let us forget what has happened, there is no difference between us and whatever you have is lawful.
Mar Meelis stated that the Church of the East did not make such official declaration and that the Church of the East is happy to have made the statement that the Church of the East agrees with the Ancient Church of the East and that it was ready to forget what had happened in the past.
Then Mar Meelis read Mar Bawai's conclusion when he wrote that this decision is unlawful according to the Holy Canons (Sunhadus) and it is not truthful and I reject it. Because the sole purpose of this decision is to distance me from the front and from true church endeavors, so that the front is left open and unguarded for you so that you may be free to crush under your feet the church canons and the unity of our people spiritually and patriotically as you have done so far.
Before Mar Meelis continued farther, he stated that he was asked to read the following. Mar Dinkha asked Mar Bawai three times if the church properties were under the Church of the East and three times Mar Bawai said yes, it is under the Church of the East name. Mar Dinkha asked are you sure. Mar Bawai replied of course. Then Mar Meelis said but we sorry because that is not the case, Mar Bawai only claims so.
Then Mar Meelis concludes with Mar Bawai statement that for the benefit of all hierarchy members whoever they may be, the priests, deacons, or individuals, I wish to inform you do not dare to come to come to Mar Yosip parish or others properties that are under my administration in the hope of possessing these churches and their properties. They shall be refused entry by the city police and the FBI agents any day and any service that may take place in the parish. These agents will be in the churches to guard the safety and protect the faithful from those who will attempt to create disturbances in the churches under my administration. And if there is one who thinks that he may repossess the properties of our churches, I have one piece of advice for him. For the safety of everyone and overall peace in the community, go to the courts and file your claim. There the case will be debated and judged in a civilized and lawful manner. Otherwise, we hold the Patriarch, and the hierarchy members and the opponents here in San Jose responsible for whatever happens.
Mar Meelis concludes by stating that by the orders of Mar Dinkha and the Holy Synod we need to clarify that every inch, every stone, and every building is owned by the Assyrian Church of the East. If there is someone who thinks that the property of the Assyrian Church of the East can be taken away from the sons and daughters of the Church, that person is wrong. Therefore, officially, the Assyrian Church of the East will take legal action next week in order to solve the problem in civil way. We will never bring police in our churches. America gives the rights to every oppressed person and if the Church is oppressed, regarding its properties, the Assyrian Church of the East will take legal action to return its properties to the sons and daughters of the Church.
Mar Narsai's Speech
Two things prevented this writer from having the complete speech transcribed and translated to English. The first was when the only person recording the event had to stop recording and replace the tape with a new one. Here, part of the speech was lost. The second was because the video that was presented on AssyriaSat was not shown in its entirety. They began to show the event on Sunday evening at around 6:00 p.m. and had to stop at 8:00 p.m. to return to their regular programming while Mar Narsai was still speaking; therefore, I did not have a chance to view the rest of Mar Narsai's speech.
His Lordship Mar Narsai opened his speech by expressing his joy for spending Sunday with everybody who attended the holy mass. He then stated that we can only beat evilness through good deeds. He stated that he is sorry that the current situation is dictating that we as a small and oppressed nation, who belong to a church that has been crushed for 2000 years, still are unable to rid ourselves from sufferings, division, illnesses, doubts, and disputes. Nevertheless, do not worry, continued Mar Narsai, God created man free. Satan is always present and we must arm ourselves with strong beliefs and good deeds to face Satan. We could defeat Satan only when we keep our belief strong and this could be accomplished through listening to our Church, guard and respect Church laws, and fulfilling and preserving liturgy and sacraments.
Mar Narsai stated next that our forefathers have for 2000 years withstood the waves that crashed on the shores of the Church of the East. They have withstood all the hardships and sufferings that faced them until today. The Church of the East has been called the Church of martyrs; it has given millions of martyrs for the glory and honor of Jesus Christ. During the Persian Empire era, the most prominent educators were members of the Church of the East.
Mar Narsai stressed passionately that we will not change the belief of the Church of the East under any price, including life. He added that there is not a single home among the Assyrians that have not given a martyr for this church. He added: "You are all the grandsons, grand-grandsons, granddaughters, and grand-granddaughters of martyrs, it is our predecessors who died for this nation and church."
He stated that we will envy no one. I have been blamed for saying: "If there were no Assyrians in paradise, then I would not want to go there. Today, I would say as well that if the Church of the East is not in paradise, then I do not want to be in paradise." He stated that the Church of the East has never closed its doors in the face of any Christian. It never denied service to any Christian simply because he is not a member of the Church of the East. The Church never told anyone that since you are not a member of the Church then your Christening is not acceptable with us and that we have to re-baptize you again before we wed you. You know why, asked Mar Narsai. Because the liturgy of those other churches is holy to us and we treat those liturgies as if they are ours. This Church will go ahead with these understandings until the second coming of Christ. However, we will not step down or give up on the leadership of this Church. Even if an angel came down from heaven and told us to do things that are contrary to what our forefathers have taught us, we will not listen.
For us, added Mar Narsai, the Sees of all heads of Churches starting with the Pope and all Orthodox churches, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox, are holy to us just as the See of the Church of the East is. This is the belief of the Patriarch and the entire synod of the Church of the East.
I want to tell you, added Mar Narsai, all political parties and civic institutions are dear to us and we respect them. We do not want any tarnish or stain to be set on them because any stain on them is a stain on us. We clergymen, as members of this nation, have the right to give them advise. It is our duty to tell our groups to work together, to take small steps sometimes so that no harm comes to our people, try to understand each other, and to devote to each other so that the name of our nation that has been kept beautiful and pure by our martyrs be preserved as such always. For us, explained Mar Narsai, every Assyrian is holy, just as the name the Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East is holy.
A Miracle in Babylon
This article was prepared by Compass Direct, an international news service designed to raise awareness of persecuted Christians. Due to political tensions in Iraq, the author's name was withheld to protect his identity.
Beneath the rubble of news about bombings, hostage-taking and political wrangling in Iraq lies a more positive picture of young evangelical churches.
In the northeast, Iraqi Kurdistan offers a haven for Christian activity as the two rival Kurdish governments grow in their toleration of Muslims becoming Christians. In the south, the evangelical church is growing rapidly.
In Baghdad, a total of 15 evangelical congregations have started since the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003. Officially, only two evangelical churches-both Presbyterian and led by Egyptian nationals-existed in the capital during Hussein's rule. Now there are Baptists, Methodists, and Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) congregations, all led by local Iraqi pastors.
“The people are open like never before,” says Ghassan Thomas, pastor of a CMA church in Baghdad. “It is because we have no peace. This is how we connect our message to the nation: I preach on the topic, 'How do we get peace?' and everyone listens, especially when I talk about the deeper peace that Christ brings.” Most of the members of the new churches come from the Presbyterian Church, and some come from historic Christian denominations such as the Chaldean Catholic or Syrian Orthodox, which have been in Iraq for centuries.
“Muslims, too, want peace,” Thomas says. “Many of them are frightened. When the hostages are killed, often a Quranic verse is used to justify it. So many Muslims are scared of their own god. When we preach that God is love, it is so liberating to them.”
Southern Iraq is deemed too dangerous for foreign Christian workers. Most have pulled back to the more stable Iraqi Kurdistan. More than 4 million Kurds reside in this northern mountainous region, which has enjoyed autonomy since the first Gulf War in 1991.
Two Kurdish political factions control the area. Arbil is the main city of the domain of Massoud Barzani's Kurdish Democratic Party, and Sulemaniya is the power center of newly elected Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
In both regions Kurdish refugees are flooding back. There is little street crime, and authorities have severely curtailed the activities of Islamic extremists. This has brought much prosperity to the area, which many believe is one reason the respective administrations-in their courting of Western investment-have markedly improved their defense of religious freedom.
“The last 10 years have been a golden time here, and it is set to continue with Talabani becoming president,” says Yousif Matty, a leading pastor of the Kurdish Evangelical Church, a denomination in the north comprising Kurdish and Arabic Christians. “He has been very strong on emphasizing the rule of law. Also, the Kurds have suffered at the hands of Islamists and have no love for them.”
Matty's churches have a few hundred members, from both Muslim and Christian backgrounds. He runs four bookshops, two schools and other projects, and he received a $500,000 plot of land from the government to build his church. The government has also welcomed other Christian nongovernmental organizations. The other evangelical denomination in the north is the Kurdish Language Evangelical Church, which is exclusively Kurdish-speaking and made up primarily of Kurds.
“There is always persecution from the family when a Muslim becomes a Christian,” says the Kurdish pastor of one fellowship in Arbil. “That will not change any time soon, but it used to be that the new convert would face persecution from the state also, yet this is less true today.”
The influence of the Kurds, who represent 25 percent of the Iraqi population, is important to the future of the country. President Talabani has less power than the Shiite prime minister, but some Christian leaders believe the best bulwark against a strongly Islamic Constitution may be the influence of the Kurds.
Though Sunni Muslims, the Kurdish people are one of the least observant groups in the Middle East. They were expected to oppose the Arabs, whom they believe have humiliated them for decades. Last summer, Nestorian Bishop Issac of Dohuk correctly predicted the Kurds would keep the constitution from becoming too Islamic.
“'Shariah' is really Arabic, and the Kurds will resist all attempts to Arabize the culture of Iraq,” Issac says. “If we go the Shariah route, it will be like in Iran where our [Nestorian] church is less than 10 percent of the strength it was before [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini took power.”
Another point of light for the Iraqi church is that many of the 40,000 or so Christians who fled after a spate of bombings in August 2004 have returned to the country. Yet the numbers of those still in refugee camps in Jordan and Syria remain significant-perhaps 10,000, though precise figures are not available.
“It's not the end of the world that so many Christians have fled, because it has spread the Iraqi church over the world,” Issac says, “and the new communities established in America and Australia are providing many resources we would not have received if we had all remained in the land.”
The news is not all positive, of course. Iraq remains a country in crisis. At a recent conference for 70 Iraqi pastors, all had to travel early in the morning to avoid trouble on the roads. And although they stressed that the streets gradually have become safer since the beginning of the year, church meetings throughout the south are held at 4:30 in the afternoon-with everyone at home behind locked doors by 7:30 p.m. for fear of insurgent and looting activity.
Law and order still has not been adequately restored, nor have basic services. Patience has run out with U.S. and British forces' failure to restore stability after two years in the country.
“No population will support an army that cannot protect it,” one pastor says. “The goodwill has completely gone.”
Middle-class Christians are also continuing to emigrate in alarming numbers, as those in key professions such as medicine are targets of kidnapping and extortion. This exodus has decimated some newer evangelical churches.
Strife From Within
The Iraqi churches also face internal challenges. Some priests from the historic churches have bullied the new evangelicals. In Baghdad, a priest from the Chaldean Catholics told those who had left his church to attend Baptist services: “We will not bury your relatives who attend our churches.” Some leaders of the older church denominations have slandered evangelical congregations as “part of a Jewish conspiracy to control Iraq.”
Also, though the evangelicals are skilled in evangelism, the church is young and immature. “Our outreach activity is so much stronger than the disciplining function of the church,” Matty warns. “We have radio outreach, schools, bookshops, but the church itself is not concentrating in deepening its life, nor are the leaders getting trained enough.”
Some church leaders see the splitting of the evangelical churches into so many new-and often foreign-backed-denominations as an indication of disunity. And not all missionary aid is well-spent. Some pastors have used foreign support to buy expensive cars and upgrade their lifestyles, leading to envy among other pastors.
Yet for all these challenges, the mood among 70 evangelical pastors meeting in April was guardedly optimistic. A pastor of one of the three Baptist congregations in Baghdad, who did not wish to be named, forecast three trends.
“One, the evangelical church will grow stronger, but many of its numbers will leave,” the pastor says. “However that's not so bad. They will probably come back with more teaching and maturity, and it will benefit the church in the long term.
“Two, the historic churches will get even more negative. I see them as the major persecutor of the evangelicals in the future. It is as it always was.
“I am translating a book called The Trial of Blood, which calculates that the institutional churches killed 50 million Christians from 315 to 1570.
“Three, the Islamic extremists will moderate, though it may take a generation.”
Yet even when conflicts are at their sharpest, there are hopeful signs. Pastor Thomas from the CMA church in Baghdad tells of an incident that occurred when he received death threats written on cardboard after erecting a sign outside his church that said, “Jesus is the Light of the World.”
On the cardboard was scrawled: “Jesus is not the light of the world. Allah is, and you have been warned.” It was signed, “the Islamic Shiite Party.”
Thomas loaded up a van full of children's gifts from a Christian relief agency, together with some Bibles and medicines, and drove to the headquarters of the Islamic Shiite Party. When he came to the compound, he demanded to “see the big sheikh, I have gifts for him.”
He was taken to meet the leader, and he introduced himself as a pastor.
“We respect you,” the sheikh said.
Thomas said, “Christians have love for you, because God is love, our God is a God of love.”
Again the sheikh replied: “We respect your God. We respect Jesus.”
This was the opening Thomas had been praying for. He said, “If you respect Jesus, would you let me read you His words?” He took out his Bible and read the words of Jesus from John 8, “I am the light of the world.” Then he brought out the cardboard with the death threat.
The sheikh read it and looked ashamed. After a brief pause, he said: “We are sorry. This will not happen again. You are my brother. If anyone comes to kill you, it will be my neck first.” The sheikh even attended Thomas' ordination as the pastor.
“No one is expecting the situation to improve for the better quickly,” Thomas says, “but we believe that God is moving in these times and that the future will be more peaceful, especially if Christians will befriend good Muslims and work together.” ?
The Church of the Forgotten
Christians have worshiped in Iraq for hundreds of years, but their suffering has been overlooked by the world.
Though reports of church growth in Iraq have begun to surface only recently, Christians have been living in the region for centuries. Centered in northern Iraq, in the land once known as Nineveh, the Assyrian Church is one of the oldest Christian communities in the history of the faith. No stranger to difficulty and persecution-most recently during the pernicious rule of Saddam Hussein-the Assyrian Church is once again in dire straits.
Although the Assyrians and other minorities in northern Iraq praised the capture of Hussein by U.S. and allied forces, those groups have been leaving the country in droves. According to a recent statement issued by the Religious Freedom Coalition, in the last year more than 60,000 Assyrians and other minorities have fled Iraq. Those who remained are being subjected to increasing pressure and persecution.
A chief source of frustration is the inequitable distribution of reconstruction funds and resources. Michael Youash, executive director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project, says these funds are being distributed through Kurdish authorities to the detriment of Assyrians and other non-Muslim minorities. He says even basic infrastructures such as electricity and water are being selectively disbursed based on religious and political grounds, leaving non-Muslim areas virtually uninhabitable.
The Assyrians and other minorities also feel disenchanted with the new regime. The Assyrian International News Agency, www.aina.org, is reporting that voter fraud and irregularities in the most recent elections resulted in the massive disenfranchisement of the Christian electorate.
Perhaps the most critical issue currently facing the Assyrian Church and non-Muslim minorities, however, is the looming specter of an Islamic Republic of Iraq. This fall, a critical vote was to be taken on Iraq's new constitution. At press time, controversy surrounded Article 7, which read, “Islam is the official religion of the State.”
Under Hussein's regime the country remained largely secular. Observers feared the push for Islamic rule was being fueled by outside extremists who received monetary support from international sources dedicated to the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. In July, grave reports already were surfacing of Christian persecution at the hands of Islamic extremists, including intimidation, kidnapping, church burnings and murder.
Internally, the push to institute Islam is coming from the new leadership, many of whom returned to Iraq after the liberation and are characterized as out of touch with Iraqi people. Iraq's new prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaffari has been quoted as saying, “If we do not put Islam as the religion of the state, the people would revolt!” This despite evidence that the Iraqi people themselves desire a secular state.
There is some hope that the new constitution will grant the Assyrians some level of autonomous governance. Yet many are concerned that a premature withdrawal by American forces might leave them in the lurch.
“We are extremely grateful for what the Americans did,” says Ken Joseph Jr. of AssyrianChristians.com, “but 1,500-plus American heroes did not give their lives to create the Islamic Republic of Iraq.”
Meanwhile, Assyrian believers say they are facing a challenge from Christian organizations which, instead of empowering and equipping the indigenous church, are eroding its base by establishing new churches from existing congregations.
In the end, Joseph says, “One of the key indicators of a country's health is its ability to protect and preserve its minorities.” In this respect, the plight of the Assyrian church and other non-Muslim minorities should be a sign of great concern.
Rick Shadrach Lazar and Montuno Police
Rick Shadrach Lazar has won the Percussionist of the Year title in the inaugural National Jazz Awards for 2002 and was voted Percussionist of the Year in 2000, 1999, 1997 and 1996 by Jazz Report magazine. He has released 3 CDs with his own group Montuno Police:
• Bang, 1990.
Rick is also the creator and artistic director of Samba Squad, a sizzling group of 40 percussionists, forging new traditions in Brazilian " batucada." Samba Squad's first self-titled CD, which Rick wrote, arranged and produced, won the UMAC (Urban Music Association of Canada) Award for Best World Music recording in 2001.
"Tear-Down-da-House Percussion Posse" Samba Squad is known for the energy and vitality of its live shows built on urban grooves from the Very Now.
Canadian born Lazar descends from the ancient Assyrian people & his Middle Eastern musical roots can be heard in his Afro-Latin-Brazilian-Arabic-New World Fusions. Rick received his first musical instruction in his hometown, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, from his father who gave him lessons on piano and woodwinds. In high school, Rick got seriously into drums and percussion and soon co-led the most popular band in town with his good friend Paul Shaffer of David Letterman fame.
After getting his B.A. (History major) from Lakehead University, Rick studied percussion at Indiana University's famed school of music and soon found himself in I.U.'s renowned University Jazz Band led by David Baker, which included Peter Erskine on drums. After university, Rick played with innovative funk and fusion groups in the mid-west, as well as touring the U.S. as percussionist with Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra.
Returning to Canada, Rick established himself in Toronto, performing with jazz fusion band, Manteca, and doing a variety of record dates, film sessions and jingles. In the early 80's, Rick formed Coconut Groove, a high-energy dance band featuring ground-breaking "World Beat & Jazz Rap" . This exciting group was a pivotal force on the Toronto music scene and its creative influences can still be heard today.
In 1987, Rick formed the Montuno Police, a six piece instrumental band which combines strong original compositions, wicked grooves, and creative interplay -Global Jazz from the Cutting Edge. MP has wowed audiences in appearances at the Du Maurier International Jazz Festivals -Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. Montuno Police is currently recording their fourth CD which will be released in the fall of 2002.
In 1990, Lazar began his musical association with Loreena Mckennitt. Since then he has become a regular collaborator, adding his musical talents to five of her C.D.'s [including Juno award winner "The Visit"], and "Book of Secrets," which was No.#1 on Billboard's World Music Charts. He has been an integral part of the musical group that accompanies her on her world tours.
Rick has worked/recorded with such artists as Bruce Cockburn, Barry White, Paul Shaffer, Brian Hughes, Andy Milne, Blues Brothers, Vuja De, Moe Koffman, Lee Puyming, George Gao (China Tour, Spring 2002), Jesse Cook, Jane Bunnett and Levon Ichkhanian. See Discography.
Having established a reputation as a clinician by giving informative and exciting workshops in world music drumming styles (Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and Arabic), Lazar became a music educator in 1996 when he joined the percussion faculty at the Humber College of Music in Toronto as an instructor, leading Latin Music Ensemblesand giving private lessons.
In 2002 Lazar began teaching at YORK UNIVERSITY.He gives private lessons in Global Rythms as applied to hand -drums and Drum Set and also leads the York University Escola De Samba.
One of his strengths is his versatility and in Toronto, Rick is kept busy with his involvement in a variety of innovative projects: Global jazz with his own Montuno Police . Brazilian batucada with his own Samba Squad, alternative Arabic music with Mernie Orchestra (Miriam Hassan and Ernie Tollar), Medina and Levon Ichkhanian, and Afro-Cuban Bata and
Rick's knowledge of world drums and music combines with his passionate energy to create a unique percussionist who is first call for a diverse array of artists.
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