|Calling All Summer Meetings To Order||Wilfred Bet-Alkhas (Editor)|
|Church of the East Mission to India||Mar Aprem Metropolitan|
Mar Dinkha, Be A True Leader!
Ashur TV Staff
|A Pedestal of Rule, Not of Passion!||Ivan Kakovitch|
|Sardanapal Asaad||Zinda Magazine|
Calling All Summer Meetings To Order
Summer of 6755 will be known as the season of Assyrian international meetings and conferences. Beginning with next week's Assyrian Democratic Movement's North American Chapters' meeting in Detroit, Michigan we should expect the release of several official statements between now and September when all friends and foes come together in Boston for the annual Assyrian American National Convention. What we should not hold our breath for in anticipation are attempts to unify major political blocks and meaningful resolutions conveying a concrete policy in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. Instead the election of new leaders will set the agenda in Detroit, London, and north Iraq.
Two major political groups will be holding their "congress" this summer: the Assyrian Universal Alliance in London and the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Iraq, most probably in a northern city away from the insurgents' attacks in Baghdad. The ADM meeting next weekend is a preparatory gathering of the leadership in the diaspora prior to the gathering in Iraq.
Two weeks ago the Assyrian National Organization, led by Mr. Ishaya Isho, the Patriotic Stream of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the Assyrian Students & Youth Union, and some independent Assyrian activists met in Baghdad and formed a preparatory committee to organize the 'Assyrian National Conference' scheduled to take place in mid-July 2005 (see flyer in this issue). Committee members include Mr. Ishaya Isho, Mr. Nimrod Shiba, and Mr. Sargon Stephan. Mr. Isho is holding a political rally on 23 May to discuss the plans and purpose of this conference. To date no major political party has plans to attend this conference.
The Assyrian Democratic Movement-Patriotic Stream should not be mistaken with the 'classic' variety or the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa). The 'sugar-free version' was formed by a few former Zowaa members who split from the ADM claiming that the current ADM leadership has digressed from the original intent of the 1979 founders and idles its precious time cozying up to the Kurdish warlords. In the past these strong allegations have been skillfully adopted by ADM foes on AssyriaSat television program to sugar-coat their malicious attacks.
The major decision to be taken at the congress of the ADM in Iraq and AUA in London is the election of the next Secretary Generals. Zinda Magazine has learned that the general consensus among both groups is to introduce new leaders that could increase the international presence of their parties while focusing on the role of their groups in the emerging free Iraqi society. In short, Mr. Yonadam Kanna and former Senator John Nimrod will be asked to step down and allow a new blood flow through the collapsed veins of both organizations.
Political parties are successful on the basis of how well their leaders lead and how well their followers follow. In the case of AUA, Mr. Nimrod has greatly lost his followers' confidence in the effectiveness of his leadership. Even improving the performance of his staunch followers in California is not helping the man who brought Washington D.C. to the Assyrian political parties in the 1990's. Mr. Kanna in Baghdad continues to enjoy a cult following in the diaspora and at home. Yet his bipolar views on the importance of establishing an administrative region for Assyrians in Iraq, the identity of the Syriac-speaking Christians of Iraq as Chaldo-Assyrians, and the involvement of other Assyrian groups in Iraqi politics has widened the bridge between himself and his critics in the ADM. A "Chaldean" alternative is preferred by the army of pro-ChaldoAssyrian identity in the U.S.
The choice of Detroit and London for the ADM-North America and AUA gatherings is noteworthy. The Assyrian Democratic Movement in the U.S. has become the engine of identity change in the diaspora propelling Assyrians' acceptance of a 'Chaldo-Assyrian' identity, even outside of Iraq. Detroit, where the majority of the Chaldean-Assyrians outside of Iraq reside, is ideal for the final arrangements prior to the big show in Iraq. Sources to Zinda Magazine explain that behind-the-door discussions on the possible changing of the name of the group to reflect the new Chaldo-Assyrian reality are underway. Mr. Kanna, as it may surprise some readers, stands against such a drastic change. Detroit is also the homebase of the current head of ADM in North America, the residence of Mr. Yousip Shikwana.
At the end of this month the Executive Committee of the Assyrian American National Federation will be holding its quarterly meeting at California's State Convention. A motion to withdraw the AANF from membership in the Assyrian Universal Alliance is expected at this meeting. A final vote will be cast in Boston. The loss of AANF will be a major catastrophe for the Assyrian Universal Alliance and a huge gain for the ADM supporters who helped elect Mr. Aladin Khamis to AANF president to help seal the fate of the AUA in America.
Understandably, the AUA members are struggling to find a replacement for Mr. Nimrod, preferably one who speaks Arabic and has extensive background in the internal politics of Iraq. Zinda Magazine has learned that their trembling fingers are these days pointing to Kalamazoo, Michigan where Dr. Emanuel Kamber is quietly considering the gravity of the current situation. Europe and London in particular is the stronghold of Dr. Kamber's supporters, a perfect English setting for an afternoon of attention-grabbing elections.
The Assyrian nation is facing serious crisis in Iraq and abroad. It is called the public apathy. In the Assyrian politics, chairmen and secretary generals have the ultimate authority and responsibility for the actions of their groups. Therefore, for a sustainably successful party platform (if there exists one) the public must hold every current and new leader accountable for their actions. In fact the public must begin to embrace a sense of "shared leadership" as a new way of interacting with their leaders. More responsible followers and more follower-friendly leaders will hopefully be the outcome of this summer's meetings across North America, Europe, and Iraq.
Church of the East Mission to India
Mar Aprem Metropolitan
Some historians are not convinced, because there are no written documents or coins depicting the picture of St. Thomas. One thing is certain: ever since the discovery of the monsoon winds, the land and sea routes were open from the Mediterranean via the Persian Gulf to India and there were indeed intense contacts between these areas. Nothing excludes that the Apostle could reach India on the board of a sail ship. So while what tradition says contains no impossibility, it is the main formative element of the identity of a large and flourishing (at present between seven and eight million-strong) Eastern Christian community.
In Urmia, in northern Iran, there is a strong tradition that St. Thomas preached there. There is a lake there, where, according to the oral tradition, St.Thomas performed a miracle throwing the water and making it stay in the air. The same tradition also exists about a pond in Palayur, near Trichur, Kerala. The identity of the two traditions is, in a way, another testimony to the connection between Persia and India from the early centuries of the Christian era.
There is also a North Indian tradition regarding the missionary labours of St. Thomas. It is based on the first chapter of the Acts of Judas Thomas, one of the New Testament apocrypha. According to this book, the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem to cast lots, in order to determine to which place each apostle should go for missionary labours. India was the place allotted for Thomas. He was unwilling to go. Then the Lord Jesus Christ told him to go to India without fear.
The king's brother, Gad, died. When he went to heaven he saw the palace built by Thomas. He was revived to tell his brother, the king, about the palace he had seen in Heaven. Immediately, the king released Thomas and was baptized a Christian. Many of his people also were converted to Christianity. The archaeological evidence is in favour of the existence of a King named Gundaphorus. After the end of the Maurya empire and before the rise of the Kushan dynasty in Punjab, Gundaphorus ruled North India. He came to the throne in 16 AD and ruled up to 45 AD. That tradition says St. Thomas worked in Punjab and other parts of North India.
The North Indian tradition does not rule out the possibility of the tradition of South India. The Apostle could have come to the South after he worked in the North. Still, the South Indian tradition is stronger, because there is a strong Christian community in existence today. However, in North India, the strength of the Christian community dwindled. In the North the early Christian communities have disappeared.
In many ancient sources there are references to the existence of Christianity in India from early centuries. The Doctrine of the Apostles (ca. 250 AD) locates the mission of St.Thomas to India. St. Ephraem the Syrian (Mar Aprem: 306-373 AD) has references to India. St Jerome, another great Church Father of the 4th century, refers to St.Thomas in India. Gregory of Nazianzus (397 AD), Paulinus of Nola (353-431 AD), Gaudentius of Brescia (410 AD), St. John Chrysostom (349-407 AD) and Gregory, Bishop of Tours (538AD) are some of the early writers who referred to St.Thomas Christians in India.
A Syriac codex preserved in the Vatican archives, written in Cranganore in 1301 AD, refers to the Apostle Thomas as the founder of the Indian Church.
The existence of a community using Syriac as liturgical language, as well as the existence of the tomb of St. Thomas in Mylapore are two points strongly in favour of the South Indian tradition.
St. Thomas is believed to have landed in Cranganore on the southwest coast of India. Local traditions hold that St Thomas had built seven churches between 52 AD and 72 AD, which were in Cranganore, Quilon, Palur, Parur, Pallipuram(or Kokamangalam), Niranam and Nilakkal, also called Chayal. He is believed to have ordained priests from four famous Brahmin families namely Pakalomattam, Sankarapuri, Kalli and Kaliankal. Some modem scholars question the veracity of this statement on the basis of the argument that there were no Brahmins in South India at that time. However, this statement also needs appropriate documentation.
The martyrdom of St. Thomas has taken place at Chinna mala (Little Mount) in Mylapore near to the city known as Madras (now changed to Chennai). The name Mylapore means the city of peacocks. At present the place of his martyrdom and burial is controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. Pilgrims from all over the world visit this tomb. There are doubting Thomases who doubt the authenticity of the tomb of St. Thomas at Mylapore.
---The lure of spices attracted traders from the Middle East and Europe to many trading ports, Calicut, Cranganore, Cochin, Aleppey and Quilon long before the time of Christ and it was on trading vessel plying between Alexandria and
According to another tradition, in 345 AD, Thomas of Cana, a rich Syrian merchant from Persia, also landed in Cranganore, accompanied by seventy families. Their descendants, the endogamous Knanaya community, boast of having preserved pure Syrian blood. Thomas of Cana and the bishops who accompanied him found the indigenous Indian community in spiritual need and distress, which they healed by establishing a permanent contact with the Syrian Church. So, if we are to believe tradition, ever since Thomas of Cana, the Malabar Church, consisting of an Indian and a Syrian component, ecclesiastically and culturally belonged to the Syrian Christian world.
At present the ethnic Syrian Knanaya community numbers more than a quarter of a million people. Half of them belong to the Roman Catholics, known as the Syro-Malabar Church, in a separate diocese known as the Kottayam diocese. Even the Knanaya Catholic churches in America are administered by the bishop of the Kottayam diocese. The members ofthis church are not allowed to marry Syro-Malabar Christians belonging to other dioceses. This is an East Syrian Church, which uses the liturgy of Mar Addai and Mar Mari.
The second half of this Knanaya community, tracing its origin back to the immigration of the merchant Knai Thoma in 345 AD, is a Syrian Orthodox diocese. They also do not intermarry with other members of the Syrian Orthodox community. They use the liturgy of St James. That is a western Syriac Church. In simple words the difference between these two groups of the Knanaya community is that their bishop in the Syro-Malabar is known by the title Mar, while the Syrian Orthodox Knanaya bishop will be Mor. A becomes 0 in Western Syriac.
A second Syrian immigration took place around 823 AD. Mar Sapor and Mar Prot are the two saints who led this immigration. Their feast is on May 19th. We do not know much about this immigration.. It is believed that Mar Sapor and Mar Prot were bearded bishops. There are speculations about these two names. Some scholars think that Sapor is a Persian name. Prot can be Aphraat or Pheroz, another Semitic name. Some merchants came with them to Quilon , which was a commercial centre.
Some copper plates were given by the local ruler Stanu Ravi Varma to the new immigrant community under Mar Sapor and Mar Proto These copper plates contain the privileges granted to the Christians ofTharisa Pally. The inscriptions of these copper plates give us an idea about the special status of the Christian community of the 9th century. Quilon was the second prominent seaport of Kerala coast next only to Cranganore. The number of privileges inscribed on these copper plates is 72.
Privileges to lravikorthan
The King Veera Raghavan granted special privileges to a merchant named Iravikorthan. This document is now in the possession of the Indian Orthodox Church in Kottayam. Christians formed not only a mercantile community, but also a military group to assist the King in case of emergency. The Christians were equal to the advanced community. They may have been a minority community numerically, but in influence they were a strong community in the predominantly Hindu society.
The Villarvattam Dynasty
During the period between the 9th and 14th century there was a royal dynasty known as Villarvattam. There was a Christian King in this dynasty ruling one of the territories in Kerala. This tradition of the Christian King in Kerala is questioned by some students of history. At the end of the 15th century the Christians of Kerala were not strong enough. Even the local rulers did not favour the local Christians. That must have been a reason why the Syrian Christians in Kerala submitted to Vasco da Gama when he arrived in the Malabar coast in 1498 AD. The Christians used to enjoy certain honorific titles such as Tharaken, Muthalali, Panicker and Mappila..
The importing and copying of manuscripts to and in India became a normal phenomenon. The situation changed when the Portuguese arrived in Malabar. There are many manuscripts in Syriac language copied in Iraq and preserved in India. Although a lot of these Syriac manuscripts were burned, some have survived the fury of the Synod of Diamper held in 1599 A.D.
Trichur, Pampakuda, Mannanam, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Bangalore and other places have Syriac manuscripts. Most of these Syriac manuscripts were copied in the Syria-Iraq Mesopotamia area. Some were copied in Kerala. A Kashkol preserved in Trichur was copied in Kothamangalam in 1585 A.D. Although the colophon does not mention from which manuscript this book was copied in Kothamangalam in 1585 AD, it is believed that it was from some copy of the Kashkol written in Iraq.
There is unfortunately no record of the chronological history of the Church of the East in India until the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498 AD
Some Syriac words adopted in Malayalam language by transliteration are the following
Before Baghdad flourished as a centre of intellectual activity, there was a renowned School of Christian theological studies at Nisibis, opened in 489 as the heir to the former School of Edessa, considered to have been something like the first theological academy in Christendom. The eminent teachers of this school translated the works of Antiochian Doctors into Syriac and applied them in exegetical and theological investigations. It is said that students from the Church in India also attended the School of Nisibis.
Spread of Syriac in India
St. Thomas spoke the same language which Jesus spoke, namely Aramaic. During the first centuries of the Christian era, South India had commercial relations with Mesopotamia and other countries of the Middle East where Aramaic was spoken. Aramaic was the' Lingua Franca' of oriental Christianity. Language is not a mere vehicle of abstract ideas, it is really the authentic expression of a way of life, the living manifestation of a culture.
In a cross-cultural situation like the one in India, the use of the native language is very important for the effective communication of the gospel. Nevertheless, the St. Thomas Christians in India used East Syriac, which they considered an inestimable treasure and a hieratic language. The Christians in India were attached to this language, which was intimately connected with their faith.
The Church of the East's relationship with the Indian Church
According to the Malabar tradition, St. Thomas consecrated a certain Kepa as his successor and bishop. The same tradition holds that he ordained priests and deacons from several families and thus organized the church of Malabar before he left for Mylapore. Later, to carry out the ministry of the church, according to the tradition of the Church of the East there were the offices of metropolitan, bishop, archdeacon, corepiscopa, priests and deacons.
Some kind of relation between the Christians of India and the East Syrian Church existed from very early centuries in the church of the St. Thomas Christians in India, which is alleged to have had suffered, in the course of time, a decline. The common St Thomas-heritage, which Malabar church enjoyed along with churches such as Edessa and Seleucia-Ctesiphon brought them into closer relations.
From time to time, the Catholicos of the East would have consecrated and sent prelates to India. According to the testimony of Cosmas Indicopleustes (520 -525 AD), the Indian Church was hierarchically connected to the Persian Church. A clear and a precise picture of the relations between the two churches can be gathered from the letters of the Patriarchs Mar Ishoyahbh –III (647 - 650 AD) and Mar Timothy -I (780-823 AD) . These letters bear testimony to the fact that the Christians of India were jurisdictionally subject to the East Syrian church.
Tradition is unanimous in asserting that the prelates of the Thomas Christians came from the Church of the East for many centuries before the arrival of the Portuguese in India in 1498 A.D. Delegations were also being sent from India asking for bishops. Such a delegation was sent in 1490 AD, in which Joseph the Indian was a member. From the writings of the sixteenth century, especially from the decrees of the synod of Diamper of June 1599 AD, we understand that the East Syrian Church's prelates who reached India brought with them many East Syrian Church law-codes. These prelates visited India as a part of the East Syrian mission to propagate the Christian message. Their books were in Syriac language. The people in the Church in India was not keen to translate these books from Syriac to Malayalam.
The Persian Church's Prelates in the Malabar Church
Whenever the Malabar bishop died without being able to consecrate a successor, the Malabar Yogam, or Church Assembly, headed by the Archdeacon, applied to the Catholicos of Persia to send them a bishop. The Niranam Chronicle gives a list of the East Syrian Metropolitans and Patriarchs who came to Malabar. (875-1751). Thus there developed a long relation between the Malankara Church and the East Syrian church, both founded by St. Thomas. The Christians not only received the foreign bishops with great enthusiasm but were always very much attached to them and showed them great respect. All the 16th century Portuguese documents testify to this attachment; the Portuguese considered this deep respect of the Christians for their prelates a major obstacle to their plans of Latinisation.
The Thomas Christians through their hierarchical relationship with the East Syrian church maintained the ecclesiastical communication with the other Churches. The
The See of the St. Thomas Christians was known for generations as the Metropolitan ~e of all India, and the Metropolitans were referred to by the same qualifying title. The openness of the Thomas Christians to the East Syrian Church and other churches was the result of their awareness of the concept of the communion of churches. Such a regional grouping or alliance of the churches was a common phenomenon among the early Churches. Though they were not used to any centralized administrative structure of the monarchical pattern at the universal level in the church, the special relationship between the Malabar Church and the East Syrian Church, which was also associated with the same St. Thomas tradition, must have led them to form part of a common ecclesiastical set-up while maintaining their own ecclesial identity and administrative autonomy.
The fullness of the Christian tradition is achieved only when the different traditions of the apostolic churches are brought into full communion. The early traditions enshrined in the different churches reveal the multi-dimensional aspects. They are mutually complementary. The different traditions in their authentic forms reveal the richness of the divine truth manifested differently by different communities but united in the same faith.
The Prelates: A Source of Spiritual Strength for the Community
The common liturgical heritage was the celebration of the common faith as the most intimate bond of ecclesial communion. Following the pattern of life of the saints and sages of the eastern and Indian tradition the East Syrian Indian Bishops preferred to live as spiritual men spending their life in prayer, study, fasting and other ascetic practices. Liturgical celebrations were solemn occasions to the public manifestation of the faith of the community. The bishops presided over such solemn occasions.
The Metropolitans and Bishops were instrumental in the spiritual growth of the community. The main duties of the Metropolitans included the consecration of altars and the ordination of priests. The Bishops were spiritual men who were mostly monks. They were occupied with the role of a spiritual leader Le., liturgical celebrations, conferring of sacramental orders, hierarchical communion, teaching of the holy scripture etc. So also the Christian Church has some affinity towards Syriac language. Aramaic was the language of Palestine. The respect of the language of revelation is quite natural as is observable in other religious traditions. While saying this, I do not want to enter the much-debated question of the original language - whether Aramaic or Greek - of the New Testament.
The High Esteem towards Syriac
The Thomas Christians in India who are now divided into different denominations use the East or West Syriac liturgy with East or West Syriac pronounciation. Their liturgical language is Syriac. It was later, in the 17th century, that the western form of Syriac and the West Syriac liturgy were introduced amohg some Thohias Christian communities. The Thomas Christians of the Malabar-Coast posses, inestimable treasures in Syriac, both in East Syriac and West Syriac script and-dialect.
The liturgical language of the Thomas Christians
The influence of Syriac liturgies upon the Malabar Church
The ancient liturgies of the church developed in important Christian centers where the Fathers of the church and other ecclesiastical writers flourished. They developed into definite. liturgical forms by a slow, gradual steady progress in important Christian centers. Churches or places, which were not centers of Christian knowledge, did not develop their own liturgies, but received them from centers which were near, or dear to them. They also gave them their own modality on minor points. The East Syriac homilies and commentaries contain many mystical explanations of the liturgical ceremonies. The different items of the liturgy, their traditional order, the reasons for preserving the order etc. can all be known from manuscripts preserved in India.
Syriac Manuscripts in India
Many scholars both from India and abroad contributed for cataloguing the available Syriac manuscripts in India. The following libraries possess the manuscripts. Manuscript Archives in Kerala, library of the Dharmaram College in Bangalore. Library of the Syro Malabar Catholic Archbishop in Thrissur, Library of the Konat family Pampakuda, Koonamackal priestly family manuscript collection, Kuruvilassery Library of the CMI Thrissur, St. Ignatious Dayara, Manjinikara, Li,prary of the Monastery ofSt. Joseph Mannanam, Mar Aprem collection Library ofttie Metropolitan's Palace, Thrissur, Mar Thoma Seminary, Kottayam, Private manuscrip(collection of the Nidhiri priestly family, Pulatheen Metropolitan Palace, Tiruvalla, Saint Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathur, Library of the Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam, Library of the Metropolitan's Palace, Thozhiyur, Library of the Archbishop of Trivandrum.
The Thomas Christians ought to be grateful to the East Syrian Church for the inestimable treasures they posses in the Syriac language and literature. Any other liturgy was unknown to Malabar up to the 16th century. After the Synod of Diamper (1599) many East Syrian liturgical works were destroyed at the instance of the Portuguese. However, our libraries, such as the library of the Church of the East in Thrissur, testify to the fact that the Portuguese orders were not entirely obeyed and at least some manuscripts escaped the fires ofDiamper.
From the early centuries the trade of the early Christians flourished and they built churches for them to worship. In a recent study Fr.Pius Melekandathil lists several churches in Kerala with dates. The list is impressive.
The agrarian settlements of the Christian community used to establish its identity by erecting in their settlements churches, which turned out to be the principal cohesive factor for them. Pallipuram (3rd century), Ambazhakad (300 AD), Aruvithara(301 --AD), Kuruvilangad (335 AD), North Pudukad(400 AD), Puthenchira (400 AD), Akaparambu (450 AD) , Angamali(450)), Mattom (5th century),Chambakulam (5th century), Muttuchira(5th century),Kaduthuruthy (500 AD), Enammavu (500 AD), Mylakombu (6th century), Udaiamperur (510 AD) Edappally (593 AD), Chalakudy (600 Ad) ,Kolenchery (7th century), Mooozhikulam (7th century), Kayamkulam (824 AD, Athirumpuzha (835 AD), Kottayam (9th century) are the important churches, which were built in the period between third and ninth centuries, as a result of these developments.
In the13th century Bishop Solomon of Basra wrote a book called Book of the Bee. This book has been translated by E.A.T.Wallis Budge and published by Clarendon Press in 1886. Solomon writes in chapter 48. Thomas…. Because he baptised the daughter of the King of the Indians he (king) stabbed him with a spear and he died. Habban, the merchant, brought his body and laid it in Edessa. Bishop Medlycot rightly thinks that Habban’ name mentioned here must have been a transcriber’s substitution for the name Khabin.
In the Syriac prayer book known as Khudra there are plenty of reference to St.Thomas and his martyrdom in India.
There are certain historical references in Syriac sources. Credit goes to Alfonso Mingana who came from Iraq to England in the second decade of the 20th century and started publishing books in English. In his book The Early Spread of Christianity in India. John Rylands Library, Manchester , Vol.10, No2 , July 1926 Mingana made a strong plea in favour of Christianity in India in the first century.
Addai Scher published a little earlier (1907-1919) the Arabic book in Patrologia Orientalis the Chronique de Seert. According to that source Dudi or David, Bishop of Basra (now in Southern Iraq) visited India towards the end of the 3rd century.
In a slender volume entitled The Historicity of Apostle Thomas, Professor Joseph Kolengadan, an ex-Jesuit, in India, wrote strongly defending the historicity of Apostle Thomas in India. He writes:
Hyper critics easily yield to the tendency to reject all history not based on contemporary documents or monuments. They are not critical and patient enough to sift the gold from the dross vis-à-vis time honoured traditions and folklore. As every historian worthy of the name should not hesitate to discard baseless claims. He must likewise exercise his critical acumen in a constructive manner while dealing with long established traditions woven into the very life of the community. We have to vindicate our fathers against the ‘arm-chair historian’ in the name of scientific objectivity, pooh-poohing well-authenticated traditions, the very life-blood of a community, as Fr. Placid has aptly termed it.
King Alfred sent considerable gifts to Rome and to India in 883 A.D.. William of Malmesbury attests:
Beyond the sea to Rome and to Saint Thomas in India he (Alfred) sent many gifts. The legate employed for this purpose was Sigelinus, the Bishop of Sherborne, who with great success arrived in India, at which every one of this age wonders. Returning thence he brought back exotic gems and aromatic liquors which the land there produces.
About the year 800AD one Charansar came from Samarkand to Leh in Ladakh close to border of Tibet today, There are some inscription in Syriac language with crosses on it. This place is about 18,000 feet above the sea level. This inscription states that it took one year for the missionaries to arrive at Leh changing tents in different places.
About Sabrisho we have the copper plates of the 9th century. K.S.Mathew, Professor of History, retired from the Central University of Pondichery, writes.
The king granted all these at the instance of Sabrisho. Ayyanadigal granted another set of privileges through the copper plates issued around 880 AD but slightly later than the previous set of copper plates. They refer to the church of Kollam, the leaders of the Jews at Kollam and the authorized leaders of Manigramam or indigenous Christians of Kollam, who were there even before the arrival of Sabrisho…….. Further the church was given the right to collect fees for weighing with the steelyard and weights mentioned in the previous set of copper plates.
About travelogues we have the following important references.
Marco Polo recorded: The body of Messer St.Thomas, the apostle, lies in the province of Mabar at a certain little town having no great population… Both Christians and Saracens also do hold the saint in great reverence.
John of Monte Corvino, travelled the Coromondal coast and stayed fro time St.Thomas Mount. He died in 1294. He was a Franciscan Friar Pope Nicholas IV sent him to Persia and India. It was the part of the missionary expansion of the Catholic Church into East.
John Marignoli was a member of the Franciscan Monastery of Santa Croce in Florence. He visited Quilon in 1347. He speaks of the pepper trade of Christians and also refers to them as masters of steelyard. In 1348 or 1349 he went from Kollam to the Coromondal coast to visit the shrine of St.Thomas. He spent four days there.
Oderic of Pordenone.
Another Franciscan friar who visited India in the 14th century was Orderic of Pordnone. He came to India 1321 and from there went to China. He died in 1330 in Italy. According to Oderic there were Christians in Flandarini (north of Calicut) or Pantlayani, Kollam. According to him many people used to make pilgrimages to the Tomb of St.Thomas in the Coromandel coast..
A French Dominican Jordan of Severac tried to establish the a Latin Catholic Mission in India in 1321 AD. Pope John XXII created a bishopric in Quilon for
Since the scope of study for this Seminar ends with the 14th century we are unable to explore the reference s to this topic from the Portuguese sources. They came to India only about the end of the 15th century. Vasco de Gama discovered the sea route to India in 1498 A.D. six years after Christopher Columbus made the terrible mistake of discovering America thinking to be India in 1492. AD.
It is no doubt that the historical references to the Church in India are very scanty. It is not sure whether some copper plates or travelogues will surface which can throw light on this topic. Our dependence on the local tradition of the existence of Christianity from the earliest centuries cannot be discarded.
Alphonso Mingana, Chaldean priest from Mosul, Iraq who migrated to England and brought many Syriac manuscripts to England, was a strong supporter of the historicity of St.Thomas.Mingana argued:
There is no historian, no poet, no Breviary, no liturgy and no writer of any kind, who having the opportunity of speaking of St.Thomas does not associate his name with India…. The name of Thomas can never be dissociated from India…. Thomas and India are synonymous.
Eugene Cardinal Tisserant who wrote an article in French in Dictionary Theolog. Catholique in 1941 defended the historicity of St.Thomas in India. Fr. Edward R.Hambye, a Jesuit from Belgium who taught Church History for many years in India, defended the historicity of St.Thomas tradition in his article in Clergy Monthly in November 1952.
Another important conclusion is that the Church in India is not the result of the Mission of the Church of the East to India like the Mission of Alopen to China in 635 AD etc. The Indian Church is of apostolic origin. Just like Peter went to Roma, Mark went to Alexandria, Addai or Thaddai went to Persia, etc St.Thomas came to India. The Mission of the Church in Persia came to India. There were immigrants too. But the immigrants and Missions only strengthened an already existing Christian community.
When we refer to the Missions to India in the Pre-Portuguese period we refer to the Nestorian Missions. That is the name by which this great Missionary Church was known. John Stewart who wrote the Nestorian Missionary Enterprise, A Church on Fire wrote about the expansion of the Church of the East to India. . But since other church members began to use this name as accusation of heresy on this Church, the Church of the East began to that that we are not Nestorians. Thus the name Nestorian Church is considered a nickname of this church rather than a correct name.
The members of the Church emphasize the fact the so –called Nestorian Church was in the Persian Empire before Nestorius was born in the 4th. Century. The members of the Church are now known as Church of the East and also as Assyrian Church, East Syrian Church etc.
Most of the Christian denomination of St.Thomas tradition believes that this Church
Let us resist from the temptation of baptising posthumously St.Thomas and the early Christians in different denominations that came into existence due to our human weaknesses.
The Church in India, at least a small number, kept its connections with the Catholicos Patriarch of Seleucia –Ctesiphon.. The present reader of this paper, an Indian priest, had to go over to Baghdad to be consecrated a Bishop and a Metropolitan in September 1968. This Church based in Trichur keeps its obedience to the Church of the East even now.
Zinda: The writer of this paper, His Excellency Mar Aprem Metropolitan, was formerly known as George Davis Mooken. He took the name Mar Aprem at the time of his consecration as Bishop in Baghdad in September 1968. Born in Trichur on 13 June 1940 he studied in India, England (1961-62) and in America (1966-68). He holds two Master degrees and two Doctor degrees. He was President of the Church History Association of India during 1976 to 1982. He is the author of 63 books on Church History, biographies, humour, travelogue etc..
I would like to thank Mr. Sargon Peera of Michigan for his very insightful and truth-telling article with regard to our Patriarch Mar Dinkha. It is a sad situation that the Assyrian Church of the East finds itself in when the head pastor is only thinking about himself, his health, how good and fit he looks and where to best exercise. You’re right, what is the purpose of going to London and Iran if you don’t even care about the majority of your people and believers in Iraq. Why is it that the Chaldean bishops were able to have a synhados in Iraq, under the present security situation, and our patriarch and bishops preferred the comfort and good food of Chicago? You are also right that Patriarch Mar Addai of the Ancient Church of the East and Mar Delly of the Chaldean Catholic Church are better examples for all of our bishops, and Patriarch, because they are sitting in the middle of warfare and all-out war! Shame on our patriarch and bishops for not be who they claim to be! I think that if the Patriarch is too concerned about his own health then he should resign from his post and let others take over the job!
Bravo Mr. Peera for telling the truth, and I think that it is time to let our Patriarch and bishops know that we will not put up with their games and falsehood. They should be told to their faces that they are betrayers of Christ and the whole Assyrian nation, and are not worthy to be called our leaders. They should rather go about taking care of their comfort, what they eat and wear, how they exercise and how good they look!!!
Mar Dinkha is the Perfect Church Leader
In Mr. Peera's scathing article criticizing His Holiness Mar Dinkha, we sense an understandable and all too common level of frustration among our people regarding their current situation in the land of Iraq. While I understand and even can relate to some of the points in Mr. Peera's article, I am dismayed that Mr. Peera is directing his anger towards the one person and office whom Assyrian Nationalists have fanatically worked against, in their attempt to diminish the religious/political influence this office once had exerted among our people.
I invite Mr. Peera to look critically in the mirror and ask himself whether he was among the nationalist voices in the past calling for the dichotomy between Church and State. The very same voices who said that Church prelates should busy themselves with the things of God, and leave politics to the politicians.
I also invite Mr. Peera to look about him and notice that there are no Ottoman officials to whom the Prince-Patriarch reports to on behalf of his people. The Millet system does not exist anywhere. The Prince-Patriarch no longer collects taxes from the tribes under his authority. Your comparison to Mar Benyamin is irrelevant.
Mr. Peera, we live in another century now. And while we may harken back to the days when the Prince-Patriarch Mar Shimun once ruled from his throne up on high in Qudshanis, and had the power to settle all matters secular and religious among his tribes with one fearful ruling - the situation today is radically different. We no longer have a Prince-Patriarch, the Mar Shimun family is gone - along with our land in the Ashirate and Urmi.
His Holiness listened when the Assyrian people, especially the Nationalists among us, told him to stop interfering in politics. He heard you loud and clear when you said that he doesn't speak for the Assyrian people. He fully realizes now that the vast majority of Assyrians actually belong to other Churches (i.e., Chaldean and Syriac). He also happens to be, incidentally, the Shepherd of the Flock who tends His Sheep in India, Iran, Lebanon, Australia, the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Many of those sheep happen to be non-Assyrians, by the way.
He is now the perfect Church leader that you wanted - the one who doesn't meddle in politics, remember? I therefore fail to understand why you have directed your anger towards His Holiness and not against those people among you, perhaps yourself included, who asked for this. This is what you wanted, isn't it?
Ashur TV 24 Hour Broadcast
Ashur TV Staff
For the first time in history, our people have their own satellite broadcast in Iraq, throughout the Middle East and covering parts of Europe.
Ashur T.V. is now on NileSat Broadcasting Satellite System 24 hours a day! This is truly a momentous occasion, please call all of your friends and family in Iraq and the Middle East and share this great news.
Many thanks for the love and dedication from our wonderful supporters, we couldn't have gotten this far without you.
Zinda: Egypt's Nilesat broadcast can be received in the foot print area using antennas (dishes) ranging between 60-90 centimeters OR using MPEG- 2 DVB compliant receivers available in the market. Encrypted (scrambled) channels can be viewed using smart cards available for pay TV channels from ART and Showtime networks.
Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?
Not too long ago while attending the annual Chicago Assyrian New Year parade on King Sargon Boulevard (Western Avenue), I was approached by a young boy wearing a suit, followed by a similarly dressed adult man, both of which walked up to me passing literature asking if I knew who the real Jesus was, and if the truth of the gospel had been revealed to me by the Assyrian church? And despite how I would have answered this man (and one half), we would have, without a doubt, engaged in a lengthy conversation, for many reasons. One being that I am already rooted in my faith, and two, I would have defended my church, if for no other reason, because of its ancient foundation in the Christian faith. Then, of course, I would have rambled on and on about how our forefathers’ sacrifices have contributed to keeping our language and customs sacred within the walls of our temples. So, I decided to plea the fifth and steer away from any conversation that would lead to distress.
But what I found more interesting in my almost confrontation with these people was that this literature came in a jacket stamped with the Assyrian flag as the frontal presentation. Quickly, this lead me to suspect, perhaps even conclude that this act was organized to target the Assyrian community, and more interestingly it was an inside job, perpetuated by the Mission Independent Baptist Church. I watched many children taken aback, while their little hands held these pamphlets, as their minds were quickly swayed from watching the parade as they read through the literature, absorbing information, perhaps questioning their own set of beliefs, and that of their parents.
Understanding that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects religious practices, I assert my position that we must apply wisdom over matter and question participation of foreign individuals in future events, be it even churches. And while an event such as the parade is a public function, we must, nevertheless, take measures and control participation, regardless of whether the participation is solicited or not. In my own opinion, no one should be allowed to approach our children without our personal consent. Our children are our only guarantee into the future. Let’s keep them safe and informed in our homes, our churches.
"...Methods are master of masters." [Talleyrand].
Methodology, in any undertaking supersedes glorification, passion, compassion, lecture, and even advice:
Rule is a 'modus vivendi', a procedure, an order, or simply a method. The absence of a rule in any aspect of life, even among the animals, is an invitation to chaos, anarchy, and eventual destruction.
By itself, a rule is tantamount to nothingness, however, a set of rules circumvent all obstacles and transcend superior powers ostensibly instigating malice and brinkmanship.
A rule is what harnesses men and their ideas and adorns them into a solid foundation for a pedestal of strength and longevity.
The work for Assyria has to proceed on two levels at this junction.
The first and the uppermost, whether perfect or imperfect, is already in place, in Iraq. Although meager, and perhaps even insignificant by any political or socio-political standards, it has been set and there is no way to remedy the ills it might inject into our society in Iraq. As per TAL (Transitional Administration Law) enacted and executed in 2004 in Baghdad by the armies of occupation dictum, is rather specific and shall remain the rule of law, until after the last phase of the general elections are held in Iraq, by the end of 2005.
Hence, our efforts outside of Iraq are to be cognizant of that fact, and our tasks have to be separate, but parallel with those of Assyrians in Iraq.
Needless to add, that the malcontent, critique and intrigue will not deter those responsible for presenting Assyria and its Ecclesiastic components as they have been portrayed. The manner, in which Assyria has been exemplified in [Article 54, Sections A and B of TAL] the Rule of Iraq, at the present time, is a foregone conclusion, and there is no need to expend even minutes debating the merits. Our plans must emphasize the primary stage of developments in Iraq, and we must be prepared to meet the political happenings to be ensued in early 2006, head to head, when they occur, not in rancor, but rather on occult terms, that can only be officiated in the plenary sessions, behind the closed doors.
Whenever a minute force is faced with a ferociously powerful entity, it has to bend and to accept whatever it has been offered. That miniscule non-militaristic entity of Assyria in the sea of powerful factions controlling Iraq with hundreds of thousands of uniformed and non-uniformed combatants, is, and was in no position to wage opposition, nor was it prone to stage an insurrection. It mustered its egocentricity and its meager domain to acquire a certain apparatus of vocal emblem, and we shall leave them with whatever merit and endearment it may prod.
Having said this, now it is definitely our task to enliven and to strengthen Assyria from outside of Iraq. We can talk, we can write, we can organize, we can be vocal, we can demonstrate, we can lobby, we can inform, we can solicit, and least, but not last, we can foment an Assyria as explicit as it fits our millennia of history, culture, literature, language, politics and societal conduct. In other words, we can persevere to maintain a certain degree of some, if not all of the above elements.
All these steps, leading to a movement seeking international recognition, can be accomplished with a mechanism of order, or a method.
Without deviating from our routine tasks of education, work and family, initially, with small gatherings, lectures, seminars and promotion of the legitimacy of conforming to a particular plan or an idea, in all the communities, without the need of selecting or electing names and individuals, we can build our resources, although sporadically. Once such resources, or pools of individuals and their tentative accord on the principal issues to foment a movement toward the creation of an international governing body -- with or without the participation of Iraq have been set forth -- our next step would be to introduce our pools to each other, and to pursue the steps thereof, preponderant to set elections for a parliamentary corps, ultimately procreating an elected Executive Branch of the Government, an International Parliament, and a selection of a written and approved by a two-thirds majority, a Constitution.
Although listed last in proportion to the Government and the Parliament, the Constitution is above all else. The maxim "[I am] more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than an army of 100 lions led by a sheep," is a well-placed parable, especially if one were to substitute the word 'lion' with a 'Constitution'.
Constitution is a dogma tying all persons functioning for a common purpose in a unique singular path of operations. It is both brutal and passive. It shall denigrate all those in breach of the rule of law, just as much as it shall compensate those obeying the same.
The ground for our operations on a governmental basis is fertile today, whereas it wasn't for the past three decades, when such an idea was first introduced.
Whether the Government of Iraq likes it or not, whether the world Governments accept it or not, whether the international organizations recognize it or not, there is a Province of Ninewa. This former Province of Mosul is named for our ancestral historic City-State, and later the capital of Assyria, and we shall persevere in keeping a tight grip on this Province, despite all the negative factors, which are aplenty. However, such an idea is legal and righteous for us to pursue fervently.
The righteous territorial claim to a part of the Ninewa Province must persist in all our undertakings to enact Assyria in the form of a Government. The Province of Ninewa must be considered as our own shadow. It is gigantic when it precedes, and a pigmy in proportion, when it follows. And, by this reasoning, we must not be in abeyance to our legitimate claim, in order to accommodate certain hectic circles that might try to blackmail or threaten us with harangues of expulsion, or any physical threats.
All these efforts are to compensate for the ill-fated political condition of Assyria and its Ecclesiastic components in Iraq. All our brothers and sisters have performed well under the direst of conditions over there. We have no quarrel or argument with them. We would welcome their cooperation, even from a distance, if a tightly neat cohesive pattern, is not possible at this time. Our efforts are not detrimental to their cause, they are complementary, in all sense of the word.
Perhaps, now we can all stop lambasting each other and behave like stateless statesmen. Perhaps now we can concentrate on our labor rather than on our speeches and multifarious ordinances. Perhaps now we can forge ahead with our thoughts. "Speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts." [Talleyrand]. We have talked more than enough already.
An array of activists in our communities might only surpass the present core, whenever we indignantly repulse all sorts of diversifications both in action and in accomplishment of our goal.
An array of activists in our communities might only surpass the present core, whenever we indignantly repulse all sorts of diversifications, both in action and in deeds. The throngs are carefully watching, and are eagerly awaiting a birth of a constructive catechism of mechanical precision proportions. Without pessimism one can envisage no more than perhaps 400 participants in this effort, at the initial stages. But, even that puny figure might just be sufficient to launch our efforts and, to fulfill our dignified duties.
In early July this writer shall try to convene the zealous Assyrian residents of Los Angeles Metropolitan Area to meet at the AAASC Hall for consultation, presentation and assessment of the governmental criteria, discussed above. The hope is that all those interested in this simple procedure in their own localities, might follow suit, unless their agenda is spearheaded before ours.
Let us keep our eyes wide open and our thoughts slightly ajar for this forthcoming agenda. Reply if you are interested in partaking, and/or giving a helping hand for this event, in any community of your residences, by contacting: ICGA, POB 3256, Cypress, CA 90630. E-mail: Appeal2Youth@zindamagazine.com
Two imperative notes conclude this essay:
1. To strengthen the backbone of Iraq communities, and leadership of Assyria, and to complement their vocal aspirations, as well as propagating their cause of internal and international incentives, all tasks toward the establishment of an International Parliament are to be undertaken prior to the Iraq elections of December 2005. An impasse, on this matter, will only prolong the agony of an undignified national existence of Assyria.
Action NOT reaction must be the forerunner in all the political events, and on all the political arenas.
2. The main reason our actions were impeded in our shortcomings in the January 2005 elections, both abroad and in Iraq, was the fact that we admonished reaction, rather concentrating on prioritized activities.
Sardanapal is the name given by Greek fiction writers to the last Assyrian king in Nineveh. It is also the name of an accomplished Assyrian painter and musician living in Sweden.
Sardanapal Asaad has more than 300 paintings of the famous personalities in politics, arts and music and famous Assyrians to his credit. His paintings have been exhibited in Paris, Germany, Syria and Sweden.
Sardanapal was born in Qamishly, Syria and studied there at an Syriac Orthodox school where he learned the church music. Sardanapal was eleven when he sang for the first time and later at the Mor Yacub Brotherhood Club in Qamishly.
Gabriel Asaad taught his son music and Sardanapal followed his father's work by teaching music at several schools in Qamishly. In 1972 Sardanapal began a musical and drama career along with his friends Georges Faraj and Samir Said.
Sardanapal's first album was released in 1983 titled "Zmirotho Suryoyotho" (Assyrian/Syriac Songs). The music on the album is performed by musicians from the Swedish Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Joseph Malki on lute and accordion.
Sardanapal’s second album was released four years later titled “Noshé Marouleh”, a bastion of classic Syriac music. In 1988 Sardanapal produced a cassette tape for children, "Zmirotho d'Shabre" (Songs for Children).
Sardanapal was one of the three judges who took part in the First Assyrian Songs Festival held this year in Denmark on April 23rd. He currently resides in Stockholm.
Click here to view samples of Sardanapal's artwork presented by Zinda Magazine.
Special Thanks to Y.P. Youkhana in Germany
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