Unified Assyrian Groups Produce Results in Washington
On the morning of 12 June 2007 Assyrians received word of an unprecedented event. The United States Congress through a powerful committee, approved $10 million in spending on religious minorities in the Nineveh Plain. The primary beneficiaries will certainly be the great number of Assyrian Christian internally displaced families arriving in waves to their lands in the Nineveh Plain.
As word began arriving by news articles, emails, phone, radio and other sources, it rapidly became clear that this was the outcome of a well-organized, coordinated effort driven in Washington and supported throughout the United States. More importantly, it became clear that this was an achievement of independent Assyrians working in a unified manner to produce results directly impacting on the well-being of our people.
The implications of this development are huge for those who decided that the only route for Assyrians is to work for the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). It is no secret that some in our community are being drawn into service for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) primarily through two points: KDP Minister Sarkis Aghajan on the one hand and KDP Minister Fawzi Hariri on the other. Both these men are senior KDP members and are the hooks being used by the KDP to buy the support of our community, or tear apart the efforts of those who reject the offer.
If it was not for the brave who decided something can be achieved independent of KDP political masters, our people would not have seen the unfolding of a targeted Nineveh Plain policy in the United States Congress. The reason is simple: Sarkis Aghajan and Fawzi Hariri are servants of their KDP political masters; any policy treating the Nineveh Plain independent of the KRG is inconceivable and unacceptable. In essence, this effort would not even be attempted, let alone brought to fruition.
$10 million for IDPs in the Nineveh Plain is helpful, modest and we hope and trust just the beginning of much more to come. The significance is not the dollar amount. The achievement is setting the precedent of a policy targeting the Nineveh Plain, without placing the political conditionality of KDP domination over the area.
Readers would recall the writing of Nenif Matran Hariri (a KDP Politburo Advisor) in a major Kurdish media publication in Arbil, stating, “I don’t want to see the Nineveh Plain an independent autonomy, nor do I want to see it being part of the central [Iraq] government … [The] first thing is to make the Nineveh Plain part of Kurdistan.” The article goes on to state Hariri’s belief that our people could receive status similar to that of “the Red Indians of the United States and Canada.”
The intention to absorb the Nineveh Plain is a public policy of the KDP. Those who Sarkis Aghajan and Fawzi Hariri have co-opted are simply fulfilling that agenda. The Washington Post reported this intention as early as mid-2005, in a powerful story on the role of militias in the new Iraq. The report states:
Of course, few can forget the active intervention of Fawzi Hariri in undermining another effort in Congress; that of securing support for making the Nineveh Plain a federal unit for the minorities living there, to ensure that ethnic and religious pluralism survive in Iraq. He betrayed his people by putting forth an array of preposterous arguments against the policy, but managed to use the weight of his Iraqi ministerial seat to make the point. This is unsurprising since he was simply fulfilling exactly what is expected of him by his KDP political masters in Irbil.
Lastly, observers should only look back to March of this year, when Sarkis Aghajan funded and facilitated a conference on the political, social and economic future of the Nineveh Plain. If ever geography had a story to tell, it is in this case. The meeting was held in Arbil.
The co-opted, the weak-willed, those willing to overlook land theft, summary arrests and abuse, the denial of voting rights in both elections and the 2005 constitutional referendum, the prejudicial use of funding, among other KDP crimes against our people, will accept a KDP yoke and ignore this reality.
Indeed, these ‘collaborators’ - three of whom are authors of two articles in this week's issue- whether motivated by cowardice or a chance at personal economic wealth (perhaps both), will instead emphasize the KDP’s largess. They will speak of funding for schools, homes, and welfare payments to the needy to obscure the reality of an authoritarian, dictatorial KDP regime that simply intends on running roughshod over every fundamental right of our people.
It is a reflection of how beaten, fearful and vulnerable our people are that we must ignore outright human rights violations perpetrated against us and instead give thanks for funding going to schools, homes and welfare services. It is criminal that such small sums of ‘assistance’ should come at the cost of our priceless lands being illegal seized and stolen under watchful KDP eyes. Is a government not expected to provide reconstruction and development for all its citizens, without making it conditional on silence regarding major human rights violations?
In outlining the weaknesses of those collaborating with the KDP, this article risks becoming completely negative. Though the collaborators are few, they have the financial backing of an authoritarian government and the KRG Finance Minister, who lacks all semblance of transparency; a lethal and powerful combination. Instead, this article is about a constructive vision and the message of hope.
Returning to the developments of June 12 th, and the ground-breaking congressional decision to support IDPs in the Nineveh Plain, we are reminded that commitment to the principles of unity and hard work executed in good faith delivers the best results. We know the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project (ISDP), based in Washington, DC, conducts regular field missions to Iraq and the region. We know that two member organizations of the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America (CASCA) facilitated ISDP’s most recent field mission to the region. The Assyrian American National Federation and Assyrian National Council of Illinois (who sent representatives to Jordan and Syria) actively took part in ensuring the success of the field mission.
Two months after the field missions were concluded and what would appear to be constant follow-up and coordination (in tandem with the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and the Chaldean Federation of America), our people saw results. This success also involved numerous unselfish individual efforts from Assyrians in their various communities expressing their grave concern and desire to see governmental action, producing results that come without demands of servitude to authoritarian KDP political masters. These are results that will assist the whole community and belong to everyone, in which we can all take pride.
This is but one example of developments and progress around which all of us can rally.
It should be clear to analysts and observers that this is one example of community mobilization reflective of the best qualities in our people. It is indicative of a movement that is alive and well and is gaining extraordinary momentum. One cannot help but wonder if the leadership and grass roots activists in Iraq who provided a vision of genuine unity between Assyrians in October 2003 in Baghdad are not looking on these outcomes without their typical humility and quite satisfaction.
With more results to come from the activists, there can only be two options for the KDP: recognize that some of us will not accept the KDP yoke, and that they must either destroy these efforts as well, or acknowledge that instead of throwing on a yoke, many of us would well-receive the open hand of genuine friendship and mutual self-respect without the naked use of economic oppression and governmental coercion to bend our people to their will.
U.S. House Approves $10M for the Nineveh Plains
A Zinda Magazine Exlusive Report
Ashtar Analeed Marcus
The House approved a foreign operations bill on June 22 with an amendment that would grant at least $10 million to the Nineveh Plains' religious minorities.
The bill passed in the House by a 241 to 178 vote.
On June 12, the House Appropriations Committee approved the foreign operations bill by unanimous voice vote. Committee member Congressman Mark Kirk, Republican from Illinois, said he introduced the Nineveh Plains amendment to the bill.
The amendment states that the committee is “concerned about the plight of religious minorities in Iraq” and that these groups be entitled to “not less than $10 million” to assist “religious minorities in the Nineveh Plains.”
Kirk said he hopes the amendment will prevent the “de-Christianization” of Iraq, referring to the number of threatened Christians who have fled the country.
“The internal coalition of Iraq should not lead to the end of Christian communities in that country,” Kirk said. “It would be ironic indeed if the involvement of the United States led to almost no Christians in Iraq. We have a chance to preserve the majority of the community there by taking this action. People shouldn’t be forced to be refugees from their country if 600,000 Christians could remain in their country.”
The amendment further directs $8 million of that sum to “internally displaced families” and $2 million to fund the growth of small businesses in the area.
Michael Youash, Director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project, a D.C.-based policy institute, said Kirk consulted ISDP in defining an internally displaced minority as “someone who has left their home for another area, effectively becoming homeless but has not crossed any international boundaries.”
Assyrian representatives said the Nineveh Plain is often the last resort for Christians before they leave Iraq, making it a critical location for aid and assistance.
“It’s obviously frustrating because the American government is the largest provider of assistance to Iraq,” Kirk said. “(Iraqi-Americans) ask the question, ‘Well, why can’t my government that works for me make sure that my relatives in Iraq are safer?’ And we want all Iraqis to be safe, but with regard to some of the minorities who have been ignored.”
Kirk said the dollar amount was determined by the estimated budgets of a series of projects, including the costs of recruiting and creating a police force made up of the area’s religious minorities. The projects also include food for needy families, generating jobs and income, and development of infrastructure in the region.
“It’s a pretty crucial step,” Kirk said. “We had a unanimous feeling among Democrats and Republicans that we should move forward on this, and a feeling that Congress needed to take action. The executive branch and assistance officials in Iraq had not focused enough on assistance projects for minorities in general, and for Christian communities in particular in the Nineveh Plains.”
A six-month-old coalition called the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America backed the resolution. The partnership comprised the Assyrian American National Federation, the Chaldean Federation of America, the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and the Assyrian National Council of Illinois.
CASCA officials said their Detroit members also communicated with Appropriations Committee member Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Mich.
Knollenberg was one of nearly 200 congressmen who co-sponsored a bill this year that would recognize the Armenian Genocide of 1.5 million. The Committee on Foreign Affairs is scheduled to review the measure. But the Armenian Genocide bill does not mention Assyrians. The Holland-based Seyfo Center, which researches Assyrian genocide, estimates that 500,000 Assyrians were killed in the 1915 genocide by the Ottoman Empire.
The $10 million amendment does not mention specific ethnic groups, but Kirk said the historic Christian communities in the region are a particular focus.
But there is concern about how the money, once allocated, will reach the appropriate minority groups.
Bejan said some of those organizations that can assist in ensuring the money is properly allocated include the Assyrian Aid Society, Babylon Charity and “institutions that have a proven track record.”
But before the $10 million is granted, the bill must be approved by the Senate, as well.
In 2005, Rep. Anna Eshoo, Democrat from California, introduced an amendment addressing Assyrians to a foreign relations bill. Her amendment called for federal departments to recognize Assyrians, Chaldeans and all indigenous Iraqi Christians. While the bill did pass in the House, it died from inaction in the Senate at the close of the last congressional session.
Kirk said he had worked with the United States assistance authority on a Nineveh Plains proposal more than a year ago, but saw no action.
The directive came in the wake of President George Bush’s June 9 visit with Pope Benedict XVI in which the pontiff expressed concern for Iraqi Christians.
“He did express deep concern about the Christians inside Iraq,” Bush said at a press conference in Rome, “that he was concerned that the society that was evolving would not tolerate the Christian religion.”
Bush said the pope expressed worry about “the Christians inside Iraq being mistreated by the Muslim majority. He's deeply concerned about that.”
Youash said he visited the Nineveh Plains in recent years and conducted field missions to the area.
“It stretches from the ancient city of Nineveh in Mosul for miles and miles, and it’s crested by mountains,” Youash said. “It’s absolutely beautiful and absolutely peaceful. However, it is absolutely impoverished. It lacks infrastructure. It lacks development. It’s neglected … under Saddam and it's neglected today. Deliberately neglected.”
Youash said he interviewed Assyrian Iraqi refugees in March to gain insight into policies needed to prevent further Christian emigration from Iraq.
“The Nineveh Plains are saturated, dilapidated and destitute,” he said. “They are a leaping ground into Jordan, Syria and Lebanon … We can keep so many people from having to make that leap.”
8 Assyrian Students and Teachers Kidnapped
Courtesy of the AsiaNews
(ZNDA: Mosul) On the morning of 20 June, 8 Christian students and teachers from the village of Qaraqosh – in the Nineveh Plain – were kidnapped on the road between Mosul and their village. The group of 50 people was on the way home from Mosul, where earlier that day they took their entrance exams for University. The minibus onboard which they were travelling was stopped and surrounded by a caravan of cars ; the terrorists read a list of names of those who were to follow them, when no one responded to their orders they demanded to see identity cards. They took 3 teachers and 5 students away with them. The police witnessed the kidnapping without intervening. As of yet there is still no news of the authors of the kidnapping, nor of the health and conditions of the hostages.
But violence against the miniscule religious community does not stop at kidnappings. A day before in Mosul two Christians were killed in the Nour quarter, the same area where on 3 June the Chaldean Catholic priest Fr. Ragheed Ganni and three sub-deacons were massacred. In the same city, stronghold of Sunni “resistance”, an unidentified group sequestered two men of Batnaya origin. The kidnappers have already demanded a ransom for their release.
Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly launched a fresh appeal “that the world's conscience be awoken” and the International community take on its duty “to protect and defend the rights of Iraq’s people, Christian and Muslim”.
Abducted Chaldean Priest Released in Baghdad
Courtesy of the Zenit News Agency
(ZNDA: Baghdad) After being kidnapped by unknown assailants and held for 12 days, Chaldean Father Hani Abdel Ahad has been released.
Monsignor Jacques Isaac, the rector of Babel College, visited Father Hani at the Chaldean bishop's residence.
Monsignor Isaac said the clergyman "is very tired, but in good condition. He was not mistreated" during his 12-day ordeal.
Father Hani, a 33-year-old parish priest at the Divine Wisdom Chaldean Church, was abducted 6 June along with five other young Christian men, all on their way to a seminary in Baghdad. The young men were released the following day.
Sources said the kidnappers had contacted Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, demanding a ransom for the priest. There were conflicting reports about how the priest's release came about.
Father Hani's abduction took place just three days after the 3 June murder of Father Ragheed Ganni and three subdeacons in Mosul.
Father Hani was the eighth Chaldean priest to be abducted in the capital.
Turkish Mayor Sacked for Offering Multi-lingual Services including Syriac
(ZNDA: Ankara) On 14 June Turkey’s Council of State dismissed Abdullah Demirbas, the mayor of the Sur district of Diyarbakir, in southeast Turkey for providing official services in Turkish, Kurdish, English and Syriac.
The ruling from the Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, stemmed from a complaint lodged by the Interior Ministry over the provision of multi-lingual services by the municipality.
The Diyarbakir chief prosecutor demanded that Demierbas and Diyarbakir metropolitan mayor Osman Baydemir both be sentenced to a prison term of three and a half years.
The board of judges voted unanimously in favour of dismissing Demierbas and the council on basis that practices of providing multi-language services as a municipality was not within municipal rights under the constitution, other laws and as well as the European Local Administration Autonomy Laws.
Twenty-one defendants of the court case are facing jail terms of three and a half years each.
Christians to Shun Nationalist Parties in Summer 2007 Turkish Elections
Courtesy of the Zaman
(ZNDA: Istanbul) Recent stances taken by political parties on issues regarding European Union reforms, minority rights and nationalism could be a determinant of how members of religious minority groups will vote in this summer's elections.
"To be honest, we Armenians prefer the Justice and Development Party [AK Party] to the opposition Republican People's Party [CHP]. The AK Party's attitude toward minorities is less nationalist. The [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan government is very open to our demands," said Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II, the religious leader of Turkey's 60,000 Armenian Orthodox citizens, in a recent interview with German Der Spiegel. He told the magazine that Turkey's Armenian community has good relations with the AK Party government.
Sebu Aslangil, a member of the Patriarchate's law commission, told the news Web site NTVMSNBC in an interview conducted this Monday that "it is a fact that the [Armenian] community is leaning towards the AK Party and the independents. A major role in this was played by the foundations law - which the [Republican People's Party] CHP fiercely opposed when the AK Party tried hard to pass it." Although Aslangil stressed that it is impossible to talk about a homogenous pattern of voting in the community, he expressed the opinion that a majority of the community clearly felt the AK Party was closest to solving the problems of minorities.
Zeki Basatemir, chairperson of the Syriac Catholic Church Foundation, said Syriac Catholics, estimated to number about 5000, were reviewing programs and policies of all political parties like all other Turkish citizens to find the candidates who are closest to them. "No concrete name has come up yet, but I can't say we are unhappy with this current government. We think they are good at solving our problems." There is also the Syriac Orthodox community, thought to number around 20,000 as of 2005.
The Syriacs are the largest religious Christian community in the country, although they are not legally considered a minority group.
Other groups, however, are more uncertain than others. Yusuf Beytaş from Mardin's Syriac Community says the individual preferences of community members greatly vary. "We have a lot of people who like the AK Party, as well as the CHP or the other parties," he told Today's Zaman. Silvio Ovadya, leader of Turkey's Jewish community of 20,000, said Jewish minorities are not yet decided. "A party has not been given support for the elections among the community. Maybe later there will be a name, but not yet," he added. Ovadya said he did not feel that most members of the community overwhelmingly pre-ferred a single political party. However, leaders of communities tend to be more reserved in speaking on politics. Many of Turkey’s Greeks and Armenians vocally and very clearly express their resentment of nationalism and political parties that push aside democracy in order to exploit the nation’s nationalist feelings.
Mihail Vasiliadis, publishing director of Apoyevmatini, an 80-year-old newspaper for the Greek community, said in a recent interview, “The AK Party has to come to power so that I can feel myself as a citizen after 60 years.” He is one of the many people in this country who feel the increasing threat of neo-nationalism and who know that Turkey’s can only be found in democracy.
Turkey’s minorities have had to endure much since the founding of the republic, sometimes at the hands of populist politicians and sometimes simply out of the social prejudices and discrimination against them. In the 1930s they were subject to a discriminatory levy known as the Assets Tax, which imposed higher taxes on non-Muslims. In the 1950s, they were subject to mass violence on the streets of Beyoğlu at the hands of an angry mob. However the tide might be starting to turn as more and more European Union-inspired reforms are being passed, ensuring equal rights for all religious and ethnic minorities. One example is a recent draft on foundations the government tried to pass last year in Parliament. The law, which stipulated that all buildings and other assets taken unjustly in the ‘30s from minority foundations be returned, was not passed in the face of fierce opposition from the main opposition CHP.
The CHP argued that returning the possessions of minorities was tantamount to selling the country and that the law could be passed only if EU countries guaranteed the same rights for their Turkish minorities. This sentiment deeply hurt Turkey’s non-Muslim citizens. A hundred intellectuals from minority groups, including Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was slain by a neo-nationalist youth earlier this year, signed a declaration condemning the CHP’s mentality that considers its non-Muslim citizens to be “hostages.”
US Congress Takes a Step to Help Iraq's
Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project
The United States Congress, through the Appropriations Sub-Committee on State and Foreign Operations, approved yesterday an amendment to request $10 million in aid for internally displaced religious minorities in the Nineveh Plain.
The Nineveh Plain amendment for internally displaced persons (IDP) relief represents the first formal allocation of funding acknowledging the crisis facing Iraq's indigenous Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Christian population. Congressman Mark Kirk, and a coalition of members that came around him to unanimously approve the amendment, demonstrate the courage to recognize a problem and find feasible solutions.
"Congressman Mark Kirk is most certainly a champion who believes we cannot allow Iraq to fail. His measure will help to ensure that Iraq remains ethnically and religiously plural by aiding IDPs in the Nineveh Plain" said Michael Youash, Project Director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project (ISDP) -- a special project of the Assyrian Academic Society. ISDP is a Washington-based policy institute providing research and analysis on the situation of Iraq's most vulnerable minorities.
This was a long process, beginning with the pioneering efforts of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who proposed the bold Foreign Relations Authorization Bill amendment in 2005 calling on targeted spending for Iraq's Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac population.
ISDP's policy work and advisory role was complimented by an unprecedented effort of a tight-knit coalition of Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac organizations working for the genuine good of their people. At the forefront of that effort is CASCA, the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America, principally consisting of the Assyrian American National Federation, the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, the Assyrian National Council of Illinois and the Chaldean Federation of America. Additionally, Assyrian Aid Society's efforts on the ground to assist IDPs provided vital insights into identifying the scope of the problem.
"In several forums and hearings, congressional representatives have been asking tough questions on the 'de-Christianization of Iraq' and 'Apartheid-like treatment' of this ethnic group, as a result of discriminatory use in US reconstruction funding." said Youash, "Awareness is growing that this loss of Iraq's most ancient and indigenous ethnicity is simply unacceptable."
Regrettably Christian Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriacs, Shabaks and Yezidis are targeted by Islamists and insurgents in much of Iraq, and the prejudicial use of reconstruction and development funding in northern Iraq. This measure will do much to assist these people and help ensure that a 7,000 year-old civilization and presence in their homeland is not completely erased in a few years of liberation.
Pope Receives Bush, Mar Dinkha IV in Vatican
Courtesy of Catholic News Service
(ZNDA: Vatican) On 9 June US President George W Bush reassured Pope Benedict XVI over the plight of war-torn Iraq's minority Christians.
The Pope "did express deep concern about the Christians inside Iraq", Bush told a news conference in Rome less than a week after a Chaldean priest and three deacons were murdered.
"I assured him we were working hard to make sure that people lived up to the constitution" calling for religious tolerance and honoring "people from different walks of life", Bush said.
The murders in northern Iraq on the Sunday before the visit with the Iraq were followed three days later by the kidnapping of another priest and five of his parishioners belonging to the Chaldean Catholic church, an autonomous Eastern rite church with upwards of 700,000 followers in Iraq.
On 21 June Pope Benedict XVI told His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East: "The small Christian communities heroically remaining in Iraq must work together, and assist and support each other. The Assyrian Church of the East is rooted in ancient lands whose names are associated with the history of God's saving plan for all mankind."
"Today, tragically, Christians in the region are suffering both materially and spiritually," the Pope said.
"Particularly in Iraq, the homeland of so many of the Assyrian faithful, Christian families and communities are feeling increasing pressure from insecurity, aggression and a sense of abandonment," he said. "Many of them see no other possibility than to leave the country and to seek a new future abroad."
Those who remain in Iraq, "often at the price of heroic sacrifices," have a right to the support and assistance of all Christian communities, Pope Benedict said.
His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV asked Pope Benedict to use "all the ecclesiastical and diplomatic means at your disposal to ensure the safety and security" of the Christians remaining in Iraq.
The Catholicos said they are being "persecuted, martyred and driven out of their homes on account of their faith in Jesus."
The Pope also told the Catholicos, whose base has been in the United States since Catholicos Mar Shimmun XXIII was expelled from Iraq in the 1930s, that the Chaldean Catholic and Assyrian communities in North America, Australia and Europe also must help one another maintain the distinctive religious and cultural heritage they share.
"At the same time, when Christians from the East and West live side by side, they have a precious opportunity to enrich one another and to understand more fully the catholicity of the church, which, as a pilgrim in this world, lives, prays and bears witness to Christ in a variety of cultural, social and human contexts," the Pope said.
After a series of historic ecumenical agreements with the Assyrian church on points of dogma and doctrine, in 2001 the Vatican approved guidelines permitting Assyrians to receive Communion at a Chaldean Catholic liturgy and Chaldeans to receive Communion at an Assyrian liturgy when clergy of their own communities were not available.
"New hopes and possibilities sometimes awaken new fears, and this is also true with regard to ecumenical relations," the Pope said, expressing his hope that tensions within the Assyrian church would not be allowed to delay the work of the Catholic-Assyrian dialogue commission.
Mar Dinkha IV told the Pope that the Assyrian Synod of Bishops had agreed to continue the dialogue and intends to support a joint Catholic-Assyrian declaration on the sacraments.
Neither Mar Dinkha nor the Vatican said when they expect the declaration to be completed.
Interview With President of Council for Christian Unity
Cardinal Kasper On the Assyrian Church
Courtesy of the Zenit News Agency
(ZNDA: Vatican) On 21 June, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, met with His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, in Vatican. The Cardinal noted that there are signs of new hope that relations with the Assyrian Church of the East are advancing.
The cardinal granted an interview with Zenit News Agency, in which he summarizes the situation of relations between the Vatican and the Assyrian Church of the East. The following is the full text of this interview:
Q: We seldom hear of the Assyrian Church of the East. Could you say some words on the past and present situation of this particular Church?
Cardinal Kasper: The Assyrian Church of the East is one of the smaller Wastern Churches, at least in the number of the faithful. Its historical roots are in the missionary activity of the early Church, when it moved eastward, in the direction of Mesopotamia and former Babylonia, outside the Roman Empire.
In present day geography, we can say that Iraq is the original homeland of most Assyrian faithful. More recently, due to successive periods of persecution and hardship, a large majority of Assyrian faithful migrated to the West. Nowadays the Assyrian Church has dioceses in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia. The patriarch himself has his residence in Chicago.
Like other Churches in and from the Middle East, the Assyrian Church of the East faces many challenges. There is the dramatic situation in Iraq, where Christians belonging to various Churches have their very existence seriously threatened. Assyrian faithful are also scattered in different parts of the world, and this does not allow for pastoral service to be assured everywhere by their own priests.
Benedict XVI has mentioned some of these challenges in his address to Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV. He also insisted on the need for and the possibility of further cooperation between Catholic and Assyrian faithful, wherever they live together.
Q: In his address to Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV, Benedict XVI also referred to the positive results of the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. How did the relations between the Assyrian Church of the East and the Catholic Church develop?
Cardinal Kasper: In 1994, an important Common Christological Declaration was signed by Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV. This declaration clarified some doctrinal controversies between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, controversies which go back to the Council of Ephesus (431). At that time, the Church of the East could not accept the Catholic concept of incarnation, and therefore also rejected the title which calls the Virgin Mary "Theotokos," "Mother of God."
Indeed, in this early period of doctrinal development, Syriac and Greek terminology did not articulate the same concepts with the same terminology. Nowadays, however, Catholics and Assyrians mutually recognise that they share the same faith in Jesus Christ "true God and true man, perfect in his divinity and perfect in his humanity."
The signing of this Christological Declaration resulted in the creation of a Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. This commission has met every year between 1994 and 2004 and has done remarkable work.
In this period the commission mainly dealt with issues related to the celebration of the sacraments. Among the most prominent results of this dialogue, I wish to mention the recognition by the Catholic Church of the validity of the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, and the preparation of a comprehensive document on sacramental life, a document which is ready for official endorsement.
In my opinion, however, these important results have not yet received the attention and response they deserve. It is not a matter of signing documents; it is a question that what is endorsed is genuinely accepted in the community.
Q: What happened to the dialogue after 2004? What fears and obstacles does Benedict XVI refer to in his address to the patriarch?
Cardinal Kasper: In 2005, the Assyrian Church unexpectedly decided to suspend the dialogue and not to sign the document which had been prepared on sacramental life. During a meeting in November 2005, moreover, the Synod of the Assyrian Church decided to suspend one of its members, a bishop, who had been among the architects of the dialogue with the Catholic Church and had contributed significantly to its successful progress.
The Catholic Church cannot intervene in the internal affairs of another Church, but deeply regrets this unfortunate development. Nobody is helped by further divisions in a community which already faces so many challenges, as I mentioned before.
These further divisions also cause difficulties for our ecumenical dialogue, since they are improperly used by some Assyrian media to cast doubt on the Catholic Church and its true intentions toward the Assyrian Church; such polemics should be brought to an end. We hope and pray that it will be possible to overcome these problems. Serenity should return and eventually allow the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue to resume its activities.
This is the sense of the appeal Benedict XVI addressed to Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV and to all concerned, so that together we may find the best solution.
Q: What do you expect from the visit of Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV for the future of relations between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church?
Cardinal Kasper: Immediately after the election of Benedict XVI, Catholicos Mar Dinkha IV expressed the wish to come and greet the new Pope. This may be a hopeful sign for the future of our relations.
Beyond this, I have three expectations. First, that more attention may be given by Catholic and Assyrian faithful worldwide to the difficulties met by their brothers and sisters in the Middle East and particularly in Iraq; these difficulties directly touch the lives of individual Christians and their families, and call for the attention and good will of everyone.
Second, that the results of our dialogue may be further explained and received, so as to allow Catholic and Assyrian faithful to better understand and help one another. Finally, that more effective forms of common witness and joint pastoral activities may be developed between Catholic and Assyrian faithful, particularly in the West, where Christians of all denominations are facing the same pastoral challenges.
What can we do together so that the young generations will be glad to belong to the Church and to give witness to their faith in Christ? These are the kind of questions I would like to see at the center of our future meetings, also with the Assyrian Church of the East.
Q: You also had a working meeting with the patriarch and the bishops who accompanied him. Have any further commitments or projects been made?
Cardinal Kasper: During our meeting, I insisted on the necessity of nurturing a serious and honest relationship. I also expressed the hope that through just and prudent decisions it would be possible to avert further division in the Assyrian Church. It became clear that more frequent contact between the patriarch and Synod of the Assyrian Church and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity would be helpful.
We therefore decided to prepare a third phase of our joint theological dialogue. In this way, I hope, a fresh impetus could be given to relations between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.
Pope's Address to Mar Dinkha IV
The following is the full text of Pope Benedict XVI's address delivered when he received in audience His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV and his entourage on 21 June 2007:
A Statement of the Save Assyria Front
6 June 2007
The attacks on the unarmed Assyrians have been escalating in Iraq since the fall of the Baath regime, both ethnically and religiously. In the North the Kurdish Occupying Government continues its polite persecutions through the Kurdification of the Assyrian people by marginalizing their national identity with the help of some religious figures and individuals on the Assyrian arena who were bought in order to continue with the project of annexing the so-called Nineveh Plain to the Kurdish Occupation. A series of terrorist attacks against the Christians, but especially against the Assyrians with their different denominations, are escalating, the last of which was the cowardly crime against the martyrs Fr. Raghid Kenni and his fellow deacons Basman Yousif, Essam Bidaweed and Wahid Hanna, of our Chaldean Church which have given many lives alongside the other Assyrian Churches without any deterrent from the American forces or the Iraqi government, noting that there isn’t any one to defend the Assyrian rights within the Iraqi government institutions.
We, as a Front believing in a united Iraq, land and people, see that the end of the Assyrian people is near while the Iraqi politicians continue to denounce these attacks, hence we demand that the denouncement stops because it has no results and to rather work on providing an Assyrian safe zone in the historical Assyria under the protection of the Iraqi government and the United Nations.
We call upon the wounded Assyrian people to be aware of the Islamization and Kurdification, and that our politicians increase their efforts so that the Assyrian voice reaches the highest levels and to face the enemies of the Assyrian nation in all possible ways.
Cold Comfort in Sweden for Iraqi Refugees
Courtesy of the International Herald Tribune
(ZNDA: Sodertalje) Walking down the carpeted aisle of Sodertalje's low-slung St. John's Church one recent morning, Anders Lago's broad, blond features looked out of place among the hundreds of black-clad Iraqi mourners at a memorial service. Lago is the mayor of this scenic Swedish town of 60,000 people, which last year took in twice as many Iraqi refugees as the entire United States, almost all of them Christians fleeing the religious purge taking place amid Iraq's anti-American insurgency and sectarian strife.
So the mourners are now part of Lago's constituency, and their war is rapidly becoming Sodertalje's war - to the mayor's growing chagrin.
Sodertalje, he says, is reaching a breaking point and can no longer provide newcomers with even the basic services they have a right to expect.
About 9,000 Iraqis made it to Sweden in 2006 - almost half of the 22,000 who sought asylum in the entire industrialized world. This year, when the United States has promised to take in 7,000 Iraqis, around 20,000 are expected to seek asylum in Sweden.
Many of them are expected to find their way to this thriving town about 30 kilometers, or 18 miles, southwest of Stockholm. During 2006, following a migration route for Middle Eastern Christians laid down almost half a century ago, more than 1,000 Iraqis arrived here. This year, up to 2,000 are expected.
Now areas like Ronna and Hovsjo, with the seven-story, boxlike apartment buildings typical of these Swedish versions of France's blighted immigrant neighborhoods or America's urban housing projects, are being nicknamed Little Baghdad and Mesopotalje, with shops hawking Iraqi delicacies, crowded apartments and innumerable stories of carnage and loss.
In one Ronna apartment, where newly arrived refugees gathered recently for an introduction to their new homeland as part of a municipal program, tragic stories were abundant.
Mariam, a 36-year-old teacher from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, came to Sodertalje in late March. She told of being grazed by a gunman's bullet while trying to leave Mosul with her family and seeing one of her sons shot in the stomach.
"We left everything to be safe, and we came here to start a new life," said Mariam, an Assyrian Christian who did not want her full name used because her husband and two of her three sons had not yet left Iraq. "In Iraq, we were deprived of even the simple right to go to church, and we want to hold on to our religion."
Sweden grants asylum to all Iraqis except those from the relatively stable Kurdish areas, and the immigration authorities do not even register their religious affiliation.
But Sodertalje has been a magnet for Christian refugees since the late 1960s, when Assyrian immigrants from Lebanon, Syria and Turkey established a thriving community here. After the 1991 Gulf war and now, as extremists in Iraq step up their persecution of non-Muslims, more and more are trying to get here.
"They come here to survive," said Jalal Hammo, the chairman of St. John's, a Chaldean Catholic church, who arrived from Iraq in 1994.
"The terrorists do all they can to make all Christians leave Iraq."
Culture shock for newly arrived Iraqis is far less here than it would be practically anywhere else in Sweden - or the West, for that matter. They can speak their native Arabic almost everywhere and have their choice of churches catering to the Christian denominations common in Iraq: Chaldean Catholic, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.
In addition, they can see the games of two successful Assyrian soccer teams at the local stadium, as well as Suroyo TV, an Assyrian satellite station. But even though Sodertalje is the choice for many Iraqi Christians, it is becoming clear that their lives present many challenges - partly as a consequence of Sodertalje's status as a haven of choice.
Most who make it here were affluent - almost all have paid $10,000 to $20,000 for the papers they need to get out of Iraq - and they are often highly educated. But work in Sodertalje is scarce, especially for those who cannot speak Swedish, and Iraqis who arrive now will have to wait several months to start regular Swedish classes.
Housing is also a problem. Like most of the refugees, Mariam has been living with friends and worries that she has greatly overstayed her welcome. "After everything I had in Iraq, I have to suffer this humiliation," she said. "I want to work, I want to provide for my family, but what can I do here?"
Town officials are wondering that themselves. "The Swedish system for taking in refugees is broken," Lago said. He said Sodertalje faces an overwhelming burden of providing housing, schooling and work.
When language classes overflow and as many as 15 people share a two-bedroom apartment in Ronna and Hovsjo, "those who suffer the most are the refugees themselves," he said.
And even here, 2,000 miles from Iraq, the war makes its presence felt, as with Hazim, a wealthy, 50-year-old businessman who fled Baghdad in March. Sitting with compatriots in a Ronna apartment recently, he received a threatening cellphone call from Baghdad.
"For us, Iraq is a never-ending story," he said. "We came here, and we are still followed by the war."
And then there are Swedes like Lago, who learn about the horrors of Iraq as part of their jobs.
The service in St. John's Church, where Lago was a guest, was held in memory of the Reverend Ragheed Ganni, 35, a Chaldean Catholic priest from Iraq who worked at the church until last fall. In November, he decided to return to Iraq.
On June 3, Ganni was shot to death, execution style, after celebrating Mass at the Holy Spirit Church in Mosul.
A Documentary on Assyrian Language under
Courtesy of the Turkish Daily News
(ZNDA: Vatican) The shooting of a documentary on the Assyrian language, spoken for thousands of years in Mesopotamia and southeastern Anatolia but fighting to survive today, has begun in the city of Mardin in Turkey.
The documentary titled “Yarına Bir Harf” (A Letter to Tomorrow) shows the efforts taken for the language to stay alive in the future. The documentary is produced by the Social Democracy Foundation (SODEV), and the a European Union's donation program titled “Supporting Cultural Rights in Turkey.”
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Directorate General of Press and Information in Turkey is also supporting the productin of this documentary.
The first shootings, directed by Hakan Aytekin, were done during the Holy Week including Good Friday and the Easter Holiday. The language of the documentary will be Assyrian, which is becoming less effective as a spoken language amid official languages. There will be Turkish and English subtitles. The documentary, which aims at drawing the world's attention to Assyrian language and culture, a significant part of the world's cultural heritage.
The shooting of the documentary is expected to finish in September.
AUA is Not Hosting the Tehran Conference
The latest issue of Zinda Magazine contains misinformation in its article "Invitation to Attend AUA Conference in Tehran" which needs to be corrected to portray actual facts.
The invitation clearly establishes that it is not from the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) nor that the Assyrian Universal Alliance is hosting the conference in Iran. It is the sole project of Mr. Yonathan Bet-Kolia. The AUA has been invited to participate in the conference only.
Therefore, it is fundamental that you correct your mistake in the upcoming electronic/printed issue and prior to the conference which is scheduled to commence on 24 July 2007.
Kanna is Our Elected Leader; Aghajan a KDP Employee
This is in response to yet another nonsensical hit-piece on the ADM by Paul Isaac (Zinda, May 20, 2007, “ Yonadam Kanna: The Last ‘Iraqi’ Politician in Iraq”) The article itself was not unexpected, given Mr. Isaac’s attendance of the KDP-sponsored conference in Ankawa last March. His tirade against Zowaa (and Rabi Yonadam Kanna specifically, of course) took aim at our elected representative for not supporting the plan for an autonomous region that KDP employee, Sarkis Agahjan, has. However, if one were to review the report of Zowaa’s 2003 conference, it is clear that the current stance of the ADM is consistent with the objectives of that conference. Zowaa’s aim is for an administrative region tied to Iraq’s central government, not the autonomous one Aghajan is advocating. In truth, this “autonomous” region that Aghajan speaks of is smoke and mirrors; the region would in fact be under the control of the KRG. Secondly, Aghajan's recommendation for the autonomous region is very generally stated and there is no definition or explanation for many issues related to his suggested autonomous region. Thirdly, there is no point in submitting any kind of proposal at this point simply to pacify certain critics in the diaspora when no referendums are currently allowed to be held in Iraq regarding the administrative regions (which are guaranteed in the Iraqi constitution.) The ADM will not submit anything until they are sure it has parliamentary support to pass (the same thing every party or political bloc in every government in every country with a representative government does.) As we have witnessed in recent years, any group can issue a multitude of declarations and pat themselves on the back for doing so. How many of those were actually implemented?
I find it curious that these critics of Zowaa highlight this issue with such hysterics, when in fact the Kurds (with all their numbers, resources, and international recognition and support) have never submitted any kind of proposal for autonomy themselves. In fact, on May 30, 2007, Nechirvan Barzani made the following statement: “We in the Kurdistan Region have decided to remain part of Iraq on the basis of a voluntary union, provided that Iraq is a federal, democratic and pluralistic country.” (click here) Yet Mr. Paul Isaac and his ilk, from the comforts of their homes in the west, expect the ADM to declare nationhood, gather up their thousand-member army and implement it. While they, with the assistance of certain media outlets, continually undermine Zowaa at every opportunity. It’s the moral equivalent of cutting someone’s legs off and screaming manically that they can’t run. Perhaps if we were more unified behind our elected representatives (as a US State Department official recently remarked) we could have had a stronger voice to push through more favorable legislation for our people.
And now onto our appointed savior, the KDP’s own Sarkis Aghajan. There is little I can say about this man than Zinda itself did in the last issue. Sarkis Aghajan is one man, an employee, given massive resources (resources we were entitled to, being handed out to us as if we should be thankful instead of indignant that the money was funneled through the KRG and used to propagandize against our national aspirations.) Assyrians taking advantage of those (deserved) resources should not translate into idol-like worship. What is it that Pro-Kurdistani Assyrians believe: That since our population is so small, we have no choice? That since we have no military might, we have no choice? That since we are out-financed and bullied, we have no choice? That " Kurdistan" is the best bet?
There is only one intention behind building rival nurseries, schools, or internet cafes by the KDP just across the street by ones built by the Assyrian Aid Society. There is only one intention behind funding a rival television station rather than funding the existing one. There is only one intention to building churches rather than infrastructure. There is only one intention in dealing with clergy rather than civic and political representatives to discuss the future of the ONE nation. There is only one intention with Sarkis Aghajan. How disturbing that for some, the hatred for the ADM supersedes this inconvenient truth, and they would rather allow the intentions behind Mr. Aghajan take over what it has taken us, the Assyrians in Iraq and the diaspora, 30 years to build. If the KDP has to go this far, into this much detail, to derail the ADM, then the masses are correct: All there is in Iraq is, indeed, the ADM. Otherwise the Kurds would find the ADM as non-threatening as they find the BNDP or APP - or Sarkis Aghajan.
Opportunities to Learn Assyrian Abound
I read with great interest the piece about William Saroyan’s short story, ‘Seventy-Thousand Assyrians’. The author of the piece brought up a number of important points, and is to be commended. However there are a couple problems with the article.
First, I know personally of an Assyrian school, in the suburbs of Los Angeles. This summer there will be a summer camp there, where among other things children can learn the Assyrian language and history. While relatively few of these students may become fluent, I expect that many will learn to read and write at least simple Assyrian. Far too many Assyrians, even among those who can speak Assyrian, are unable to read or write it, but here a local California church is investing in the future of Assyrians by teaching the language to the children. Mr. Amir Dinkha is the teacher of Aramaic Language, and Mesopotamian History and Religion.
Second, in the very issue of Zinda which published the article (again, high commendations to the author), there is an ad for an Assyrian-English/English-Assyrian Dictionary and Phrasebook (OK, they call it ‘Modern Aramaic’). I’ve purchased this book, and will be using it to improve my Swadaya and learn Turoyo, as much as I can. While Hippocrene Books does offer books on dead languages, this is an investment in a living language. I recommend that any who want to increase their knowledge of modern Assyrian buy the book (caveat: the book doesn’t teach reading and writing using Alap-Bet). Also Solomon Zomaya has invested a good deal of time to put together a (hopefully) authoritative grammar of Swadaya, taking the varying local dialects into account. I recommend this set for anyone wishing to invest in an Assyrian future.
There are comic videos in Assyrian (beyond my level), and a handful of books, so I wouldn’t give up on Assyrian yet.
A Report from the March 2007 Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Conference in Ankawa
Dr. Walid Hindo, M.D.,
Having attended the “Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Conference” held March 12-13 in Ankawa, we felt it would be useful to share our experiences with the larger community. Many misconceptions and false statements have surfaced regarding the conference, so we hope our statement here will bring the dialogue back towards a debate based on facts and reality.
Over 1,200 Assyrians attended the conference to address the issue of autonomy for our people in Iraq. Billboards and banners, with the now-familiar three hands embraced and placed over the Assyrian flag, and with the conference’s title in both Assyrian and Arabic, could be seen throughout Ankawa, Erbil, Shaqlawa, Dohuk, and other towns in villages. Approximately 1,000 of the participants came from the various communities in Iraq, from Dohuk, Erbil, Tel Keif, Alqush, Qaraqosh, Mangesh, Baghdad, Mosul and many others. The other 200 traveled from outside the country, with many coming from Sweden, Germany, other European countries, Canada, and Australia. We were two of eleven participants from the United States. Among many of the notable people in the audience were: the Italian Consul, the British Consul, former Iraqi General George Sada, Hikmat Hakim, Audisho Malko, Malek Paul Khoshaba, and Malek Shamezdin, Of course, Minister of Finance Sargis Aghajan was also in attendance, sitting as observer for the entire two-day meeting and only addressing the assembly for a few minutes as the event adjourned.
2) The Conference affirmed, that as one nation and one people, we demand our full civic, cultural and political rights, including the right to regional autonomy within a unified Iraq.
Dr.Walid Hindo is the president of Northbrook Institute for Research and Development and was the Chairman of Radiology Department of Chicago Medical School. Dr. Audisho Khoshaba, Board Certified, is in private family practice and lives in Chicago.
“Assyrian of the Year 6756” is Pure Fantasy
I was disturbed by “Assyrian of the Year 6756,” published in the June 3, 2007, edition of Zinda Magazine. This article makes a series of false or unfounded statements and comes to false and unfounded conclusions about Sarkis Aghajan, whom Zinda designates its“Assyrian of the Year.”
But Zinda is being ironic, given its treatment of its “honoree,” whom it calls “the elusive Assyrian statesman of Arbil.”
We are supposed to appreciate this low sarcasm. We do not.
Sarkis Aghajan is doing incredible things for our people, providing them homes and safety to a degree unmatched in all of the rest of Iraq and, for that matter, in other Middle Eastern countries. This seems to disturb Zinda, though why is this a puzzle. Its article seems to be written out of a desire to hurt Mr. Aghajan and what he is working for – establishing a place of safety in Iraq for Assyrians and other Christians.
Let us address a few of Zinda's statements.
• “Sarkis Aghajan and Nechirvan Barzani were students who later studied at the University of Tehran when the Assyrian Patriarch, Mar Eshai Shimun was assassinated in San Jose, California. In less than a year, the bishop of Tehran – of the same tribal affiliation as Aghajan and born in the same tribal region as the Barzani – was consecrated the Patriarch of the Church of the East in London, England. In the coming years the bond between the three men from Iran grew stronger ...”
The relationship between Sarkis Aghajan and the Barzani family is well known, but why is “the bishop of Tehran” injected into the mix? Is it for being from the same region? Or from being in Tehran at the same time? What proof does the author present showing that there was a bond between the three? Does the author know that in 1975 Sarkis Aghajan was all of 12 years old and Nechirvan Barzani was 9 years old?
THERE WAS NO BOND BETWEEN THE THREE MEN IN IRAN.
There has never being any meeting between the three in Chicago or in Washington. Sarkis Aghajan and the Prime Minister have never visited Chicago. The three men have never been in Washington at the same time. False statements like these cannot go unchallenged.
WITHOUT “MEETINGS,” DISCUSSING “PLANS” IS A FALSE ACCUSATION.
Since there was no relationship among the three men, this article, and similar statements by supporters of Zowaa, unjustly attack Sarkis Aghajan, His Holiness and other Assyrian parties have done the most to harm Zowaa. Any challenges facing Zowaa are self-inflicted and not caused by the three parties mentioned by Zinda.
Mr. Aghajan has no working relationship with any Assyrian political party in order to “absorb” them under the KRG banner.
No facts or evidence are presented for any of this. The accusation of a relationship with foreign spy services seems injected for the purpose of character assassination. This baseless charge, against someone living and working in Iraq where innocent people are killed daily, is outrageous and dangerous to Mr. Aghajan. It is a betrayal of an Assyrian, one of our own, and ignores the fact that Mr. Aghajan has been feeding the hungry and sheltering the victims – our fellow Assyrians.
The Barzanis do not need Aghajan to help them in hiring lobby firm. They have been active with a full staff in Washington for the last 25 years, and Aghajan rarely comes to Washington. Absolutely no attempt is made to show how “Assyrian patriarchs” are involved. The Patriarchs did not push him and have nothing to do with his accomplishments.
Zinda's article is full of many contradictions and meaningless and unrelated statements:
“…When the oil fields of Kirkuk were to be auctioned off to the highest bidders.”
When? What auction? What does this mean?
A building project -- Assyrian homes, villages and churches -- was indeed planned. But it did not come after your report or any agreement between Mr. Barzani’s government and the Patriarch. The plan has been consistent from the beginning. It is to build for Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs homes and villages, and to build churches for all denominations. Zinda congratulates itself for discovering what everybody knew.
“Even the mention of the name Zowaa was forbidden on Ishtar TV.”
Ishtar TV, as a matter of policy, does not mention any political parties.
Then there is Zinda's peculiar complaint that Christian fundamentalists, supposedly moved by Mr. Aghajan's public relations efforts, “are now telling us that Kurdistan is an important area because such important Biblical figures as Jonah, Noah, and Esther lived there.” First, what is wrong with this? Nothing. Next, if any biblical eminences should reappear in Iraq, I pray that Assyrians would be able to invite them home to the Nineveh Plain.
The article assembles a random basket of information, some true and most imagined, and then weaves something more like a soap opera instead of serious thought. This tale would be amusing were it not created to attack, malign and cause harm. Our people in Iraq are having enough trouble. If we, in this and other free countries, cannot help them, let us at least not destroy those who can.
Human Race Walkathon 2007 the Most Successful Ever
The Assyrian Aid Society of America
Our deepest gratitude to you for making the Human Race Walkathon 2007 our most successful fundraising event ever!
We had over 250 people that either participated in the walk or donated money to this event. In addition to our corporate sponsor, National Semiconductor, which matched the donations, this year Ninsha Corporation was the Official Youth Sponsor of our chapter.
We raised a total of over $19,500, out of which about $3,000 will go to local charities through the Silicon Valley Volunteer Center and the rest will go to the Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq to provide for the housing, medical and educational needs of the Assyrian people in our Homeland.
We very much appreciate your generous support. Let's do it again next year!
Cognac at Dawn
I have come to realize that often in life we encounter the people we don’t know as strangers passing on a bridge. We might acknowledge them with a nod or a smile maybe, but it ends there, and we continue on our path only to repeat the same sequence on the next bridge. Sometimes, though, that pattern is broken because of extraordinary circumstances: we pause for more than just a hello, even though we have nothing in common except that circumstance.
Among many such encounters in my life one particular event stands out in my memory. What’s more, for some reason in recent years I find myself revisiting it often. Maybe it’s because of the insanity of the Iraq war with its horrendous cycle of death and destruction, and of the plight of the Assyrians caught up in it like a ship in a minefield.
And I feel for our own U.S. Armed Forces, who like all soldiers of every nation in history, from the Assyrian Empire to the present, seem to carry the burden of war upon their young shoulders. Regardless of ideologies and political diatribe of leaders in every camp, on every side of the argument, in the end it is the individual soldier who pays the price.
I believe this. I was once a soldier myself, caught in a war that, along with many of my fellow soldiers, I failed to understand, let alone endorse. It was a war where the front lines were everywhere other than where traditionally they were supposed to be: the front was the rear, the rear was the front, left was right and right was left – like Alice in Wonderland.
Returning to that fateful year in my life, 1967, I remember leaning against a wall of sandbags at the Pleiku airbase, in the central highlands of Vietnam, and fighting the chill with a superb cognac from my flask. It was the hour before dawn. In the distance, intermittent artillery fire and machinegun bursts bounced in the dark like disorienting echoes in a canyon, shattering the foreboding silence of a strangely beautiful land. The pungent smell of sulfur and engine fumes coupled with musty earth and exotic vegetation overwhelmed my nose.
I had landed at Cam Ranh Bay on Christmas Day and a few days later found myself at the air base with the 4 th Infantry Division patch on my shoulder. My sword and javelin were long tucked into history with the conquering armies of my Assyrian ancestors, and my fierce chariot was replaced with the transport plane that had brought me there just before dark.
Fearing a Viet Cong ambush on the way to Camp Enari, the division’s headquarters some 10 miles away, our group of green soldiers spent the night in an airfield hangar, where we made our beds wherever we could. Hours into the night I had finally stopped fighting sleep on the hard floor and stepped outside.
I took swigs of my cognac and wondered if the ancient Assyrian warriors felt the same rumble in their gut as they prepared to face the Medes or the Elamites as I did with the prospect of meeting my so-called enemy. A warrior I was not – just a struggling writer. My ancestors had their cause for war. What was mine?
It was a moot question at that hour when even the rooster had enough sense to keep its head tucked in its feathers. I would have given anything to be anywhere but under that cobalt sky in what felt like the coldest spot on earth. The soldier who leaned against the same wall of sandbags near me must have had his battle with sleep. He lit a cigarette and then offered me one. I took it and nodded my thanks; then passed him my flask.
He took a swig and passed the flask back. “Man, that’s good hooch,” he said.
“It’s cognac.” I took another swig, loving the fire in my throat.
“In Tennessee Jack Daniels is king.”
“In San Francisco we’re a little more fashionable,” I said. “We drink wine. Red Mountain. Buck-fifty a jug.”
He laughed. It trailed into a sigh. He looked away.
We talked about the war. We talked about home. He was curious about my Assyrian heritage. I told him, and added, “We’re mentioned in the Bible.”
He nodded. “Read about them in Sunday School.”
I guessed his age around 19, but he looked older in the stark lights. He wore faded fatigues, his jungle boots scuffed with hard-fought battles. My fatigues were new and my stateside boots still had a hint of a shine. He wore the patch of the 173 rd Airborne Brigade. In the summer and fall of that year, 1967, the 173 rd had fought one of the bloodiest battles of the war at Dak To, resulting in the capture of the infamous Hill 875. He was waiting to fly to Cam Ranh Bay later that morning and then home.
Was that the way I would look after my tour in Vietnam? I wondered. Would I even live? Years later, I also wonder if the Assyrian warriors of ancient days looked so after they had fought their battles. Did they then go home as scarred as my young companion must have been? As I myself would be a year later? That I will never know. But scars of war are the souvenirs every soldier takes home.
We stayed out smoking cigarettes and passing the cognac. When the sun rose, I capped my empty flask and the soldier and I returned to our individual bedrolls. I knew after that day I would never see him again. After all, we were strangers passing on a bridge. Even though we wore the same uniform, and proudly, we still came from different worlds, with little in common except for the war. And while his was finished and he had survived, mine had just begun with the ending uncertain.
Following breakfast, as he walked out onto the tarmac to board the transport plane, he turned and threw a salute at me across the way in the hangar. I returned it. Years later, I’d like to think that he, too, looks back on our encounter that dawn and remembers sharing a few swigs of good hooch with an Assyrian – like the ones mentioned in the Bible.
Demonstration in Chicago in Support of Iraq's Christians
The Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people and their friends will hold a peaceful
demonstration on Thursday, June 28, 2007, in front of the JOHN C. KLUCZYNSKI
FEDERAL BUILDING (230 S. Dearborn Street) at the corner of Dearborn & Jackson
in Downtown Chicago between 12:00 Noon & 2:00 PM, in order to bring to the
world’s attention to the continuous oppressive, inhumane and brutal treatment of
Iraqi Christians. The Iraqi Christians are a daily target for kidnapping, bombing,
His Holiness Pope Benedict the XVI, in his meeting and discussion with
President Bush, highlighted and expressed his deepest concern about the worsening
situation of the Christians in Iraq. Indeed, Christianity is persecuted under the
watchful eyes of the Iraqi Government and the entire world.
The Christians of Iraq are the decedents of the great builders of human civilization, whose roots go back to the early days of Mesopotamia (Iraq).
Accordingly, they are entitled to their equal constitutional rights in their ancestral
Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Select Committee for Supporting Christians of Iraq (Chicago, IL)
Date: Thursday; June 28, 2007
Buses will transport participants to Downtown Chicago
For Information Please Call:
Syriac Studies Symposium V
Zinda Magazine, as the major sponsor of this years Syriac Studies Symposium, welcomes the speakers and participants to the Fifth Syriac Studies Symposium which convenes at the University of Toronto this week between 25 and 27 June.
LIST OF SPEAKERS & PAPERS
Argárate, Pablo, F. ( University of St. Michaels College), “Perfects and Perfection in the Book of Steps”
Aras, Ramazan ( University of Waterloo), “Deconstructions, Reconstructions and Transformations: The Ethno-Religious Relations between Assyrian Christians and Muslim Kurds in Kerboran Mardin 1915-1980”
Abdo Badwi ( Kaslik University, Beirut), “The Two Miniatures of the Manuscript Vat Syr 118”
Bcheiry, Rev. Dr. Iskandar Sharbel ( Villa Park , IL), “The Registration of Consecrated Ecclesiastics in Southeastern Anatolia during the 16 th Century”
Benjamin, Mikhael ( Nineveh Center for Research & Development, Iraq), “Translation as a Medium of Cross-Cultural Exchange”
Borbone, Pier Giorgio (Università di Pisa) “Greek Physiognomics in Syriac Disguise: Chapter XX of Barhebraeus’ Laughable Stories”
Briquel Chatonnet, Françoise (CNRS Paris), “ Les inscriptions syriaques de Syrie ”
Casey, Kevin ( University of Toronto), “The Spiritual Interpretation of Scripture: An Example of Cultural Continuity in the Early Islamic Period”
Clocksin, William ( Oxford Brookes University), “A High Accuracy Character Recognition System for Old Printed Books in Connected Script languages such as Syriac and Arabic”
Corbett, John H. ( University of Toronto), “The Ascetic Life as Holy War: The Biblical Basis of the Book of Steps”
Dinno, Khalid ( University of Toronto), “The Chronology of the Patriarchs according to the Syriac Orthodox Tradition”
Donabed, Sargon ( University of Toronto), “Transparent Assyria: Ethno-Cultural or Religious Causes of Devastation in Iraq 1961-1990”
Ebied, Rifaat (The University of Sydney), “A Collection of Letters in Syriac and Arabic addressed to Eduard Sachau (1845-1930)”
van Ginkel, Jan (Leiden University), “Ignatius of Melitene (ca. d. 1095), another Byzantine Syrian-Orthodox Historiographer?”
Greatrex, Geoffrey (University of Ottawa), “The Romano-Persian Frontier and the Context of the Book of Steps”
Greisiger, Lutz ( Martin-Luther-Universitaet Halle-Wittenberg), “’Kush will hand over the power to God:’ Nubia and the Last Emperor in 7 th Century Syriac Apocalypses”
Griffin , Carl ( Brigham Young University), “Syriac Projects and Publications at BYU’s Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (CPART)”
Griffith, Sidney H. ( Catholic University of America), “ Syrian Christian Intellectuals in the World of Islam: Faith, the Philosophical Life, and the Quest for Interreligious Convivencia in Abbasid Times”
Grillo, John (Toronto School of Theology), “ Fire from Heaven: A Theological Analysis and Contextualization of Aphrahat’s Demonstration 4: On Prayer ”
Harrak, Amir ( University of Toronto), “An Inscribed Bronze Disc at the Royal Ontario Museum”
Harvey, Susan Ashbrook ( Brown University), “Gender Sanctity: Jacob of Serug on Jephthah’s Daughter”
Kayaalp, Elif Keser ( University of Oxford), “Architectural Sculpture of the 8th Century Tur Abdin Churches”
Kiraz, George (The Syriac Institute) “The Structure of the West Syriac Sh himo”
Kitchen, Robert A. ( Knox-Metropolitan United Church:, “Jonah’s Oar Christian Typology in Jacob of Serug’s Mēmrā 122 on Jonah”
Lehto, Adam ( University of Toronto), “Nature as a Category in Early Syriac Theology”
Loopstra, Jonathan ( Catholic University of America), “Glossing the Glossators: Preserving the Biblical Reading Traditions of Tubana, Theodosius, and the Monks of the Skull Monastery”
Lund, Jerome A. ( University of Cincinnati), “Telltale Signs of a Semitic Prototext for the Peshitta of Daniel”
Maier, Carmen ( Princeton Theological Seminary), “Ephrem and the Rabbis in Conversation”
McDonough, Scott ( William Paterson University of New Jersey), “A Prophet for All Faiths? The Cult of Daniel in the Late Sasanian World”
McVey, Kathleen E. (Princeton Theological Seminary), “Spirit embodied: contemplative interpretations of early Christian and Byzantine architecture”
Mengozzi, Alessandro (Università degli Studi di Bergamo), “‘Suraye wa-Phrangaye:’ Late East-Syrian Poetry on Historical Events in Classical and Vernacular Syriac”
Michelson, David A. ( Princeton University), “Religious Practice and the Defense of Miaphysite Orthodoxy: Observations on Philoxenos of Mabbug”
Monnickendam, Yifat ( Bar-Ilan University) “Betrothal Laws in Ephraem and their Sources”
Morehouse, Robert (Catholic University of America), “Image Manipulation for eBeth Arké Content”
Morrison, Craig (Pontifical Biblical Institute), “The ‘Jews’ in the Commentary on the Diatessaron ”
Münz-Manor, Ophir ( Brown University), “When Poetry Does Not Follow Religious Affiliation: Christian and Jewish Poets on Body and Soul”
Odisho, Edward Y. (Northeastern Illinois University) “Modern Syriac: A Seriously Endangered Language”
Penn, Michael ( Mount Holyoke College), “Arabs, Muslims, and Islam as Depicted in The Book of Governors”
Pettipiece, Timothy (Université de Laval), “Manichaeism and the Book of Steps”
Possekel, Ute ( Reading, MA), “Eusebius of Emesa and Ephrem the Syrian on the Trinity”
Van Rompay, Lucas ( Duke University), “Severus, patriarch of Antioch (512-538), in the Greek, Syriac, and Coptic traditions”
Royel, Cor-bishop David ( San Jose), “East Meets East: Byzantine Liturgical Influences on the Rite of the Church of the East”
Saint-Laurent, Jeanne-Nicole ( Brown University), “Hagiographical Memories of Jacob Baradaeus”
Saleh, Walid ( University of Toronto), “An Islamic Diatessaron”
Smine, Rima E. “Syriac Illuminations in the Time of the Crusades”
Smith, Kyle ( Duke University), “Dendrites and Other Standers: Evidence from the Newly Translated History of the Exploits of Bishop Paul and Priest John ”
Talia, Shawqi ( Catholic University of America), “Lamentations in Neo-Aramaic Dorekyatha of Northern Iraq”
Taylor , Richard, A ( Dallas Theological Seminary), “The Book of Daniel in the Bible of Edessa”
Thekeparampil, Fr. Dr. Jacob (SEERI, Kerala), “Syriac Inscriptions in Kerala”
Tubach, Juergen ( University of Halle), “The Hymn of the Pearl and the World of the Persian Nobility”
Valgiusti, Elisabetta ( Salvaimonasteri Association, Rome), “ Syriac Christianity in the Iraqi Exodus: A People of Prophets between Hope and Hopelessness” (with video and pictures)
Vashalomidze, Sophia G. (Martin-Luther-Universitaet Halle-Wittenberg), “The Assyrian Minority in Present-Day Georgia”
Wheatley-Irving, Linda ( Chicago) “The Architecture of Mor Abhai Monastery on the Euphrates”
Wilde, Clare ( Catholic University of America), “Syriac Influences on Qur’anic Apocalyptic Themes?”
Younansardaroud, Helen ( Freie Universität Berlin ), “‛Abd ī š ō ‛ bar Br ī k ā’ s book Paradise of Eden”
Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation's 23rd Annual Scholarship Fund Dinner
Kathy Sayad Zatari
Speaker: Rosie Malek-Yonan
ARAM 25th International Conference
ARAM Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies is organising its Twenty Sixth International Conference on the theme of The Decapolis, to be held at Oxford University, 7-9 July 2008.
The aim of this conference is to study once again the theme of the Decapolis with its new discoveries and researches. The conference will start on July 7 at 9 am, finishing on July 9 at 5pm.
Each speaker’s paper is limited to 30 minutes, with an additional 10 minutes for discussion.
If you wish to participate in the conference, please contact our Oxford address:
All papers given at the conference will be considered for publication in a future edition of the ARAM Periodical, subject to editorial review.
If you wish to get more information about our ARAM Society, please open: www.aramsociety.org I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Dr. Claudia Bührig (Orient Dept of the German Archaeological Institute: DAI):
Dr. Lucinda Dirven ( University of Amsterdam):
“Subject to be defined.”
Prof. David Kennedy ( University of Western Australia):
Mr. Charlie March (PhD candidate at the University of London):
Dr. Gerald Mattingly ( Johnson Bible College):
Dr. Ahmad al- Shami (Department of Antiquities – Amman):
Dr. Karel Vriezen ( University of Utrecht):
Prof. Dr. Thomas M. Weber (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität):
Prof. Zeev Weiss ( Hebrew University):
For registration please write to email@example.com.
Lamassu Productions Releases
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
André N. Anton
Assyrian – The Struggle for Identity
DETROIT, MI, June 6, 2007/Lamassu Productions/ -- Lamassu Productions has been steadily
progressing through its Sponsorship Tour throughout North America, visiting various Assyrian
youth groups, community organizations, and community leaders, as well as participating in local
television and radio interviews. In the midst of this tour, Lamassu Productions has been working
on a company website and the creation of a mailing list for the movie. The mailing list is now
Anyone interested will be able to join the mailing list. Simply, visit www.assyriandoc.com and click the “Register for the Newsletter” button on the home page. Fill out and submit the required information on the pop-up browser and you will have joined the mailing list. All submitted information will be kept private and no third party will have access to it.
The importance of the mailing list is vital to the project’s success, as it will provide email updates to those interested about the movie’s progress on a regular basis, instead of having to constantly visit the movie site; it will also provide audience demographics for distribution purposes once the movie is complete. Lamassu Productions asks you to please forward this press release to those who may be interested in the project and joining the mailing list.
Book Announcement: The Rites of Eastern Christendom
Gorgias Press would like to announce the following book:
Title: The Rites of Eastern Christendom (click here)
The classic introduction to Eastern Orthodox liturgies, King’s two-volume, The Rites of Eastern Christendom has been a scarce source for too many years. Gorgias Press is proud to bring this title back into circulation. King begins his historic study with an introduction to the Rite of the Oriental Churches, then moves specifically to the Syrian Rite, the Maronite Rite, the Syro-Malankara Rite, the Coptic Rite, and the Ethiopic Rite. These five ancient churches of the East, sympathetically viewed from King’s own Catholic position, are considered as of a piece with historic Christianity and comprise the first volume of the set. Volume two contains the Byzantine Rite, the Chaldean Rite, the Syro-Malabar Rite, and the Armenian Rite. The text presents some historical background to each church to provide an appropriate setting, including a description of the church’s hierarchy, architecture, and liturgical furnishings. These are coupled with special attention to the liturgies of the individual churches. A resource that no student of Eastern Christianity can afford to be without, King’s work has yet to be surpassed as an accessible introduction to a complex subject.
Archdale Arthur King (1890-1972) was a priest and renowned liturgist as well as one time vicar of Holy Trinity, Reading.
Help! Christians are Being Exterminated in Iraq!
Mikhael K. Pius
One of Ashur Bet-Sargis’ national songs runs: “…Yimmatan kouma bilwasha w’akhnan hala b’dourasha…” *
How very true and pertinent these words sound today!
I wonder how long would it take us as a race to realize the seriousness of our political—and physical—survival? How long would we go on bickering among ourselves on matters that do not serve our national purpose? How long would we go on making the same national blunders we made in the past? For how long would some of us, full of greed and vanity, sell our national interests for personal fame and gain, thereby betraying our flesh and blood? How long would it take us to really understand that not only our political life but also our physical survival depends on our national unity? And by unity I don’t mean only within Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs as separate entities, but among all three divisions as one people whose origin is Bet-Nahrain (Mesopotamia), currently Iraq.
Don’t we all have the same blood in our veins, the same tone and texture of features, the same language, the same faith, the same culture—even if undergone various slight modifications during the course of centuries? Didn’t all of our people originate from the same land? Are we all not persecuted as the Christians in Middle East, whether Chaldean Catholics, Syrian Orthodox or Catholics or Assyrian Church of the Easterners? Shouldn’t we all huddle together as one flock for warmth and protection, or cry out for help in one common voice? Aren’t our church customs, doctrines and liturgies basically the same? And why are our leaders, whether elected or appointed, at each other’s throats? Why are our church hierarchies meddling in political matters when they should be taking proper care of their flocks as men of God should do and let go of proclamations and actions that contribute to division of their people and congregations, setting couples, family members and friends against each other—not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted for litigation instead of being used to serve the needs of our own people? Haven’t we learned from the past that our failure to achieve any national gains was basically the result of hostile competition between the religious and political leaders and in-fighting among both groups?
Most of you know about our today’s Christian people’s tragic situation in Iraq. Our people are now being targeted, along with Armenian Christians, by extremist factions of Islamists. A gradual attack by fundamentalist Moslems against Christian community began more than three years ago in southern Iraq. It gradually spread to central Iraq and has developed now into systematic religious and ethnic cleansing under the eyes of American and Iraqi authorities. Nothing is done about it and the victims are helpless to defend themselves, or to know where to go or what to do to save themselves and their families.
Our people’s plight today is not so much political as it is religious. It is no longer the Assyrian, the Syriac or the Chaldean problem as three different peoples, or even ethnic communities. Because we did not hold together as one people to strive for our national rights, we have been broken down and reduced to just three religious sects and classified as a whole as a community of Christians!
The main reason for this fundamentalist Moslem animosity and violence against us is that we are Christians—not Assyrians, not Chaldeans, not Syriacs, but Christians—whom they want to exterminate and banish from the Moslem countries and deny us our national rights. Then, too, they see us, Assyrians in particular and Christians in general, as sympathizers to the West, while their third motive is naturally material gain through looting, ransom, home and property seizure with which to replenish their arsenal and refuel their killing machinery.
Iraqi Christians are being persecuted in every imaginable way. They are kidnapped for ransom in amounts beyond their means; their women snatched and raped; their victims often killed even when ransom is paid; priests, nuns and children are killed and beheaded; and tens of churches ransacked and bombed. Sometimes, victims are tortured, dismembered and thrown on the streets. It’s a free-for-all massacre against the Christians!
There have been many cases where the Moslem terrorists have broken into homes at night, shooting family members execution style and looting their money and valuable property, sometimes even raping daughters in sight of their parents and family members.
In some neighborhoods “People of the Cross” are forced to pay jizya (Moslem protection tax); and families are ordered to convert to Islam or give a young daughter in marriage to a Moslem in order to be allowed to continue living in the neighborhood. Those not complying are threatened with death unless they move out of the neighborhood, leaving their homes and property behind! And now some of the terrorists are also charging the families they evict “exit tax” to boot, either per head or per carload!
In most neighborhoods Christians dare not go out to do their family grocery shopping for fear of being ambushed and killed or kidnapped; they buy from mobile vendors at their doors at several-fold of normal prices. They dare not send their children to school or attend church services themselves for fear of being harmed. College attendance is now a hazardous venture and some Christians are driven from their workplaces and lose their jobs and consequently their livelihood.
Almost all Christians in Basra in the south have by now fled the city and those in Mosul in the north are under siege. Dora, once a thriving township of some eight hundred Assyrian families on the outskirts of Baghdad, is now reduced to a tiny fraction of its besieged Assyrian population; the town has been taken over by the Moslem inhabitants and the Islamic militants. Of the 1.2 million Christians living in Iraq prior to this Iraq War, almost half of this population is now displaced.
Some have moved up north of Iraq, where their situation as refugees is not much better and where some cases of persecution still take place at the hands of their Kurdish “brothers” under the nose of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). But the bulk of the evacuees have fled the country.
Those Assyrians and Chaldeans and other Christians who have fled the country—and are still fleeing daily in droves—are living in appalling economic conditions as unwanted and unrecognized destitute refugees in Jordanian, Syrian, Lebanese and Turkish slums and ghettos, without the right to financial aid, employment or education and with scant hope of making it to a Western country. They subsist on what little they receive from their relatives or Assyrian church and charity sources in free countries or on what little they themselves can scrounge by doing grossly underpaid or degrading work (including
prostitution in rare cases!) to feed their children. Financial aid is direly needed to alleviate some of their misery. Some of our charitable organizations have been helping all along and others are making efforts to raise and send funds, while some churches are collecting donations from their congregations. But such assistance is really a band aide for a wound that in fact needs surgery and hospitalization. (It is understood that the American Congress has finally proposed $10 million relief assistance for the displaced Christians of Iraq, but this is yet to become a reality. And would the funds finally allotted be delivered directly to responsible Assyrian organizations or to KRG to dole out some of the money to their kind of Christians?)
Our people and other Iraqi Christian communities in Iraq are crying for help. They are appealing to all men (and women) of good will, whether Iraqi Christians or not, to do whatever they can to help these helpless victims of extremist religious and racial hatred.
They are especially looking up to us in the West to be the voice for them in bringing their plight to the attention of general media, high-ranking government officials, and public in general to motivate both the American and the Iraqi governments, the United Nations, the human rights societies as well as other sympathetic governments and agencies to take action to stop this mayhem that is turning into genocide; to protect the descendents of those who gave the first civilization to mankind; to save the earliest Christians whose Church of the East took Christianity to the corners of China, Japan, Mongolia and other far-away countries; and to protect a race of antiquity from becoming extinct. If these ancient people are left to be annihilated while the free world goes about its business as usual, the tragedy will live in infamy in the history of Western nations, particularly of America and England.
We Assyrians of this country also appeal to our countrymen and all other men of conscience to help in whatever way they can to save our Christian minorities of Iraq; the indigenous inhabitants of Mesopotamia (Iraq) who are today’s Assyrians-Chaldeans-Syriacs, a conjoined people who have lived in the country for thousands of years. They are the descendents of the Assyrian-Babylonian Empires, the cradle of today’s civilization; the remnants of antiquity; the first people to embrace Christianity in the first century A.D.; the people whose language, Aramaic, Jesus Christ himself spoke; the teachers and advisers of the Moslem Caliphs. And even contemporary Christians were (and still are) the better educated and more hard-working and dedicated section of the Iraqi average population, despite their suppressed and inferior status as citizens.
May God bless and protect you all and may He save the Assyrians and other Christian people of Iraq as well as our country America from the hateful wrath of Islamic terrorists!
* Translation from Assyrian: "Our mothers are in black and yet we still argue...)
Christians’ “Salvation” Requires Peace in the Middle East
AsiaNews has always dedicated time and space to the difficult situation so many Christians face in the Middle East, a situation that in some cases has turned to martyrdom. Their fate has touched so much the hearts and minds of so many people of good will that a rally will be held in Italy to remember the persecuted Christians in the Islamic world.
We do not want to snuff out any light, but if we think that we can defend Christians as an ethnic minority, as something separate from the rest of society, our steps in that direction can only be counterproductive and accentuate their difficulties. The fate of Christians in the Middle East is in fact closely related to the lack of peace and security in the region.
Palestinian Christians are escaping overseas; first of all because of Israel’s unbearable military occupation, but also because of widespread anarchy in their cities and the lack of future for their children. To that extent they share the same fate with many Palestinian Muslims—only incidentally are they affected as Christians.
The same is true for Iraq’s Christians. Far from viewing Saddam Hussein’s regime as a mythical era of peace for Christians—under the late dictator’s rule Christian schools were banned and Christians were not allowed to give Christian names to their children—the problem now is of a different order as Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk has repeatedly pointed out, and not simply one of tensions between Christians and Muslims. The main difference is the growth of fundamentalism, a trend reinforced by the failure of foreign and Iraqi troops to ensure security and controls, and by the deafness of a powerless government towards the demands of the population (Christians, Sunnis or Shi’as) for order and democracy. Such fundamentalism affects everyone, but inevitably Christians more so.
Those who want to “save” Christians as a separate entity run the risk of generating ideas like those expressed in the United States and Sweden that Assyrian (Christians) can be saved if they have their own enclave or “safe haven,” an idea rejected by Iraqi Christians and bishops because it leads to a racist-type isolation.
The fate of Iraqi Christians depends instead on a fair and just peace in the region as Benedict XVI’s own teachings suggest. In addressing the representatives of the many persecuted Churches during the annual meeting of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (Riunione Opere Aiuto Chiese Orientali or ROACO), the Pontiff expressed his concerns for both Christian and Muslim communities, not for Christians alone.
Talking about “the delicate situation affecting vast areas of the Middle East,” he stressed that “peace, so long implored and awaited, unfortunately is still largely being offended. It is offended in the hearts of individuals and this compromises interpersonal and communal relationships. Peace becomes even more fragile because of injustices, old and new. Thus it is extinguished altogether and gives way to violence which often degenerates into more or less open war until it ends up, as in our own time, as an urgent international problem.”
Benedict XVI appealed to “those who have specific responsibilities, that they may accept the vital duty of guaranteeing peace for everyone, without distinction, freeing [peace] from the mortal illness of religious, cultural, historical or geographical discrimination.”
This is why Christians do not seek special guarantees. All they need is a state that is sufficiently secular to guarantee everyone a chance to live and prosper “without religious discrimination.”
The place of Christians cannot be realistically separated from the general situation of the country in which they live nor can religious freedom be guaranteed independently of the wider context of human rights.
In addressing those who “those who have specific responsibilities,” the Pope was actually urging the United Nations and the governments of the East and the West to take direct action in favour of peace.
What we need is for someone in Italy and in Europe to take steps in favour of human rights and religious freedom, monitor their status and push for their broader applicability, which is something that might have political and economic consequences. It is especially important that a new peace conference be convened with all the nations of the region involved in order to reach a settlement guaranteed by peace treaties.
Ultimately, if our goal is to save Christians from persecution in the Middle East, it is first imperative that we find ways to implement a just and fair peace for the region.
Silencing the Cry of Iraq's Aramaic Christians
Rev. Stephen Andrew Missick
Courtesy of the Aramaic Herald
Hosea 4:6 “Voice of the Martyrs” Silences the Cry of Iraq’s Aramaic Christians I have been giving lectures on Aramaic and the Assyrian Christian heritage since 2002. During 2004 I became concerned about the outbreak of extreme anti-Christian violence in Iraq. My specialty is Aramaic, Biblical studies and church history, not persecution of Christians. When I mentioned in my presentations the persecution that the Assyrians were suffering I liked to refer people to ministries that focus on the persecution of Christians, such as “Voice of the Martyrs.” Then, after several years, I realized that VOM (Voice of the Martyrs) wasn’t reporting the suffering of Assyrian Christians in Iraq in their magazine or other publications. Then I checked their website. There was nothing there either. After the fourth year of intense persecution of Assyrian Christians in Iraq and VOM refusing to mention anything at all about it, I decided it was time for me to confront them about this problem.
Here is my Letter to them:
This is completely bogus. I believe what VOM is doing, or failing to do, is evil and I will explain why.
First, what are they waiting for? Unless we take action now there won’t be any Aramaic Christians left in Iraq. Perhaps, when the last Assyrian is killed or leaves Iraq and Iraq becomes a land totally devoid of Christians then VOM will report what happened. That makes them, at that point, historians and not a Christian ministry. When is “in the near future” going to be? It’s been four years now. Four years is far too long to be silent about atrocities for an organization that claims to be a “voice” for the victims. I have been following their media for these four years in which they said nothing about the killings and be-headings of Assyrian Christians. If I saw someone injured on the side of the road and I was the only one who could call for aide and I didn’t it and people died because I felt the “time wasn’t right” to do the right thing, it would be criminal negligence, especially if it was my job to help such people. I believe VOM reminds us of the story Jesus told in Luke 10: 30-36. VOM, like the Levite and priest, come and look upon the wounded, half-dead Assyrian Christian community in Iraq, and then “pass by on the other side” leaving them to die. VOM’s premise is that this is very sensitive information that they cannot release to the public. Other ministries that exist to help persecuted Christians do report in their publications and on their web-sites what is happening in Iraq. This includes Brother Andrew’s “Open Doors” Ministry and the organization known as “Christian Solidarity International.” Why is it that these ministries report on the situation in Iraq but VOM does not? I am so outraged by VOM’s lack of action that I am making an appeal to everyone who supports VOM to stop giving to VOM and support Open Doors and Christian Solidarity International with your gifts instead. Financial gifts to these other organizations will obviously be used more effectively. The Christian community in the United States needs to know about the Christian community in Iraq and what is happening to them. It is VOM’s duty to inform people and they are refusing to do this. I believe this is a sin. Is it “Voice of Martyrs” or “Voice off Martyrs” ?
If you want to find out what is happening to Christians in Iraq, you won’t find anything if you look to VOM. However, you can find some information in secular news sources. I believe that the liberal news media doesn’t want to publicize the suffering of Christians in Iraq. However, I have found mention of it and blurbs even in the anti-Christian liberal rag called the “Houston Chronicle.” Secular media sources do a miserable job of reporting about the situation of Assyrians in Iraq, but they do report it, and they have much more to say than VOM has, (which is, of course, nothing). (Even the BBC has reported on persecution of Assyrians n Iraq.) VOM has said nothing about the persecution of Assyrians. In early June 2007, President George W. Bush met with the Catholic Pope. Pope Benedict rebuked Bush for allowing the Christians of Iraq to be persecuted and for his allowing of ethnic cleansing of Aramaic Christians from Iraq. Why is it that the Roman Catholic Pope can speak out on behalf of Iraqi Christians in front of the whole wide world and yet VOM has said nothing. It is scandalous! “Christianity Today” is a monthly Evangelical news magazine. In the April 2005 edition they reported on persecution of Assyrians in an article entitled “How You Can Help Persecuted Christians: Members of One Another: Iraq’s endangered Church Looks to Western Fellowship for Help.” This was on page 90 and included a section that listed “Further Suggested Action.” “Christianity Today” has spoken up on the behalf of Iraqi Christians two years ago and VOM still ignores and silences the cry of Iraqi Assyrian martyrs.
VOM also clearly (and falsely) states that Iraqi Christians don’t want people to know about their suffering. Assyrians are doing what VOM refuses to do, giving a voice to suffering Iraqi Christians who have no voice. The Assyrian International News Agency (www.aina.org) publicizes news about the persecution of Assyrians in Iraq as does Zinda Magazine (www.zindamagazine.com) and Nineveh.com. While VOM has the gall to say that the Assyrians don’t want people to know about their terrible plight, Assyrian Christians are addressing the United States Congress about the persecution of their people in Iraq. Where is VOM? Why weren’t they there? Where are they? (I know that there is persecution going on elsewhere in the world. We must support our Christian brothers wherever they are. But, right now, the Assyrian issue is the central and most important issue regarding the persecution of Christians anywhere in the world. If we fail to act now, the Assyrians may disappear from the earth. Lack of action means one of the most ancient and important Christian communities may disappear.) On June 30, 2006, Assyrian American actress and author Rosie Malek-Yonan, gave a moving speech on behalf of the suffering of the Assyrian Christians to Congress. And VOM says that Assyrians don’t want anyone to know how they are suffering? (Information about Rosie Malek-Yonan can be found at www.rosiemalek-yonan.com and www.thecrimsonfield.com. A DVD of her testimony to congress can be purchased.)
Lets discuss the issue of security. Before I do I want to mention what I have done. I have visited Assyrian communities in Syria before and after 9-11. Last year I visited Syria. Many Iraqi refugees have headed to Syria. There were perhaps over 20,000 Assyrian refugees in Syria. I am sure there are much more now. I met an Evangelical pastor in Damascus who was helping Iraqi Christians at his church. The pastor met with me and I attended a service with him. His church was providing food and clothing for Iraqi Christian refugees and was also having church services for them. Syria is a rather closed country with a strong secret police. I don’t consider it a safe place to go, although in some ways I love Syria. Many Assyrians are stranded in Jordan. Jordan is a more open country where it would be much easier to help Iraqi refugees stranded there. It may be difficult to work with Assyrians in Iraq but it is much easier and safer to help refugees in Jordan but it isn’t being done. I can understand not wanting to report directly on activities in Iraq, because doing so could open up the people you are helping to attacks from Islamic fanatics. But why doesn’t VOM release news reports about what is happening in Iraq-like secular sources and other Christian ministries do? I don’t expect them to give the names and addresses of all their contacts there. (If they have any, which I doubt.) People all across America depend on VOM to inform them about persecution of believers around the world. VOM is doing an extreme disservice to the Christians of Iraq and the Evangelical community here, by failing to inform Christians about what they need to know. The number one problem that the Assyrians have is that people don’t know they exist. And now they are being destroyed by Islamic fanatics and it isn’t being effectively reported-not even by supposedly Christian media-or an organization such as VOM whose stated purpose for existence is to inform people about persecution of Christians. Outside of the Sunni triangle it is possible to get to Iraq and visit Assyrian communities. I know of Assyrian Americans who have gone to northern Iraq to visit Christian communities there. It is possible to help the people there. Here is VOM’s tortured logic: “Islamic fanatics are committing genocide against Aramaic Christians but if we tell anybody about it the fanatics might be provoked to commit genocide against Aramaic Christians!” What nonsense! To stop the crimes we must expose them.
The Assyrian International News Agency posted photographs of the funeral of the pastor of the Holy Ghost Church on their website. This posting was done by Assyrian Christians in Iraq. They have posted photographs of their sufferings on the internet. I don’t see how VOM could dare say that the Assyrians in Iraq don’t want the world to know about the persecutions while Assyrian Christians in Iraq are posting photographs of what is happening on the internet! I believe that VOM is lying. I put together a video on the suffering of Christians in Iraq on a program called The Crossover. The program is entitled “Iraq’s Christians in Crisis.” VOM has no videos or any publications at all about the suffering church in Iraq. Shame on VOM. Iraqi Christians by posting these photos on the internet are doing what VOM wants to prevent them from doing-get the word out to the rest of the world. I have been to Iraq and Syria. I have been with the Assyrians. Because of my experiences I can see right through VOM’s lies.
We need to discuss VOM’s fear. I wonder if VOM is afraid of retaliation from Islamic extremists. Well, I think that if they are afraid of putting themselves in harms way they need to not be involved with dealing with confronting persecution and find some sort of safer ministry. According to the Bible, perfect love casts out fear. It seems to me that VOM doesn’t have a perfect love for suffering Christians, otherwise they wouldn’t be giving into cowardice. I went to Iraq as a soldier. I walked the streets of Damascus on 9-11 and I am a blond-haired, blue-eyed white boy. I believe that some things are worth fighting for, dieing for and even, in rare occasions, killing for. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have gone to Iraq as a warrior. We need warriors for God who will stand up against evil and for the cause of justice no matter the consequences. You can never defeat evil if you are afraid to confront it and you will never be able to do any good if you are afraid to speak the truth against injustice-especially when you have taken a pledge to do that very thing. In the public arena, I know that sometimes you have to choose your words very carefully. But to give in to fear and not speak up at all is plainly cowardice. Islamic extremists win when they terrorize us to such a degree that we won’t cry out for help for Christians being massacred for their faith in Jesus Christ. VOM needs to read Matthew 25. When Jesus comes he is going to confront VOM and other Christian Media that refuse to report on crimes committed against Assyrian Christians (such as Pat Robertson’s CBN). Jesus will say to them on that day “I was hungry, injured and naked and you refused to help me.” “When, Lord?” They will ask. “I was the suffering Assyrian Christian refugee, whom you wouldn’t help and whom you left to die! I was your Christian brother!” In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I rebuke VOM!!!
A Quick Review (This is a very poorly done list-but is sufficient for now.)
2003 Beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Islamic terrorists attack Christian merchants using their selling of alcohol as a pretense and kill a few Assyrian young ladies going to work on American military bases in Iraq.
2004 In the summer there are major bombings of churches all across the country
2005 Situation in Iraq prompts a refugee crisis. 40,000 Assyrians become refugees.
2006 Assyrian young men are murdered because of their Christian faith
2007 In June pastors are killed by Islamists immediately after services. The Roman Catholic Pope rebukes Bush in a meeting for his allowing a bad situation for Christians to be created in Iraq and his inaction. Experts estimate that Iraq’s Christian community has been de-populated by about one half its size before the Iraq war began.
I believe that secular humanists, also known as Liberals, are as evil as Islamic extremists. They want to see Christians persecuted. One of these people, Sam Harris, advocates that the United States government begin persecuting Christians here in America and treat Christians in America the way they are treated in the Middle East. (This is very frightening but people are taking him and his ideas very seriously. His books are bestsellers and he is a sought after speaker.) When Liberals hear about persecution of Christians in the Middle East they say, “We can’t help Christians. If we do that will create resentment among the Muslims who will be offended if we give Christians preferential treatment.” This is very disingenuous. We are not asking for preferential treatment. We want equal rights under law. We want to be able to live in our ancient ancestral lands as we have for thousands of years. We want to speak our native Aramaic language. We want to worship as our fathers have for five hundred years before the Moslems invaded our homeland. We don’t want a special status or extra privileges we want our basic human rights. The right to live in peace, to worship in peace and to observe our ancient customs is not a request for preferential treatment!
Pat Robertson reports on the sufferings of the Israelis on his program all the time. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But he never reports on the suffering of Middle Eastern Christians and that does bother me a lot. Just a few years ago, speakers were going from church to church in the United States and raised millions of dollars from Christians to relocate Russian Jews to Israel. They didn’t share the gospel with these Jews. Why should Christians pay the way for a Jew who doesn’t believe in Jesus to go to Israel and be established there? The Jewish community and the State of Israel have millions of dollars set aside for this purpose. Now, American Christians are actually paying for and coercing Indian and Ethiopian Christians to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, to convert to Judaism and to relocate to Israel. These people are making the false claims that these Indian and Coptic Christians are “lost tribes of Israel” (when they absolutely are not) and they are repudiating Jesus Christ because they want to go to Israel, all expenses paid, for the higher standard of living they will have there. The so-called Bnei Menashe are renouncing their faith in Jesus Christ, converting to Judaism and are immigrating to Israel under the Israeli “Law of Return.” The rapid rise in conversions to Judaism has alarmed the staunchly evangelical Mizo-Kuki churches (to which the so-called “Bnei Menashe” formerly belonged) and ignited a furious controversy in Mizoram in India, culminating in debates. These people are not really of the lost tribes of Israel. They are clearly related to the Burmese and hail from Manipur and Mizoran, which are the two Indian states with the largest number of Christians. The state of Israel is coming into these Born Again Christian states in India and offering instant Israeli citizenship to any Christian there who will renounce Jesus as a false Messiah and convert to Judaism. What is perverse is that the Israelis are working against the Evangelical Christians of India with the support of Evangelicals in the United States. American (so-called) “Christians” are working agaist the Christians of India in order to benefit the state of Israel! American Evangelicals give millions of dollars to support Israeli and Jewish interests, even going as far as to attack Churches in Ethiopia and India-even fellow evangelical churches- and yet they will not give one red cent to help Aramaic Christians in Iraq who are being murdered for their faith in Jesus. I am going to do everything in my power to change this. (Genetic testing can be done to prove that the Bnai Menashe are not of Middle Eastern descent at all.)
Ken Joseph, Jr., an Assyrian missionary to Japan has made interesting comments in his website www.assyrianchristians.com. In one of his newsletters he mentions Jewish support for Israel, Evangelical Christians of America’s support for Israel and Christian lack of support for their fellow believers in the Middle East. Israel has its own military, its own government and international recognition. What do Assyrian Christians have? At least Jews support their fellow Jews around the world, American Christians aren’t even willing to do even that-even in the face of Islamic persecution. Assyrian Christians cannot even protect or defent themselves or their children and the American military presence in Iraq has done nothing to protect the basic human rights of Aramaic Christians. All I am trying to do is ask American Christians to pray for the Assyrians. Why is that to much to ask?
In Iraq's Four-Year Looting Frenzy, the Allies
Fly into the American air base of Tallil outside Nasiriya in central Iraq and the flight path is over the great ziggurat of Ur, reputedly the earliest city on earth. Seen from the base in the desert haze or the sand-filled gloom of dusk, the structure is indistinguishable from the mounds of fuel dumps, stores and hangars. Ur is safe within the base compound. But its walls are pockmarked with wartime shrapnel and a blockhouse is being built over an adjacent archaeological site. When the head of Iraq's supposedly sovereign board of antiquities and heritage, Abbas al-Hussaini, tried to inspect the site recently, the Americans refused him access to his own most important monument.
Yesterday Hussaini reported to the British Museum on his struggles to protect his work in a state of anarchy. It was a heart breaking presentation. Under Saddam you were likely to be tortured and shot if you let someone steal an antiquity; in today's Iraq you are likely to be tortured and shot if you don't. The tragic fate of the national museum in Baghdad in April 2003 was as if federal troops had invaded New York City, sacked the police and told the criminal community that the Metropolitan was at their disposal. The local tank commander was told specifically not to protect the museum for a full two weeks after the invasion. Even the Nazis protected the Louvre.
When I visited the museum six months later, its then director, Donny George, proudly showed me the best he was making of a bad job. He was about to reopen, albeit with half his most important objects stolen. The pro-war lobby had stopped pretending that the looting was nothing to do with the Americans, who were shamefacedly helping retrieve stolen objects under the dynamic US colonel, Michael Bogdanos (author of a book on the subject). The vigorous Italian cultural envoy to the coalition, Mario Bondioli-Osio, was giving generously for restoration.
The beautiful Warka vase, carved in 3000BC, was recovered though smashed into 14 pieces. The exquisite Lyre of Ur, the world's most ancient musical instrument, was found badly damaged. Clerics in Sadr City were ingeniously asked to tell wives to refuse to sleep with their husbands if looted objects were not returned, with some success. Nothing could be done about the fire-gutted national library and the loss of five centuries of Ottoman records (and works by Piccasso and Miro). But the message of winning hearts and minds seemed to have got through.Today the picture is transformed. Donny George fled for his life last August after death threats. The national museum is not open but shut. Nor is it just shut. Its doors are bricked up, it is surrounded by concrete walls and its exhibits are sandbagged. Even the staff cannot get inside. There is no prospect of reopening.
Hussaini confirmed a report two years ago by John Curtis, of the British Museum, on America's conversion of Nebuchadnezzar's great city of Babylon into the hanging gardens of Halliburton. This meant a 150-hectare camp for 2,000 troops. In the process the 2,500-year-old brick pavement to the Ishtar Gate was smashed by tanks and the gate itself damaged. The archaeology-rich subsoil was bulldozed to fill sandbags, and large areas covered in compacted gravel for helipads and car parks. Babylon is being rendered archaeologically barren.
Meanwhile the courtyard of the 10th-century caravanserai of Khan al-Raba was used by the Americans for exploding captured insurgent weapons. One blast demolished the ancient roofs and felled many of the walls. The place is now a ruin.Outside the capital some 10,000 sites of incomparable importance to the history of western civilization, barely 20% yet excavated, are being looted as systematically as was the museum in 2003. When George tried to remove vulnerable carvings from the ancient city of Umma to Baghdad, he found gangs of looters already in place with bulldozers, dump trucks and AK47s.
Hussaini showed one site after another lost to archaeology in a four-year "looting frenzy". The remains of the 2000BC cities of Isin and Shurnpak appear to have vanished: pictures show them replaced by a desert of badger holes created by an army of some 300 looters. Castles, ziggurats, deserted cities, ancient minarets and mosques have gone or are going. Hussaini has 11 teams combing the country engaged in rescue work, mostly collecting detritus left by looters.
His small force of site guards is no match for heavily armed looters, able to shift objects to eager European and American dealers in days.Most ominous is a message reputedly put out from Moqtada al-Sadr's office, that while Muslim heritage should be respected, pre-Muslim relics were up for grabs. As George said before his flight, his successors might be "only interested in Islamic sites and not Iraq's earlier heritage". While Hussaini is clearly devoted to all Iraq's history, the Taliban's destruction of Afghanistan's pre-Muslim Bamiyan Buddhas is in every mind.Despite Sadr's apparent preference, sectarian militias are pursuing an orgy of destruction of Muslim sites.
Apart from the high-profile bombings of some of the loveliest surviving mosques in the Arab world, radical groups opposed to all shrines have begun blasting 10th- and 11th-century structures, irrespective of Sunni or Shia origin. Eighteen ancient shrines have been lost, 10 in Kirkuk and the south in the past month alone. The great monument and souk at Kifel, north of Najaf - reputedly the tomb of Ezekiel and once guarded by Iraqi Jews (mostly driven into exile by the occupation) - have been all but destroyed.It is abundantly clear that the Americans and British are not protecting Iraq's historic sites. All foreign archaeologists have had to leave. Troops are doing nothing to prevent the "farming" of known antiquities.
This is in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention that an occupying army should "use all means within its power" to guard the cultural heritage of a defeated state.Shortly after the invasion, the British minister Tessa Jowell won plaudits for "pledging" £5m to protect Iraq's antiquities. I can find no one who can tell me where, how or whether this money has been spent. It appears to have been pure spin. Only the British Museum and the British School of Archaeology in Iraq have kept the flag flying. The latter's grant has just been cut, presumably to pay for the Olympics binge.As long as Britain and America remain in denial over the anarchy they have created in Iraq, they clearly feel they must deny its devastating side-effects.
Two million refugees now camping in Jordan and Syria are ignored, since life in Iraq is supposed to be "better than before". Likewise dozens of Iraqis working for the British and thus facing death threats are denied asylum. To grant it would mean the former defense and now home secretary, the bullish John Reid, admitting he was wrong. They will die before he does that.
Though I opposed the invasion I assumed that its outcome would at least be a more civilized environment. Yet Iraq's people are being murdered in droves for want of order. Authority has collapsed. That western civilization should have been born in so benighted a country as Iraq may seem bad luck. But only now is that birth being refused all guardianship, in defiance of international law. If this is Tony Blair's "values war", then language has lost all meaning. British collusion in such destruction is a scandal that will outlive any passing conflict. And we had the cheek to call the Taliban vandals.
Reminiscences of Ronald Stafford
British government official worked on behalf of the Assyrians before the Baqubah massacres of 1933
Ronald Stafford was born in Buenos Aires in 1890, the son of Edward Stafford and Teresa (Kruls) whose father was an Argentinean (but originally Dutch) and whose mother was an Argentinean. They moved to England when Ronald was seven months old. At Cambridge University, his first degree was in Latin and Greek and his second degree was Arabic and French, as he had already decided to join the British Colonial Service. In 1913 he sailed to Cairo as a trainee inspector working for the Egyptian Government which was advised by the British administration. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914 he volunteered immediately but he was at first refused permission to leave, finally arriving in England early in 1915. He was commissioned at once into the 60th Rifles, one of the best of the British infantry regiments. By May 1915 he was in the front line. He spent the next three years almost continuously in the line, commanding his regiment in 1918 as a Lieutenant Colonel at the age of 28. He was awarded the DSO and bar, the MC and was once recommended for the VC. By pure good fortune he was only once slightly wounded. Like so many others who fought in the trenches, he spoke little about these experiences but he was a brave man and a good leader. (Alastair adds that, after his grandfather’s death in 1972, his ashes were scattered [as was his wish] at the site of the 1916 battle of Delville Wood in Northern France, a battle in which his battalion lost almost two thirds of their strength.)
In 1919 he returned to Egypt and was appointed Inspector for Lower Egypt (the Nile Delta) at a time when security was poor after demonstrations against the British presence. In 1926 he took up a post as a District Inspector in Iraq, a newly created country following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. This was a happy and successful period of his life, married (to Mary Dixon) with two small children, and making many friends amongst the Iraqis. In 1933 he repeatedly warned the Iraqi Government that unless certain sections of the Army could be restrained there would be a massacre of Assyrian Christians. He demanded that those responsible should be punished and when the Government told him that this was impossible he resigned. He was urged to stay - the Iraqi ministers saying that of all the British officials he was the one they most respected - but he refused to change his mind.
In 1936 he joined the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) as "Defense Director" with the task of drawing up plans for the dispersal of the departments of the BBC from London in case of war, as air attacks were expected. When war broke out in 1939 he put these plans into operation and remained in London throughout the worst of the blitzes. Although never directly in danger from German bombs he had a lucky escape when the car in which he was being driven, with full blacked out lights, ran into the back of a lorry, killing the driver. By 1942 he was exhausted and was temporarily appointed as West Region Director based in Bristol, and in 1943 he moved to take over as the Director of the BBC's Plymouth office from which he finally retired in 1952. He much enjoyed this last and not very strenuous part of his life. In 1946 he had moved the family to a large Queen Anne house near Plymouth where he gardened, kept pigs and grew tobacco which, after curing, he smoked, filling the house with acrid smoke!
He had very good, old fashioned manners, but on one occasion he put on his pith helmet with a hornet inside which stung him on his rather bald head and his young son Hugh learnt a very interesting selection of swear words.
Vote for the Three AMEX Members Project!
The following three projects I submitted to The Members Project: American Express, are approved
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The voting phase begins on July 3, 2007, when the Top 50 project ideas are announced. When the project is posted, you can add your comments to bring up the points. The higher the rating, the better our chances to make this happen.
What are the Assyrian projects?
I have entered 5 projects that are designed to help Assyrians in Iraq
and Assyrian refugees outside of Iraq. Two of the projects are still pending approval. The three project
listed here are desperately waiting for your votes. Please take a moment to rate all three projects. There is no purchase necessary. You only need a valid American Express Card to log in and rate
and/or cast your vote. Any one of these worthy projects can greatly help our suffering nation. We need the support of
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