Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq
A Guest Opinion
The Christians in Iraq live in terror. From Saddam's uncertainty they have been thrown into a nightmare with no end. All in the presence of a passive world around them.
Father Ragheed Ganni and his three deacons were asked to leave their car just after completing the Mass in the Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul, northern Iraq. The armed men who stopped the car, tortured the priest by shooting off his arm, according to the Expressen newspaper, and then proceeded to executing him and his company. Afterwards a bomb was placed next to the car so the bodies would not be removed all too soon.
They would remain there for inspection to elucidate the threat. This is only one of the latest in the line of attacks against the remaining fragments of the Christians in Iraq. In the statistics they are called Iraqis, but they are Assyrians, also called Chaldeans or Syriacs, belonging to different churches, who consider themselves the indigenous people of the land between the two rivers.
In the statistics the figures are small, but the reports are bloody and show a systematic violence which has only one purpose: flee or die.
Innumerable churches have been bombed, religious and political representatives have been kidnapped and beheaded and nuns have been raped. Christian women in Baghdad are forced to wear a veil in order not be exposed to violence. In December 2006, several sellers of Christmas trees were kidnapped and killed. At the local elections in 2005 around 40,000 Assyrian votes disappeared.
The brutality and the threats against the Assyrian population must be observed. What is going on in Iraq is nothing else than a quiet ethnic, cultural and religious cleansing. The country, like the rest of the Middle East, is becoming emptied of its Christians. It’s a trauma for the victims, and the demography in the area is changing in a very obvious way.
For the Assyrians, the thoughts are going back to World War I, when about a half million were slaughtered by the Turkish government and their Kurdish neighbours. All while the world watched without coming to rescue. Neither the world around nor the perpetrators has still recognized the Genocide of 1915. In that light the events of today are frightening.
During the first Iraqi war the Christian population was estimated to about two million. Today it’s spoken of as around 800,000. The figures are uncertain, because it is not known how many have fled. But it is clear that the Christians are strikingly overrepresented among those who escape. Many of them are in Sweden, where also Father Ragheed Ganni was active in the parish of St John in Södertälje. But most of them who escape remain in countries like Jordan and Syria. There, they live under very difficult conditions.
Before the invasion apprehensions were expressed that the Christians would be punished for the American “crusade”. But the anxiety was mixed together with the hope of a better life in freedom, maybe with an autonomy, self-determination in the so-called the Nineveh Plain where the Assyrians are in majority. But from no direction there has come a political or economical support for such a solution.
What before the war looked like a possibility for the Assyrians, who after 2000 years of persecutions could have a possibility to govern themselves in their own area, became a nightmare. Those responsible for the invasion must make good on their political responsibility, especially for the defenseless, and stop this ethnic cleansing. The Assyrians must be guaranteed full security.
Mr. Abraham Staifo is an editorial writer for the Swedish newspaper, Göteborgs-Posten, the second largest newspaper in Sweden.
A Report of the AAS Dinner Fundraiser in Modesto
June 30, 2007
Over 430 people came out in support of the Assyrian Aid Society’s (AAS) Central Valley Chapter’s “Mesopotamian Night” fund-raiser on Saturday, June 30th. This sold out event was held at the estate home of Diane Malik Pedota and was hosted by the Bay Area food and wine editor, and AAS President, Narsai David.
Following a cocktail hour featuring an array of appetizers, the evening began with a performance of selections from "Inanna: An Opera of Ancient Sumer" performed by the Modesto-based Townsend Opera Players. The composer of the opera, John Craton, and his wife had traveled from Indiana to be on hand for the performance. The singers’ ancient Assyrian style costumes came from the skilled volunteer Irene Warda of the Central Valley area. A full performance of this opera, in the topic of which several opera companies have expressed interest in recent years, may be possible in the future as an Assyrian cultural fund raiser.
Dinner was followed with speeches by scholar Dr. Eden Naby, and by special guest Napoleon Pattoo, President of the Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq who is on a US tour to heighten awareness of the plight of the Assyrian people in Iraq. The evening ended with a live auction and solicitations for donations that helped raise money for AAS humanitarian projects in northern Iraq. The total receipts for this event were over $90K with over $60K in profit that goes directly to designated projects in the Nineveh Plain and beyond.
With the current ongoing crisis in Iraq, and the systematic persecution of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people in their ancestral homeland, the Assyrian Aid Society of America is pleading for more support for its programs and projects. Without a global and determined support for the Christians of Iraq, the AAS agrees with scholars of the region that the last Aramaic speakers of the world will not be able to maintain their presence in their native land.
Mr. Napoloen Pattoo in his speech outlined the refugee problem within Iraq as follows:
The organizing of local fund-raisers such as this first full-scale cultural effort by the Central Valley AAS chapter fills a great charitable need, expands the range of entertainment available to our community, and introduces non-Assyrians in each region to Assyrian culture and the need to sustain the worldwide community. It serves to allow to raise funds from others outside our own community.
The Assyrian Aid Society of America is a charitable organization recognized by the State of California and the government of the United States of America, dedicated to assisting needy Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people in northern Iraq and around the world. Over the past 15 years AAS-A has raised over $4.5 million to, with its sister organization, the Assyrian Aid Society – Iraq, build schools, staff and supply medical clinics, facilitate life-saving surgeries, rebuild homes, irrigate farmlands, bring electricity to villages, and implement a host of other vital programs and services.
Yonadam Kanna Re-Elected as ADM Secretary General
(ZNDA: Dohuk) The Fifth Conference of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) was held in the city of Dohuk, Iraq between June 28 and 30. Country and regional representatives of the ADM from the Middle East and the Diaspora Assyrian communities attended the conference.
Mr. Yonadam Kanna was re-elected by the attending officers to another 3-year term until the next Conference.
Missing from the list of the 5th Conference were such prominent ADM figures as Mr. Benjamin Ishmail, Mr. Isaac Isaac, and to the surprise of many, Mrs. Pascale Warda.
Priest Ordained for Mosul, First Communions in Baghdad
Courtesy of the AsiaNews
(ZNDA: Mosul) With new ordinations to the priesthood and children receiving their first Holy Communion, the Christian community in Iraq refuses to give in to the systematic persecution it is subjected to.
Over the weekend, two significant ceremonies took place in Baghdad and Karamles. In the latter, on 7 July, in the church of Mar Addai, a new Chaldean priest was ordained, Fr Ephram Gallyana, 31 years-old.
The web blog Baghdadhope reported that the Bishop of Mosul, Mgr Faraj P. Rahho, celebrated Mass. The new priest belongs to his diocese but for security reasons, the function was held in Karamles, the same settlement where the funeral of Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni and of three subdeacons killed with him the previous day in Mosul, was held on 4 June. Fr Ephram placed a cross of yellow roses on the tomb of Fr Ragheed with the inscription, “From your brother, Ephram Gallyana”. And, in a sign of the courage with which young priests are preparing to face the difficult times ahead of them in an Iraq martyred by violence, the new priest pledged to “continue the work of Fr Ragheed”.
Fifty-nine children who received their first Holy Communion in Baghdad yesterday also bore witness to great courage. Dressed like novice monks and sisters, the children went to the Syriac-Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation.
“I prayed that Jesus returns my father safe,” said 11-year-old Matti. Nine months ago, Matti’s father was kidnapped and he has not been heard from since.
“Do not succumb to the threats of the evil-doers,” was the appeal made by the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of the capital, Athanase Matti Matoka.
Quoted by the website Ankawa.com, the bishop said: “The children have been meeting here for more than a month despite the danger.” He continued: “Many churches in Baghdad have cancelled their annual first communion ceremonies to avoid possible attacks but we decided to go ahead with our programme.
Exodus of Christians in Baghdad Districts
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The two men knocked on Abu Salam's door on a Friday morning. He was one of the last remaining Christians on his block.
"Peace be upon you," they said, and Abu Salam, a man in his 50s, repeated the greeting.
The pair, one fat and the other thin, spoke politely. Both were clean-shaven and wore slacks and button-down shirts.
"You are now aware the neighborhood of Muwallamin (Arabic teachers) belongs to the Islamic State of Iraq," the bigger man said. "We have three conditions you can accept: You can pay a tax, become a Muslim, or you can leave your house and we will help you take out your furniture."
"We'll let you make up your mind."
"Peace be upon you," the men repeated as Abu Salam watched them head back toward the street.
Within hours, Abu Salam and his family left their neighborhood of more than 50 years. They joined an exodus that has all but emptied Dora, a large district in south Baghdad, of its once-thriving Christian population.
Abu Salam, who spoke on condition that his real name not be used, citing fears for his safety, is staying elsewhere in Baghdad for now.
"People will leave if things don't get better. It is chaos," he said. "If there is no imminent solution, Iraq is finished."
Christian leaders say 500 families left Dora in April and May. The US military concedes that a large number of Christians were uprooted but says the number is not that high. The United Nations' refugee agency said it counted at one location 100 families that had fled Dora.
The flight of Dora's Christians is an example of how the initial phase of the US security crackdown has failed to establish security and stop sectarian purging in Baghdad's neighborhoods.
The US military conducted a major clearing operation in Dora last fall, then largely pulled out, turning security over to Iraqi forces. Sunni Arab militants with ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq quickly reestablished themselves and late last year began harassing Christians. A second US sweep in early winter failed to loosen the militants' grip on the district.
In interviews, displaced Christians described a civilian population too terrified of Al Qaeda to ask Americans for help. They said that even after the Baghdad troop buildup started in February, US soldiers were rarely present in some neighborhoods and often had no idea what to look for.
Major Kurt Luedeke, the US military spokesman for Dora, said US officials were caught off guard by the campaign against Christians in the area.
"We knew it was going on; we just didn't know how widespread it was," he said.
Iraq's senior Christian politician, Younadam Kanna, said the military didn't launch an offensive against militants in Dora until May 25, although the campaign to drive out the district's Christians had begun in earnest in late April.
"There weren't enough forces," Kanna said. "The multinational forces are isolated from the people. They don't know who is who."
In response to the mass displacements, the US military has strengthened its presence in the area. In a bid to contain Al Qaeda supporters and prevent further neighborhood purges, the US Army has erected concrete barriers and walled off certain streets.
Troops are surveying every home, collecting photographs, fingerprints, and retinal scans of all military-age males. With the additional troops, the US Army says it can patrol every neighborhood in Dora, sometimes several times a day.
The Christian community's troubles in Dora began in autumn 2004, when Sunni militants bombed churches and kidnapped people. But Christians' lives took the sharpest turn for the worse in October after Al Qaeda and allied groups declared an Islamic State of Iraq.
By January, the Islamic State's proclamations appeared on walls and were circulated in leaflets. Dora residents said some of the fliers proclaimed that women were required to wear veils; shorts were banned; trousers were forbidden for men; and cellphones were prohibited for women.
"They issued laws and decrees like a real state," said Wardiya Yussef, who left Dora in April after a cousin was shot on the street.
As Al Qaeda supporters asserted their muscle, Iraqis were reluctant to give information to the Americans. It was a bitter reversal from the period last fall when military sweeps in Dora had briefly restored stability. In that regard, too, Dora fits a broader pattern in which civilians have watched US troops come and go, seldom staying long enough to establish lasting security.
That lack of constancy has bedeviled US efforts in Iraq, said Stephen Biddle, a military analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"Until local civilians come to believe that you'll be there long enough to protect them from reprisals, and that you're stronger than the militants . . . they won't trust you well enough to risk offering tips and information.
ADO Statement on Golden Jubilee of its Foundation
15 July 2007
ADO Political Bureau
The Assyrian Democratic Organization celebrates its golden anniversary, the anniversary of the passing of 50 years of its establishment, as her march for struggle and freedom started in the city of Qamishli on the 15th of July, 1957 at the hands of a select group of young nationalist and enlightened people. As a matter of fact the appearance of ADO constituted a milestone in the lives of our Chaldean Syriac Assyrian people, and a new stage of organized political action for the first time in its modern history. This came as an expression of the growing national sense among its ranks, and as an echo of the ideas of national Renaissance carried by the leaders and thinkers such as Mar Shamon Benjamin, Agha Boutros, Noam Vaeik, Ashour Yousef, Fredon Athoraia, Touma Aodo, Farid Nazha, Shukri Musalli and others, and as a culmination of vital activism experienced by institutions and associations and schools of our people at all levels, political, cultural, intellectual and social and finally in response to the attempts of assimilation and dissolution that appeared those days.
At the national level it has weaved relationships with most parties and institutions of our people at home and abroad, based on trust and respect, and was a key actor in all attempts to create an effective framework for national action for the common cause of identifying and delivering the cause of our propel to international forums, as well as exposing the abuses and injustices that affect our people in the homeland.
At the patriotic level, and with embracing openness, the organization has opened on the national political scene, and developed relations with the various national forces, civil society bodies and human rights commissions in Syria. Its efforts culminated in joining the Damascus Declaration for Democratic National change in Syria, this came as a result to her belief in the principle of national partnership, and that the resolution of national diversity issues can be resolved only through a just and democratic national consensus that wins the approval of all the components of the homeland.
The golden jubilee anniversary of the founding of our Organization comes at a time when the people of the region are going through major conflicts that are extending from Iraq to Lebanon and ending up with Palestine. In Iraq, the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian people like the other components of Iraqi people have been the victim of occupation and the collapse of the State, and fell into the grip of the militias of terrorism and the “Takfiris“ exclusionism. Our people and all Christians have paid a dear price by being persistently targeted by the forces of terrorism under the cover of Islamic religion. These forces committed the most heinous crimes against the Christians, killing, kidnapping, extortion, the bombing of churches, the imposition of tribute (Juzia) and the veil on the girls and giving the Christians the option between conversion to Islam, death and departure. All this comes in a demonic scheme aimed at emptying Iraq of its indigenous population.
The ongoing series of the killings, mass-immigration of Christians, amid the silence of the government and the Iraqi elite and the conspiracy of others, the indifference of the international community and its institutions to this human tragedy, has cast a dark shadow and gave rise to many fears not only about the Iraqi Christians but also the Christian presence in the whole East, as their presence is increasingly declining in most countries, particularly Palestine (the cradle of Christ) and Turkey, which disposed of the Christian presence in 1915 through the logic of genocide and continues to insist on denying its crime despite the emergence of mass graves of victims of genocide in more than one place in the Tur Abdin and other places .
To ignore this catastrophic reality and the reluctance on the part of the elites and governments of the region and the international community to shoulder their responsibilities towards the protection of Christians, and to put an end to the forces of terrorism, will encourage those forces to destabilize these states, and destroy their people's aspirations and hopes of democracy and modernity and progress.
There is no doubt that Syria has enjoyed something of relative stability, but it is not immune to the negative effects of what is happening in its neighborhood. The Syrian society keeps in store ethnic, religious and social tensions resulting from the absence of freedom, and the continuation of the monopoly and exclusiveness in public life, in addition to the spreading of extremist ideas and penetration in many of the social circles, and the growing frustration and despair among the young, because of the lack of job opportunities, and the deterioration of living standards of citizens, as well as increasing external pressures against Syria.
Sustaining stability and the promotion of civil peace, and venting frustrations and tension as well as reducing the impact of international pressures cannot be achieved through greater tyranny and oppression, but, by taking genuine and serious steps towards freedom, democracy and respect for human rights and the constitutional recognition of the status of national diversity. This requires the stimulation of the national situation, the rehabilitation of the concept of citizenship, meeting the demands of citizens in eliminating corruption and raising the rates of economic development, openness to the national opposition, providing greater opportunities to participate in public life through the enactment of a modern law of political parties, associations and elections as well as the release of political detainees and revoking the state of emergency. These are all prerequisites for building a democratic, secular and just system governed by law and order.
The Assyrian Democratic Organization, in memory of its golden jubilee anniversary, promises our people and our nation to continue the defense of national and patriotic issues with the same energy and determination regardless of the circumstances and consequences, and to keep on being open to all nationalist and patriotic forces and to cooperate with them, in order to support and consolidate our national and human situation in the country and to build a democratic national state which guarantees the rights of all its citizens on the basis of justice and equality and fraternity.
Honor to the martyrs of our people and our nation.
Eshoo, 72 Congressional Reps Sign Letter to Bush
(ZNDA: Washington) A letter dated June 28th, 2007, signed by Rep. Anna Eshoo and 72 other U.S. Congressional representatives urges President George Bush to "heed the Pope's urgent advice and devote increased resources toward ensuring the welfare of the endangered Iraqi Christian population."
Below is the full text of the letter drafted by the Assyrian-American Representative, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo which carries 73 signatures of various other Representatives:
World's Richest Man is Said to have Assyrian Roots
(ZNDA: New York) Mr. Carlos Slim Helú Aglamaz, born in 1940 in Mexico City, may be the son of an Assyrian-Lebanese businessman.
Mr. Slim owns controlling shares of the Teléfonos de México (Telmex), Telcel and América Móvil companies, therefore exerting huge control over the telecommunications sector in Central and South America. His three sons and son-in-law run the day-to-day operations.
According to reports in early July, Mr. Slim's wealth has exceeded that of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, making him the world's wealthiest person. His fortune is estimated at 67.8 billion dollars compared with the estimated fortune of 59.2 billion dollars for Bill Gates.
Mr. Slim's father, Haddad Aglamaz, a Lebanese native from the town of Jezzine - who may have been an Assyrian, moved to Mexico City as a teenager in 1902. He established a dry goods store called La Estrella del Oriente (Star of the Orient) in 1911 and purchased real estate in the city center. Julián married the daughter of another prosperous Lebanese merchant. They had six children, of whom Carlos was the youngest.
The name, Jezzine, derives from the Aramaic (Syriac) word, meaning "depot" or "store". Many historians believe that Jezzine served as a storing location for traders because of its strategic location on the caravan route that connected the ancient port city of Sidon to the Chouf, the Beqaa Valley, and to Syria.
Divers Find Body of Missing Chaldean Youth
Courtesy of the Associated Press
(ZNDA: Detroit) Ryan Binno, 22, was among seven people swimming off a pontoon boat in the middle of Cass Lake in Oakland County in Michigan last Sunday evening when he went under and didn't resurface.
Divers began searching an area toward the center of the lake that was about 400 yards wide and three-quarters of a mile long before finding the body.
The water in which the divers looked ranged in depth from 4 feet to 94 feet in pits that are the result of lake dredging done years ago. Because of the search area, the effort to find the body was laborious.
Alcohol doesn't appear to have played a role in the incident, which brought the Chaldean communities of Michigan closer, wishing for a miracle.
Because the boat was drifting, and because it may have been up to 10 minutes before other swimmers realized Binno had gone under, witnesses weren't able to provide authorities with a specific location of the drowning.
Then on Tuesday afternoon divers found Ryan Binno's body about 55 feet deep using a sonar device.
Binno's was the fourth drowning death in Detroit-area lakes in less than a week.
An Evening with Ambassador Al-Istrabadi
A report by Robert Mulhim
(ZNDA: Chicago) The Assyrian Aid Society – Chicago chapter welcomed Ambassador Feisal Amin Al-Istrabadi, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations, to Chicago on Saturday, 7 July. Ambassador Al-Istrabadi was the main speaker at the chapter’s dinner fundraiser that was held at the ChaldoAssyrian Community Center in Skokie. The event was organized to coincide with the arrival of Mr. Napoleon Pattoo, president of the Assyrian Aid Society (Iraq) to the US in a visit that will last two months.
The event was attended by His Grace Mar Ammnoel Elia, Rev. Aweeqm Bithyou, Mr. Sheba Mando, representatives of our social and political organizations, and a large number of other attendees.
Mr. Napoleon talked about the accomplishments of the Assyrian Aid Society as well as the current difficult situation faced by thousands of ChaldoAssyrian families who have been displaced from different parts of Iraq under the threats of kidnapping and killing. He explained that the Student’s Dormitory that was built by the Assyrian Aid Society has been used to house many of the children of these displaced families.
The net income of the dinner event was $7300.
Tiny Tablet Provides Proof for Old Testament
Courtesy of the London Telegraph
(ZNDA: London) The sound of unbridled joy seldom breaks the quiet of the British Museum's great Arched Room, which holds its collection of 130,000 Assyrian cuneiform tablets, dating back 5,000 years.
Searching for Babylonian financial accounts among the tablets, Prof Jursa suddenly came across a name he half remembered - Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, described there in a hand 2,500 years old, as "the chief eunuch" of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon.
Prof Jursa, an Assyriologist, checked the Old Testament and there in chapter 39 of the Book of Jeremiah, he found, spelled differently, the same name - Nebo-Sarsekim.
Nebo-Sarsekim, according to Jeremiah, was Nebuchadnezzar II's "chief officer" and was with him at the siege of Jerusalem in 587 BC, when the Babylonians overran the city.
The small tablet, the size of "a packet of 10 cigarettes" according to Irving Finkel, a British Museum expert, is a bill of receipt acknowledging Nabu-sharrussu-ukin's payment of 0.75 kg of gold to a temple in Babylon.
The tablet is dated to the 10th year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, 595BC, 12 years before the siege of Jerusalem.
Evidence from non-Biblical sources of people named in the Bible is not unknown, but Nabu-sharrussu-ukin would have been a relatively insignificant figure.
"This is a fantastic discovery, a world-class find," Dr Finkel said yesterday. "If Nebo-Sarsekim existed, which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed? A throwaway detail in the Old Testament turns out to be accurate and true. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power."
Cuneiform is the oldest known form of writing and was commonly used in the Middle East between 3,200 BC and the second century AD. It was created by pressing a wedge-shaped instrument, usually a cut reed, into moist clay.
The full translation of the tablet reads: (Regarding) 1.5 minas (0.75 kg) of gold, the property of Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, the chief eunuch, which he sent via Arad-Banitu the eunuch to [the temple] Esangila: Arad-Banitu has delivered [it] to Esangila. In the presence of Bel-usat, son of Alpaya, the royal bodyguard, [and of] Nadin, son of Marduk-zer-ibni. Month XI, day 18, year 10 [of] Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
Archdeacon Younan Giwargis of Sydney has Passed Away
It is with deep regret and sorrow that I have to inform the faithful and the wider national community that Archdeacon Younan Giwargis of Sydney Australia, passed away peacefully on Sunday, 8th July 2007.
Archdeacon Younan Giwargis was born on the 5th Dec 1927 in Moscow, Russia, his father Dadisho was from the village Khardalanus near Quochanus, his mother Almas was from the district of Salamas in Iran.
He was baptised in Moscow in a Russian Orthodox Church and by 1930 the family moved to Salamas in time to be caught in the Great Salamas Earthquake, they left Iran in 1933 and with 17 other families and made their way to Mosul where they lived for two years before making their way south to Tel Masas in Syria.
In 1944 he was ordained Deacon by His Grace the late Mar Yousip Khnanisho during his visit to Syria and two years later the family moved to Lebanon where they settled in the township of Sid El Boshoreye. On the 3rd April 1966 he was ordained Priest in Baghdad by Mar Esho Sargis Apiscoopa to serve in the Mar Giwargis parish in Lebanon.
31st May 1970, Reverend Younan Giwargis arrives in Sydney Australia after a request was made to His Holiness Patriarch the late Mar Eshai Shimon by the Assyrian community in Fairfield, headed by the Assyrian Australian Association and elected spokesman Mr Youaw Tooma Kanna they request that a Priest be assigned to the Community in Australia.
By July 1971, the community working together purchased a block of land in Fairfield and by 21st December 1974 had built the first Church of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East [St Mary’s] on the same block; later a Hall was built to accommodate 300 persons at the rear of the Church.
19 September 1976 Reverend Giwargis was ordained Archdeacon by his Grace Mar Narsai De Baz in St Marys Church Fairfield; In 1984 the Church in Sydney was elevated to a higher status and in March 1985 His Grace Mar Meelis Zaia arrived to take post in Australia.
Archdeacon Younan D. Giwergis passed away on Sunday 8th July 2007 aged 80 in Fairfield Hospital. He leaves 8 Children and 18 Grandchildren.
His family wishes to Thank His Grace Mar Meelis Zaia for providing a wonderful service for the Archdeacon. His body rests in Rockwood cemetery Sydney.
A Response to Younadam Kanna's Allegations
On 17 June 2007 al-Malaf Press agency conducted an interview with Mr. Younadam Kanna, a member of the Iraqi parliament and the Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. During this interview, Mr. Kanna spoke of the Christians’ situation in Iraq whereby for the first time he expressed his dismay. The interview was carried by the Assyrian website “Ankawa.com”.
Mr. Kanna spoke also about the Save Assyria Front (SAF) and said that he didn’t know where this Front was founded and didn’t know anything about it except from some Internet statements; however he was keen to repeat his usual patriotic theme of refusing a Safe Haven or an Assyrian federalism, “because we are all Iraqis and suffer as do all other ethnicities and sects living in Iraq”… as he stated.
Thus as an Assyrian activist and a contributor to the birth of the Save Assyria Front, it is my duty to explain to the readers and answer to the claims of Mr. Kanna so that he and others would avoid repeating such irresponsible statements.
Indeed, Mr. Kanna may not know where Save Assyria Front is because he didn't attend the conference which declared this Front. However, we were surprised later on to learn that many of his “Democratic” Movement officials didn’t know that the Movement was invited, while Mr. Kanna didn’t attend because he knew that he isn’t qualified ideologically to work on the goals which were specified in the invitation, and which were published in all Assyrian and Arab media outlets before the conference. These goals are as follows (1)
1- Acknowledging that the Assyrians are the indigenous people in Iraq.
It’s quite clear to all, that the Assyrian General Conference (AGC) was and still is one of the founders of the Save Assyria Front and its branch in Iraq. It is also registered as an Iraqi political entity. It had participated in the Iraqi elections under slate #800 and Mr. Kanna knows this very well. If Mr. Kanna had dared to attend the expanded conference in Sweden, he would have known just like every one else where this Front exists and how it works, because it is not obliged to send reports about its activities to any one.
As for the patriotic outbidding of Mr. Kanna’s responses regarding the Assyrian self autonomy (federal equality) we have noticed that Mr. Kanna always says: “We have suffered from racism and we don’t want to be racists”… Thus asking for an Assyrian entity within the united Iraq is considered “racism” for Mr. Kanna, noting that his Movement was a member in the so-called “Kurdistan Front” and demanded self autonomy for the Kurds in the North of Iraq in its 1997 conference, the same thing was repeated in the 2001 conference, whereby Article VI of the Movement’s program stated: “We support the Kurdish movement, the struggle of the Kurdish people in Iraqi Kurdistan, and their right of self- determination within the national unity”… (2)
Hence, Mr. Kanna’s movement supports the Kurdish occupation of the Assyrian lands and it supports the right of the Kurdish occupation for self-determination, while supporting the Assyrian people’s right of self-determination on its historical lands, and also within the united Iraq, is considered as a racist demand…
As for Mr. Kanna’s sudden compassion towards the “Christians” of Iraq, that will not benefit him because the “Christians” aren’t interested in his position anymore, and all the popular and governmental movements abroad to support the Christians in Iraq are due to the great efforts of clergy from different Churches of the Assyrian people (Syrians, Chaldeans and Church of the East) in addition to independent Assyrian activists and youth associations in the Diaspora.
Every one knows that Mr. Kanna was the first to deny the persecution since the demise of Saddam’s regime, and he was the one who spoke for Australian SBS radio on August 28, 2004 (27 days following the bombing of six churches in Baghdad and Mosul) that the tens of thousands of Christians in Syria, Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon are but “tourists who leave every summer because of the heat”. He is also the one who is always repeating “the Christians aren’t the only ones persecuted, but all the Iraqi factions”; however, he forgets that those factions fight and have been fighting for hundreds of years for ideological reasons which the Christians have nothing to do with. He also conveniently forgets that Christians do not have militias or are they participants in fighting against any one, and that they are the weakest faction in need of protection.
Hopefully Mr. Kanna knows now what is the Save Assyria Front and whether it’s in Iraq or not, we also hope that he refrain from the arrogant policy towards other organizations since neither him nor any of the other Assyrian politicians are in a position which would allow them to be arrogant towards another Assyrian group whether they are active in Iraq or on the moon.
The Save Assyria Front believes that Iraq is for all without exception and within the final declaration of the Expanded Assyrian Conference (3) when the Front was established, the Front also believes that equality must be applied in all aspects in reality and not with sugar quoted words which both the Assyrians and other Iraqis are fed up with.
It also believes that in today’s Iraq, Assyrians are facing a problem of ethno-demographic
The honorable nationalist Iraqi politician is the one who calls for the preservation of the true Iraqi identity (culture, religion, and people) whether he may be Arab, Turkomen, Kurd or even a “Kurdified Assyrian”.
Long Live the Iraqi nation
1 – http://assyrianconference.com/SAF/1093.mht
Gang of Intimidation and Bullying
It is with great sorrow and a very heavy heart that I inform you that some members of the Assyrian National Council of Illinois (ANCI) have achieved a new low in their endeavor to control and manipulate ALL Assyrians living in Illinois. To accomplish this, these individuals have adopted a new approach to deal with those Assyrians who do not abide by their rules or — God forbid— disagree with and or criticize them.
Sadly, it appears that some members of the ANCI Executive Committee and Board of Directors members have evolved themselves into another entity, one well beyond the original humanitarian scope of the Assyrian National Council of Illinois. Instead of working on behalf of Assyrians, this new group, which might more accurately be dubbed the "Gang of Intimidation and Bullying of Illinois," has created its own set of bylaws. These appear to read: "As an Assyrian living in Illinois, you agree to submit to the Executive Committee's control by following them blindly. If you fail to do their bidding, the Gang of Intimidation and Bullying will whack you… in strong-arm Mafioso style."
To give the respected reader an example of such an incident, I refer you back to last month's so-called "peaceful" march, sponsored by ANCI. The main objective of this demonstration was to denounce and condemn the recent escalation of the brutality and atrocities that our Assyrian and Christian brethren living in Iraq are facing. This cause, of course, is an extremely noble and righteous one. However, the Gang of Intimidation and Bullying overlooked some important details in organizing this event: First, they ignored the "peaceful" intent of the march. Or, rather, they decided that the rules, regulations and policies apply only to the peasants. It seems that these individuals have come to the erroneous conclusion that the ANCI Executive Committee and Board members are "above" compliance with rules and regulations. After all, "they" make the rules as "they" see fit and to suit "their" own selfish purposes — all under the guise of advancing Assyrian welfare.
The second and most important detail that the ANCI Gang has overlooked is that we live in America, the land of democracy and free speech. We live in this great country that is leading the world in the fight against dictatorships and brutal rulers, such as Saddam Hussein, in order to spread peace, democracy and freedom throughout the world.
Yet, here in our own backyard, in America, Assyrians are being harassed by members of the ANCI Gang. The reason? Because there are some Assyrians who have the audacity to exercise their freedom of speech and voice opinions that happen to be in disagreement with those of the Gang members! So, how does the Gang deal with such unruly and defiant peasants, you ask? But, of course: by teaching them an unforgettable lesson to demonstrate what happens to an Assyrian-American living in the land of democracy and freedom of speech, who defies the ANCI Gang’s control and disagrees with its opinions.
Maybe we should not be surprised that the ANCI Gang members have utilized cruel and intimidating techniques— the same techniques that Saddam Hussein used to tame his real and imagined enemies. After all, a few of the ANCI Gang members are byproducts of Saddam’s brutal regime, and they have been well-trained in such methods of oppression.
Case in point: When a hard-working Assyrian family man living in Illinois (with three very young children), dared voice his opposing opinion, some ANCI Gang members immediately put their cruel plan to destroy his livelihood into motion. First, they repeatedly telephoned his place of work and harassed the switchboard operator. When that did not produce the result they were looking for, nine of these "gangsters" showed up at this man's workplace and demanded that he be immediately dismissed from his job! Still not satisfied, they personally threatened the company’s owner with lawsuits and other terrorizing actions. Under the face of this overwhelming pressure, the man lost his job.
Now I ask you, respected reader, is this not an act of terrorism? Are not these ANCI Gang members hurting the very people they are supposed to help? Are they not contradicting the same ANCI Constitution and Bylaws that this organization was founded upon, i.e., "The Council shall be purely humanitarian, cultural and educational and shall, at all times, manifest the essential and genuine needs of the Assyrian community." Are not their actions an act of hypocrisy?
Such extreme acts of malice and desperation have led me to question the motives of the individual members of the ANCI Executive Committee and Board of Directors. Apparently, they have much to lose. Perhaps they have such little tolerance for having their opinions challenged and their ways of conducting business criticized because they might get voted out of office. But, why would they be so distraught over losing an unpaid seat on a non-profit board? Their actions reveal that something more sinister must be at work. I am now convinced that they stand to lose much more than their seats on the Council: They stand to lose "their" livelihood from the tax dollars that the State of Illinois has designated for this organization, along with the generous donations of citizens committed to the Assyrian cause. Could it be that for the past few years, the ANCI gang members have used these public monies as "their" personal funds? Do they manage these funds as "their" personal pocketbook? For years, I have heard rumors about mismanagement of ANCI funds, but I had always dismissed these allegations. Now, in the face of these recent actions, I am sufficiently alarmed to call for immediate action.
My fellow Assyrians of Illinois and the world, we must not stand aside and be silent in the face of such actions of intimidation and cruelty. We have struggled and suffered for many centuries and have come too far to let petty bullies such as the ANCI gangsters intimidate us. It is time to turn the tables and teach "them" a lesson. They are supposed to be working on behalf of all Assyrians, not the other way around. I urge my fellow Assyrians to unite together and address this issue by demanding the following actions:
In closing, I have this to say to those individuals now serving on the ANCI Executive Committee and Board of Directors: Shame on you for stepping so low as to harm and jeopardize the livelihood of an Assyrian father of three young children! You are a disgrace to the Assyrian people and to the Assyrian Nation. You are a disgrace and an embarrassment to me and to every decent and upright Assyrian in Illinois and around the world. Shame on you, members of the ANCI Executive Committee and Board of Directors; shame on you! If you have any shred of devotion left for our people, you must resign from your positions immediately. The days of gangster control are over! It is time to allow more upstanding citizens, who understand the fundamental principles of democracy, to lead the Assyrian National Council of Illinois in fulfillment of its important mission.
Sheikhani Under the Stars
Empires flourish and then fade away. Nations soar in glory and then fall in defeat. Yet for the descendents of some, national and cultural identity live on encrusted on their soul. Nowhere is this more evident than in the history of my own people: the Assyrians.
Although weed and thorn have crept over the road from Nineveh, our once mighty capitol, we Assyrians have stayed on our long trek through the centuries by putting one foot in front of the other, overcoming one hurdle after another. More than our inherent strength, the love for who we are feeds our national spirit.
A look only at the store of our colorful national folk dances proves that our culture and identity remain strong long after the fall of the Assyrian empire in 612 B.C.
I know this from my own experience one summer night long ago. When young, living in Tehran, Iran, many of my summer vacations were spent in Digala, my grandmother Sona’s village in Urmia, which is a region in northwest Iran. That memorable summer my father took me to a wedding in a neighboring village. The music and the laughter still play in my ears, and the images of dance roll in my head like reruns of a favorite movie.
The village’s name escapes me. It could have been Wazirawa, Gulpashan or Geogtapa. Perhaps it was Diza, Charbash or Iryawa. What I do remember vividly, however, is the profound experience of witnessing a cluster of elderly men dancing the Sheikhani the way our Assyrian ancestors might have danced under the same stars.
Through the years I have seen young and old at weddings and festivals in America do the Sheikhani. I have enjoyed the experience, except for the western-style ornamentation added by some dancers. I find such additions clash with the dance’s hearty spirit, and its sense of time and place. Either way, no example has come close to the magnificent Sheikhani I saw at that wedding in Urmia. I can almost taste the image as if it were chiseled onto my palate to remind me of a living and breathing Assyrian art form.
That night the stars glittered in Urmia’s sky like silver flakes on a limpid field in ebony. Shooting stars streaked across like fur balls tossed by mischievous Assyrian gods. Music and laughter warmed the air that was so crisp you could almost hear it crack. Spices wafting from Assyrian foods teased the senses.
I sat cross-legged with the other guests around the generous spread on the ground in the big yard. Plates of Dolma made with grape leaves, cabbage, tomatoes and green peppers were passed around along with a feast of roast lamb, savory stews accompanied by rice, fresh vegetables, and kebabs. Rich buttermilk and cool well water washed everything down. Some guests chose the sweet homemade wines, while others opted for the kick from the vodka. Plates of fruit and Assyrian pastries followed, and tea poured from a squadron of big samovars.
I ate with relish while floating on a stream of wonderful stories that passed around the spread. I have always admired the storytelling prowess of Assyrians, especially in their use of literary devices to bring the stories to life. You don’t learn that in school. It’s in the blood.
Yet that was only the beginning of what would turn out to be an astonishing evening of dance, driven relentlessly by the zoorna, an ancient double-reed instrument, and the davoola, a drum, also ancient, that is held between the knees. Years later I myself would attempt those dances, but that night I was compelled only to watch in awe.
The crowd had already done the Khigga to welcome the bride and the groom. More Khigga followed dinner. One group of dancers did the Tolama, which is one of our oldest dances, and another group the Shora, a war dance from ancient Assyria. The Hoberban and the Tanzara were danced.
At the time I was unfamiliar with these dances, all except for the Sheikhani. It is only through my description of them to dancers that I have learned what I might have seen that night. And I saw the greatest Sheikhani of my life.
Research tells me the Assyrian word Sheikhani is derived from Bishkhana, a term meaning “warming up.” Apparently Assyrian soldiers and hunters danced to some form of the Sheikhani beat to warm up before going into action.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 4 BC – AD 65), the Roman statesman, philosopher and writer, said: “Only a lunatic would dance when sober.” I don’t know what he would have said had he seen the line of the 10 or so elderly men who that night danced the Sheikhani. I doubt those gentlemen needed the Sheikhani to warm them up; they were already warm nipping at the vodka.
Nor did I need to warm up, because my skin already felt feverish as I watched a dance performance worthy of a great dance stage. Hissing intermittently, the elders plodded to the driving rhythm behind the leader, who waved a handkerchief. They squeezed against each other, holding hands and facing the center. Taking two steps forward, they kicked to the center, then stepped back to their original position and follow the leader until repeating the sequence.
Old bones tempered their powerful movements to lean physical gestures as the men moved to the driving rhythm in perfectly synchronized steps. It was a magnificent sight, one that combed the fiery music into dance movement refined by years of living. At that moment I felt as one with those noble elders at the village wedding, and with all my people who had danced the Sheikhani under the same stars in centuries past.
That night, for the first time in my young life, I understood my national identity.
Sometimes on starry nights I still find myself returning to that wedding in Urmia. I can hear the crisp air cracking and the music echoing through the fields and the vineyards of the land that once felt the dance steps of ancient Assyrians. From there, if I look hard enough, I can almost see the ruffled road back to Nineveh.
Then when a star shoots across the translucent sky, I know I am back in Nineveh, welcomed by mischievous Assyrian gods tossing fur balls.
74th Assyrian American National Convention
Assyrian American National Federation
New Gorgias Books Announcement
Gorgias Press would like to announce the following books:
Title: Initial Woodbrooke Studies (click here)
The initial installments of Alphonse Mingana’s Woodbrooke Studies: Christian Documents in Syriac, Arabic, and Garshuni, edited and translated with a critical apparatus, began as articles within the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library Manchester, starting in volume 11. Taken together, the two separate articles in this issue of the journal constitute the start of a series of publications that would bring important manuscripts to light. In this initial foray into publishing the manuscripts in his personal collection, Mingana offers translations and critical comments on five documents: A Treatise of Barsalibi against the Melchites; Genuine and Apocryphal Works of Ignatius of Antioch; A New Jeremiah Apocryphon; A New Life of John the Baptist; and Some Uncanonical Psalms. Each of these widely divergent documents contains important insights into early Christianity and are here brought together as the first volume in the Woodbrooke Studies, the series of which Gorgias Press will be publishing under the titles of the particular documents they contain.
Alphonse Mingana (1878-1937) was an educator at the Chaldean Seminary in Iraq. He was also a priest in the Assyrian tradition and a collector of ancient manuscripts. He is renowned for his Mingana Collection, a set of nearly 3000 early Syrian and Arabic documents which he acquired and preserved. His rare volume of the writings of Narsai is also available from Gorgias Press. Mingana eventually immigrated to England, where he spent 17 years in Manchester to continue his work on Oriental Studies.
Title: Die Melodien der Jakobitischen Kirche (click here)
Published two years apart, the work of musicologist Heinrich Husmann on the music of the Syriac Orthodox Church remains a unique contribution to the liturgical study of that tradition. The first volume of this set is a study of the melodies of the weekly breviaries (shhimo), arranged by the canonical hours of the days of the week. These studies are according to the offices as sung by Mor Cyril (Qorillos) Jacob, then Metropolitan of Damascus. The second volume contains the qole shahroye or vigils, recorded by Mor Jacob’s brother, Malphono Asmar Khouri. The vigils, in eight modes, are dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the saints, penitence, and the departed. Together these studies offer rare insight into the under-studied field of Syriac liturgical music by a scholar who had an abiding interest in the music and practice of the Syriac Orthodox Church. Bound together for convenience, this liturgical set is hardbound for durability.
Heinrich Husmann (1908-1983) was an eminent musicologist. He studied at the University of Göttingen and later returned to teach. He was invited to teach at Princeton University by Oliver Strunk. His specialization was Medieval music and the music of the Notre Dame school.
Title: The History of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the History of the Likeness of Christ (click here)
The publication of ancient Syriac documents was a passion for Budge. In this two-volume set, volume 1 in Syriac and volume 2 in English, Budge offers the two documents entitled The History of the Blessed Virgin Mary and The History of the Likeness of Christ which the Jews of Tiberias Made to Mock at. These two manuscripts represent the genre of New Testament apocrypha and originate in perhaps the late fourth century. The first document, published by Budge for the first time, concerns itself with the conception, birth, and infancy of Mary before the annunciation, and then recounts her death and assumption. It includes stories of Jesus’ infancy as well, attributing miracles both to Mary and to objects associated with Jesus, such as his swaddling bands and his bath water. This text was doubtlessly intended to increase devotion to Mary at a time when her importance was widely appreciated. The latter of the two manuscripts on the likeness of Christ concerns a curious belief that images of a person, in this case Christ, have the ability to transform themselves into the characters that they represent. This ancient belief seems to have lasted until at least Late Antiquity in the early church.
Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge (1857-1934) began his remarkable career in the unlikely position of a clerk who had ended his official schooling at the age of 12. Nevertheless he learned Hebrew, Syriac, and Assyrian. Contacts at the British Museum helped him afford an education at Cambridge University and he returned to the British Museum in the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities. His interest in Egyptian matters soon came to dominate his interests. Budge wrote a plethora of books, many of which are still consistently cited.
East Syriac Books with Emphasis on Syro-Malabar Liturgy
Fr Varghese Pathikulangara, CMI
A comprehensive discussion in English of the East Syriac Liturgy with emphasis on Syro-Malabar Liturgical tradition in 4 volumes by Rev. Prof. Dr. Varghese Pathikulangara, cmi who has taught Liturgical subjects for the last 30 years in Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram (Bangalore), Paurastya Vidyapitham (Vadavathoor, Kottayam) and several other Faculties, Seminaries and Institutes all over India.
1. Chaldeo-Indian Liturgy 1: Introduction to Liturgy, A Study with special emphasis to the Syro-Malabar Church, Denha Services 33; 4th Updated reprint in 2005; 1/8 demy; pages 200; price Rs.105/--(in India), (US $ 12.99); ISBN 81-904135-2-X(SET); ISBN 81-904135-3-8(Volume I)
2. Chaldeo-Indian Liturgy 2: Qurbana, A Study of the Eucharistic Celebration of the East Syriac or Chaldeo-Indian Churches, with the text of all the forms of celebration in the Syro-Malabar Church as Appendix, Denha Services 48; 1998; 1/8 demy; pages 354; price Rs. 160/--(in India), (US $ 19.99); ISBN 81-904135-2-X(SET); ISBN 81-904135-4-6(Volume II)
3. Chaldeo-Indian Liturgy 3: Mysteries of the Church (Sacraments and Sacramentals), A Study of the Sacraments and Sacramentals in the East Syriac or Chaldeo-Indian Tradition with special emphasis to the Syro-Malabar Church, Denha Services 63; 2004; 1/8 demy; pages 208; price Rs. 105/--(in India), (US $ 12.99); ISBN 81-904135-2-X(SET); ISBN 81-904135-5-4(Volume III)
4. Chaldeo-Indian Liturgy 4: Divine Praises and Liturgical Year, Essentials on the Liturgy of the Hours and Liturgical Cycle, with special emphasis to the Syro-Malabar Church, Denha Services 61; 2000; 1/8 demy; pages 232; price Rs. 105/--(in India), (US $ 12.99) ISBN 81-904135-2-X(SET); ISBN 81-904135-6-2(Volume IV)
PATHIKULANGARA V., Mar Thomma Margam ("A New Catechism for the Saint Thomas Christians of India"). In English with an interesting and useful Appendix, several pictures and sketches, Kottayam: Denha Services 26, 1989; Reprint in 1992, 2004; 1/8 demy; pages 184; price US $ 13.99; Rs 110/--(in India); ISBN 81-904135-0-3
The following books are translated, compiled and dited by Pathikulangara V. and are original translations from East Syriac (BEDJAN) compiled and edited with necessary adjustments for the regular liturgical usage of the faithful. The hymns in them are all according to the Syriac rhyme and tune as noted in the proper place.
Bless the Lord, "Partial English translation of the "Divine Praises" or 'Liturgy of the Hours', used in Syro-Malabar Church", arranged in such a way that it may be used through out the year with the first 75 Psalms of Psitta version, Kottayam: Denha Services 41, 1996; 1/8 crown; pages 368; price US $ 17.99; Rs 145/--(in India); ISBN 81-904135-8-9
Mary Matha, 'The "Divine Praises" for the eight Feast Days of the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the East Syriac or Chaldeo-Indian Liturgical Heritage', 1998; 1/8 crown; pages 200; price US$ 9.95; Rs. 70.00 (in India); ISBN 81-904267-7-X
Passion Week and Easter Sunday , 'The "Divine Praises" and other Liturgical Services from Osana Sunday to the Sunday of Resurrection in the East Syriac or Chaldeo-Indian Liturgical Heritage', 1999, 1/8 crown; pages 352; price US$ 17.95; Rs. 180.00 (in India); ISBN 81-904267-8-8
Commencement of the Great Fast , 'The "Divine Praises" and the Eucharistic Celebration for Commencing the Great Fast in the East Syriac or Chaldeo-Indian Liturgical Heritage', 2000, 1/8 crown; pages 96; price US$ 4.95; Rs. 30.00(in India); ISBN 81-904267-9-6
Osa'na to Resurrection , "The Liturgical Celebrations from Osana Sunday to the Great Sunday of Resurrection according to the East Syriac or Chaldeo-Indian Tradition", a literal translation from BEDJAN, Kottayam: Denha Services 30, 1990; 1/8 crown; pages 274; price US $ 15.99; Rs 130/--(in India); ISBN 81-904135-1-1
For copies, contact through e-mail: Varghese.Pathikulangara@cmi.in .
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