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28 Shvadt II 6752
Volume IX
Issue 2
17 February 2003
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This Week In Zinda

cover photo

  Not a Tabloid
  Research Project on Identity Formation Among West Syrian Christians
  Papal Envoy Visits Mosul
Assyrians to be Represented at the Syrian Elections
Iraqi Christians Shackled by Fear, Daring to Hope
  Assyrians Hope for U.S. Protection
Mexican Authorities Detain 6 Chaldeans
Sydney's Iraqis Ponder the Dilemma of War
Council will give Australian Iraqis a single voice
Assyrian Man from California Reflects on Last Iraq War

Happy 9th Birthday!
Thank you for praying with us!
Can’t Stick Real History to Fable
Leave the Bishops Alone
Leave Australia Out of It
For or Against the War
Are there Cypriotes of Assyrian Descent?


Sunday 9 March: Worldwide Day of Prayer iraqi Christians
Press Release of the Church of the East in Australia
New Online Photo Albums

  Interview with Dr. Ronald Michael M.D.Commentary: Saddam's loyal 'Christian'
  The Assyrian American LeagueInvocation Offered by Mar Bawai Soro



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Zinda Says


Every issue of the previous eight volumes of Zinda Magazine is filled with the names of the Assyrians who care deeply about their people, their church, and their nation. They have dedicated their lives to improving the conditions of the Assyrians everywhere and everyday take risks in order to enlighten others about the existence of the Assyrians around the world.

We live in an age of information overload. Even Assyrians are no longer immune from this technologic catastrophe. We are constantly bombarded with rumors, suppositions, and personal attacks against others or oneself.

It is also human nature to forget the good deeds of the men and women steadfastly guarding the integrity of one’s ideals and passion for life; and on the other hand become fervently curious of the unfounded rumors and false mental constructions of a destructive mind.

Beginning with Volume IX and this week’s issue, Zinda Magazine enters a new phase of expressing and disseminating its readers’ thoughts and comments. While continuing to objectively present the opposing views of all readers on every issue affecting Assyrians, Zinda Magazine will no longer print the Letters to the Editor and/or articles that are knowingly false and/or defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, hateful, harassing, obscene, profane, sexually oriented, threatening, and invasive of a person's privacy – to other Zinda readers in particular. We can no longer tolerate the proliferation of information without any proof or evidence. This guiding conviction will be our new policy.

According to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act passed in 1996, Zinda Magazine is protected from liability for the statements of its readers. However you, our readers, are not immune from legal prosecution. If necessary, in the event of a legal action arising from any message or article posted by this publication, Zinda Magazine may be forced to reveal the reader’s identity. This is the law.

Zinda Magazine now requires that every Letter to the Editor or article carry its author’s full name, mailing address, and phone number. This way a questionable letter will be verified for authenticity prior to its publication. This week alone we have avoided the publication of 12 Letters to the Editor that contained vulgar language and rumored information about other Zinda readers.

Is this merely professionalism? Elitism? No. This is a matter of maintaining Zinda Magazine’s accepted authority and integrity as the most respected, complete, reliable, and timely source of information on the activities of the Assyrian individuals, political, religious organizations around the world.

We are also sensitive to the feelings of our readers and the guardians of the Assyrian Struggle whose names and reputations may have been besmirched in the process. Zinda Magazine apologizes to the Assyrian political and religious figures, artists, professors, and activists whose names may have appeared in the SURFS UP! section of this publication and wrongfully accused of ill-conduct without any substantial evidence.

On becoming a democratic vehicle for a changing society, this publication has learned two important lessons through much pain: firstly, that freedom of expression can be abused, and secondly, the Assyrian Struggle cannot move forward if we base our judgments on abstractions. Our new policy will surely deter many readers. We only hope that theirs is the destructive force we help to vanquish.

Wilfred Bet-Alkhas

The Lighthouse


The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and Leiden University have decided to finance a major research program on Syriac Christianity, entitled ‘The Formation of a Communal Identity among West Syrian Christians (451-1300)’. The program is among the last 14 recipients of a $1m PIONIER grant from NWO.

Among the Christians who did not accept the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon (451), the group now known as West Syrians (or Syrian Orthodox) were probably least likely to form a national or ethnic community. Yet a group emerged with its own distinctive literature and art, its own network and historical consciousness. In an intricate process of adoption and rejection, the West Syrians selected elements from the cultures to which they were heirs and from those with which they came into contact, thus defining a position of their own. The new five year research program will investigate this process of identity formation. The study of the formative periods of the community will improve our understanding of the position of the Syrian Orthodox today. Many of them now live as refugees in Western Europe and the United States. In the debate on their identity they constantly refer to their ‘golden era’, the period before 1300. The program will also contribute to the theoretical debate on identity, identity formation, and ethnicity. It offers a well defined case of a group that can be followed from its very beginnings, as it comes into existence as a religious category or association, becomes a religious community, and develops further into a group that has all the characteristics of an ethnic community. The program consists of three projects. Together they combine four different disciplines: religious studies, history, art history, and philology, while taking account of recent developments in the social sciences. An expansion of the program will investigate modern views on communal identity among Suryoye and Suraye academics in Western Europe.

The project ‘Michael the Syrian and His Sources’ (Dr Jan van Ginkel) will study the role of historiography. Historiography collects and interprets the shared memories of a common history that binds members together and distinguishes them from others. It has to present itself as objective, in order to give the community an anchor hold in the past. However, selection, adaptation, and imagination always play a role, though the author himself is not necessarily conscious of this. The different historical sources can be seen as witnesses of the various attempts to foster a communal identity among their readers. Michael the Syrian was patriarch of Antioch (1166-1199) and one of the most striking personalities of his era. His twelfth century Chronicle is an obvious starting point for this project because of its position, its extent, its wealth of sources, and the originality of its conception. However, in order to establish what Michael really intended, it will be necessary to compare his discourse on West Syrian identity with a fuller picture of the historiography of the mid seventh to the end of the ninth century. This project therefore aims at a description of the way Michael perceived and processed the work of his most original predecessors, Jacob of Edessa and Dionysius of Tel Mahre, with regard to their positioning of the Syrian Orthodox in history.

The project ‘Two Syrian Orthodox Exegetical Collections’ (Dr Bas ter Haar Romeny) will deal with the contribution of two important exegetical collections to identity formation. Considerable sections of these collections will also be edited and translated. Biblical interpretation plays a major role in shaping, legitimizing, and conveying any orthodoxy, but this seems to have been particularly true in the case of the West Syrians. A large part of the literary output of the Syrian Orthodox and some of the main genres of their literature were concerned with exegesis. Exegetical works used the authority of the Bible to discuss the creation of the world, its early history, and the future; to give moral guidance; and to inform the reader about physics, astronomy, and other sciences. Some works dealing with the Creation were in fact up to date encyclopedias of contemporary scientific knowledge. Thus biblical interpretation served as a vehicle for a complete world view. The oldest of the two collections is the London Collection (seventh or eighth century), which unites the opinions of various, mainly Greek, exegetes, and poses the question of the attitude of the Syrian Orthodox towards Greek learning. The second collection is that of the monk Simon (end of the ninth century; better known as the Catena Severi). This work combines the early Syriac interpretation from before the split with the explanations of Jacob of Edessa and other Syrian Orthodox authors, thus illustrating continuity and change in biblical interpretation and doctrine.

As words do not tell the full story, the third project, entitled ‘West Syrian Mural Paintings’ (Dr Mat Immerzeel and PhD student), will approach the issue from an art historical point of view. Works of art fulfill an obvious function in terms of providing symbols of identity. This aspect of art, however, has not attracted very much systematic attention. Art can be seen as a means of expressing the identity of a group, especially where religious art is concerned, as it expresses religious ideas, sometimes linked to political concepts. Pictures are an effective way of convincing people of true doctrine. The focal point of the study will be the wall paintings of Lebanon and Syria, the area where the Syrian Orthodox Church was well represented, and where a local artistic tradition existed alongside Byzantine art. These paintings will be placed in a wider context, taking into account both the earlier witnesses of Syrian Orthodox art, as well as contemporary Christian and Islamic examples from the Crusader kingdoms, Egypt, the Byzantine Empire, and other areas of the Mediterranean (in particular manuscript illuminations, icons, sculpture and metalwork). The decision to focus on the wall paintings contributes to the ground breaking nature of the project: many of these objects have not been studied sufficiently so far. Several discoveries are recent, and in other cases hidden murals are still being uncovered. The initial impetus to deal with the question of how ‘Syriac’ this art is, has been given, but much remains to be done.

In an expansion of the program, Ms Naures Atto, MA, will investigate aspects of the process of identity formation among university graduates in the Suryoye and Suraye communities of Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands. In the last decades of the twentieth century, Suryoye and Suraye from Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, have formed Diaspora communities in these countries. The new context of these communities, from being a Christian minority in a communal system that is dominated by Muslims to being a Christian minority in a secular system with a Christian or post-Christian majority, led to major changes in formal and informal leadership, in self-definition, and in formal and informal expressions of identity in ritual and organisation. These changes, as well as elements pointing to a continuity with the past as studied in the three projects mentioned before, will be studied in detail. In doing so, Ms Atto will focus in particular on the role of the ‘new elites’ consisting of educated young adults that initiated many of the changes involved.

The program is based at the Faculties of Theology (Peshitta Institute) and Arts (Languages and Cultures of the Near East, Paul van Moorsel Centre for Christian Art and Culture in the Middle East). It will seek cooperation with other scholars in the Netherlands and abroad. From time to time, colleagues will be invited to work with us for short periods on themes and issues of common interest. In addition, a workshop will be organized in 2005. For more information, please contact the programme director, Dr Bas ter Haar Romeny (romeny@let.leidenuniv.nl).

Naures Atto., M.A.
Leiden University

* * * * *


Leiden University is a major research center on Eastern Christianity. The languages and traditions of Christians of the Middle East have been studied at Leiden University since its establishment in the 1800’s.

The Masters of Arts Program in Eastern Christianity at Leiden University is designed for an international group of talented and motivated students and combines expertise in nearly all of the languages of the Christian East with strong art-historical and archaeological research programs. It lasts one year and starts in September. For those students who have an insufficient background in the area a one-year conversion course is available.

There are 6 concentrations offered at this time:

Art History and Archeology of the Christian Middle East
Arab Christianity
Armenian Christianity
Ethiopian Christianity
Coptic Christianity
Syriac and Indian Syriac Christianity

After successful completion of the M.A program, it is possible to enter a one-year MPhil Program as the first step towards a PhD. The contents are individually tailored and consist of tutorials, specific assignments and participation in research projects. The PhD program is a logical continuation of the MPhil and takes three to four years to complete.

Both Dutch and International students are encouraged to apply.

For further information:

Leiden University Worldwide
Rapenburg 67
P.O.Box 9500
2300 RA Leiden
The Netherlands
Phone: +31 71 527 7287
Fax: +31 71 527 7298
Email: study@luwp.leidenuniv.nl ]





Courtesy of the Zenit Vatican News Agency (13 February)

(ZNDA: Baghdad) The Pope's special envoy to Iraq last week traveled to northern city of Mosul to meet with the Christian community while awaiting his meeting with President Saddam Hussein.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray celebrated Mass in Mosul, located in the region of Iraq with the greatest number of Catholics, virtually all of whom are of the Chaldean rite.

Cardinal Etchegaray met with the Iraqi president on Saturday, a day after John Paul II's meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz at the Vatican, and the U.N. Security Council's session to hear the new report of the U.N. inspectors on Iraq's disarmament.

In an interview on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Etchegaray said he was deeply moved by the prayers of Iraqi Catholics at the Mass-for-peace he celebrated Wednesday in the Chaldean Church of St. Joseph in Baghdad.

"It was a large crowd profoundly recollected in prayer, as the Catholics, like the Iraqi population as a whole, feel the threat of the war," the cardinal said.

"However, they hope that through prayer and all that is possible through human means, peace may still be attained," he said.

"It is necessary to believe in peace until the last moment," he added, "until the last second ... until the exhaustion of the resources found in every man of good will [and ...] in the people, but above all in the leaders of society, both in Iraq as well as in the international community."

In reply to the question, “What kind of Church did you find in Iraq?”, Cardinal Etchegaray said: A Church that is alive and profoundly affectionate with the Pope. In few parts of the world is there such a contagious feeling, almost palpable, for a Vatican representative -- an affection that stems from the complex situation of a minority that lives seeking unity with Rome. Moreover, after the two-day visit to Mosul, I would like to stress its ecumenical aspect. An ecumenism made of concrete solidarity between Catholics and Orthodox: On Sunday they exchange churches and the two communities help one another financially to construct their buildings of worship. It is something admirable that must be stressed.”

The Cardinal was then asked by the Vatican reporter: “Are you concerned about the fate of Iraqi Christians?” Cardinal Etchegaray replies: “Here, Christians are Iraqis above all, and they will suffer the same condition as the rest of the country. With the exception of rare cases of intolerance between Muslims and Christians, on the whole there is osmosis in daily life. Christians are considered as authentic Iraqis and they will follow their country's fate.”


Courtesy of the News from the East (8 Februay)

(ZNDA: Qamishli) An official in the Assyrian Syrian Movement, a non-registered Syrian political movement, stated that the movement is participating in the upcoming judicial elections in Syria in order to affirm the principle of the participation and integration with the Syrian people.

Gabriel Moshe Gorial, the Movement’s candidate for the Syrian parliamentary elections, to be held on 2 march 2, 2003, comments: “We are participating in this round as we did in the last three elections, representing the Assyrian Syrian Movement in general and the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) in particular. We were successful in the 1990 parliamentary elections when we won a seat through our representative Mr. Bashir Sa’adi.” He adds: “We are participating in the elections because of our convictions in deepening the national spectrum for the Assyrian national existence… The purpose is to affirm the democratic exercise in public life and assure the principles of participation and integration with all the citizens of the country.”

On the Movement’s ability to form coalitions with other groups, Gorial comments: “We believe, in the right to disagree but within the framework of national unity. For that reason, we in the Assyrian Syrian Movement are opened to all national factions regardless to their affiliation and national, democratic and ethnic aspirations and we seek to create an electoral coalition with organizations and patriotic people who share with us the same principles and goals that will serve the country as a whole and not one segment of society without the other.”

On the political scope of the Movement’s vision for the future of Syria, Mr. Gorial explains that: “The Movement will work diligently to dedicate the democratic culture and human rights in the public life; aid in building the concept of true citizenship and the role of the law and institutions in the creation of equal opportunities for all people in order to push the process of development and industrialization a step forward under the leadership of President Dr. Bashar al-Asad; to affirm the Assyrian presence in Syria; and to assure that we are a noble nation that has an extended and rooted civilization with a vision for a future that is in harmony with the aspirations of all the Syrian people. We will work to show that we are a nation of culture and national aspirations and to link the Assyrian Diaspora with home economically, culturally and socially since our Assyrian nation has tremendous energy in the Diaspora, especially in Europe, USA and Australia. Emotionally and spiritually, this nation is bonded with his historic country. There is a real opportunity to invest in this energy to serve national causes and be part in the development and advancement of the country. Our role could develop especially if the conditions assisted to accomplish that. Furthermore, I would like to elaborate that the movement is seeking to express the people economical anxieties, to point to areas of corruption in order to beat it, to request accomplishing a thorough and balanced development throughout the Syrian provinces, and to work in order to support the agricultural sector in the province of al-Hassaka in particular since agriculture represents the main economical source for the majority of its residents.”

Mr. Gorial wished that what had happened in the last two elections will not be repeated. The ruling Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party in those elections nominated certain independent candidates and supported them by listing their names within lists that included the Progressive National Front, guaranteeing their victory even before the voting process took place.

“We demand equal opportunity for all independent candidates to compete in a democratic and free manner. We are optimistic that the present elections will take place under democratic and fair basis especially since President Bashar al-Asad during the ceremony of his Presidential Oath affirmed on the rights of all people to participate in the process. We request the return of the fifth seat assigned to the independents in the Hassaka Province according to the election law issued in 1990 where five seats were assigned for the province,” notes Mr. Gorial.

“We rely in addition to the statements of Mr. Abd al-Qadir Qadoora, Head of Parliament, who about a month ago assured one of the satellite stations that the Ba’ath Party is concerned with his own candidates and will not interfere with the rights of the others in selecting their own candidates,” adds Mr. Gorial.

The “fifth seat” was removed in favor of the Progressive National Front list in the previous two elections.

Mr. Gorial in response to a question on his sense of realism and modest expectations states: “We must be realistic under all circumstances as we cannot fanaticize and dream that we are capable in accomplishing the miracles in an environment that has not matured yet, an environment that can accept ethnic pluralism and the acceptance of the others and understanding their rights and needs. Many of our citizens are unaware, or pretend to be, that there are Assyrians in Syria or consider this nation as part of a past that is gone forever. In best cases, some people, whether intentionally or not, still looks at our presence as a Christian sect and nothing more.”

In conclusion Mr. Goriel comments: “Our efforts will concentrate on defining the Assyrian presence, explaining to the Syrians the Assyrians’ national and historical dimensions and emphasizing that our Assyrian nation (including Suryan and Chaldeans) and with all their different rites, is a genuine and important part of the national fabric for the Syrian society which is embraced and protected by the Syrian national unity we are proud of as we work to strengthen it more and more and that our presence is a national event interwoven first and last exceptionally with the issue of democracy in Syria.”


Courtesy of Christian Broadcast Network (13 February); article by Paul Strand

(ZNDA: Washington) Pretty much everyone lives in fear in Iraq. Christians are no exception. About 660,000 Christians live there among a mostly Muslim population of 23 million. Many of those Christians are part of an ancient empire whose people were the first, outside the Jews, to be converted to Christ.

After centuries of persecution, discrimination, and inescapable fear, some Iraqi Christians are daring to hope that a future of freedom is on the horizon. Yet they realize they must first survive the war that is almost certain to come soon, and then what might be the vicious in-fighting for power after Saddam falls.

But until the day of freedom, the era of fear shadows Iraq like the darkness of night. For that reason, many of the identities of the Christians in this story have been concealed.

Terry Law is a minister who was just in Iraq in January, bringing food to poor believers and medical aid to cash-strapped hospitals. He says the fear of Saddam Hussein is absolute.

"This ominous face and eyes are watching you everywhere you go, and there's that terror and absolute fear of the leader," he said.

Law found Iraqis were afraid to speak openly, even in their own front rooms. He asked one Iraqi lady, "Would you say that there's a lot of fear?" She replied, "We can't talk about it. We have to keep quiet."

Law explained, "I was in the privacy of Christian homes, trying to encourage them to say something about their leadership. They said, 'No. We've told our children: Don't say anything political. You go to school and make a political statement, they'll come home and kill us.'"

This daily fear is what the Christians of Iraq ˜ many of whom are Assyrians, not Arabs ˜ have been reduced to.

Ken Joseph, an Assyrian now living in Japan, said, "The Assyrians were the people that Jonah went to."

Joseph says his people were once proud rulers of an ancient empire that stretched across the Middle East. "It was those same Assyrians that were the first major people group, eventually country, to accept the Gospel," he said. "And then beyond that, the Assyrians were the largest missionary movement in the past."

John Nimrod is director of the Assyrian Universal Alliance. He says his Christian people have now faced centuries of persecution in the land they once ruled. "We are the American Indians of Iraq," he said.

He says the Assyrians are now second-class citizens in their own homeland. "The Christians are in a particularly precarious position because you have a sea of Muslims and a small, tiny group of Christians with no one to protect them," Nimrod said.

Joseph's own grandparents had to flee Iraq in 1919 to survive a massacre of Assyrians by the Muslim Kurds who share and covet the land around what was once Nineveh.

"First of all, we're discriminated against because we are Christians," Nimrod said. "Secondly, we are discriminated against because we are pro-West."

Joseph further explained, "The Christians have always been seen as agents of the West, because they were Christians. Previously, Iraq was governed by the British. And it was the Assyrians who aligned with the British. So once the British were gone, the Assyrians were put at the mercy of the government that ensued."

Widespread slaughter followed, and present-day Assyrians are worried it could happen again.

"I think the concern they have is a fundamentalist regime succeeding Saddam Hussein and becoming a lot more like, say Iran across the border one way, or Saudi Arabia across the border another way," Law said.

So Iraq's Christians live in fear today, but they fear the future too, worried they may lose what religious freedom they have now. Believe it or not, despite all his evil, Saddam has not discriminated much against Christianity.

Joseph said, "Iraq is unique in the Middle East in that it's one of the few countries that have a secular government. Most of the other countries have these very strict Islamic governments."

Law agreed, "Saddam's regime strangely enough has been relatively moderate in dealing with Christianity and allowing Christians freedom."

Those fundamentalist Muslim regimes surrounding Iraq have chased out most of their Christians. But because of Iraq's tendency not to discriminate as much, if there is anywhere that could nourish a future homeland for Christians in the Middle East, it could well be Iraq.

"The dream of the Assyrians is to have their country back, or at least some measure of autonomy, so that Christians throughout the world who have been scattered and would like to return would feel confident enough to return back again," Joseph said.

But to get to that day, the people of Iraq will probably have to go through another war.

"Everywhere I went people said, 'When are you going to bomb us?'" Law said. Families that he met described their terror as bombs crashed around them during the last Gulf War.

"All the windows were broken," an Iraqi woman remembered. Law continued her description of those days. "The children were screaming. She said to this day those children have memories of the bombing and it traumatized them," he said.

But CBN News met Iraqi Christian in Israel who says war may be a necessity. Salam said, "It's the only way to force Iraq to listen to the United Nations. Yes, I believe the United Nations or America should go into Iraq and help the Iraqi people."

And so...there is hope. The Iraqi woman said, "What is going to happen? It's God's will."

"They don't want the drama and the trauma of an attack, but at the same time they are desperate to remove the current regime," Law said.

So, worried about war, but hungry for freedom, the Assyrians and other Iraqi Christians are desperate to get fellow believers praying for them. Joseph said, "We've set aside February 16th as a day of prayer throughout the world for the Christians in Iraq."

Salam said, "My message to America, my message to all the Christians around the world: that they should not depend on their weapon or their army or strength. They should depend on Jesus and the truth and power through the praying."

Beyond the dangers of war and the current fears of Iraqi Christians, Joseph sees a bright future ahead. "God could use this terrible situation not only as a way to bring the Christians back to the Middle East, but to bring revival to the oldest church in the world."

News Digest


Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times (17 February); reprint of an article by Teresa Watanabe

(ZNDA: Los Angeles) They regard themselves as heirs to an ancient Mesopotamian tradition that produced early legends of creation, a great flood and a boy in a basket, set adrift in a river and rescued. But those traditions have virtually vanished from widespread public awareness, they say, eclipsed by later biblical stories.

Their history is rife with massacres -- including attacks by the Ottoman Turks and Kurds in the early 20th century that wiped out much of their population. But their problems have been overshadowed, they say, by the Armenians who suffered alongside them.

After losing their empire and wandering stateless for more than 2,600, years they were promised a homeland, they believe, by the League of Nations after World War I. But the promises were betrayed, they say, their interests cast aside.

Now many of the world's remaining Assyrian Christians, several thousand of whom live in Southern California, fear they will become an afterthought again as the United States prepares for a possible war against Iraq, where nearly half their compatriots live.

In the drive to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Assyrian spokesmen say, the United States must stay engaged long enough to ensure that whatever regime comes next protects the country's ethnic and religious minorities.

Otherwise, "at the end of the day, all of the other people in Iraq are Muslims, and they will discriminate against us and try to get rid of us," said Carlo Ganjeh, U.S. secretary for the Assyrian Universal Alliance. "This is the sad reality of the Mideast."

More than two millenniums ago, their ancestors created one of the world's great empires, covering much of what is now Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Among the earliest peoples to convert to Christianity, they claim inventions including the wheel, the Zodiac and fractions. But today, with their people scattered in 40 countries, Assyrians are one among many peoples who survive from the ancient days of the Middle East, half forgotten by the world.

"I don't know anybody who's ever heard of Assyrians," said Anil Varani, 20, youth group vice president of the Assyrian American Assn. of Southern California. In the 13 years since she emigrated from Iran, she has usually told others that she's Babylonian -- a related people at least vaguely familiar to more Americans, she says.

Some Assyrians say Jews are one group of people who seem to be more familiar with them. But because the Hebrew Bible describes Assyrians as cruel and ruthless conquerors, people such as the Rev. William Nissan say he is invariably challenged by Jewish rabbis and scholars about the misdeeds of his ancestors.

Asked whether many Jews still bear grudges against modern Assyrians, Yitzchok Adlerstein, an Orthodox rabbi who teaches at Loyola Law School, replied: "They still survive?"

The scant public awareness puts Assyrians in the position of frequently fighting to assert their proper identity, even among themselves. Some argue for a common Assyrian identity for all the non-Arab, Christian groups that trace their ancestries to ancient Mesopotamia and surrounding lands. Others who would fit into that blanket identity regard themselves as distinct from Assyrians, both ethnically and religiously. For example, some Chaldeans, most of whom are Roman Catholic, say they should be considered separate from Assyrians, who belong to the Church of the East, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Syriac Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations.

The internal divisions are noted as one of the community's greatest challenges by both U.S. government officials and Assyrian leaders such as Ronald Michael, president of the Assyrian American League. "My greatest criticism and challenge" to fellow Assyrians, he said, "is to put aside personal differences and come together and coalesce."

At the same time, Assyrians say they must fend off efforts to "Arabize" them, both here and abroad. The Assyrian International News Agency, for instance, has chastised the Washington, D.C-based Arab American Institute for saying Assyrians, including Chaldeans and Syriacs, are Arab Christian minorities. The news agency called such attempts an "egregious, willful and deliberate mischaracterization of Assyrian identity" to enhance the Arab demographic "and, by extension, political clout in the U.S."

"Assyrians are not Arabs," the news agency wrote. "Assyrians, including the Chaldeans and Syriacs, are the indigenous Christian people of Mesopotamia and have a history, spanning 7,000 years, that predates the Arab conquest of the region."

After Sept. 11, 2001, in what the Assyrian news agency called "an erroneous association with the Arab identity," St. John's Assyrian Church in Chicago was set afire and another Assyrian church in a nearby town received a letter asking, "Are you with the U.S. or with the enemy?"

More than two decades earlier, said Noray and Elgret Betbaba, who emigrated from Iran in 1969, their former sandwich shop and home in Oxnard were vandalized while Iran held U.S. hostages in the early 1980s. At one point, Noray Betbaba said, he and his friends were threatened in a North Hollywood bar by a man wielding a knife who told them: "You dirty Iranians. You leave here or I'll cut you up."

Identity Threatened

Assyrians say the assault on their identity is most pronounced, however, in their ancestral lands. Michael said Iraqi President Hussein has cleansed textbooks of Assyrian history and accomplishments, denied government benefits to those who refuse to use Arab or Muslim names, uprooted Assyrian villages and banned the Assyrian language from the workplace.

Many Assyrians say they fear even greater persecution in a post-Hussein Iraq if the United States withdraws too quickly and leaves the country to chaos.

Their fears of persecution are grounded in the living memories of many Assyrians. On a recent Sunday, several dozen Assyrians gathered to share their family stories at the Assyrian center in North Hollywood, a social hall decorated with the Assyrian flag, winged bull statues and portraits of ancient kings.

According to cultural anthropologist Arian Ishaya, Assyrians first came to California in 1910 as farmers in the Turlock area of the Central Valley. They have since moved into the "solid middle class" as small-business owners and professionals in computer science, law, engineering and medicine. The nation's largest Assyrian populations are in the Detroit and Chicago areas, but Assyrian spokesmen claim a population of 7,000 in Southern California.

For Assyrians like William Warda, a 62-year-old graphic designer, success in America has not diminished memories of a horrific past. At the recent Assyrian center gathering, Warda said he was a 4-year-old boy in the northwestern Iranian area of Urmia when he saw his village plundered, his father shot through the head and his 6-month-old sister bayoneted by Turks in 1946. Prevented from burying his father's corpse, Warda said, the family watched helplessly as dogs picked it apart.

"They said, because you are Christians, you are supposed to die," Warda said -- adding that Muslims in another village sheltered them and helped the rest of the family escape.

Manon Dooman, a 67-year-old artist and former nurse, said most of her family was massacred by the Ottomans in 1915, but her grandmother survived, escaped to Russia and passed down stories of seeing sword-wielding soldiers ruthlessly slaying Assyrian Christian boys and men.

Assyrians say they lost 750,000 people to the Ottomans; the Turkish government denies any atrocities, just as it rejects Armenian assertions of genocide. Assyrians commemorate the 1933 slaughter of 3,000 Assyrians in Iraq on their Aug. 7 "Martyr's Day," but that history, too, is little known outside their community.

Ever so slowly, however, Assyrians appear to be coming together -- and drawing more attention.

Ganjeh, of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, said a meeting in London last November for nine of 14 major Assyrian political organizations represented a milestone in unity efforts and that follow-up meetings are being organized. Though many Assyrians still dream of recovering a homeland or autonomous state, others say guarantees of democratic freedoms in a Muslim-ruled state may be the best they can hope for.

Signs of Hope

In the United States, Assyrians had been neglected by Washington policymakers crafting plans for a post-Hussein Iraq.

But that changed after intense lobbying by groups such as the Assyrian American League, which was established last year and has won the backing of some prominent politicians, including Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), who represents a district outside Chicago.

Assyrians are now formally mentioned in speeches by President Bush and included in Iraqi opposition meetings convened by the U.S. State Department. The Assyrian Democratic Movement has qualified for federal funds under the Iraq Liberation Act, which funnels federal money to Iraqi opposition groups.

"We basically got in the face of everyone," said Michael of the Assyrian American League. "Our rights, which have been trampled on for so long, need to be secured."

Meanwhile, Assyrians say other Christian groups are beginning to rally behind them. A worldwide day of prayer for the protection of Assyrian Christians was observed Sunday and supported by the Rev. Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.

"Western Christians must show some interest in what's happening and help us out," said Shamiram Tabar, president of the Assyrian American Assn. of Southern California. "Otherwise, sooner or later the Mideast won't have any Christians left whatsoever."


Courtesy of Fox News

(ZNDA: Tijuana) Mexican authorities have detained five men and one woman who claimed to be German citizens whey they arrived in the Tijuana airport last Tuesday night on a flight from Mexico city. All six are Iraqi citizens, believed to be Chaldean Christians and intended to cross into the United States from Tijuana. Immigration authorities sent the Iraqis back to Mexico City for questioning.

Chaldean Christians often seek U.S. asylum, but many say these requests have been complicated by security concerns in the United States. San Diego area in southern California across the U.S.-Mexico border is home to the second largest Chaldean community in North America.

Mexican authorities were investigating whether the Iraqis might have violated Mexican immigration laws.


Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph (17 February); based on an article by Linda Morris

(ZNDA: Sydney) To bomb or not to bomb their homeland is the important question for the Iraqis in Australia. Arab, Assyrian, Kurd and Turkoman alike, the Iraqis condemn the madness of their leader, dream of an end to dictatorship and worry that liberation may come at great human and financial cost.

TOP RIGHT: Hermiz Shahen who fled from Iraq with his family in 1981.
Mr. Shahen is the Secretary of the Assyrian Universal Alliance for Australia).

But they remain divided on the need for a United States-backed war to topple him.

Arab Muslims are the single largest ethnic group in Iraq. The Kurds, based in a region of northern Iraq they call Kurdistan, make up 23 per cent, and the remaining 5 per cent comprise a melting pot of Turkomans, Assyrians and Armenians, all non-Arabs.

Assyrians fleeing the violent Ba'athist Arab nationalist regime of Colonel Abd as-Salem Muhammed Aref, Saddam's predecessor, were among the first Iraqis to settle in Australia.

The trickle of refugees became a minor flood after the Gulf War when Kurds from the north and Shi-ites from the south were attacked and joined the exodus.

Refugees fled the dictatorship for neighbouring Turkey, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia before making their way to havens in Australia, the US, Britain, Sweden, Denmark and Canada.

More recently, Iraqi asylum seekers have arrived illegally in the boats of people smugglers.

The 2001 census reported about 24,832 Iraqis living in Australia, more than half of them in Sydney where they were scattered in fragmented ethnic pockets in Auburn and Arncliffe.

Mr Abood says the figure is more likely 120,000 to 150,000 once members of nationalistic ethnic groups whose homelands lie in Iraq are included.

In Sydney, most of Iraq's newly arrived refugees have settled in Fairfield and Auburn.

The mixed businesses and restaurants which have sprung up at the southern end of Auburn Road have added a touch of Baghdad to the row of shops known locally as "Little Istanbul".

Most Iraqis believe Washington's support of Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war disqualifies it from a future role in Iraq.

There is also a deep-seated belief among Iraqi-Australians that the US blundered during the Gulf War when it encouraged Iraqis to rebel, then allowed Saddam to reassert his authority and abandoned the rebels to their fate.

The six-week war, which killed 100,000 Iraqi soldiers and destroyed the country's infrastructure, only tightened Saddam's grip.

Iraqis boast of Iraq's status as a centre of learning, of its large class of professionals and technocrats, its hospitable and moderate people who had never before the Iraq-Iran conflict waged wars of conquest.

Many Sydney Iraqi exiles are members of its agricultural and middle classes, university-educated teachers, doctors, engineers and scientists who would be more than willing to return to help rebuilding efforts.

Said Stephan, an Assyrian Christian with a PhD in electrical science, is offering to return for up to a year to help with the reconstruction of hospitals, airports and office blocks. His children would remain in Sydney.

Dr Stephan is likely to be joined by recently arrived asylum seekers, angered by their failure to win permanent residency.

It is a question that resonates among lonely fathers walking Auburn Road. In these uncertain times they cannot risk returning to the families and losing their visas and they cannot bring their families to Australia.

In any event, they feel that Iraq is not Australia's business.

"We cannot see any benefit to Australia or the Australian people to participate in that war," says Mr Abood. "Saddam is a criminal, a dictator, but he didn't do anything to Australia."


Courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald (18 February); article by Linda Morris

(ZNDA: Sydney) Leaders of several Iraqi communities in Australia have decided to form a council to help each other in "difficult times". The council will represent various ethnic and religious groupings, including Muslim, Arabic, Christian, Kurdish, Assyrian and Chaldean communities of Iraqi origin.

The chairman of the Community Relations Commission, Stepan Kerkyasharian, said the council would be a unique forum for Australian Iraqis. "They are of the view, given the potential for war in Iraq, that there will be times when they need to present themselves as people with a common interest," Mr Kerkyasharian said.

"This means everything from advocating the safety of friends and relatives suffering for many years, to possibly providing assistance to those displaced as a result of the war."

The council is preparing to draft a constitution and is to be registered under company law.

The council's spokesman, Kassim Abood, said: "We're proposing to establish a single contact point for dealing with issues - anything from welfare to education and training - and as an umbrella for all Iraqis to hopefully speak with one voice."


Courtesy of the Tri-Valley Herald (18 February); article by Scott Smith

(ZNDA: Modesto) When asked, Kamal Thomas avoids any talk about Saddam Hussein or the political thundercloud hanging over America's impending war on Iraq, his native country.

The 49-year-old Manteca businessman says he just doesn't want to get involved in that debate.

But Thomas can talk about the cost of the American war in 1991 that brought his country to a grinding halt: Bombed-out electrical plants darkened homes. Drinking water didn't flow from faucets. Plants that supplied gas for cooking and heating were knocked out.

Thomas knows because when that happened, he was in Iraq.

That wasn't the worst, he said. Bombs dropping from the dark skies night after night brought a fear that the next one was coming at you.

"It's terrible," said Thomas, drinking coffee in the small office of his used-car lot in downtown Manteca [few miles north of Modesto, California].

"You don't know when you're going to die."

Before war comes again to his native country, Thomas said he prays that political leaders first explore every last attempt at a peaceful resolution.

Thomas now lives in Modesto with his wife and four children, who are between the ages of 16 and 22.

But 12 years ago, he was in Baghdad on the phone with his parents calling from California.

Monitoring news developments, they told Thomas to get out of Baghdad. Bombs would start dropping the next day, they told him.

So, Thomas, a graduate of the University of Baghdad who in quieter times traded rice, flour, cigarettes and alcohol from Cypress, Greece and Europe, fled to his family's home village of Arbil in the north of Iraq.

Tuning in his radio, Thomas heard about the bombs dropping at 2 a.m. the next morning.

He stayed in the village for three weeks before making his way back to his home in Baghdad still under siege.

Returning, he found Baghdad a ghost town.

"There was no electricity, no water, no sewer, no gas -- you name it, you cannot find it," said Thomas, adding that he was fortunate because he sent his wife and children to the United States before the bombings in 1990.

Most Iraqis understood that the bombs weren't targeting civilians, Thomas said. Of course, in war, mistakes happen. And mistakes happened.

Fortunately, none of his relatives suffered more than a few broken windows in their Baghdad homes.

The allied coalition bombs did successfully cripple public services, making everyday life difficult, especially for children and old people, he said.

The next round of bombing will be just as paralyzing for his relatives and millions of Iraqis who have no chance to leave, he said.

"I am completely against war. What I saw last time, I don't want anybody else to see," said Thomas, who acknowledges there are problems in Iraq.

If there were no problems, Thomas says, he wouldn't have had to leave Iraq and start a new life while middle-aged.

Thomas is Assyrian, an ethnic group of Christians living within the modern-day borders of Iraq. Of the Assyrians worldwide, only 30 percent remain in Iraq.

A large population of Assyrians live in the Central Valley between Modesto and Turlock.

Fluent in Arabic, Assyrian and English with a smattering of German, Thomas said that a couple of times each week, he maintains contact with his cousins, aunts and uncles still living in Iraq.

He offers them support and sometimes sends money, he said.

"What can we do more than that?" Thomas said.

Like he did, they want to leave Iraq, he said. And with the United States gearing up for another war, the pressure to leave only increases.

"Everybody is scared and waiting for the minute war will come," said Thomas. "They're preparing."


Surfs Up!
Letters From Zinda Magazine Readers


Best wishes and regards from the Church and the Assyrians of Australia on your Zinda’s 9th Anniversary.

Mar Meelis Zaia
Bishop of Australia & New Zealand
Church of the East

Congratulations for Zinda Magazine 9th magical year anniversary. I applaud you for your true journalistic wisdom in publishing opposing views, which doesn’t necessarily represent the views of your distinguished magazine. Furthermore, I am pleased with your announcement to further enhance the quality of Zinda by verifying the source of articles and letters to the editor published in Zinda Magazine. Hopefully, your new policy would force those imposters hiding behind fake names to come out of the closet and disclose their true identity.

Sargon R. Michael

May you receive my sincere ecumenical and fraternal greetings and wishes of health, blessings and peace (particularly praying for Iraq and especially for our ancestral Assyrian Chaldean brethren and for stopping all kind of violence, war, turmoil and oppression there and everywhere. Yours in the Christ love and Light.

Jose Luis R.M.


Thank you so much for praying for the Worldwide Day of Prayer for the Assyrian Christians in Iraq. We were able to do interviews for the Los Angeles Times, USA Radio Network, Moody Radio Network, Christian Broadcasting Network 700 Club to name just a few . . . because you prayed!

Thank you for praying for our TV Spot we had great freedom to speak and were able to talk about the plight of the Assyrian Christians in Iraq and give witness to Jesus . . . because you prayed!

Please pray as we speak, Sunday, 2/16/9AM/2PM Japan Time, 2/15/4PM/9PM West Coast Time/2/15/7PM/12AM East Coast Time. Please pray for the annointing of Jesus, favor with the audience and clear opportunity to share Jesus!

How can we be praying with you? Please let us know at pray@keikyo.com

Rev. Ken Joseph Jr.


In last week’s issue, Mr. Tony Khoshaba of Chicago, wrote under the title “Enough Glue to Stick Kaldu to Atoor”: “The official name of our community in Iran is ‘Ashuri Kaldani’ hence the name Assyrochaldean actually is our official name in Iran.”

Mr. Khoshaba should know better that just because a group of people had a particular name preference over another does not necessarily give it legitimacy or historical depth in every case. For example, something that happened hundred years ago in the United States is indeed history since the United States’ entire history is two hundreds years old. The Assyrians have a history that spans some four thousands years, and one hundred or one hundred seventy years is a drop in the ocean; we cannot discard the four thousand years in favor of the hundred or hundred seventy.

Mr. Khoshaba tells part of the story of the Assyrians in Iran. The Iranian Constitution acknowledges this term “Ashuri and Kaldani,” yet Mr. Khoshaba does not tell his readers how the representative of the Assyrians in the Majlis (Parliament) is recognized! The Assyrian representative is not recognized as the Ashuri and Kaldani representative, rather the Ashuri (Assyrian) representative. Mr. Khoshaba also neglects to mention additionally that none of the Assyrian organizations in Iran, including the AUA, carry the name Ashuri and Kaldani as part of their name.

The Iraqi government calls the Assyrians of Iraq “al-ta’ifa al-Athoriya”. Should we accept that term? We lived under oppression in the Middle East and those governments are in position to say whatever they want, but that does not make them right.

This term AshurKaldo never existed throughout history except when few of our clergymen, whether due to ignorance, their studies in Catholic Rome, or simply out of their good heart and simple mind to bring our people together, used it in the very latter parts of the 19th and early 20th century.

Let me explain by addressing two points in contrast:

We cannot glue two completely different and non-comparable names together, it did not work with the Czechs and the Slovaks when they glued Czechoslovakia together; The Serbians, Bosnians and the Croats when they glued Yugoslavia together; it did not work when they glued the Tajik and Peshtun and made Afghanistan; and did not work the collapsed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) when it was glued together, and there are many more exmaples.

In the Assyrian case, the point is that when you try to glue the two terms Ashor and Kaldo together and keep them next to each other, you are giving legitimacy and affirming the myth that the MODERN Chaldeans are separate than the Assyrians, and that is a sin on its own. AshorKaldo should not be an option under any circumstance. Historically speaking, we could say Assyria and Babylonia or Nineveh and Babylon but we cannot say Assyria and Chaldea or Nineveh and Kaldo; the prior two sets are comparable while the latter two are simply not. Chaldea is a mysterious term; many scholars do not even agree that it really existed. Even if it did for a very short period of time, which should not mean that it is going to take precedence over the historic Babylon. Furthermore, there is no connection whatsoever between the ancient Chaldeans and modern Chaldeans. Yes there has been certain mistakes made in history, but we must not make rules out of the exceptions. If Mr. Khoshaba still insists on using the combined name, let him then do it correctly and use KaldoNestorians. But let me remind Mr. Khoshaba that by using Assyro-Chaldean, Kaldo-Ashur, or whatever of the combination, he is still ignoring the third vital segment of the Assyrian nation; the Suryanis (Jacobites and their Catholic counterpart the Melkites)!

Mr. Khoshaba mentions about Mar Toma Odo’s book “Grammar of the Chaldean Language" published in Urmia in 1905. I am not sure what grammar book of 1905 Mr. Khoshaba is referring to, but I want to make couple points here:

First, Mar Toma Odo’s dictionary, printed originally in 1897 in Mosul, was called “Semta d’ Lishana Suryaya”. Let me remind Mr. Khoshaba that another Catholic Bishop J. E. Manna published another dictionary, reprinted in 1975 by the Catholic Church in Lebanon, under the title “Chaldean-Arabic Dictionary”. Sadly, many changes were made to the titles of the earlier works when reprinting took place in later times. My question to Mr. Khoshaba, is there, linguistically speaking, anything called Chaldean language? Linguistically, Chaldean, or what it is really known today as Filehi, is a DIALECT of the Syriac language and NOT A LANGUAGE of its own. Let me remind Mr. Khashaba furthermore by what Mar Toma Odo stated in his book published in 1906. Mar Toma Odo, by the way, is considered as the father of the neo-Syriac literature. In his 1906 book, the Archbishop suggested that one should return to the ORIGINAL name “Atoraye” instead of using “Suryaye (Suraye), since the latter had come into being through apocopation of the initial “a” and a fricative pronunciation of the “t” (Please read “Semitica: Serta philological: Constantino Tsereteli dicata. 1993, p.103), so I am not sure what “Chaldean” Mr. Khoshaba is talking about!

Secondly, in that same book "Qaryaneh Jobyeh" Mar Toma Odo (1853-1918), the Chaldean Archbishop in Urmia, on page 168 stated that after the fall of Babylon the Chaldeans (referring to the ancient Chaldeans of southern Mesopotamia of course) mixed with the Persians, Elamites, and then with Arabs and they were assimilated COMPLETELY into these and other surrounding peoples. Mar Toma Odo is telling us that there were no Chaldeans left after the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C.

Finally, let me remind Mr. Khoshaba that in life there is what is called stuff for history and there is that other stuff used in political speech or poetry for example. For a singer or a poet to fantasize with something like AthorKaldo is one thing but to corrupt a 4,000 years historical reality and try to enforce a mythical term and give it historical legitimacy is something else that is completely foolish. When I communicate with scholars and mention the name Chaldea, they smile in a wicked manner … it is a joke, sir. I know this is harsh to say, but sometimes when encountering ignorant people who refuse to listen and learn after so much that has been presented to them, there is no other way to present the truth to them but as plain as it is. We need to learn our history and most importantly undo the mistakes of the past based on reliable and solid information. We cannot in this age of enlightenment insist on living in the dark.

Fred Aprim


I write to Zinda to express my uttermost disgust at the arrogant and uneducated comments made on this forum about the Assyrian bishops. The people writing these comments base their facts on “rumours” and “speculation” rather than facts. A fact is defined as “things known to be true, reality”. Instead of arguing and debating about a failed investment scheme which cost the Assyrian community over $100 million, we sit and criticise bishops, holy men about their management skills.

As an Assyrian youth it disgusts me to see such low acts of betrayal and irrelevancy. For many months I have been reading Zinda and instead of understanding the issues facing Assyrians around the globe I am constantly bombarded with “this bishop done this” and “this bishop done that”. Such thoughts are purely subjective and open to numerous views.

Instead of using this medium in a way which will help us grow and prosper, we use it to spread rumours and cause quarrels. It hurts me to see that pursuing an academic career like that of Mar Bawai Soro will only draw laughable jealousy and criticism by others within the community. This poor man pursued a religious career, to serve our community and his faith. It did take him 10 years, but so do other doctrines in other professions, only an uneducated person with low social and academic exposure would validate such claims.

Further I have been frustrated at the way which people compare “accomplishments” between bishops as though these people are prolific builders or leaders of states engaged on a pursuit to build mass infrastructure for the Assyrian community. Again, the worldwide audience of Zinda is exposed to the low social and academic mentality of this very selective few who constantly send in their e-mails and portray an extremely negative tone.

The Assyrian youth around the world have little authority and interaction with matters affecting our nation. We are the next generation; however our views are not heard. It appears that the dominant issues remain constant regressive religious criticisms and rumours.

I know my letter will make no difference and the hypocrites and socialites within this forum will reply to their own tunes and criticisms, again with their own “rumours” and mysterious “sources”. Instead of using their time productively achieving results for our community, they choose to continue slandering Bishops and other leaders. As an Assyrian, I tolerate the rigid leadership structure we have in our community. Everyone that seems to have some level of authority comes under severe criticism in some stage of his or her lives. In recognising this, I constantly ask myself how large of a role Assyrians are able to play in any future decisions affecting our nation. I’m sure that foreign administrations planning a future (or death) for our homeland would be seeing the lack of support within our community as something laughable.

It saddens me as an Assyrian to even have to write this e-mail. I hope that the status quo will disappear, but I remain very pessimistic and will continue pursuing my life in a way where my pride in the so called “modern” Assyrian community is depleting.

Peter Esho


I am pretty sure that all Assyrians and members of the Asyrain Church of the East in Australia including the Bishop, will agree with me in saying: “Please leave us out of the mess in California. We are very happy here working hard to preserve our Christian faith and the future of our Assyrian nation. Do not use our success here to chastise others. Use it for encouragement and to achieve better results than us. You have the means, resources, money number and good planners.”

We as a group of young people will pray for the success and well being of our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Please remember us in your prayers.

For a change, on a good and positive note, we have learned that the Assyrian church in Sydney has already started implementing the plan to build a High School and a technical college. Best wishes and may the Lord be with His Church and Nation always.

Happy 9th Annivesary Zinda,

Robert Y. Jacob


I don't recall your magazine surveying the Assyrians around the world if they were "for" or "against" United States of America going to war with Iraq. I am curious what the result would be.

Albert Warda
United States

[Z-info: On 3 February the following poll appeared on Zinda Magazine homepage: “Should the United States go to war with Iraq despite lack of support from some major U.N. members?” For the 188 votes cast, 66% voted for and 31% against the war. 3% remained undecided.]


A post-Graduate Student at the University of Cyprus have written to me requesting information about the Nestorians of Cyprus and is attempting to write about their existance in Cyprus before they converted to Catholicism in August 2, 1445.

He stated that the last information about the Nestorians in Cyprus he was aware of dated back to 1472, from a letter by Pope Sixtus IV, concerning the usurpation of the powers of Latin diocesans on the Island of Cyprus by the Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Jacobites, and Nestorians who have assumed these powers outside the boundaries of the localities assigned to them originally. Furthermore, and what was more interesting, he asked for any information about Nestorian bishops in Cyprus around the 6th century because he had located a source or two in reference to certain Nestorian refugees in Cyprus who have originated from the region of Assyria after the Persian invasion.

The post-Graduate Student supplied the following reference in Greek by E. Chrysos from the story of monasticism in Cyprus in 7th century presented in "Epetirida Kentrou Meleton Ieras Monis Kikkou", 4, Nicosia 1999. In the above article, the following bibliographies are recorded:

1. Patrologia Grecae (P.G.) 87,3, column 2877-8.
2. A. Baustark, Geschichte der syrischen literatur, Bonn 1922, p. 190.
3. Patrologia Orientalis (P.O.), 5, Paris 1910,p. 273 f.
4. Patrologia Orientalis (P.O.), 8,p. 181-183.

I was wondering if anybody can assist in this topic.
Please e-mail me at fred.babylon@att.net

Fred Aprim

Surfer's Corner


13 February 2003
Press Release

The Assyrian Universal Alliance is sponsoring the Worldwide Day of Prayer for the Christians of Iraq.

The Churches representing the two (2) million Christians in Iraq are:

The Holy Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East
The Holy Ancient Apostolic Church of the East
The Chaldean Roman Catholic Church
The Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic Churches
The Armenian Churches
The Protestant Churches

These Churches also serve an additional two (2) million Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac Christians scattered in over forty countries around the world.

This special Day of Prayer on March 9, 2003 is for the Christians of Iraq. An urgent appeal is going out to the Worldwide Christian Community for a Day of Prayer during the Sunday Church Services and throughout the day for those Christians currently beleaguered in Iraq.

Urgent prayer is being requested for protection for this special Christian Community, the oldest Christian Nation in the world struggling for survival in a sea of turmoil in the land of their forefathers.

Please pray for the Assyrian Church of the East that this oldest Church in the world, will endure this trial experience and return to its roots as the largest missionary force in the world.

Urgent prayer is also being asked for opportunities through the media of Newspapers, TV, Radio, Magazines, etc., to get the word out to the world that this Christian Community in Iraq is on the verge of another survival situation. Between 1914 and 1918 and again in 1933 these Christians went through massacres in which over 2/3 of the nation was slaughtered.

Urgent prayer is also being requested for these indigenous Christian people of Iraq so that this time such an inhumane holocaust can never happen again.

With signs of war with Iraq increasing every day, lost amidst the fog of war are these Christians, once a proud and very influential nation.

The liturgy of the Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac Churches is still today in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Christ. Early in the first century the Assyrian Church sent missionaries to China, Central Asia, India, Mongolia, Japan, Siberia, Ethiopia and the rest of the known world.

Urgent prayers are asked for this nation that is remembered in prophecy (Isaiah 19 : 23 - 25).

It is their history that is little known. It was to them that Jonah came to bring the message of repentance and they repented. It was to them that the Apostle Thomas came and their King Abgar repented for his people and Assyria became the first Christian Nation. These Christians of Iraq, for whom we ask your prayers, today are the remnants of Assyria that was the creator of much of our present civilization.

The Christians of Iraq because of their Christian faith have suffered greatly in an area that is almost completely Muslim. In the past they have been oppressed by the Persians, Mongols, Turks, Kurds and Arabs. Today these Christians face another problem in Iraq. They are plagued by the Iraq Government program to "Arabize" all citizens. The Christians as other minorities in the region suffer under this Arabization program. Although they are not Arabs they have been forced to sign forms that require them to renounce their ethnic ideates, religion and declare themselves to be Arabs.

Urgent prayer is being requested from the worldwide Christian community so that Almighty God will hear our prayers and protect His children, Assyria the work of His Hand.

Please let us know that you will join us in prayer on March 9, 2003. Please inform us by Fax, letter, e-mail or phone. Our organizing committee is in need of volunteers. We need your help.
Organizing Committee information:
- Rev. Ken JosephJr. Chairperson email: info@keikyo.com
- Sen. John J. Nimrod email: JohnNimrod@aol.com
-Carlo Ganjeh email: ganjeh@aol.com
- Hon. Homer Ashurian email: libashur@aol.com

Assyrian Universal Alliance
Tel: (773) 274-9262
Fax: (773) 274-5866
e-mail: auaf@aol.com


14 February 2003
Press Release

The Assyrian Church of the East, Diocese of Australia and new Zealand, has forwarded the press release issued by the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) Organization to 15 church members and Observers of the National Council of Churches in Australia, and the New South Wales Ecumenical Council, seeking their participation in offering prayers for the Christians in Iraq during the Worldwide Day of Prayer on Sunday, 9th March 2003.

Simultaneously, the press release is also issued to almost 60 other parishes, religious organizations and humanitarian agencies to take part in this special occasion.

The Diocese will conduct a special Mass on 9th March, 2003. An exclusive prayer printed in four languages will be distributed to mark this important occasion in the history of our nation.

May the blessings of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be with our Nation always.

Mar Meelis Zaia
Secretary of Holy Synod
Assyrian Church of the East
Sydney, Australia



Guys From Austria

The Assyrian Voice Network (www.AssyrianVoice.net) has released new photo albums. With over 100 new pictures and a total of 7 albums, you won't want to miss seeing those beautiful Assyrians faces from everywhere. The new albums are from 49 through 55.

Visit: www.AssyrianVoice.net/Photo_Album or visit our website and click on Photo Albums

Ashur Sada
Assyrian Voice Network



[Z-info: The following is a reprint of the interview by Cultural Survival’s Beth Jacob with Dr. Ronald Michael, president of the Assyrian American League. The AAL was selected as this week’s “Indeginous Organization of the Week” by the Cultural Survival.]

Background: Dr. Michael is a surgeon in Chicago, Illinois. He was born in Lebanon, grew up in Iraq and Lebanon, and moved to Chicago in 1967. All four of his grandparents are from what is now southeast Turkey, along the border of northern Iraq. They fled there during the Assyrian Holocaust by Ottoman troops and Kurds during the waning years of Ottoman rule.

As complex and ancient as the Assyrian history is, can you give a brief description?

The Assyrian culture was historically concentrated in northern Iraq. Our history is over 6,700 years old, as we are the indigenous people of Iraq. Even though the Assyrian empire ended in 612 B.C., detailed records show their continued presence up until today.

The last great capital of Assyria was Nineveh. The earliest habitation levels of Nineveh go back to 4,750 B.C. We have lived there continuously since that time, and we predate any other people in the area today by literally millennia.

Assyrians were some of the first people to accept Christianity. When the Arabs conquered the region in the 7th century A.D., Arabic supplanted Aramaic, the lingua franca of the region at the time. Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Christ, had been the lingua franca of the region from the latter periods of the Assyrian empire, 8th and 9th centuries B.C., until around the 7th century A.D. Over time, Assyrian Christianity divided into four main sects, adhering to different churches: Syriac Catholics, Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic (Roman Catholic offshoot of the Church of the East), and the Church of the East. Further divisions occurred when Western missionaries arrived in the 19th century and gained converts to Protestant denominations, including Presbyterianism.

Can you tell us about the Assyrian language?

The language is Semitic, related to Arabic and Hebrew, but quite distinct from both. Assyrians have been using Aramaic since at least the 8th century B.C. It is safe to say that there are at least four million Assyrians today. Many still speak modern Assyrian, or Syriac or Aramaic, or NeoAramaic, as it is variously known.

We work towards preserving our language. It is the language of Christ, and we are passionate about preserving it. Mandaens, Samaritans, and Assyrians use this language, and the other Iraqis that historically used the language were Iraqi Jews. There were many languages and cultures that were lost when the area from Iraq to Morocco was Arabized.

Why is all this important?

Ninety percent of the world's 6,000 languages are expected to die within the next generation or two. To explore this alarming statistic and the facts surrounding it, you should read "Vanishing Voices; The Extinction of the World's Languages" by Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romain.

What kinds of discrimination and challenges do Assyrians face?

In the lands where we have lived continuously for nearly 7,000 years we are treated like second-class citizens. While freedom of religion is a right for which we fight, it is not our only struggle. We work to preserve our culture, not just our religion. Many Middle Eastern governments try to use the churches to divide the people. An example of this is Iraq, which tries to manipulate the Chaldean difference - which is not really a difference - by pitting us against each other. Just like the old fashioned "divide and conquer". Both the Iraqis and Kurds find differences among the Assyrians, and try to use these differences to weaken us. As a minority, we are not only discriminated against because of our religion, but also because of our language and ethnicity.

Iraq's tolerance is only towards those who reject their religion and ethnicity, as they try to Arabize the country. There are endless examples of how Iraq does this. Assyrians cannot have Assyrian names, and if they do they cannot get government recognition. The only way to advance in Iraq is to deny your ethnicity. If you wish to succeed, you cannot have a non-Arab nationalist consciousness. Iraqi textbooks mention Assyrians as "ancient Iraqis" or "Iraqi Christians". In northern Iraq, under Kurdish rule, Assyrians cannot seek advanced degrees unless they join the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party). This is a tactic that was used by Stalinist Russia.

Are there tensions between Kurds and Assyrians?

We are just under ten percent of the Iraqi population, and Kurds are roughly 15 percent. Crime committed by Kurds against Assyrians is never prosecuted. [Even Kurds killing Assyrians is tolerated by the KDP.] The lack of justice in crimes that harm Assyrians is overwhelming and unjustifiable. I would urge your readers to visit www.aina.org for documented examples of this.

What is the chief objective of the Assyrian American League?

Lobbying the U.S. government is one of our main objectives. We also strive to educate the pertinent branches of the U.S. government, and state governments, about our plight. We want them to know who we are, what we want and why it is in America's best interest to help us.

We do not want our Assyrian representatives chosen by outsiders, as the Kurds have done recently. Assyrian Democratic Movement representatives have been invited to the various Iraqi opposition meetings, but the Kurds select some of their own handpicked puppets, to dilute our presence, and to divide us.

We simply want to speak our language, build our churches, and educate our children. We should not have to fight for these basic things. Our energies should be invested in helping to solve the world's problems, not fighting for what should be basic, universal human rights.

Do you think your organization has been successful in achieving its goals?

I think it has been successful to an extent. The State Department has invited us to Iraqi opposition proceedings. The Iraq Liberation Act has been expanded to include the Assyrian Democratic Movement as a legitimate Iraqi opposition group eligible to receive American aid. We alerted President Bush that he did not include us in his speech to the United Nations. The President did later recognize us as an essential component in Iraq in his next Foreign Policy speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, saying, "The oppression of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, Shi'a, Sunnis and others will be lifted. The long captivity of Iraq will end, and an era of new hope will begin." This encouraged us to believe that all of Iraq's ethnic groups will chart the future course of Iraq. This attention is important to us, as it is the first time Assyrians were recognized by a U.S. President.

What are your views on Assyrian attitudes towards the current crisis with Iraq?

We support the U.S. objective of regime change in Iraq. But we do not want to replace the tyranny of Saddam, with the tyranny of a new Saddam, or of the Kurds. There has never been a tradition of democracy in Iraq, so if America leaves after regime change, there may be total chaos. We have to build institutions they do not yet know, establish a totally new mind-frame, and this will take time. I think Japan and Germany were good models for postwar reconstruction and institution building. Iraq is a country that is very wealthy in natural resources, technologically advanced, and with a sound educational system. Iraqis have a long tradition of culture, education and literacy. Iraq may prove very fertile ground for democratic institutions to germinate. It will take a long time, however, and the U.S. must be prepared to remain engaged until that time arrives.

Could you tell us a bit more about AAL's activities?

The organization meets regularly. It is based in Chicago, but in touch with Iraqi groups around the world on a regular basis. This can be difficult, unpredictable, and risky because of the political situation in certain Middle Eastern countries .

Is there anything else you would like to add?

My challenge to Arab intellectuals, Arab Governments, and the broader Arab and Islamic world is to push as vigorously for Assyrian rights as they do for Palestinian rights. Otherwise, they lack credibility and run the risk of appearing hypocritical. Assyrians must be at the table, as non-Assyrians will not look after Assyrian rights. We constitute ten percent of Iraq's population. Our voice must be heard.

[Z-info: Cultural Survival is a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Boston. It develops new strategies for responding directly to the critical needs of the world's indigenous populations. It analyzes and publicizes examples of how indigenous peoples have successfully responded to the serious crisis. These case studies are discussed in Cultural Survival's conferences, in its publications and on its web site. Above all, they are analyzed by indigenous leaders and specialists as well as by others who have made a special study of the situations of indigenous groups. In this way Cultural Survival seeks to use the resources of the new information age to benefit the indigenous peoples who might otherwise be its victims.]


If the times weren't so serious, one would be tempted to laugh at Tariq Aziz's Roman road show. Here was Saddam Hussein's token "Christian" paying the pope a visit, but not kissing his ring. Here he was -- a "Christian," remember? -- refusing to answer an Israeli reporter's question at a press conference, for which he earned hisses from the other journalists. Bless them!

And then we saw Iraq's deputy prime minister, accompanied by Franciscan friars, getting on his knees in Assisi to pray for peace. Would you believe it? The most loyal servant of the genocidal Saddam Hussein presents himself as a faithful man of peace!

Well now, is Tariq Aziz actually a Christian? It's a matter of interpretation. According to bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, first ordinary of the Chaldean Catholic Church in the United States, he is a Christian "because he was baptized."

In fact, he was baptized Michael Yohanna some 66 years ago in the village of Telkaz, near the town of Mosul in northern Iraq. So why does he call himself Tariq Aziz? Because he thought this would make him more acceptable in the eyes of the Muslim majority in Iraq, exiled Iraqis told United Press International on Monday.

Is he still a Christian, then?

"Well," said bishop Ibrahim, "his wife is very faithful. She attends mass every day."

What about Tariq Aziz, though? "No," allowed the bishop, "but I did see him at his mother's and his brother's funerals."

But that doesn't make him a practicing Christian?

"No," admitted the bishop, "a practicing Christian he is not."

Aha, but now he has himself filmed on his knees in Assisi.

"He's just using religion to serve Saddam Hussein's purposes," said Mowfaq Fattohi, a Prague-based member of the opposition Iraqi National Congress's central council, and himself a Chaldean Catholic.

Albert Yelda, the INC's highest-ranking Christian, reported that Tariq Aziz is the one man Christians in his homeland hate the most.

"They found he was not friend. He supported Saddam Hussein's decision that Christians must learn the Koran. He stood behind the government when it denied all basic human and cultural rights to the Assyrians," the ancient minority that has been Christian since the 2nd century A.D.

"Tariq Aziz a Christian? That's laughable," agreed Mohammed Mohammed Ali, a top Shiite Muslim scholar in the INC. "He's an atheist. We all know it. He participated in the repression of all sorts of religious leaders -- Muslim, Jewish and Christian. He was there when many of them were hanged in Baghdad's Albab al-Sharqi Square back in 1969."

"Perhaps 'atheist' is too strong a term," cautioned bishop Ibrahim. "Tariq Aziz is a Baathist." Now, the Baathists are pan-Arab socialists with a strong Socialist bent.

"Well, call him 'laic' in the French sense of the word." Ah, Tariq Aziz, a former English teacher and editor-in-chief of two socialist newspapers is something like a French "instituteur" (elementary school teacher) -- the proverbial antagonist of the Catholic Church.

That may be about right -- but then can you imagine a French "instituteur" on his knees in Assisi?

Most likely, Tariq Aziz is what he is: Just a loyal minion of another Baath Party "laic" and hedonist who nevertheless found it expedient recently to have the entire Koran written in his own blood -- Saddam Hussein.

Uwe Siemon-Netto
United Press International
Religion Editor



The Assyrian American League (AAL) was established in 2002 as a response to the potentially momentous changes that may soon take place in Iraq. The AAL is a grass-roots organization that seeks to educate the United States
government and the broader American public about the plight of Assyrians around the world, particularly in the Middle East, and most importantly, in the current circumstances, in Iraq.

The AAL hired former Illinois Fifth Congressional District Representative Honorable Michael Patrick Flanagan as its lobbyist and has developed relationships with the State Department, Pentagon, various members of Congress, and the White House to advance its human rights agenda.

Assyrians do not have a country. They are a distinct ethnic, linguistic and religious minority in the Middle East and a minority everywhere they live. In the West this has not been a problem. In the Middle East, and in particular, in Iraq, in the land where Assyrians have lived for nearly 7,000 years, this is a major problem. The mission of AAL is to press for the recognition of Assyrian ethnic, religious, linguistic, and political rights in the nations of the Middle East where Assyrians reside.

The AAL seeks to educate the Western media about the plight of the Assyrians and in recent months, as a direct result of AAL activity, prestigious outlets such as Abcnews.com, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times have reported on the plight of the Assyrians.

The AAL also seeks to foster greater international understanding about the Aramaic language. Aramaic is on the endangered languages list, and will perish unless something is done to safeguard the indigenous Assyrian communities left in Iraq and the Middle East.

Dr. Ronald Michael
AAL, President


[Z-info: The following is the full text of the invocation offered by Bishop Mar Bawai Soro before Mayor Ron Gonzales’ “State of the City” address in San Jose, California on 5 February 2003. Bishop Soro and several civic and religious leaders of the Assyrian communities in the Bay Area were present at this televised event.]

I would ask you now to join with me in a few moments of silent prayer and reflection in memory of the seven astronauts who gave their lives in the service of their fellow men and women.

Almighty God, [Marya Alaha Mrakhmana] in whose goodness we trust and under whose protection we seek refuge.

You have given us this good land, and this marvelous city for our inheritance.

We pray that we may be proved worthy of this great gift, and remember at all times and with thankfulness the freedoms we enjoy, and accept with gladness the responsibilities of citizenship which accompany these freedoms.

May our city be blessed with industry, which is honorable, learning which is sound, and manners, which reflect the dignity of men and women who respect the rights and serve the needs of their neighbors.

May we be kept from violence, discord, and confusion in our streets.

May all pride and arrogance be put away from us, and every destructive behavior which threatens our peace be eliminated.

Grant a solace and comfort to those who have come among us from the many different families of the earth and from among the many languages and cultures.

May they be received with magnanimity and grace as sharers in a common bounty.

May our mayor, and all who serve us in positions of trust and authority, be given wisdom to govern in such a way as to promote justice and peace at home, and provide an example to be emulated elsewhere.

When we are prosperous may we be thankful, and in times of hardship may we ever remain hopeful and confident in your providence.

And as we remember with sorrow the loss of seven courageous souls in the tragedy of the shuttle Columbia, may we seek consolation in the sure knowledge that their lives and work will continue to bear fruit for the benefit and progress of all mankind.

We pray for our nation in these times of peril, that it may be guided with wise counsel and preserved in its legitimate aspirations and historic freedoms.

These things we ask in the sure knowledge of your compassionate and merciful love.


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