20 Tdabakh 6754
10 August 2004
Z I N D A M A G A Z I N E
Let's take a quick break from the recent events in Iraq before Zinda throws a few more serious editorials at you in the next few weeks.
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The result of months of collaboration on the design and the artistic vision of Ms. George and our designers is a deliciously beautiful website that will satisfy Linda George's fans around the world.
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Last year, Zinda Magazine agreed to team up with Linda George Enterprises in promoting her new sound and CD's via an extraordinary website to reflect the Assyrian diva's music and her very personal thoughts. Ms. George's next music project will shatter all norms of standard Assyrian and even Middle Eastern music to pieces. It was only fitting that a successful Assyrian multimedia firm be lined up with an ever-present accomplished entertainer as Linda George to prepare us for the coming musical upheaval. You'll just have to wait and see.
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Bartella (Baritle) & its Neighboring Villages
Name, Location and References to the Town
Bartella, or as pronounced by the locals as Baritle, is a town in the heartland of Assyria (known as Mat Aššur or Mat Ashur during Neo-Assyrian Empire). The town is situated only 12 miles (20 kilometers) east of the northern Iraq city of Nineveh (Mosul).
Bartella is an Aramaic compounded name, where 'bar' means son and 'tella,' with the hard 't,' means shadow. Thus, the meaning of Bartella becomes the 'son of shadow.' Another name used was Beth Bartella, here the name would mean the 'home of the son of shadow.' However, Fr. Potrus Saba of Bartella believes that the correct pronunciation of the town's name is Baritle, with the initial 'ba' (shortened version of 'beth'), which means house or home and 'ritle,' which means weights. Thus and according to Fr. Saba and many of the town's folks, Baritle (Bartella) means the 'house of weights.'
Bartella is an ancient town, perhaps dating from the Neo-Assyrian Empire. When Nineveh, the capital of Imperial Assyria fell, Assyrians settled in neighboring small cities already existed or built new settlement around Nineveh. These new settlements became later the center of Assyrian Christianity in the Kingdom of Adiabene (Arbela or modern Arbil).
An ancient mound (tel) in Batella, measured 42X34 meters, mentioned by archaeologist V. Plice, still waits large-scale excavation. Bartella was mentioned by Islamic geographer Yaqut (d. 1229) as a town east of Mosul and part of Nineveh and that all its inhabitants were Christians. Furthermore, it was described by Ibn Fadhil Allah al-'Amri (d. 1348) as part of the land and country of Nineveh. Bartella was reported by historians as a town between Nineveh and Arbil during the era of Alexander. Whenever digging is undertaken, gold, and silver jewelry, pottery pieces, and Assyrian coins are unearthed.
Bartella's population is around 10,000 (8,000 in earlier sources), with the majority being Christians. One-third of the population is Catholic and the rest is Orthodox. Bartella was Christianized in the second century. With the emergence of the Christological controversies, the people and their church became under the Church of the East (Nestorian) dominion; however, it switched to the Syrian Orthodox Church (mistakenly and loosely known as Jacobite) around A.D. 610.
History of the Christian Denominations in Mosul Plain Including Bartella
Until the middle of the sixth century, the entire Mosul (Nineveh) plain was dominated by Christianity and under the influence of the Church of the East (mistakenly and loosely known as Nestorian), with the presence of Zoroastrian due to Sassanid rule. Towards the end of the sixth century, the "Jacobites" began to establish their presence in the region and gained control over the Monastery of Mar Mattai on Jabal (Mount) Maqloub and extended their influence to several nearby villages. By the thirteenth century, and in the vicinity of the city of Mosul, few villages such as Beth Gurbaq, Karamlesh, Beth Zabaye, and Beth Bore remained under the "Nestorian Church." However, by the fourteenth century, only Karamlesh remained Christian and the other three ceased to be Christian villages. The plain in the east of Mosul, the "Jacobite Church" established themselves in the Monastery of Mar Behnam and in about twenty villages, some of which like Baghdeda (Qara Qosh), Ba'shiqa, Bahzani, and Bartella remain centers of the Orthodox Church to this very day. In the northern Mosul plain, Alqosh and its Rabban Hurmiz Monastery remained under the "Nestorian Church." However, a number of nearby villages became Jacobites as well. A group of villages along Mosul-Alqosh road remained outside the Jacobites' influence and so did several monasteries near Mosul. By the eighteenth century, Catholicism began to spread in the Mosul plain and most of the Nestorian villages became under what became known as the Chaldean Catholic Church (officially established in 1830). Meanwhile, the members of Syrian Orthodox Churches that converted to Catholicism became the congregation of what became known as the Syrian Catholic Church.
Bartella, meanwhile, was a village under the Church of the East (Nestorian) control. There are two stories behind the town's original conversion from the "Nestorian" to the "Jacobite" church. According to Fr. Suhail Potrus Qasha, during the era of patriarch of the Church of the East Sabr-Esho', Gabriel al-Sinjari, a Nestorian doctor who had helped Persian Queen Sherin to get pregnant, wanted to marry a second woman; however, the patriarch refused his request. Gabriel asked for the interference of the Sassanid king, still, the patriarch declined to entertain the king's request. Gabriel then approached the "Jacobites" and his request was granted on the condition that he converts and leaves his "Nestorian" affiliation. Gabriel was close to the Sassanid king and he succeeded to issue an order preventing the "Nestorians" from electing a new patriarch from 609 to 628 while he helped to strengthen the "Jacobite" group. The second story states that it was a powerful "Nestorian" bishop of Bartella who made the request to marry for the second time and was rejected and finally he joined the "Jacobite" church to fulfill his desire, which was granted by the Jacobite's patriarch. Later, the bishop succeeded to convince the town's people to convert.
Between the 7th and 12th centuries, the name Bartella is lost in the shadows of history. However, according to Fr. Potrus Qasha, in A.D. 1153, Ignatius Elia'azar (1143 – 1164), the maphiryan of Ashur made Bartella his home and see and the town became the center of Christianity in Athur (Ashur). Of course, a maphiryan is a church position that is next in importance to the patriarch. In Assyria (north of Iraq), the maphiryan was the head of church, still, he reported to the patriarch in Antioch, Syria. In 1859 (1860), the Syrian Orthodox Church under Patriarch Yacoub II abolished the position officially. However, Patriarch Yacoub III reinstated the position of maphiryan in India in 1964. When Ignatius Elia'azar made Bartella his home and see, dissatisfaction erupted among the congregation since Mar Mattai Monastery has been the traditional see of the Orthodox maphiryan. A compromise was finally reached as he returned to Mar Mattai, however, it was agreed upon that he would make it a tradition to visit Bartella and emphasize on its importance. Other maphiryans who made their see in Bartella were Dyonosius Saliba II (1222 – 1231), Gregorius Barsuma (1288 – 1308), Gregorius Mattai I (1317 – 1345), Gregorius Bar Qeenaya (d. 1361), Athinasius Abraham II (1365 – 1379), and finally Cyril Joseph III (1458 – 1470).
The History of Catholicism in Bartella
Bartella remained Orthodox until Catholicism entered Mosul plain during the eighteenth century under the Latin and Dominican monks. These monks reached the region in 1750 and soon after, they opened a center in the city. The monks used the center to offer their humanitarian services, especially medical and educational. In 1778, as the Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Suryan) of Baghdeda (Qara Qosh) were leaning towards Catholicism, that attracted Toma bin Abd- Al-Masih of Bartilla from Aal Makrooh family. Soon, few of his relatives followed his suit and converted to Catholicism. In 1780, a priest, Zakariya Kindo converted and succeeded to convert additional forty families. Here, a struggle between Kindo (the Catholic) and priest Abdo Saka (the Orthodox) erupted about using the church of the village. The case was brought in front of the Pasha governor of Mosul, who gave Kindo and his group permission to pray in the church. With time, the two sides began to accept each other' denomination; they were one people after all. Today, almost one-third of the town is Catholic while the other two-thirds remain Orthodox.
Bartella, like other Assyrian towns and villages throughout Assyria (north of Iraq), faced attacks, plunder, and massacres throughout its long history. It was destroyed at least three times by Kurds and Persians.
In 1261 and 1369 (1373), Kurds attacked Mar Mattai Monastery and every time they killed more monks and plundered the monastery. The effect of these attacks reached Bartella as well.
In 1738, the Persian king sent his army under Nargis Khan to Assyria where he destroyed many villages in Nineveh plain.
In 1743, Persian Nadir Shah destroyed additional villages after besieging and entering Kirkuk and Arbil. He attacked Bartella, killed many men and took many young men, girls and women away.
In 1756, 1757, and 1758 a great famine swept Bartella and many traveled to Kirkuk and other Persian towns to purchase new grain, where they faced plunder and robbing at the hands of Kurds.
In 1789, Bartella was plundered again by Jolu Beg bin Bdagh, the Emir of Shikhan, during his war with the Arab Emir Mohammad bin Hasan al-Taa'i.
Bartella and its vicinity has six churches, two partially demolished, one abandoned, one new, and two very old:
1. Mar Aho Dama Church. The church was built in the memory of bishop Aho Dama who was beheaded in 575 by the Sassanid king Khusrau. The church is mentioned in the records of the Church of the East. In 1153, Maphiryan Ignatius La'azar built a great temple. In 1933, a piece of stone was found within its remains with Syriac inscriptions stating that a certain deacon, Michael, had passed away in February 1386.
2. Mart Shmoni Church. The church is old for sure. It was perhaps built after the destruction of Mar Aho Dama Church. It was renovated in 1807. Then brought down completely and rebuilt in 1869. The construction included the transfer of a piece that dates back to 1343 from the Assyrian village of Ba-skhraya.
3. The old Mar Giwargis Church. This church is abandoned today. It is believed that the church was present in 1701.
4. The new Mar Giwargis Church. The church ground breaking was in 1934 and was completely built and dedicated in 1939.
5. The Church of the Virgin. The church of the Virgin Mary was completed in 1890. However, manuscripts mention the presence of the church of the Virgin Mary from the fifteenth century.
6. Al-Sayida Church. The complete demolition of Al-Sayida Church came in 1934 as its bricks were used to build the new Mar Giwargis Church.
It is worth mentioning that there is one mosque in the town for the small Arab Moslem population.
Bartella has three monasteries:
1. Mar Giwargis Monastery. Was present and vibrant in 1701.
2. The Monastery of the Forty Martyrs. The history of this monastery dates back to 1269. A part of the monastery is demolished; however, the congregation continues to visit it.
3. Mar Youhanna Monastery. Its remains are found on the side of the main road north of Bartella. The monastery is ancient and it is hard to pin pint the date of its construction.
The New Cultural and Religious Center
The Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Suryan) of Bartella have begun an impressive project to build a huge cultural and religious center in town. With the removal of the Ba'ath regime and the gradual disappearance of traces of Arabization, this cultural center would help our people to learn more about their history, as proud new generations will guide the town to a better future.
The monastery is situated on a small hill near Bartella. It took its name after Mar Daniel the Hermit, who accompanied Mar Mattai (St. Matthew) the Hermit after leaving Amid (Diyar Bakir) heading to the land of Nineveh in 363. The monastery became popular with its other name, i.e. the Monastery of the beetles, as large numbers of small beetles had made it a habit to be found inside the monastery during the monastery's festival that falls on October 20 and goes on for three days. The beetles strangely disappear after the festival. Forty minutes walk from this monastery there is another monastery with the same name (called the lower monastery) that was used as the home of the monks.
Some four miles (7 kilometers) northeast of Bartella is the village of Baskhraya. It entered history around the early parts of the twelfth century by al-'Abri. During the Kurds' attack on Mar Mattai Monastery in 1171, the Christians of Baskhraya defended the monastery gallantly. In the Mar Mattai Depository, there is a manuscript of the New Testament in Syriac and Arabic dates back to 1177, the golden era of this town. It was written by a certain Marbihna bar Yousif Markeez bar Toma from Baskhraya. In early thirteenth century, the situations began to deteriorate due to the struggle between the Mosul Governor, Badr al-Din Lu'lu', and Governor of Arbil Mudhaffar al-Din. The soldiers from Arbil kidnapped a girl from Baskhraya. The people of Baskhraya fought and struggled until they succeeded to get the girl back. The soldiers complained to their governor who punished the Christians of Baskhraya and forced them to evacuate the town. The village people did not give in; however, the death of Badr al-Din Lu'lu' ended their hopes.
Patriarch Mar Ignatius Yacoub III states that the village people left Baskhraya to Bartella finally only in the eighteenth century and that their descendents remember their origin from Baskhraya.
Today, Baskhraya is neglected and abandoned by the Christians with the exception of the 1000 Shabaks (Turko-Persian people) that are living in the village.
Half an hour walking distance from Bartella towards Baghdeda, is the Assyrian village of Bashbeta. It uses to be a Christian village; however, today some 700 Shabaks occupy it. The Christian background of the village is in a manuscript dating back to A.D. 1220. In the same manuscript, there is a note that states that the Christians abandoned the village and moved to Bartella during that period. However, there is another Syriac manuscript, which describes the extermination of the Christians of the village of Bajbare, perhaps Beth Jabbare (Home of the Giants).
Habits and Custom
Certain customs in Bartella are interesting to address.
During the period between the engagement and wedding, the grooms' mother invites women and girls to her home every Sunday, or any other day that coincides with a festival, during this period. She makes special plates that are filled with different types of seeds, sweets, and dried fruits. Then the plates are covered with colorful handkerchiefs as the whole group proceeds to the bride's home and present the bride with such gifts.
Three or four days before wedding day, the wall that sits above the front door is painted with beautiful colors and decorated with flowers and roses in an arch shape. Inside the house, the walls of the new quarters in which the newly weds are going to use are painted afresh as they could have been darkened from the smoke that is generated during the winter season when families use wood for heating. Symbols of the cross and angels would also be drawn on the walls to chase away evil and bad spirits.
Some of the best goldsmiths are found in Bartella. The business is very active in town and specially the molding and fashioning of gold and silver. While most of the work in for internal consumption, however, orders are high during the wedding season and festivals. Tahiniya (a sweet made of sesame seed meal and sugar), is considered one of the main food sources for the town's people. The business is healthy due to the good quality that the manufacturers in Bartella produce for the internal use or export. The Tahiniya is sold in many of the neighboring villages and even big cities.
Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Suryan) have been facing Arabization and Kurdification processes in north of Iraq. With the liberation of Iraq and the rise of Islamists and Kurdish power, it is vital that we assist and help to protect our villages in the Nineveh plain. We must begin to help our people from Basra, Ramadi, and other cities in Iraq to move to Nineveh plain where the last Assyrian stand remains. We must help our villages in the Nineveh plain to prosper. The Diaspora Assyrians (including Chaldeans and Suryan) could establish joint ventures with the people of Bartella for example to import jewelry pieces or other crafts like the Tahiniya that are made in Bartella. For this last Assyrian stand in the Nineveh plain to survive, we must revive the economy of these last Assyrian villages.
An Iraqi armed man stands guard outside Saint Elya Chaldean church as worshipers attended this past Sunday's services, a week after bombs exploded outside five churches in Iraq during evening Mass. The security was strengthened around the shrines in Baghdad, Iraq this week. The bombings which killed at least twelve people and wounded dozens were quickly condemned by all sectors of Iraqi society _ the Muslim Sunni and Muslim Shiite clerical hierarchies as well as the interim government. (Photo by Khalid Mohammed, Associated Press)
Zowaa Compound Attacked in Baghdad
Courtesy of the Assist News Service
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) compound in Baghdad came under mortar attack on Sunday, just over a week after bombers killed up to 15 Christians, news reports and church officials said. According to a reliable source with the Assyrian Democratic Movement the mortars missed their intended target. One mortar hit and damaged a back fence. A second mortar hit a home across the street. There were some minor - but no serious - injuries. As one observer explains this latest attack on the headquarters of the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Baghdad may have been an attempt to pull the Christian Iraqi groups into a sectarian conflict.
Assyrian leaders said the targeted compound in the Iraqi capital's Zayuna district houses a clinic, a women's center and a computer center. It also provides free telephone calls to those in need and supports humanitarian relief activities in addition to serving as the nerve center for Assyrian Christians in Iraq.
There was no word of casualties, but the violence was expected to increase concern among Iraqi Christians. Hundreds and possible thousands of Christians have reportedly fled to countries such as Jordan and Syria following attacks against five Assyrian churches on Sunday, 1 August in Baghdad and Mosul.
Those who stayed behind, including believers of Baghdad's Chaldean Church of St. Peter and St. Paul where most Christians died, have prayed for those responsible for what was the largest terrorist attack against Christians since the 15-month-old insurgency began.
"We cannot understand why or how they could do something like this," Father Faris Toma told the British daily The Daily Telegraph last week. "All we can do is ask God to give them forgiveness and grant us peace."
In addition, the well informed Internet website Assyrianchristians.com reported on other recent incidents, including the killings of two Christian children, 6 and 16, in their Baghdad home.
Monday's attack against the Assyrian compound further confirmed that "the anti-democratic forces in Iraq are trying to start sectarian 'warfare,'" the community said in a statement released via the Internet.
Yet, "by attacking the various Assyrian Christian offices ... they have failed to generate support from the Iraqi public who have been sympathetic to the plight of the Christians. This latest savage attack as the previous ones will fail because the Iraqi people understand what is happening," an official said.
The mainly Assyrian Christians are the indigenous people of Iraq, and experts say many were forcibly converted to the Muslim religion throughout the centuries and especially under the last years of the Saddam Hussein regime.
While some church officials claim there are around 2.5 million Assyrian Christians still in Iraq, most estimates suggest the real figure may be roughly 750,000, due to persecution and massive migration.
"With the rise of radical Muslim clerics the situation has changed dramatically and there has been an exodus of these once large communities," said Ken Joseph, a spokesman for the Assyrian Christians in Iraq.
A hitherto unknown group, the "Planning and Follow-up Committee in Iraq," claimed responsibility for the attacks. It said: "Your mujahedeen brothers dealt painful blows to the dens of the Crusaders, the dens of evil, corruption, vice and Christianization," the Daily Telegraph reported.
However, Joseph said he was encouraged that the "one Assyrian Christian minister" in the government, Pascale Warda, enjoys "broad support" within the Cabinet "for her courage and outspoken views supporting a strong and independent Iraq."
In addition, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's senior Shia cleric, has denounced the church bombings as "hideous crimes." Iraq's interim government blamed them on foreign Islamist militants led by the al-Qaida-linked terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, news reports said.
Yet at least one Assyrian Christian reportedly said Christians are showing defiance.
"We were afraid before, we are no longer so," the unidentified woman was quoted as saying in an Internet message from the Assyrian community. "I will wear my cross proudly. Nobody is going to force me, my family or our people from our country. The more they try the stronger we are becoming." she added.
Syrian Authorities Ban Assyrian Party from Commemorating Martyrs Day
Courtesy of the Associated Press
(ZNDA: Damascus) Syrian security authorities have banned an Assyrian party in northern Syria from marking the 71st anniversary of an Iraqi government crackdown on Chaldean-Assyrians in northern Iraq, the organization said Sunday.
The Assyrian Democratic Organization issued a statement saying it was to mark the "Assyrian Martyr Day" on Saturday, which it describes as "one of the most important nationalist days marked by the Chaldean-Assyrian-Syriac people in homeland and diaspora."
In 1933, the Iraqi government massacred around 5,000 Chaldean-Assyrians in Simele, a town in northern Iraq. Chaldean-Assyrians mark the massacre annually on Aug. 7. The ban follows last month's move by Syria to prevent the same organization from marking its 47th anniversary in Qamishli, 655 kilometers (409 miles) northeast of Damascus, the Syrian capital.
It also came two months after authorities told Kurdish party leaders to stop political activities. The statement said political security agents in Qamishli told the head of the party's politburo, Bashir Saadi, to cancel any ceremonies.
"The banning of all aspects of political activity deals another blow to the efforts the Assyrian Democratic Organization is exerting, along with all national factions in Syria, to strengthen the principles of dialogue and boost democratic values," the statement said.
Government officials were unavailable for comment. Formed in 1957, the Assyrian organization has felt the wrath of the Syrian government several times since the Baath Party took power in 1963. Some of its members were jailed for six months in 1986 during an anti-dissent campaign.
Syria's Assyrian population is estimated at more than 500,000. While they enjoy freedom of worship, some Assyrians seek minority status to promote their language, Syriac, which only Assyrian churches now teach.
Since the secular Baath Party took power, Assyrians in Syria have been referred to as Arab Christians. Like Syria's Kurds, the Syrian constitution does not recognize Assyrians as a minority.
Since taking office in 2000, President Bashar Assad has released hundreds of political prisoners, but also has clamped down on pro-reform and pro-democracy activists, showing there are limits to dissent.
Assyrian Winged Bulls Win National Title
(ZNDA: Chicago) Chicago's Assyrian Winged Bull soccer team won the Men's Amateur Cup national title after beating Denver's Kickers, 4 to 3. The 2004 USASA National Cup Finals were played last weekend in Orlando, Florida., with five teams advancing to the six tournament finals on Sunday. Illinois took home two of those championships, including a sweep of the Men's and Women's Amateur Cups with Assyrian Winged Bull winning the men's competition and Eclipse Cobras wining the women's tournament.
Assyrian Athletic Club Winged Bull Manager and Coach, Samir Youkhana, celebrates with the team after their triumphant win at the National Finals.
I am very upset that you published in our great magazine's current issue the unpleasant remarks about our only hope here in Iraq, Mr. Younadam Kanna. It looks like Mr. Joseph Haweil's has no idea what is going on here in Iraq. Mr. Kanna is the only hope for us here. He is very bright and intelligent person...I suggest that Mr. Joseph Haweil take time off in Australia and come here and see for himself.
Ms Debra A Porter
The Christian community in Australia today expressed its deep solidarity with Christians in Iraq following deadly attacks on five churches in Mosul and Baghdad this week.
The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) has conveyed its sorrow to church leaders in Iraq in the wake of the explosions which killed 17 people and injured more than 50 people.
Most of the victims were Christians who had been attending Church services. However, some passersby were also killed.
NCCA General Secretary, the Reverend John Henderson, called for prayers for all Iraqis who, in struggling to resume their lives after war and rebuild their country, were suffering and dying at the hands those who engage in terrorist activities.
“It is a tragic sign of the precarious situation in Iraq that people of any religious persuasion should be targeted as they worship,” he said.
“The Christian community in Australia, and I’m sure all Australians, expresses deep sorrow to the families of those killed in these blasts and to the wider Christian community in Iraq.
“We also acknowledge and endorse the call of the Chaldean Patriarch in Baghdad for all Christians to forgive those who caused the blasts and not to seek revenge.”
Mr Henderson said NCCA member Churches and their affiliated aid organisations would continue to provide assistance to the Iraqi people.
These church aid organisations have been supplying drugs and medical equipment to hospitals in Iraq since the war last year. They have also been implementing development programs in Iraq which include a supplementary food program for malnourished children, as well as provision of water and sanitation.
[Zinda: For more information contact Rev John Henderson on 0419 224 935.]
On the occasion of the Assyrian Martyrs Day, commemorated on August 7th of every year, the Assyrian Assembly in Lebanon organized a remembrance on Sunday, August 8, 2004 at the Mar Giwargis Assyrian Church of the East centre in Boshrieh, in the vicinity of Beirut.
The event started with a commemorative mass for the devout souls of our martyrs. His Excellency Metropolitan Mar Narsai Di Baz celebrated the Holy Mass with the presence of a large crowd of our faithful. Once the commemorative service ended, a silent procession was organized with hundreds of our youth, elderly, women and children preceded by the bearers of both the Lebanese and Assyrian flags. There were no banners or mottos but the music of the Nineveh symphony was heard which spread an atmosphere of sadness and reverence on the surroundings.
Later on, the crowds preceded by His Excellency the Metropolitan and the representative of Mr. Mishel Al-Mur, a member of the Lebanese Parliament, and Mr. Antoine Jbara, the Mayor of Bosherieh, headed to where the commemorative monument was placed in memoriam for the martyrs of the Assyrian nation. The monument was then uncovered and a wreath was laid upon it.
The square facing the Archdiocese was declared as the “Assyrian Martyrs Square” while the surrounding area was proclaimed as the “Assyrian Quarter” through an official decree from the Lebanese government. As both the Lebanese and Assyrian national anthemes were playing, the crowds applauded, every one headed to the hall of the Assyrian Church of the East where speeches were presented on the occasion.
The first speech was presented by Mr. Marc Samuel, the president of the Assyrian Assembly who welcomed the guests and the people in attendance. He spoke about the Assembly’s goals emphasizing the importance of preserving the Assyrian identity.
Mr. Antoine Jbara, Mayor of Boshrieh, spoke next and he recited several poems glorifying martyrdom and the Assyrian Martyrs. The audience was overwhelmed and began to applaud.
The Assyrian writer, Mr. Ashur Giwargis, spoke next beginning with a comment on His Excellency’s speech focusing on the importance of differentiating between the Church and nationality, then he continued discussing the history of the Assyrian martyrdom stressing on the period following WWI and the strife of the Assyrian people in Iraq, as well as the international conferences. Lastly, he spoke about the situation in Iraq, criticizing the laws and decisions taken before and after the fall of the former Iraqi regime, emphasizing that some political and religious currents in Iraq are working to force the Assyrian people to flee their historical land. He also invited the Assyrian parties and Churches to stand as one in facing the difficulties of the future, but he wasn’t able to complete the last part of his speech because of the enthusiastic applause which could be loudly heard inside and outside the hall where there were also crowds listening to the speech through loudspeakers.
At the end, Deacon George Andrawos delivered a poem in the Assyrian language entitled "Simele" which expressed the tragedy that befell the Assyrian people during that period of time.
It should be noted that this was the first time the 7th of August was commemorated in the presence of a crowd of as many as 1500 people. The event was covered by the media.
[Zinda: This article appears in the current issue of Zelga Magazine. The original article in Arabic was translated to English by Ms. Mary Challita.]
Some Thoughts on the Martyrs Day Speeches of the Bishops in San Jose
Hundreds of Assyrians attended the Martyr Day Commemoration on Friday, August 6 at the St. Joseph Cathedral (Mar Yosip) Assyrian Church of the East in San Jose. The event began with a special Qurbana Service inside the church and then continued with the second part of the commemoration at the hall of the church. The event included many speeches, patriotic songs, poetry, among other things.
I would like to emphasize two speeches that were made by His Grace Mar Bawai Soro, Bishop of the Western Diocese of the Assyrian Church of the East in San Jose and His Grace Mar Sarhad Jammo, Bishop of the Western Diocese of the Chaldean Catholic Church in San Diego.
There are those moments that while listening to certain speeches, a certain part of the speech would not resonate well with the listener. Some listeners tend in such cases to simply ignore the rest of the speech not giving themselves the opportunity to pay attention to the speech to the end. I did not want to comment on the two speeches publicly before I watching the video tapes of the event to be sure. In doing so, I gave the two bishops the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, I made arrangements with a friend on Saturday morning and picked up a copy of the videotape.
I sat down later that evening and listened to the videotape repeatedly. I could not help it but catch that obvious heart felt plea in the voices of the two bishops, a plea of concern and of urgent cry for unity to face the challenges and dangers of the uncertain future.
In his opening remarks, Mar Bawai Soro made a statement that came out wrong for those who were paying close attention. However, His Grace continued with his speech and in a way clarified what he had intended to say initially. Throughout his speech, Mar Bawai was desperately trying to find the right words to express the urgency for unity for the sake of the survival of our people in Iraq.
I think that certain members in the Chaldean Catholic Church have been very unhappy with the publicity the Assyrians have received in the last couple of years in the international press concerning Iraq. They see that a reference to Assyrians is always being made even when the issue is about the Chaldean Catholic Church members, who make a majority of Christians in Iraq, as they continue to stress. This creates tension and dissatisfaction amongst many (not all of course) members of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
In my opinion and according to history, all Syriac-speaking Christians in Iraq are ethnically Assyrians. However, there are those in the Chaldean Catholic Church that like to see the title "Chaldean" be given its merit regardless of anything else. This was obvious in Mar Jammo's speech, who emphasized that the Chaldean name must be respected and accepted as a condition before unity is to materialize. Mar Jammo stresses that the Assyrian name cannot be imposed upon all the members of the Chaldean Catholic Church against their will.
It is my personal opinion that Mar Bawai intended to be courteous, preciously accurate, understanding, and rightly so, by simply describing the fallen on that Bloody Sunday of August 1, 2004 and as they were actually. He opened his remarks the way he did to defuse that tension I described earlier. Fact is, as Mar Bawai stated it, that the fallen were members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Armenian Catholic Church, and Syrian Catholic Church and there were no members of the Assyrian Church of the East. However, because of the way the rest of the sentence was constructed, it came out wrong.
It seems to me that Mar Bawai was playing the role of a diplomat more than that of a historian in his efforts to bring the members of the two churches closer in order to unite them ultimately in these sensitive situations.
To further clarify any ambiguity, I called Mar Bawai on Sunday and asked him about what he meant by "no other Assyrians Christians in Iraq were affected." Mar Bawai replied that he was simply listing the Christian denominations in Iraq and by the final words of "no other Assyrians Christians," he simply meant "no other Protestant Assyrians." Worth mentioning, that there were Presbyterian priests in the audience and one particularly was visiting from Iraq.
Meanwhile, Mar Sarhad Jammo stated many positive things; however, many Assyrians continue to reject his theories of Chaldeanism. While he stressed that members of the Church of the East and Chaldean Catholic Church are one people and of one blood, he did not shy away from demanding equal status in somewhat an authoritative manner. Still, many that I spoke with looked at his message as positive.
Extracts from Mar Bawai's speech
Mar Bawai stated that the bombing of six churches (four Chaldean Catholic Churches, one Armenian Catholic Church, and one Syrian Catholic Church) was a tragic event.
He added that despite the fact that no Church of the East or Assyrian Church of the East buildings were affected or no members of the Assyrian Church of the East or other Assyrians Christians in Iraq were affected, still, he commented, we feel it is our own churches that have been bombed, burned, and destroyed and that our own people have been killed.
He continued to state that until now, it was the mosques of the Shi'aa that were burned and their leaders killed, then it was the worship places of the Sunni that were hit. This time, it was the Christians' turn. It was selected that the churches of the Chaldeans, Armenians, and Suryani will pay the price … all this in an attempt to destroy the stability of Iraq. He added that all Iraqi leaders condemned these acts and conveyed that message to the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Mar Emmanuel Delli. It was those same who killed our people that returned to speak against the Christians. They curse all Christians … no one is immune; they even reached the Pope, because they think it is his fault that these changes are happening in Iraq.
Mar Bawai stated that the bombings and the killings must be a sign for us to stop the unhealthy practices we have and continue to be part of and that we must begin to work with, and accept, each other and unite this small nation. We have to reconcile, he emphasized, and we cannot be the enemies of each other any longer. He concluded with his sincere supplication for God to give our people wisdom and unity.
Extracts from Mar Jammo's speech
Mar Sarhad Jammo opened his speech wondering. He said: I was expecting that the commemoration for those fallen from the Chaldean Catholic Church, who are from the Chaldean nation ('amma Chaldaya), would be initiated by the St. Mary's Chaldean Assyrian Catholic Church in San Jose. However, when I heard that our Assyrian brothers at the St. Joseph Church of the East were holding the commemoration, I said to myself: "even better … even much better." Mar Jammo added: "I realized that they (Assyrians) understood that the blood shed by that group of our people is the same blood that they have. They understood that we belong to each other's and that our churches are for all of us and our nation (people) are for all of us."
Mar Jammo talked about the differences between military and spiritual fights. He stated that in a military fight or war, when one loses, he perishes. However, fighting for the sake of principles, spirituality, culture, human rights, and goodness of mankind is far more beneficial from that conducted within conventional armies. An army can lose and perish. Meanwhile, those who fight spiritually will never lose. They might be broken and conquered today; however, they will be victorious tomorrow.
"This is why I think", added Mar Jammo,"that this is our day back home and as Mar Bawai stated, we too paid with our children's blood. We paid the price of our rights in our country. Therefore, our rights must be granted so our people can live in prosperity."
Our problem, states Bishop Jammo, is within … from our own home. If we, Suraye of Iraq -Chaldeans and Assyrians- stand against each other, we cannot ask for our rights from others. If we do not respect ourselves, we cannot ask from others to respect us. If we do not grant the rights of each other, how do we ask for our rights from others?
"This is very important. First, we have to respect each other," Mar Jammo stated. "I cannot ask from my brother to respect me when I do not respect him. I cannot force my name on him (Mar Jammo displays facial expression to go with his statement). If you do not know my name, how can I communicate with you?"
He continued to state: "I will respect your name, your home, your knowledge and everything else about you and you do the same thing for me. We need to put our assets in one bank, then we can do everything and others will respect us. It is time to harvest the price our forefathers paid for years. Nevertheless, this could be achieved only if we became sincere brothers, respect the other, with his name, his culture, and with all his attributes. Then we can get our rights. If we lose this time, it will be very hard for us to come back again."
Mar Jammo concluded: "This is a unique opportunity of history where all requirements, including the price of blood, have been fulfilled. That is why it is time for us to request respect, dignity, and equal status. Remember, if we do not respect one another, then do not expect that we will obtain our rights. Only when we grant rights to our brothers, then we can ask for our rights from strangers.
Today, Assyrians (including Chaldeans and Suryan) are facing a threat in north of Iraq. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) under Masaud Barazani is transgressing and trespassing on the Assyrians' rights. The KDP's actions and policies reflect their plans to cleanse north of Iraq from its Assyrian indigenous people. We must stop wasting our energies and time on arguing with and attacking each other and face the bigger threat, represented in the policies and practices of the KDP. We must turn our attention to the Kurds and collectively find solutions to stop their slow overtaking of Assyrian villages that continue to this very moment. We have lost valuable time; it is enough. If we do not awaken today and do something about this, our future grandsons and granddaughters will not find any of the Chaldo-Assyrian villages we call home today.
His Grace Mar Aprem, the Metropolitan of the Church of the East in India, is currently visiting several cities in the United States and Canada and will join eleven other Assyrian bishops in the Holy Synod to be held in Chicago later this month.
On 28 July Zinda Magazine caught up with His Grace (formerly George Mooken) in the Golden State on his whirlwind tour of the major Assyrian centers in northern and southern California.
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Zinda: Your Grace, thank you for giving Zinda readers the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the Assyrian Church of the East in India. What is the purpose of your Grace's visit to the United States?
Mar Aprem: I am here to attend the Synod of the Church of the East in Chicago. The synod will take place during the period from August 23rd to 31st.
Zinda: When was the Church of the East established in India?
Mar Aprem: The Church of the East in India was established by St. Thomas, the Apostle, in A.D. 52. He established seven churches; however, those early churches do not exist today. St. Thomas died in India in A.D. 72.
Zinda: Where are these church located in India?
Mar Aprem: The parishes of the Church of the East are mainly in the State of Kerala (known earlier as Malankara or Malabar as well), a region that is situated in southwest of the Indian peninsula. They are concentrated in and around the town of Trichur.
Zinda: Could Your Grace give our readers some general information about the Church of the East in India?
Mar Aprem: The congregation is numbered 30,000. The Church of the East has 29 listed parishes and 34 churches. As a Metropolitan, I had one bishop under me earlier, Mar Polous; however, he passed away in 1998. The Church is preparing two new priests to receive doctorate degrees and thus be eligible to become bishops. I need to mention that at the 1994 Soonhadous (Holy Synod) based on canon law of the Church of the East, it was decided that the nominee must not only be celibate, but he must have at least a Masters degree in theology as well.
The church has 43 priests, 14 are unmarried and are qualified to become bishops. We have 32 Deacons, 2 Sub deacons, 2 Deaconesses, and 3 Nuns.
The church has one seminary, one parallel college for girls, one higher secondary school, two high schools, three lower primary schools, one orphanage, and one Senior Citizens Center.
Zinda: Please give our readers some information about the recent history of the Church and its title?
Mar Aprem: It is important to distinguish the Catholics in India who are called SyroMalabar Christians. Many Christians in India never knew the difference between the so-called Nestorian patriarch and the Chaldean patriarch. The Church of the East is locally known as the Chaldean Syrian Church of the East; however, officially it is called the Church of the East. Others in Trichur call it the Surayi Church. The Church of the East in India today is under the authority of Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV. It has no connection with the Chaldean Catholic Church under Patriarch Mar Emmauel III Delly.
The name Chaldean as a non-official name comes perhaps due to the propaganda that was brought through the two Chaldean Catholic bishops who visited and stayed in Kerala. In 1861, Mar Toma Rokos arrived only to be sent away in 1862. Then in 1874, Mar Elia Mellus visited the region; he was compelled to leave in 1882. Patriarch Mar Joseph Audo sent them both without the knowledge or permission of the Vatican and the Pope. At this time, Patriarch Audo was not in good terms with the Vatican and he wanted to stop the influence of the Catholics in that region. Interestingly, some Catholic scholars call the church as the Mellusian Church (after Mar Mellus). The Church of the East members were never Catholics and never accepted any bishop sent to them by the Pope.
Zinda: Who were the main Church of the East leaders in India in the last 100 years and what were their accomplishments?
Mar Aprem: In February 27, 1908, Mar Awimalek Timotheus (of Mar Bisho, not to be confused with the other Mar Timotheus of India) arrived to India. He was sent by Patriarch Mar Benyamin Shimmun. Upon his arrival, he removed all symbols and statues from the churches. He was challenged by Catholics and faced a long appeal court cases. To make a long story short, it was in April 1925, that a final order from the state won him the case. In 1926, Mar Timotheus established the Mar Narsai Press. The press prints the Assyrian calendar every year in addition to many Prayer books, Burial books, Marriage books, Blessing of the House and others.
In 1945, Mar Timotheus passed away in Trichur and the Church of the East was left without a bishop for seven years.
In June 1952, in Mar Addai Church in Turlock, California, Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimmun consecrated Deacon (shamasha) Mansor Elisha Darmo, originally from Syria, as Mar Toma Darmo and sent him as the new bishop to India.
In 1959, Mar Darmo printed Qorbana d' Taqsa in two languages: Lishana Ateeqa (Classical Syriac) and the local Malayalam language. The latter was for local use; however, a version in Syriac only was published and shipped to Assyrians throughout the world. Of course, the Book of Qorbana d' Taqsa is in two versions. The first is the Urmia version published in 1893 by the Anglicans. The second was published in Mosul in 1929 by Rev. Yousif De Kalaita. These were used in Malabar too but only until 1959.
Next came the book of Khodra in three volumes (first volume in 1960, the second in 1961, and the third in 1962) totaling 4000 pages, with a forward by Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimmun.
Zinda: Your Grace, please describe the circumstances behind Mar Toma Darmo ex-comunication?
Mar Aprem: In 1964, Mar Toma Darmo had a disagreement with Patriarch Mar Shimmun. A couples of issues were raised. First was the hereditary succession (Syameeda d' Yobala) and the Church Calendar. On Jan. 10, 1964, the Patriarch suspended the bishop for disobedience. Soon after the Church calendar was changed from the Julian to the Gregorian and a division in Church took place in India and the church was divided into two groups. In 1968, Mar Toma Darmo traveled to Baghdad through the invitation of Yousip Khoshaba (son of Malek Khoshaba). Mar Poulose after his consecration went to Princeton to do higher studies in September 1968. I traveled to Baghdad and along with Mar Addai (Patriarch since February 1972) consecrated Mar Darmo at Mar Zaya Cathedral, Karradat Mariam, in October 1968, as Patriarch of what became known as the Ancient Church of the East (Old Calendar).
In 1971 and after the second visit of Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimmun to Baghdad, His Holiness consecrated Mar Timotheus (citizen of India and not Timotheus of Mar Bisho) as Metropolitan of India for the Church of the East with the new Gregorian calendar. Therefore, there were two archbishops in India in 1972: I, who was considered from the Old Calendar, and Mar Timotheus, of the New Calendar. Struggle ensued soon and both sides began to file civil law suits to control church properties and so forth. On October 17, 1976, Mar Timotheus traveled to London and consecrated Mar Dinkha, Bishop of Iran at the time, as the new Patriarch for the Church of the East after the assassination of Mar Eshai Shimmun on November 6, 1975. Mar Timotheus passed away on 6 August 2001.
In 1991, Mar Dinkha visited India and tried to reconcile the two sides but did not succeed.
In November 1995, Mar Narsai (Archbishop of Lebanon) and Mar Meelis (Bishop of Australia and New Zealand) traveled to India. They succeeded in reaching a mutual agreement between the two sides and the church reunited again.
In January 2000, Patriarch Mar Dinkha visited India and united the Church.
Zinda: Your Grace, thank you for your time and this valuable information.
The following individuals contributed in the preparation of this week's issue:
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