An Interview with Assyrian Patriotic Party's Nimrud Baito
On October 21, 2006 Mr. Paul Isaac conducted an interview with Minister Nimrud Baito, Secretary General of the Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) and Minister of Tourism in the Kurdistan Regional Government cabinet. The interview was conducted via teleconference and was assisted with the translation assistance of APP central committee member, Mr. Elias Bet Shmuel. Minister Baito participated from Dohuk, Mr. Bet Shmuel participated from Chicago and the interviewer held the discussion from Washington D.C.
Note: The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Zinda Magazine or the its interviewer. Zinda would like to invite other individuals who are involved with the lives of Assyrians in Iraq to be interviewed as well. If you are interested in soliciting an interview, please contact Zinda Magazine at email@example.com
Zinda: What is APP’s political agenda and what are the three highest priorities?
NB: The main agenda of APP that was ratified in the 3rd party conference held from the 20th to 22nd of July of this year includes many topics and aspect ranging from Assyrian to Iraqi to international issues. We have a clear agenda and political program that we published, and we have started to apply it through our new central committee. The three main issues of urgency at this time are: amendments to the Iraqi constitution, proposals for the constitution in the Kurdistan region, and coordination between Assyrian parties to work together as one nation and how we can respect each other as parties.
For the amendments to Iraqi Constitution, the main one is the unified name, because right now we are separated into two, as Assyrians and Chaldeans. We believe we should not be separated with “and”, but be recognized in one phrase, Assyrians Chaldeans Syriacs. We are also working towards the establishment of the Nineveh Plains, at the Iraqi National level as well as at the Kurdistani constitutional level. We also believe the Iraqi political system should be a secular, not religious one.
As for the proposals for the Kurdistani constitution, primarily we are focusing on the unified name and the administrative or autonomous region in the Nineveh Plains.
We are also trying to work together, coordinate efforts, and encourage respect with other Assyrian political parties.
Z: To clarify, what is your view on the name that should classify our people in Iraq?
NB: Assyrian Patriotic Party prefers that, in the constitution, the three names are put together in brackets, as (Assyrian Chaldean Syriac). But we as APP believe that the Assyrian name is the more suitable and historical and political name for us. It is the real one. But we believe at the same time that the other two names are also our names. At our 2 nd party congress held in July of 2002 we adopted a resolution that says that we at APP believe that the Assyrian name is the most suitable name for us for political, historical, geographical reasons, and we as a nation have accumulated various records and treaties at the foreign offices of the influential countries under the Assyrian name. However, we equally believe that we have been known through out the course of history by other names as well, such as Chaldean and Syriacs and the regimes that persecuted us did not differentiate us by the names that we used. Therefore, we believe that each one of the three names Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac equals and contains the other two. That’s why we support the three names together in the constitution, not separated by “and.”
Z: How much support does APP have in Iraq among our people, and where is the support geographically?
NB: We as APP have been working for our people in Iraq since 1973. We have our offices in Dohuk, Mosul, Kirkuk, Arbil, Baghdad, and others. We are well known, but I cannot say anything on percentages or figures. We believe we have an effect on the politics in all cities where our people live. Now, we are getting more support from Kurdistan and from the Nineveh Plains, where we are concentrating our efforts.
Z: Turning specifically to the Nineveh Plains: What is APP’s stance on the issue, and under what governing entity does APP feel the proposed administrative region should fall under?
NB: Our people are concentrated in the Nineveh Plains, and geographically speaking it fits the definition of an administrative or autonomous region: the majority of the inhabitants in the area are our people. There are others, Yezidis, Shabaks, Kurds, and Arabs, but the majority are our people. And historically, that area belongs to our people, even in the sense of land ownership and real estate. We can only get this area through political means. We need to work together and pass a law in the National parliament in Baghdad, not only in the Kurdistani Parliament. To achieve the passage in Baghdad, a majority is required. The people whom we are working with to support us is the Kurdistani slate, which is one of the three biggest groups in the Iraqi Parliament.
The Kurds would like to annex this area as a part of federal Kurdistan. It will be easier for us to work together to accomplish what we are trying to get, the Nineveh Plains. The Kurds will support this notion, because they will need our support to pass this annexure in the Iraqi parliament. We will gain by their gains, and they will gain by ours. It is a mutual benefit. The decision has already been made by the Kurdish leaders to annex the area, among others, to Kurdistan. Now, they need to support that position and they need the support of the people living in that area, administratively speaking. They will have to work harder to get the political support of the inhabitants of that area. They also need to show and prove to the world that the KRG is the protector of the small nations living in that area.
They [the Kurds] are trying to show to the world that they are democratic people and understanding of the rights of people and adhering to international human rights. They want to show and prove this to the world, and in order to do that they will have to give certain rights and gains to the inhabitants of that area. So we are trying to invest in that. In order to realize this, they will need the support of the inhabitants of that area, and we have already started a campaign to the people in that area, with the help of Minister of Finance of the Regional Government Mr. Sargis Aghajan, that we will gain an administrative or autonomous region by this happening.
Z: What guarantee can you provide to the people, if this area is annexed to the KRG, that this administrative region will be created?
NB: You are right, there are no guarantees until we actually get something. But now from many directions and even on Ishtar TV, people are saying we want an autonomous region. So we are telling our people and we are also telling the Iraqis that we want a self administered region.
Z: How do the people living in the Nineveh Plains feel about the options of staying in the Mosul governorate versus being annexed to the KRG? What is your sense of the opinions there?
NB: I estimate that 80% of the inhabitants of the Nineveh Plains are willing for it to be annexed to Kurdistan. Of course this is an estimate and a guess. But the people’s views depend on what area they will gain more. It is more important to them to live under a political system where they can express their ideas and exercise their rights freely than living oppressed under a system where there is no security to say the least. They will be willing to live under any political government if they gain more. Our people need a resolution to make it easy for them to live in one region under one law and they will also gain by having continuity with their brethren in the further north region. Since Iraq is constitutionally a federal state, we don’t want our people to live under two or more federal states.
Z: But does that mean that people from Ankawa, from Baghdad, from other areas, should move to this region?
NB: Not everyone has to move. When we establish an administrative or autonomous region in the Nineveh Plains, at least we will have a place to call home. You can live in Ramadi, you can live in Baghdad, but you have an area where you can invest in your heritage, in your history, in your geography. This does not mean we must move everyone to this area. We believe in a unified Iraq, but it will be people’s personal decision and preference where to live. Another point is, with the terrorism around the Nineveh Plains now, shown by the killing and beheading of the priest [Fr. Paulos Eskander], it is giving the people the sense that their security will be improved in the KRG. People are seeing their future better there, now more than before.
Z: What powers and responsibilities do you believe the Nineveh Plains should have?
NB: By definition, an administrative or autonomous region will have a say in all decisions made that are relevant to the people who live there. Be that the police, the budgeting, the schools, and everything else has to come from that area. A municipal council or regional assembly or some other body will be formed and they will administer their own laws.
But to achieve this will take some time. Even if the administrative or autonomous region is ratified in the Kurdistani parliament, we will still need to get it passed through Baghdad, because the jurisdiction will need to be amended. So this will not be overnight. Having said that will not prevent us from investing in that area.
Z: How hopeful or confident is APP that the Nineveh Plains or some form of an administrative region will be established?
To answer this question, we have to know who will support this notion and who is against it. We know for a fact that Sunnis will be against it because you are snatching a part of the Mosul governorate and attaching it somewhere else. As for support, we have worked in the past with the Kurds on this issue. We had seen good indications that they will support this notion. We now know for a fact that they are supporting it and that gives us high hopes and confidence that it will happen. We now see a major political faction supporting our notion of an administrative or autonomous region. We are pressing in this direction at this moment because we see a major political faction, a major player, supporting us.
We also had another meeting today (October 21, 2006) as well as one two weeks ago, with all the major Assyrian political parties, excluding Zowaa and others, who chose not to attend, to summarize our demands and ideas on this issue and submit it to the Kurdistani parliament. This is giving us more hope.
We must also realize that this will probably lead to more attacks on our people in the area, but this is not something new. We have been seeing attacks against our people in the Mosul area anyway, and I think we have to live through this and work through this.
Z: Referring to the meeting of political parties, who was and who was not present?
NB: Present were ourselves (APP), Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party (BNDP), Bet-Nahrain Patriotic Union, Chaldean Democratic Forum, Chaldean Cultural Association, and Chaldo-Ashur Organization (which is a part of the Kurdistani Communist Party). Parties that were invited but did not come were Zowaa, Independent Syriac Assembly, and the Chaldean Democratic Union.
Z: Did Zowaa give a reason as to why they chose not to attend?
NB: No, they did not.
Z: On the issue of the migration of our people: at this moment, are more people fleeing to Jordan and Syria, or do you see more fleeing to Northern Iraq? What is the general migration situation at this point?
Z: Yes they are, but it is very difficult to say where people are going more. These decisions are made individually. If people have high hopes that they can move somewhere beyond Syria and Jordan, to the United States or Australia or somewhere else, then they will most likely go there. If they do not have these kinds of hopes, then the other alternative is to go to Northern Iraq. Going to Kurdistan region or Nineveh Plains also has its own problems because of the high cost of living, which is staggering there and is becoming a problem for people. Some people who work, even their salary is not enough to pay for the rent.
But we hear and see now massive projects in the Nineveh Plains. One of them is in the village of EnBaqre, for the people moving from the south to the north. Mr. Sargis Aghajan is supporting the notion of an autonomous region, and since he has the funds available, he is trying to make it easy for people to settle there. The projects are coming from funds that he is managing, and he is trying to organize the building of houses, villages, churches and everything else.
Z: Are there any plans or ideas of how to bring back our people who are currently refugees in Syria and Jordan, if not to their original homes then to Northern Iraq?
NB: No, there are really no such plans yet. However, some of the people themselves are coming back. Once they exhaust their efforts to move beyond Syria and Jordan, some are returning to the North. But this is very small.
Z: Is there anything people in the United States or outside Iraq could do to encourage people to stay in Northern Iraq?
NB: Probably not everyone can help, but for those who have money I encourage them to invest in our villages in Northern Iraq and the Nineveh Plains. This will create jobs for our people so that the inhabitants will be economically secure and will want to stay. Especially with the passage of the investment law in the Kurdistani parliament, that will benefit the investors. The law has many incentives in terms of taxes, land, transfers of funds, and other areas. Projects such as canning, dairy, and other industries will benefit both the investors and the people here.
Z: Could you please comment on the living conditions of our people in Iraq, and specifically Northern Iraq? And could you respond to allegations that we hear that Kurds are seizing or stealing land and pressuring people to join the KDP?
NB: Ishtar TV is doing a good job of showing the way our people are living in Northern Iraq. There is a massive rebuilding effort going on now. In my own village, Bakhtme (near Dohuk), right now there are 125 homes being built, and there are plans to build another 125. This will now be a small town, no longer a village. So this is just one indication that people are living well in this area.
In the other parts of Iraq, the situation is really very bad. Our people who left villages in Dohuk in 1961 because of the insurgency between the Kurds and the central government, are now coming back. Our people living in the areas under the central government are not in a good situation at all, specifically Mosul and Baghdad. These are the worst.
Regarding your question about the stealing of land, not even one meter has been taken by force by the KRG. Not one meter. We are trying to make this clear to everybody. I am a resident of the area, and we have real estate at stake, not even one meter has been taken by force or by any other means. This is a propaganda used by others to destroy our people. Sometimes we see cases of people who sell their land to Kurds, and then later we hear claims that it was seized. Of course there are encroachments and crimes, just like anywhere else. For instance, this happens not only with our lands, but with Kurds to Kurds’ lands. This is happening by individuals. They [political authorities] are trying to rectify that situation. In Dohuk, there is a special committee to investigate these instances and provide compensation for people who must be moved in cases where they have lived there for a long time and invested in the property.
The best example of this is the village of Fishkhabor, which is near Zhako. Fishkhabor was taken and destroyed by the Iraqi regime in 1975 and its people displaced. In 1991, the village was inhabited by Kurds, as our people who once lived there were probably residing in Baghdad at the time. We and other Assyrian parties asked the Kurdish authorities about this encroachment. The result was all the Kurdish families were forced to move out of this village. This happened two years ago. Today the village is fully inhabited by its original Assyrian inhabitants. 250 to 300 homes have been built there. This is a good example of an honest attempt to deal with the situation.
As far as pressuring people to join the KDP, this is not true. It is a personal preference. The same way we ask people to join APP, or Zowaa asks people to join Zowaa, also the KDP asks people to join KDP. As a minister in this cabinet, there are very clear instructions from Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani that parties are not to be connected with government employment and appointments. I and every cabinet minister have to certify that political affiliation is not part of the employment process.
Z: Do you feel there are organized efforts on the part of anyone to spread misinformation about the treatment of our people there? And if so, by whom?
NB: We are not sure if it is an organized effort, but we can hear from a political party there [U.S.] and especially outside of Iraq, the propaganda is more organized. We can hear that on the internet, talks and meetings that are taking place outside of Iraq. We hear this primarily from Zowaa members and supporters across the world.
Z: Do you have any opinion as to why this is being done, or what motives might be?
NB: I do not want to try to think or answer for them. This question should be directed to them.
Z: Can you please comment on APP’s relationship with each of the main Assyrian political parties, such as BNDP, Zowaa, and also with Mr. Sargis Aghajan?
NB: We have a very good relationship with all Assyrian parties, and even where there are disagreements, at least we have respect. In regard to Zowaa, we have no relationship whatsoever. Especially after the exposure of the names of Mr. Yonadem Kanna and Mr. Gewargis Rasho (Ninos Petyoo), the previous Secretary General of Zowaa, in very clear documents and evidence, as being collaborating agents of the [Ba’ath] Iraqi regime. We have reservations on this issue and we are waiting for them to answer to these. We believe they have to answer these claims and this evidence.
Z: Even before this evidence came out, the relationship between APP and Zowaa was not good, is that correct? And why was that the case?
NB: Yes, that is true. The relationship with Zowaa was always on their terms and for them it was always tactical. When they felt weak, they would come to us for support. And we have seen this going back to the Iraqi Opposition conference of London in 2002 and the Iraqi Opposition conference in New York back in 1999. When we support them, we will not see them again until the next time they feel weak and need our support. We felt that this relationship is not going anywhere, and this conduct became a policy of theirs, a way of living for them. This is not a way to work together. So we decided that a relationship must be clear, transparent and has to be based on conditions.
Z: Has Zowaa made any attempts recently to enlist the support of APP?
NB: No. They know we will not give them any support, because we have learned from our mistakes.
Z: And going back to BNDP, and to Sargis Aghajan?
NB: Mr. Sargis Aghajan is an old friend and I have a personal relationship with him as we are both in the same cabinet. But there is not a coordinated effort between APP and Mr. Aghajan. We have a very good relationship based on friendship and respect. As for BNDP and other Assyrian parties, we have a good relationship and one of respect with all parties.
Z: I would like to ask you about reports in the United States that surfaced a month ago concerning William Shaoul Benjamin, who was a co-founder of APP. Mr. Shaoul Benjamin was arrested by the FBI for allegedly working for the Iraqi Intelligence Service between 1993 and 2001. Can you please comment on this?
NB: William Shaoul was a co-founder of APP when AUA and Malek Yocoub came to Iraq in 1973. Then he was expelled from the party on August 5, 1974, after we discovered he was working for the [Ba’ath] Iraqi regime. He tried to hurt us, especially in the Assyrian Cultural Club in Baghdad, of which I was a president for two terms. After 1974 we had no connection with William Shaoul. It is not a surprise to us that he was arrested.
And actually, in 1978, there was an incident where William Shaoul’s car was exploded and I was arrested for one week and interrogated. However, at the time of the explosion, I was in custody for opposing the [Ba’ath] Iraqi regime when they were trying to impose a new executive committee at the Assyrian Cultural Club.
Z: How is APP’s relationship with each of the Assyrian churches?
NB: We respect all our churches. We respect the clergy and we listen to them. But that does not mean we do whatever they say. We distance ourselves from the historical schisms and refrain from supporting new ones, we support the legitimacy of the Churches, and we try to bridge the gap between our churches. We believe that the Church has a spiritual role in the lives of our people and can do a lot for our people. We believe in what His Holiness Mar Dinkha has said in his recent trip, the way he put it that the Church and the Nation are bonded together. He described it as the “body” and the “soul” of one person. The body is the Nation and the soul is the Church. We cannot separate the body from the soul, and neither can we separate the soul from the body. The Church and the Nation are just like this.
Z: Can you please comment on Mar Dinkha’s recent trip to Northern Iraq?
NB: As a Patriarch, His Holiness was seeking to meet with his followers. This is something very natural for him to do and he has to do it for his followers, regardless of the regime they are living under. This is his responsibility, and he has to do it. It was also a historical event, because this type of a visit will enhance the relationship of his followers and others, including Yezidis and Kurds. He was very active throughout his trip. Almost every day he held a mass at a different village. He tried to reach out to all his followers. And this was very powerful. It gave his followers a sense of achievement for the inhabitants of the area, to see their Patriarch visiting them, telling them that they are the historical inhabitants and indigenous people who have lived there for thousands of years. That obviously will empower them and embody their rights in their ancestral lands. He also emphasized these points with the authorities in the region. He gave a very clear message to our people; “two things no body can take away from you, your Assyrianism and your Christianity because you got them from God and what God gives no body can take way, and you should be proud of being Assyrians and Christians”. What else could we expect more from His Holiness to say?
It also increased the respect between the Churches in the area. What happened in the Nahla region, where people are followers of the Ancient Church of the East (Old Calendar), was exceptionally good. The way His Holiness Mar Dinkha was accepted and greeted, and the way the conversation was exchanged between His Beatitude Mar Toma and Malek Paul and His Holiness Mark Dinkha. Also what happened in the Zahko region between the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Church was very good. He visited many villages in this area, including Fishkhabor, which was mentioned earlier. The people of Fishkhabor (who are Chaldeans) told His Holiness Mar Dinkha that their church was built in the fourth century A.D. His Holiness told them that when your church was built, we were not more than one Church, we were one unified Church and one unified people. And I think this was a very powerful message. We thanked the Patriarch for his visit. We felt very appreciative as APP for his visit.
Z: Thank you for your time and the information. I would like to give you the opportunity to make any statement or to provide any information that you feel is important for people to know.
NB: Thank you very much for the interview. I am sorry it had to be done by telephone, as I am sure it would have been easier face-to-face. We want the people in the Diaspora more than anyone else to know what is happening here. The people who are living here can see things, but those outside cannot. So sometimes they are being misinformed by unreliable and biased sources. We want them to see and feel the truth, even if that truth is sometimes bitter. We welcome more interviews, and we invite people to come to their homeland and talk with the people who live here. Once again, thank you for the interview.
Five-Parties Memo on Draft KRG Constitution
The following is an authorized translation of the memo that was signed by five political parties regarding the autonomous region in Nineveh Plains and other issues relevant to the KRG draft constitution.
After extensive discussions that lasted for a month and a half, the following memorandum was signed and submitted to the Kurdistani Constitution Drafting Committee at a meeting that took place at the headquarters of the Bet Nahrain Democratic Party on 10 November 10t 2006:
ADO Statement on KRG Draft Constitution
Assyrian Democratic Organization
8 November 2006
From the dawn of history the presence of our indigenous ChaldoAssyrian people in their home country of Iraq has continued uninterrupted. Since time immemorial they have laid the foundation for the world's first civilizations in Sumer, Akkad, Assyria and Nineveh, the ancient monuments of which are still clearly visible everywhere in Iraq whereas their priceless relics and treasures are the pride of prestigious museums all around the world.
In spite of the proportion of population decline and the demographic changes, due to massacres deportations and repression, our people kept on struggling for their survival and legitimate national rights in their historical homeland, side by side with their partners - Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Turkmen and others. We have realized that our national aspirations cannot come true unless there is a real democratic system that recognizes all the components comprising our common homeland, that is why we fought a bitter struggle against dictatorships and oppressions alongside all Iraqi national forces with our various political and national spectrum and have made many sacrifices and martyrs to the cause of liberty.
After the downfall of the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, our people had high hopes that they would attain their national legitimate rights in the new Iraq, but regrettably the constitution of the federal and unified Iraq, issued last year, did nor take into consideration the unity of our people's national identity with its various designations, and further, did not stipulate an autonomous region for them. This led to a great deal of frustration and disappointment amongst our people and it was further worsened by sectarian violence in central and south Iraq, as well as by the atrocities, displacement, and bombing of our churches by "Takfiri" rejections groups.
All these, in addition to the fact that the resolution on the constitutional amendment is drawing nearer, have prompted our people, with all our political and social organizational and ecclesiastical forces to renew our call for the establishment of an autonomous region in the Nineveh Plain that would provide them with a safe haven and better opportunities for progress and development in both national and human terms .
As a matter of fact, the call for autonomy for our people is not a new one; it goes back to the beginning of the last century and the creation of modern Iraq, when delegates raised this question in the Paris Peace Conference in 1920 and later through recommendations by the International Committee of League of Nations that dealt with what was then called "The Problem of al-Musol Districts " in 1925. For the sake of all these and for guaranteeing our national rights in Iraq since its establishment in 1921, our people have made many sacrifices and have been subjected to massacres in Simel in 1933 and at Suriana village in 1969, and to all kinds of repression, discrimination which have led to our mass emigrations. Nevertheless, our people have never abandoned their legitimate national rights in Iraq, in establishing an autonomous region in their historical home in the Nineveh Plain. This was clearly demonstrated in the First General Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Conference held in Baghdad in October 2003 when the foremost demand was the establishment of an autonomous region in Ninevah Plain which represents the heart of historic Assyria.
Now, this call has gathered momentum in concurrence with the general discussions going on on the draft constitution of the Iraqi Kurdistan in which the Ninevah Plain is annexed – consisting of Al-Hamadanie's two provinces "Bakhdida ", "TalKeif " and the "Baashika" areas - to the administrative borders of the region which enjoy peace and stability, unlike the other parts of Iraq ravaged by chaos, violence and disturbances. Moreover, it has called upon our people's organizations, parties and individuals to include the demand for autonomy in the region's constitution as well as in the Iraqi's federal constitution .
Our people have reacted positively and open-mindedly to the draft constitution due to the constructive and good points it includes which ranks it not only ahead of the Iraqi Federal Constitution, but also many other constitutions of the neighboring countries, particularly, in terms of secularism, general freedoms, human and women rights, education and others. But, regrettably, the drafting committee has repeated the same mistakes made by the Iraqi Constitution with regards to our people's national identity, the disregard for its historic role, its sacrifices, grievances and the massacres it has gone through; concentrating, unjustly, only on the injustices that were done to the Kurds to the exclusion of others. This, in addition to the ambiguity involving the articles concerning the possibility of establishing administrative entities for other nationalities.
In order for the constitution of the Kurdish Regional Government to be fair concerning our people's rights, we believe it should be amended and the following remarks be taken into consideration :
Based on a realist political approach, Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) is dealing positively with the available possibilities and probabilities, and further, envisages the claim for autonomy in the Nineveh Plain supported by sufficient legal and constitutional guarantees and the approval of our people in a general referendum, as a realist and positive choice, even though lesser than the ceiling of our people's ambitions and rights .
While blessing and supporting the choices of our people in Iraq, we call upon all organizations and forces of our people in the homeland and diaspora to shoulder their national responsibilities in this very difficult phase where our entire national existence in Iraq is at stake, and to deal realistically and open-mindedly with the options and demands of our people in Iraq, on top of all, the claim for autonomy and the constitutional guarantee of their rights, as a first step towards fulfilling the legitimate national rights in all the places of our people's historical presence in the countries of the region.
Justice and eternity to our cause.
Chaldean Priest Missing, Feared Kidnapped
Courtesy of the AsiaNews
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Christians in Baghdad fear yet another priest has been kidnapped. Fr Doglas Yousef Al Bazy, 34, left his parish yesterday morning and has not yet returned home.
The alarm was raised swiftly throughout Iraq and the diaspora via the Internet and SMS: the young priest’s community and leaders of Iraq’s Chaldean Church believe it is “highly likely” that he has been kidnapped. If their misgivings are proved right, this would be the latest in a long list of kidnappings targeting Christian clerics. Not only gangs of common criminals are suspected to be behind the spate of kidnappings.
The Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad, Mgr Shleman Warduni, told AsiaNews: “Patriarch Delly and I have activated our contacts, hoping they would give us hope but so far we have had no replies. That he was kidnapped is a very likely hypothesis, but there is no confirmation as yet.”
Fr Doglas was ordained some 10 years ago. Mgr Warduni described him as a man who was “very active in the diocese, committed especially to accompanying youth.” He is secretary of the Institute for Religious Teaching and also of the Council of Church leaders in Baghdad. A few months ago, he was put in charge of St Elias Parish.
The Auxiliary Bishop said: “There are many theories about why Christians are kidnapped: crime, religious fanaticism, money, the intent to create division among the people.” He continued: “We hope that those who have taken him have a conscience and understand that we priests desire only to bring the Good News to people and to work for the good of all Iraqis. We are for the unity of Iraq and we ask to be able to work together with our co-nationals to rebuild our country and to attain peace and security.” However, among the Chaldean community, the idea is increasingly taking hold that threats and kidnappings are not carried out indiscriminately, but that they “target those people who are most involved in the Christian community, the younger and more courageous ones, almost as if to give a warning to those who persist in hoping that they will be able to continue living in the country.”
AsiaNews sources said the situation in the country has become “unbearable”. Christians rarely leave their homes but they are not the only ones to suffer. They say: “No place is safe anymore. Even workplaces are no longer safe. In recent months, bakers have been killed in Baghdad just because they formed typical rhomboidal shaped loaves, in the vague semblance of a cross.”
Finally, Mgr Warduni made an appeal to the likely kidnappers of Fr Doglas: “If you have a conscience and believe in God, do not do him any ill and free him as soon as possible, safe and sound.”
Mar Audo of Aleppo Prays for Refugees in Syria
Courtesy of Zenit News Agency
(ZNDA: Koenigstein) Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, had a special intention when he celebrated Mass this week at the headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need in Germany.
"Let's pray together for the 25,000 refugees from Iraq now in our midst," said the prelate.
Father Joaquín Alliende-Luco, the international ecclesiastical assistant for Germany-based charity, welcomed the bishop Tuesday in a joint prayer for peace in the Holy Land, in Iraq and in other Arab countries.
Bishop Audo, 60, said: "After reading excerpts in your founder's book 'Fighter for Peace,' I noted the importance Father Werenfried placed on prayer and communion as integral parts of your charity, taking precedence before fund raising.
"We need peace in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, in the whole Middle East. War and violence destroy the future of all people involved. Christians too are fearful of their future. Many of the 25,000 Chaldean-Catholics, who fled from Iraq to Syria, are taking refuge there before hopefully moving to a third country."
Syria's 18.8 million inhabitants include 160,000 Christians, about a quarter of whom are Catholics, counting the refugees.
Gen. Boris Ivanov Remains in Georgian Jail;
Nearly four months after the arrest of Mr. Boris Ivanov by the authorities in the Republic of Georgia the attention of the Assyrian and international observers and human rights groups is more than ever focused on the government of Georgia's human rights track and treatment of its minorities.
On 27 July 2006 a group of armed Georgian Special Police Force officers broke into the house of General Boris Ivanov and arrested him without presenting any arrest warrant. Eyewitnesses claim that a small bag of unknown substance was placed in Mr. Ivanov's pocket before he was charged with possession of abused substances.
Shortly after the Assyrian National Convention in Chicago where he was a guest speaker, the renown Assyrian investigative journalist, Nuri Kino, went to Georgia to learn more about Gen. Ivanov's arrest. His concluded that the authorities had falsely accused Gen. Ivanov and that there were no conclusive evidence present for his arrest.
At the invitation of the Assyrian International Congress of Georgia, on 21 October Assyrian-Dutch politician and human rights activist, Ms. Attiya Gamri Beth Arsan traveled to Georgia and investigated the arrest. Ms. Gamri met with the family of the General, his lawyer and the members of the Assyrian International Congress of Georgia.
She also met the Chairperson of the Committee for Human Rights and Civil Integration, Mrs. Elene Tevdoradze; Public Defender of Georgia, Mr. Sozar Subari and the representative of the Amnesty International in Georgia. She also contacted the Office of the General Prosecutor of Georgia.
At press time neither Ms. Gamri Beth Arsan nor the family of General Ivanov are told the exact reason for his arrest or given the official statement of charges against him.
General Ivanov's attorney was unable to secure a personal visit for Ms. Gamri Beth Arsan with the accused in prison.
On 30 October Ms. Gamri Beth Arsan was interviewed by a Georgian weekly English speaking newspaper, “Georgian Times”. In her interview Ms. Attiya commented that “the investigators have made several mistakes – none of them ever talked to eyewitnesses or read their reports”. Her preliminary conclusion is that the Ivanov’s arrest was a big misunderstanding based on wrong accusations.
Ms. Gamri Beth Arsan also noted that: “If after my visit there is no solution, we will start a huge campaign in Europe. We have almost one and a half million Assyrians all over the world who follow this issue because they all know and respect this person.”
Since 1991 Gen. Ivanov has been a distinguished honorary member of the Assyrian Universal Alliance. He is also a member of the Assyrian National Council of Illinois. Gen. Ivanov was the founder of the Assyrian International Congress of Georgia and for many years he was the President of this very well known Assyrian Organization, which is now actively working toward his release.
General Boris Emmanuel Ivanov was born on 14 October 14 1943. He was born and raised in Tbilisi, Georgia. His father, Emmanuel Ivanov, was born in 1923 in Tbilisi. His father’s side of the family came from Iran. Boris’s mother, Sara Ivanova, was born in Tbilisi in 1925; her parents were from Turkey. Boris has two sisters and two brothers. One brother passed away last year at the age of 59. Boris is widowed; his wife died last year as a result of cancer. Gen. Ivanov has two daughters, one son and two grandchildren.
After finishing high school, Boris Ivanov entered the Police academy. He began his professional career as a criminal police officer. Then he became a chief of criminal police of a district in Tbilisi. Later he was promoted to the chief of police of the city of Tbilisi. After many courageous operations and years of hard work Boris Ivanov was given the title of the general in the military police.
Boris also worked at the Department of Internal Affairs of Georgia. One of his tasks was to uncover the kidnappers’ ring that were taking hostages and demanding ransom for their release. The kidnappers were members of the Georgian military forces. They were caught and disarmed. After the criminals were arrested, the wrongfully accused and imprisoned were released. After this event Boris’s popularity increased and he became a prototype of one of the main characters of the novel There is No Way Back, written by a Russian novelist. General Ivanov was publicly referred to as a hero of the Georgian people.
Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union on 9 April 1991, under the rule of the former Soviet dissident Zviad Gamsakhurdia. In December the Georgian National Guard, under the command of Tengiz Kitovani, laid siege to the offices of Gamsakhurdia's government in Tbilisi. After weeks of stalemate, he was forced to resign in January 1992. He was replaced as president by Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister under Mikhael Gorbechev and architect of the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Shortly after Gen. Ivanov was was transferred to Georgia's Department of Defense, where he was promoted to the Chief of Military Police of Georgia and became a General.
On 21 February 1992, Georgia's ruling Military Council abolished the Soviet-era constitution and restored the 1921 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia.
The regional government of the Abkhaz region of Georgia on 23 July 1992 declared secession from Georgia. The Georgian government accused Gamsakhurdia supporters of kidnapping Georgia's interior minister and holding him captive in Abkhazia.
The Georgian government dispatched 3,000 troops to the region. Gen. Ivanov was commanded the Georgian forces to restore order. Heavy fighting between Georgian forces and Abkhazian militia broke out in and around Sukhumi - the capital of the region. After about a week's fighting and many casualties on both sides, Georgian government forces managed to take control of most of Abkhazia, and closed down the regional parliament. During the war with Abkhazia Gen. Ivanov was in charge of many military operations. He was one of the last Georgian officers who left Abkhazia. He stayed with his soldiers and walked back through the Kodory Canyon.
Russian forces reportedly sided with the secessionsts. Shevardnadze's government accused Russia of giving covert military support to the rebels with the aim of "detaching from Georgia its native territory and the Georgia-Russian frontier land". The year 1992 ended with the rebels in control of much of Abkhazia northwest of Sukhumi.
In July 1993 the Abkhaz separatist militias launched an abortive attack on Georgian-held Sukhumi. The capital was surrounded and heavily shelled, with Shevardnadze himself trapped in the city. After ten days of heavy fighting, Sukhumi fell on 27 September, 1993. Eduard Shevardnadze narrowly escaped death.
The separatist forces quickly overran the rest of Abkhazia; it is estimated that between 10,000-30,000 ethnic Georgians and 3,000 ethnic Abkhaz may have perished — and some 250,000-300,000 people were forced into exile. As the result of this conflict, the former Soviet republic of Georgia lost control over its provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia - roughly a fifth of its territory - in separatist wars in the 1990s. South Ossetia has just voted for independence.
The United States and European Union recognize Abkhazia as an integral part of Georgia, while the Abkhaz separatist government consider Abkhazia a sovereign country. Russia still maintains a strong political and military influence over the separatist rule in Abkhazia. President Bush firmly supports Georgia's pro-Western president, while Russia is hostile. Moscow doesn't recognize the breakaway regions as independent, but is friendly to them, and there are fears that any conflict could draw in Russian troops.
A few individuals in the Georgian government during this time were involved in the illegal shipment of arms to other countries and Georgian regions.
Gen. Ivanov tried to prevent such illegal activities and in return was accosted by enemies in the government who accused him of other wrongdoings in return. Gen. Ivanov was able to quickly clear his name and remove the charges.
In 1995 Gen. Ivanov moved his family to Moscow. He worked as a Chief of Police of the north-eastern district of Moscow and later as Prosecutor. Two years later Gen. Ivanov retired as his health began to deteriorate. He was diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension.
In Moscow he attended a press conference conducted by Mr. Giorgadze, a former Chief of KGB in Georgia. A telephone call was also made from his office to Mr. Emzar Kvitsiani, who at the time was in charge of the stand off in Kodory Canyon in Abkhazia. Gen. Ivanov claims that the phone call was made by a friend, Avto Djokhadze, a former colleague from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. not himself. “When the rebels started their operation in Kodori, I was at home, watching news with my friends. When we heard of what was going on in Kodori, my friend called Emzar Kviciani using my phone. Even though the phone call was made, it never went through,” says Boris Ivanov.
In September of this year the government in Tbilisi detained four Russian military officials on charges of spying. The Kremlin responded with economic sanctions and by severing rail and air links. President Vladimir Putin declared that the government would tighten migration laws to "protect the interest of Russian manufacturers and Russia's native population."
Russian authorities then began a sweeping campaign against ethnic Georgians. Hundreds have been deported, and Moscow schools were asked to produce lists of students with Georgian last names to local police forces.
Police stepped up document checks and temporarily closed Georgian-owned casinos and restaurants. An estimated 1 million ethnic Georgians reside and work legally in Russia, mainly in Moscow, where they have lived for most of their lives. Among these is General Ivanov.
On Nov. 2, Russian energy monopoly Gazprom announced it would more than double the price of gas to Georgia.
Boris traveled to Georgia every year to visit his father and the rest of his family. It was during his last visit to Georgia in July for a family reunion - amidst the diplomatic chaos between Russia and Georgia- when his sister and her daughters whom he had not seen for 10 years had also come from the United States, that General Ivanov was arrested by the Georgian authorities.
Three months after the arrest of Gen. Ivanov in Georgia, on 18 October, the Abkhazian parliament passed a resolution, calling upon Russia, international organizations, and the rest of the international community to recognize Abkhazian independence, claiming that the region possesses all the properties of an independent state.
Last Thursday, in an unusual move not required by protocol, President Putin and his wife met President Bush and his wife, while Air Force One (Presidential Aircraft) stopped briefly in Moscow for refueling en route to Asia for the Asia Pacific Economic Conference. Russia's ongoing diplomatic dispute with the former Soviet Republic of Georgia was one of the many issued discussed.
Whether the arrest of Gen. Ivanov is tied to the secessionist movement in Ossetia and Abkhazia, or a revenge act by Tbilisi against former Georgian officials living in Russia remains a mystery. Yet the international human rights observers and Assyrian officials continue to express their outrage at the wrongful arrest of General Boris Ivanov and urge all to contact the Georgian embassies around the world and demand the immediate release of Gen. Ivanov.
The Georgian Times interview with Ms. Attiya Tunc-Gamri
Q: What kind of conclusions are you able to draw, based on the first results of your investigation?
Assyrian Congress in Georgia invited me to come and investigate the problems of General Boris Ivanov. I have been working for almost 10 years as a Human Rights Activist, due to my official responsibilities I have been to many countries to make research on many political prisoners.
I spoke with almost 20 people, neighbors of Boris Ivanov, who saw what happened that day. All of them told me the same story, with the same details, time, and the same names. They all confirm that 8 grams of heroine was placed in Ivanov’s pocket by the police.
I am very shocked, because in Europe, Georgia has a reputation of a thriving country, the way the revolution happened here seems to be an indicator democratic tendencies. But now I see that people here are afraid to stand for the truth. They prefer to passively agree that “these things happen”, and that there is little they can do about any kind of injustice.
According to the other side, Ivanov was arrested because he had a contact with political rebels. If that was a justified reason for his arrest, I would only have respect for the law in Georgia and, would not have come here for this case. But I cannot believe that that can be true. It is highly improbable that Ivanov would get in contact with rebels when his whole family was in Georgia. This is the person who served Georgia all his life. He loved this country and would never do anything to damage it. I think there must be some kind of miscommunication. The prosecutor doesn’t have any solid evidence or proof to show the court, and I believe Ivanov will be set free and leave Georgia, maybe forever.
Q: What do you estimate are your chances to influence the process?
I don’t think my chances to influence the process will be very good if nobody is willing to oppose the oppression. The main problem is that people here are closed. Isn’t it definite that if you stay indifferent to the problems of the people of your country, you will be the victim of the same misfortune? I was surprised to discover that when you go to institution like Parliament, the Ministry of Justice, and other government institutions you are met by people at reception, who are always unfriendly and aggressive. I really think Georgia is a beautiful country. Its history is very rich and interesting. I admire that though you were under the reign of enemies, had Persians and Turks here, you fought for your freedom. I admire the way you had the revolution, with no bloodshed, you were together and opposed the old regime. I think that is what you should always do when your rights are violated.
But now I am surprised to see that the people are afraid to talk, they are closed and deaf to any innovations, to new views, they are not willing to find out whether we have something good for the country.
The other thing is that I never got permission to visit Boris Ivanov in jail. I don’t if he is treated properly or whether he is getting any medicines – and this is an old man with fragile health.
If heroine was the real reason for his arrest, they should have seen if he is really able to use drugs, where he got it and whom he was going to sell it to… or maybe he intended to sell 8 grams of heroine?! Nobody asks these questions. None of the representatives of the prosecution in this case agreed to talk to me; they avoid questions saying they are working on the issue and that the investigation process must be kept in secret.
The best thing I can do is to show that this process is being watched by millions of people, who get the report from us every day, and I will do all that is in my power to get this problem solved by peaceful measures.
Q: What will be your next step if your visit to Georgia will not bring the desirable solution?
Special thanks to Ms. Ilona Adamova and Mr. David Adamov who contributed to this article. Zinda Magazine urges its readers, Assyrian civic and religious organizations to immediately write to the embassies of the Republic of Georgia, the office of the Georgian president and the Georgian parliament and demand the immediate release of General Boris Ivanov. The text of a sample letter follows. You may copy and paste this letter and mail/fax/email to:
Mr. Mikhail Saakashvili, President of Georgia
Mr. Sozar Subari, Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia
PRO ORIENTE Studies of the Syriac Tradition
PRO ORIENTE Forum Syriacum
On October 18 and 19 October 2006 a meeting of 14 expert scholars from 9 countries of the Syriac Church tradition took place in Vienna. A new endeavour called "PRO ORIENTE Studies of the Syriac Tradition“ was started. For this purpose a Forum Syriacum has been formed which consists of an expanded circle of expert scholars in Syriac studies. The founding members of the Forum Syriacum are:
- Metropolitan APREM G. Mooken, India
- Mgr. Johan BONNY, Vatican (Observer)
From the beginning, PRO ORIENTE – as a foundation of the Archdiocese of Vienna has focused not only on the (Byzantine) Orthodox Church but has also included the Christian traditions of the Orient. In order for PRO ORIENTE to help the various churches of the Syriac tradition and to preserve their unique heritage which is of importance for the whole of Christianity, the Foundation has invited scholars and experts to study the East and West Syriac tradition.
This new Forum advises and consults the PRO ORIENTE Foundation to develop appropriate studies and helps to coordinate the research projects. Within the Forum Syriacum there should also be an exchange of current developments of the Syriac Churches, to strengthen the solidarity of those who belong to the Syriac tradition.
Concerning theme and method for research, PRO ORIENTE Forum Syriacum chooses topics for research and the appropriate approaches to study them. This includes individual studies, regional study groups in the Middle East, India and elsewhere, and the scholarly exchange in academic conferences called “PRO ORIENTE Colloquia Syriaca”.
The proceedings of the PRO ORIENTE Colloquia Syriaca as well as other related studies will be published in a new series called “PRO ORIENTE Studies of the Syriac Tradition”.
The Forum Syriacum has elaborated a work plan with research topics which include: Church history (i.e. non-theological factors for division and the common reading of history), Syriac Churches encountering other religions and other cultures (i.e. inculturation and immigration); and liturgy, spirituality and monasticism. At the first Colloquium Syriacum taking place in Vienna November 5-10, 2007 the following theme will be studied: “Syriac Churches encountering Islam: past experiences and future perspectives”. Thus the Forum Syriacum also reacts to the intrinsic and external challenges with which the Christians from the Middle East are confronted today.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of PRO ORIENTE, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, paid a visit to the expert scholars assembled in Vienna. He welcomed and appreciated the new endeavour of the „PRO ORIENTE Studies of the Syriac Tradition“. He expressed his concern on the current difficult situation of the Christians in the Middle East, which again forces many of them to emigrate. The assistance of Cardinal Schönborn to the Christian refugees from the Middle East living in Vienna was mentioned with gratitude by the participants. Cardinal Schönborn emphasized the bridging function of those Christians in the region.
Proud Assyrian Survivor can Move On
The Story of William Warda
Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph
(ZNDA: London) His resume reads like a Boys' Own adventure novel, chock-full of battling, bomb-tossing fanatics, bullets and escapes from near death.
Now former Fairfield security guard William Warda can move on, with the announcement that his nemesis, Saddam Hussein, will die at the end of a noose.
"This is really a historic day and so important to my family as one of the victims of Saddam, the former dictator," an emotional Mr Warda said yesterday.
"He killed his own citizens without mercy or justice, waged wars against neighbouring countries; he has been brought to trial in his own country and held accountable in a court of law with ordinary citizens bearing witness.
"Saddam got what he deserved for crimes against humanity committed during years of brutal dictatorship. I believe that the verdict on Saddam is really a milestone in the Iraqi people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law."
Mr Warda, now 47, graduated from Baghdad University in 1980 with a Bachelor of Medicine in Veterinary Science and Surgery, but was conscripted shortly after into the Iraqi Army for the Iran-Iraq War.
As a Christian Assyrian he was abused, made to do menial work including walking a minefield as a human mine sweeper.
In 1991 he deserted and formed his own rebel army to back US forces against Saddam's Republican Guard during the first Gulf War, organising a ragtag battalion of men to fight against Saddam and leading numerous covert raids.
Mr Warda's rebel activities resulted in his father Eshayo being executed by Iraqi spies and his brother George being put under house arrest before he paid a bribe and escaped. In 1996, after surviving two assassination attempts himself, Mr Warda fled to Turkey and secured asylum in Australia.
Mr Warda, now an Australian citizen, moved last year to Japan as a second secretary in charge of political affairs in the Iraqi embassy in Tokyo.
When the Gulf War broke out, he had planned to travel back to regroup his forces against Saddam, but he was stopped at Sydney airport by ASIO agents who reminded him it was illegal to be a mercenary.
They suggested he work "diplomatically", which he did, as a liaison officer and political adviser to US forces in the ethnically-divided Iraqi north and a diplomat.
He now says his only fight is as a diplomat.
"We want an Iraq where all Iraqis – Arabs, Kurds Assyrians and Turkomans – are equal before the law," he said.
"The longer they keep Saddam alive, the longer they are keeping the violence alive."
Iraqi Torture Victims Counselor: Execution is Wrong
Courtesy of the Toronto Sun
(ZNDA: Toronto) Ezat Mossallanejad vehemently opposes the death penalty for anyone, including Saddam Hussein.
"Using torture or the death penalty against one person, even on an exceptional basis, destroys our hopes and aspirations for living on a planet in peace," said the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture counselor, who works with Iraqi torture victims.
The death penalty serves no purpose; what's really important is the recognition of Saddam's crimes, not killing him, Mossallanejad said.
"Hussein is a genocider and should be sentenced to life imprisonment, which would stand as a testament to him as a genocider and a war criminal who has committed many crimes against humanity."
Mossallanejad stressed the crimes for which the court tried Saddam -- the killing of 148 people in a Shiite village in 1982 -- do not represent the whole of his "devilish actions."
He said Saddam killed more than one million Iranians and Iraqis, 5,000 Kurds, and thousands of Kuwaitis, and "should have been handed over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, even though it was established before the perpetration of his ghoulish crimes," Mossallanejad said.
Ramsin Benjamen, who in 1984 was sentenced to life in Abu Ghreb prison in Baghdad for promoting democracy and seeking Assyrian Christian rights, hopes Saddam's death doesn't just wipe out the man.
"We are hoping that Saddam's ideology is terminated, not only himself."
Girls to Stand Trial for Murder of Assyrian Taxi Driver
Courtesy of Yahoo News
(ZNDA: Sydney) Two teenage girls accused of murdering a Sydney taxi driver have been committed to stand trial.
Cabbie Youbert Hormozi suffered a fatal heart attack after he was allegedly beaten and dragged from his taxi by the girls on January 31, at Canley Heights, in Sydney's south-west.
The pair, who cannot be named, were aged 14 at the time, making them among the youngest girls to be charged with murder in NSW.
The girls have faced a committal hearing at Lidcombe Children's Court, at which magistrate John Crawford found there was enough evidence for them to stand trial.
Mr Hormozi, a 53-year-old father of two, died of a heart attack on the way to Liverpool Hospital following the attack on January 31.
The girls, who are cousins, were arrested the next day in Strathfield, in Sydney's inner west.
They have been in custody since their arrest and will be arraigned in the NSW Supreme Court on a date to be set.
New Catholic Chaldean Eparchy of Oceania Formed
Courtesy of Spero News
(ZNDA: Sydney) Pope Benedict has created a Chaldean Eparchy for Oceania, to care for Australian and New Zealand Catholics who follow the Chaldean Rite with the title of "Saint Thomas Apostle of Sydney of the Chaldeans.
Archbishop Djibrail Kassab has been appointed first Bishop of the new Eparchy transferring him from the see of Basra.
Bishop Philip Wilson, president of the Australian Bishops Conference commented: "On behalf of the Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Church in Australia we welcome the creation of the new Eparchy and new Bishop. It is important for Chaldean Catholics to be able to celebrate their faith according to their Rite and ancient traditions".
Chaldean Catholics in the world number about one million. About half live in Iraq where there is the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans. The Partriarch is His Beatitude Emmanuel-Karim Delly.
There are two Chaldean Catholic communities in the United States. One in Detroit, the Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle created over 20 years ago, and the other in California with a total number of 170,000 faithful gathered in 15 parishes.
In Canada there are about 20,000 Chaldean Catholics in three parishes in Windsor, Toronto and Montreal. In Oceania there are about 20,000 Chaldean Catholics.
In Australia, there are 14,000 in Melbourne, served by three priests with two churches, rooms for catechism and a school; 12,000 in Sydney, served by three priests with a church and three missions in the city suburbs.
In New Zealand there are at least 3,000 Chaldean Catholics service by one priest and organised in three centres: Auckland with a church and a priest, Wellington and Hamilton.
In Europe there are at least 60,000 Chaldean Catholics in communities in France, Germany, United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Greece and Italy.
The Chaldean Rite is one of five main eastern Catholic Rites, with the Alexandrine rite (Coptic and Ethiopian), the Rite of Antioch (Syro and Maronite), the Armenian, and that of Constantinople. The Chaldean rite is celebrated by the Assyrian Church of the East, the Chaldean Church, the Syro-Malabar Church. (Ed. note: there also exists the nearly defunct Mozarabic Rite in Spain that once was common in Andalusia under Moorish domination).
The Chaldean traditional ritual expanded in an independent way under the ancient Sassanid Empire (4th-7th century) that reigned over Persia (today Syria, Iraq, Iran), before the Arabian conquest: hence the name "Persian Rite" that is used sometimes.
This Rite found its current form, at least in the Holy Mass, at the beginning of the 7th century. It then developed following its fundamental structure. Since the 17th century the name "Chaldean" prevailed in Rome whilst in the Chaldean regions the "Syro-Oriental" one was preferred.
The Chaldean liturgy preserves nearly exclusively the use of the Syrian language (or Aramaic) although, in the Middle East, in some churches, readings in Arabic, the language of the people of that area, are used.
Hermit Nun is Anything but Reclusive
Courtesy of the Boston Globe
(ZNDA: Boston) For a hermit, Sister Olga Yaqob is remarkably extroverted. She ministers to students at Boston University's Catholic Center, crisscrosses the country giving talks on campuses, and uses public transit because by looking at other passengers, "I do feel that the world wants me to pray for them."
Yaqob, 40, is the only canonical hermit in the Archdiocese of Boston, remaining in solitude and contemplative prayer every Saturday while conducting a public ministry the rest of the week. Yet as metaphor, hermit fits her life story as Yaqob tells it. She has often stood outside the community, be it growing up in Iraq's microscopic Christian minority or leaving her family and their ancestral church to become a nun.
Just 4 feet 10 inches tall, Yaqob has been an outsized presence at BU, says Lydia Longoria, a graduate who was Yaqob's first spiritual advisee, an unusual request on Longoria's part, as Yaqob spoke little English then.
"I didn't need someone who could understand my words; I needed someone who could understand my heart," Longoria says.
Yaqob was born in Kirkuk. Her family belonged to the Assyrian Church, one of several Catholic churches with its own patriarch, or leader. Under Saddam Hussein, Christians lived peacefully with the Muslim majority, and the Assyrians treasured their heritage. Deeply religious, Yaqob attended Catholic Mass weekdays (the Assyrian Church worships only on Sundays). From about the age of 14, she wanted to be a nun.
There was an unconquerable obstacle. Until a decade ago, the Assyrian Church didn't have nuns. Answering the call meant becoming a Roman Catholic, and that, to her parents, was unthinkable.
"They never thought that their daughter could leave the church of her fathers and ancestors," she says. Also, the Islamic Middle East is a patriarchal and family-centered culture, she says. "The general belief is that God created woman to get married and raise children and have a family."
Her parents sent her to university, hoping she would meet a man and fall in love. When she graduated, around the time Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, and informed her father that "God is still jealous for my heart," he told her to take her younger brother to London, ostensibly to save him from mandatory military service and the Gulf War. Her father agreed that if she did that, he would let her become a nun.
But he had also arranged a marriage for her through family in London, something she didn't learn until her brother told her the night before they were to leave Jordan for London. She prayed a lot that night and recalls thinking: "How this is happening? I did obey my parents for years. I obeyed my culture. I obeyed the tradition of my ancestors."
The next day, she put her brother on the plane, but did not board. Her parents disowned her, and she took a bus to Baghdad.
The next few years tested her beliefs. She got a job at a hospital and began bringing food and supplies to poor people and prisoners, founding a lay ministry, Love Your Neighbor. Hussein's actions and international sanctions on Iraq after the Gulf War savaged Iraqis' health and welfare. Her father had worked for an oil company and had given her a comfortable life that did not prepare her for the suffering. She ministered at Abu Ghraib and nearby prisons, a memory that makes her voice catch.
"Animals in your country lived better than prisoners in my country," she says. "There were kids in prison, between 8 and 14 years old, just because they were stealing, because they were poor. . . . They lost homes. They lost parents."
Her work came to the attention of the Assyrian bishop, who had decided to reinstate nuns in the church. He asked Yaqob to start an order; she complied. But she personally observed Roman Catholic practices, which caused friction with her bishop. Jesuit priests from Boston in Iraq arranged for her to study at Boston College. She arrived in the United States just before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"We had such a bond," says Longoria, who regularly seeks the nun's counsel. "It was her heart. There was an openness, a freedom, very much just reflecting holiness. . . . She's a reflection of God."
Today, Yaqob is in sporadic touch with her family. Christian Iraqis are fleeing the country after having been targeted for attack by Muslim insurgents, especially since Pope Benedict XVI quoted a medieval anti-Islam slur. (The pope apologized and said he didn't agree with the slur.) The women in Yaqob's family curb their public outings, fearing for their safety.
"The first Gulf War took us 200 years back," she says, explaining her agreement with the late John Paul II's opposition to the 2003 American invasion. "I know what I mean when I say that there's no solution with war."
Modesto Assyrian's Casino Lawsuit Fails
Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
(ZNDA: Modesto) Sam Awanis tried his luck with a jury and lost.
In a three-day trial last week, the Modesto man argued that Jackson Rancheria Casino and Hotel invaded his privacy by running a television commercial that showed him laughing and holding a hand full of cards.
Awanis said he had no idea he was filmed during a July 2003 trip to the casino until friends and family spotted him in an ad that ran for more than a year on several television channels.
Jurors in Stanislaus County Superior Court were not moved.
They deliberated for 45 minutes, then said Awanis could not recover any profits the casino made from the ad, even if the Assyrian community ostracized him due to his gambling, as Awanis claims in court papers.
Awanis' lawyer said the commercial caused an unnecessary stir in his client's life, even though Awanis' presence in the ad is fleeting.
"He's an unusual looking guy," said attorney Nolan Stringfield of Stockton. "So it's not too hard to spot him."
Stringfield said Jackson Rancheria should have asked Awanis to sign a consent form before including him in a television commercial, something the casino does when it uses pictures of big jackpot winners in ads.
Instead, the casino posted 11-inch by 17-inch signs that read: "Your presence in the casino today implies permission to use your photograph in our promotional materials."
Attorney Robert Zaro of Sacramento, who represents Jackson Rancheria, said the casino posted signs and made announcements about the filming over a public address system.
He said it would be hard to miss the bright lights and camera crew needed to film the commercial.
"He was there for six hours, according to his own testimony, and claims he saw and heard nothing," Zaro said.
By law, Awanis could have been awarded anywhere from $750, the minimum amount of damages allowed, to $5 million, the tribe's maximum exposure under a compact that allows gambling on the Mewuk reservation.
Zaro said Awanis demanded $20 million, though that number is not in the official record.
The court case revolved around the casino's notice about the filming and whether the commercial cast Awanis in a bad light, according to official records.
The casino said the camera was in plain view, while Awanis said it was up high on a scissors jack and not immediately noticeable.
The casino said Awanis' gambling was well-known. Awanis acknowledged making several trips a week to casinos around the region, adding that he had been to Jackson Rancheria 200 times before the filming.
The casino said Awanis had no expectation of privacy in a place that is open to the public. Awanis said his hobby does not give the casino the right to exploit his image.
In the end, Awanis, who is unemployed but used to work as a card dealer, got nothing.
"He had his day in court," Stringfield said.
Looking for Evidence of King Sargon's Invasion in Iran
Courtesy of Payvand Iran News
Archeologists at the historic Rabat Tepe are searching to find traces of the Assyrian king's attack to northwest Iran which took place in the first millennium BC.
Tehran, 14 November 2006 (CHN) -- Archeological excavations continue at the historic hill known as Rabat Tepe, northwest Iran, while archeologists are trying to find traces of the 1st millennium invasion by the Assyrian King, Sargon. Some believe that the result of the excavations could shed light on the existence of Musasir kingdom in Rabat Tepe.
According to historic documents, the invasion took place during the reign of Musasir kings which have remained largely unknown to this date. Archeologists hope that the result of their studies would lead them to identify this mysterious government which was conquered by Sargon, the Assyrian king, some 3000 years ago. "We are certain that we will succeed in finding the evidence we are looking for," said Reza Heidari head of excavation team in Rabat Tepe.
Enormous historical evidence including clay studs belonging to the first millennium BC, engraved bricks, and bronze pins were discovered during the recent excavations in the area.
Among other stunning discoveries in Rabat Tepe are artistic flagstones arranged in the form of concentric circles set in wheat cluster patterns. Archeologists believe that these flagstones which are dated to the first millennium BC belonged to a religious center, possibly the Musasir Temple.
Sargon, the Assyrian king, ruled from 722 to 705 BC. During his reign, he had several attacks to Mannai city states, which has been mentioned in number of clay inscriptions left from his kingdom. Clay inscriptions found in present-day Iraq also have indications of his attacks on the region, particularly the invasion of Musasir Temple.
Rabat hill is one of the richest archeological sites in West Azarbaijan, northwestern Iran which dates back to 1000 BC. The second season of archeological excavations in this historical site started to find out the relation between this historical site and Musasir, which was a semi-independent buffer state bordering Mannai between Assyria and Urartu and was called the "Sun Government" by Assyrians. The ancient city of Musasir is particularly known for its bas-reliefs and inscriptions obtained during the reign of the Assyrian king Sargon II, who captured it in 714 BC. Musasir civilization was contemporary with those of Urartu and Assyria, who allied with one or the other based on political conditions.
An Opportunity That Must Not Be Missed
The recent declaration by the Kurdistan Regional Government to establish constitutional autonomy to the Assyrian people in the Nineveh plains is, most certainly, one opportunity which can and must not be missed for the mere possibility that this time it may be true. It is a firm and legal plan toward establishing national rights in our historic homeland. Thus, the time has come for us to regain our identity as a people, and to lead Assyrians back to the peaceful environment, equality and justice we all so richly deserve, and have struggled to achieve for far too long.
Today there has been a visible improvement in both the attitudes and actions of the Kurdistan Regional Government toward Assyrians in the region. Ideologies of hate and confrontation are steadily being replaced with tolerance and cooperation. The Kurdistan Regional Government seems more intent than ever on obtaining stability, security, and prosperity throughout the region and has undertaken several initiatives in this regard. While Assyrian Christians have long been a prime target for escalating violence of extremists in central and southern Iraq intended to drive them away from their homelands, the Kurdistan Regional Government now welcomes Christians fleeing religious persecution. And now, as previously mentioned, the KRG is pursuing an open policy toward ethnic minorities designed to share administrative responsibilities and establish autonomy.
These much appreciated developments lead to a few logical conclusions. First, it would appear that perhaps the KRG needs the support of ethnic minorities of the region as much as it needs the government itself. Second, it seems as though the KRG has learned, from mistakes committed by other regimes, it is unwise to neglect the national rights of ethnic minorities in Iraq. Still, while we need to act swiftly, we must pursue this opportunity vigilantly. Some may correctly observe, this is not the first time in which an Iraqi authority has declared its interest in granting national rights, including autonomy, to Assyrians. Past declarations turned out to be little more than empty promises, used for political leverage never to be realized by our people.
Hopefully, the latest declaration to establish constitutional autonomy for Assyrians made by Sargis Aghajan, current Kurdistan Regional Government Minister of Finance and Economics, will be followed by the required legislative law necessary to ascertain the exact boundary of the territory covered by the autonomy as well as the appointed date for its application. Clearly, this challenge will take every bit of our collective effort to overcome. But, as I see it, we have a rare chance to change the course of history for future generations of Assyrians in Iraq, and to demonstrate to the world what it means to persevere.
The questions we must ask ourselves as one nation are:
• Are we ready to face this new challenge?
Let us work together to organize a National Conference to convene early 2007 in a city located within Nineveh plains. In the time leading up to the conference, we should construct a joint fact finding committee to meet with the KRG to study the legalities of creating constitutional autonomy for our people. The committee would then report its findings to the National Conference. The National Conference must have a pre-prepared working plan, and have the capability to elect a Transitory National Assembly that will dissolve prior to the time of implementation of the autonomy. The National Assembly will have the power to elect a Transitory United College Leadership that will be given the authority to negotiate various details of the autonomy with the KRG, and provide timely reporting of the results of said negotiations to the National Assembly. The United College Leadership will also dissolve prior to the time of implementation of the autonomy.
I appeal to all sectors of our nation and sections of society; I urge all branches of our churches, political parties, organizations, and individuals, come together. March shoulder to shoulder toward one glorious destiny for us all. The time has come for us to dedicate ourselves to the unity of the Assyrian nation. Unanimity of voice is our only hope of effectively condemning the politics of divisiveness and confrontation.
ACSC of Australia's New Leading Committee
There is the dire need for solidifying the unity of our Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people throughout its long history spanning over more than seven thousand years, and ascertaining that they are the loyal descendants of the civilization of ancient Mesopotamia.
Accordingly, a group of personalities and notables of our people in Australia met on 28th of August 2006, realising their historic responsibilities to safeguard their heritage, culture and language. They all discussed together an active formula for a common charter to unify their word and come up with a unified message, and so that all efforts would flow into the march within this civilized concept to service our ancient people.
Following the convergence of the serious and sincere opinions and ideas, and the embracing of the good intentions within all the participants; thus emanates the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Council of Australia, to be the fruit of the swift efforts in the momentous and genuine task for our people.
This council has pride in all the establishments and organisations, and regards itself an integral part and a promoter of all of them. Furthermore, it does not see itself as a rival or opponent to any of them without exception, whether in Australia or any other migrant community or in the land of our forefathers.
The council believes in the independency of the participating members so far as their religious, political and social commitments are concerned.
The Leading Committee for the council was elected at its first AGM on 22.10.2006. It comprises:
Dr. Said Stephan – President
From Morocco to Afghanistan
Ashur S. Solomon
It is my habit to watch the only American free news media, which is the C-Span, because the rest actually they seem to me are directed and dictated by one source to find their news usually similar to each other and don’t reveal the truth as suppose to be .
Today, Sunday, October 22, 2006 as my habit driven me to watch the C-Span, where the guest was this time the Iraqi Ambassador to Washington, Mr. Samir Sumaidaie and the subject was very important to me as an Assyrian that we are the only losers in such war which is known the war of liberation,i.e., the liberation of Iraq, but to the Assyrian people and our homeland actually it is a war of demise, devastation and deportation no more or less.
As his Excellency was responding to host of questions, at one point the C-Span interviewer turned to the Ambassador and asked him about what his family name means, which was really a surprise to me his response, that it is a compound name of Sumaid and Ali, which possesses a lineage to the prophet’s family itself where ‘ALI ‘is considered the first cousin of the prophet Mohammed himself.
Here, at outset, I will extend my condolences to his Excellency for the lost of two of his relatives due to what is going on in Iraq as he stated in such interview unfortunately on the hands of those who are claiming to be the true followers of the prophet, and I said to myself for God’s sake, what we are going to expect from these murderers? All of us remember the events of the first revolution in 1958; the victims were the late young king of Iraq FAISAL II and his family who were the direct descents of the Prophet’s family itself!
This interview triggered to write about the concept which is circulated among the Arabs and Muslims alike that many who claim that they are direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed’s family, a case in point the Royal families of Afghanistan and Morocco, and no question comes the first in such list the Hashemite royal family of Jordan, in addition there are many ordinary people who make the same claim for instance, al-Husseiny, al-Hashimy, al-Makky , al-Quraishy and so forth.
Any Assyrian person could raise eyebrows on such phenomenon which looks strange as it could be , to associate ourselves with religious figures as our Muslim brothers are doing, but in fact we should not see it unbelievable, because we Assyrians in many instances make similar claims , a case in point , a few years back an Assyrian Professor had with another American Professor a lecture in- Chicago - that we are speaking Aramaic language that Jesus spoke, and presented a VIDEO clip how the residents of Ma’lola , a tiny village near Damascus, Syria which still speak that language, and to my disappointment was that why our Professor bothered himself to do that , while those who speak that language in Chicago for example of our Assyrian people outnumber those in Ma’lola itself. Then I don’t dispute the People of Ma’lola who tend some of them to speak the Aramaic language, but as we know that we as Assyrians are proud in speaking that language as if the PARADISE doesn’t accept people except the so-called Aramaic speakers only.
I would like to dispute and reject the notion that as Assyrians we are speaking Aramaic language, and I will leave it to another time where the subject will be put under the scrutiny to refute that notion period. and as the lecturer preceded, in one point I told that American Professor that as Assyrians we only speak Assyrian language, the Professor didn’t say a word, may be he thought me a naive or an ignorant person, and a person- Assyrian- who was sitting with his young daughter next to me was very surprised and disappointed to what I said, he replied to me proudly I brought my daughter to this lecture to see how important our language is that Jesus our Lord spoke it, you are telling me that is not true , my response to him was very quietly and politely ‘ JESUS OUR LORD COULD SPEAK ANY LANGUAGE ‘and even the Chinese language , but the naked truth remains that our language is Assyrian /Assyriac.
In conclusion, what we are going to expect from any society that believes in these wrong and deceptive ideas, and how ironic it is to find people defend and promote the notion that we are speaking the Aramaic language, without thinking for one moment to ask ourselves how on earth such the most powerful and influential Assyrian people we were to speak a language which is not ours? That is which raises my eye brows more only!
Yooshia Kakkou Poloss
Mikhael K. Pius
My maternal uncle, Yooshia Kakkou Poloss, 78, passed away in Hollywood, California, on October 24, 2006, and was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale on October 30, following funeral service celebrated by Fr. Noel Givargis of Catholic Church at the cemetery chapel. Some 120 family mem-bers; relatives; and friends of various races attended the funeral and most of them drove the 20 minutes to the Assyrian Civic Club in North Hollywood to partake of a memorial lunch. That over, family members and relatives, some 30 strong, among them our group of eight relatives from Turlock-Modesto and Calgary, Canada, returned to Khaalu’s home to chat and reminisce and to end the celebration of our uncle’s life with a sip of wine, which drink he enjoyed in his younger years.
Khaalu Yooshia, who suffered from a severe heart problem and prostate cancer, had been in ill health for the last few years and was in and out of hospital a score of times during this year. It was a pain-riddled year for him and a trying time for his family. But his wife, three of his four daughters and two sons-in-law all bore this with patience, care and concern, and his eldest daughter in Australia also arrived at his bedside a few days before the end to share in bringing him comfort and joy by chatting, reminiscing and singing for him before he took his last breath.
Although many people knew him, Khaalu Yooshia was not a nationally known personality. But he was a very intelligent person who had kept up with the world. Being somewhat shy and a loner, however, he had always maintained a low profile in the community and had not been particularly active, whether in religious, social or political affairs. In fact for some years he had stayed away from Church, but finally made his peace and received Holy Communion during his illness. But he did care for family and friends and was always ready to help anyone who needed his assistance. And he loved get-togethers to nibble, chat and reminisce and sip a drink or two when the occasion required. He wrote prose and poetry and had some of his stuff published, occasionally under a pen name.
Khaalu Yooshia also had lost faith in the medical establishment and always asserted that with vitamins, nutrients, good food and non-conventional medicine—in which he had acquired a great deal of knowledge—there was no reason a person couldn’t live a very long life. When he was told many years ago that he needed corrective surgeries, he did not heed this until it was too late.
Yooshia was born on September 20, 1928, in Khatun Camp by the Tigris River bank in Baghdad. An only brother of four sisters, he was born to Kakkou Poloss and Khava Benyamin of the village of Mawana in Persia somewhat late in their life. He was a pampered child who was breast fed by his mother until he was six or seven years old.
Yooshia had his first two years of schooling in Raabi Espanya Shimshon’s school in Maratha Lines, Hinaidi, Iraq, and continued at Raabi Yacoub’s Union School in Habbaniya, doing also Boy Scouting during 1939-42. He had a high IQ, but while in his 5 th grade, a mishap at school caused him to quit school. He did not, however, stop educating himself. He ordered books and magazines from USA and studied as well as practiced writing prose and poetry and thousands of personal and business letters, one of his lifelong correspondents being the writer. During the 1950s and 1960s he developed impeccable English and a strong vocabulary that very few, even better educated Assyrians had at the time. He was the first teacher of English to two of my younger brothers, four and six years younger than him and one of whom (Basil) is now a retired college teacher in Montana.
During the years 1943-53, Yooshia worked as a junior clerk in his teens for RAF, was a partner in the CC Bookshop business and was employed as a senior clerk at NAAFI HQ in Habbaniya. In 1953 he got married and moved with his family to Baghdad. In Baghdad he held well-paying responsible clerical positions until 1970, when his harassment by the Iraqi Police, due to his being an Iranian subject, became intolerable. He left for Teheran where he worked for seven years for American companies as well as learned speaking, reading and writing some Persian before he immigrated to USA in 1978. In Hollywood he was mostly self-employed as free-lance manuscript editor and typist and dealer in used books at home for 15 years before a back problem stopped him.
Yooshia leaves behind his wife of 53 years Haikanoush Poloss; eldest daughter Fayrouz Kelaita (Australia); three younger daughters, Virgin Sait, Enjil Poloss and Gina Chatsworth; four grandchildren; two sisters, Lujiya Is’haq (Calgary, Canada) and Wardiya Dawoodzadeh (Palmdale, CA); nine cousins; and 15 nephews and nieces, one of whom is two years older than him.
The Mesopotamian Forum
Not too long ago, we had a reputable forum hosted by the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) namely “The Assyrian Forum”. Many of us, from different parts of the world used that venue to share and exchange views pertinent to the welfare and well being of our nation. That platform provided us with up to date, and in most cases instantaneous news emanating from our homeland – Bet Nahrain. It also provided us with the ideal opportunity to discuss and often argue intensively on current affairs, ranging from political, social and religious issues. Sadly, the administrators of the aforementioned forum for whatever reasons decided to disband our one source of continuous feed relating to our nation.
It gives us enormous pleasure to welcome you all to your new home - The Mesopotamian Forum (click here). There will be no restriction as to what you can discuss, as long as no offensive language is used. We will allow the forum to flow, so we appeal to you all to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of our great history and heritage. Please forward the link of this forum to your contacts. A link to this forum can also be found on our homepage - http://www.themesopotamian.org.
Planned Demonstration in Washington D.C.
Julia Sorisho Rodgers
Since 2003, no group in Iraq has been more uprooted and victimized as the Assyrian Christians. Assyrians comprise approximately five percent of the Iraqi population, but, according to the United Nations, they represent nearly 40 percent of the refugees fleeing the country. More recently, Assyrians around the world were horrified to hear the news of the beheading of Father Paulis Iskander (Paul Alexander), the crucifixion-murder of a 14 year-old Assyrian boy, church bombings in Baghdad and Basra, and the kidnappings and murders of 13 Assyrian Christian women in Iraq.
The Washington, DC-based coalition, Christians for Assyrians of Iraq (CAI), have followed these events closely. CAI is made up of young, Assyrian American activists and Christian leaders sympathetic to the plight of Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) in Iraq.
On December 4th, 2006, join CAI's peaceful
demonstration in front of the White House as they call
1) recognize the humanitarian crisis, targeted violence and massive displacement of Assyrian Christians from their homeland in Iraq, and
2) support the establishment of the Nineveh Plains Administrative Unit, an autonomous zone where Assyrians and other Christians of Iraq can practice their faith, speak and teach their language, and work their land without fear of persecution.
CAI invites members of the media, political leaders, Assyrians from every background, and faith-based leaders to attend this demonstration. Show your solidarity with CAI and demand the world pay attention to Iraq's most vulnerable population.
Visit us at NinevehPlains.wordpress.com (click here)
EVENT NAME: Stand for Iraq's Assyrians, Save the Nineveh Plains
SPEAKER: Rev. Dr. Keith Roderick, is the Washington, D.C . representative of Christian Solidarity International, a Christian human rights organization for religious liberty helping victims of religious repression. He is also the Secretary-General of the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights.
CSSS Annual General Meeting
The annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Syriac Studies will be held for its members only on Saturday, November 25, 2006. The meeting will be chaired by Prof. Amir Harrak
University of Toronto
This Year's CSSS Lectures
Narsai’s Dependence on Theodore of Mopsuestia
Narsai stands out as the preeminent but enigmatic leading
spokesperson among the fifth- century East Syrian Christians.
While acknowledged as a strenuous defender of Theodore of
Mopsuestia and hailed as the founder of the School of Nisibis
and a skilled poet able to respond effectively to James of Sarug’s
polemical memre, little attention has been paid to his writings
and to his person. Fortunately, some 80 of his metric homilies
are still extant but with only a relatively few having been translated into major modern languages. These nevertheless provide
ample grounds for justifying the opinions of those who claim
Narsai to have been a staunch advocate of Theodore of Mopsuestia’s christological thought and who have honored him with
the title: the “Harp of the Spirit.” For he not only explicitly hails
Theodore as his “interpreter” par excellence but presents his
thought in flawlessly stirring Syriac verses that have kept the
members of the Church of the East loyal to both Theodore’s
Theodore and Narsai may overlap in their theological positions but they differ in their purposes, styles and the audiences
for whom they were writing. Theodore was a biblical theologian
who wrote strict commentaries that remained always faithful to
what a Scripture text actually states. While Narsai followed
Theodore’s literal, historical and rational method of interpreting
Scripture, he wrote in a wider vein, more interested in the overall exhortatory and polemical intent of a scriptural passage,
teaching or story. This can be exemplified by simply reading
Theodore’s Catechetical Homilies and comparing and contrasting this work with Narsai’s liturgical homilies. Narsai is more
Because of our limited space, I intend now to restrict my comments to five areas where Theodore and Narsai can be shown to be close, if not identical, in their thought, despite their other differences. In investigating these areas, we fortunately possess sufficient extant works that will enable us to accomplish our task.
Before addressing each one of our five areas, we will first
briefly place Theodore and Narsai in their historical and geo
graphical context. This is to highlight how their lives are histori
cally related to each other. Afterwards, I will proceed to explore
the five areas, beginning with the question as to what extent Narsai follows the exegetical method that is characteristic of Theodore’s way for interpreting a scriptural text, especially in regard
to biblical typology. This will then open up the next avenue for
Fighting with History: Severus, his Opponents, and the Historical Cyril
Severus of Antioch and his followers on one side, and chalcedonian rivals such as Leontius of Jerusalem and the chalcedonian
participants in the Conversations of 532 on the other, each
The Last Days of Nestorius in the Syriac Sources
Zinda Magazine is a proud corporate sponsor of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies.
Zinda Invites Students to Narsai's Taste of Mediterranean
Zinda Magazine is pleased to invite Assyrian students from around the world to this year's Narsai's Taste of Mediterranean Dinner in San Francisco, California.
Every year, Assyrians from every country, linguistic and denominational backgrounds come together to celebrate the blessings they have received in the Diaspora and offer a small portion of this blessing with the less fortunate Assyrians in the homeland. They set aside their political and religious differences and unconditionally focus on a single mission of reaching for the Assyrians requiring their financial assistance.
Tickets for this year's dinner per person are set at $300 - a spectacular offer for the remarkably special dinner at San Francisco's majestic Ritz-Carlton Hotel. However, with the generous support of Zinda Magazine and its benefactors, Assyrian students can expect to pay only $100 this year to enjoy Champaign, exquisite hors d'oeuvres, five course dinner, varieties of wine from California's finest wineries, and best of all - an opportunity to meet other Assyrian students and Assyrian dignitaries attending this event.
A table has been reserved for "Zinda's Assyrian Students" at Narsai's Taste of the Mediterranean to be held on Friday, December 1st. There are only a limited number of seats available. To reserve your seat around this table, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org today.
Thank you for joining Zinda and the Assyrian Aid Society of America in this great cause.
Assyrian Superstar – 2nd Season
The Assyrian Superstar Committee
The Assyrian Superstar is setting sail for its second season. Registration for contestants is currently underway.
The Assyrian Superstar Committee was founded to preserve and protect the Assyrian culture worldwide. Having no land to call ‘Ashur’, today’s Assyrians are steadfastly losing their heritage – language, literature, and customs. In its own efforts, the Assyrian song contains our music, poetry, and unique ancient rhythms.
Requirements: Ability to sing in modern Assyrian language. Prior singing abilities preferred, but not professionally. Age – 18 to 35 years old.
Benefits: Finalist will have a CD produced and pressed, and touring contracts.
Satellite locations for contestant sign-on to be announced.
The Assyrian female is highly encouraged to participate. The 2006 Assyrian Superstar finalist was Ms. Rita Toma of Sterling Heights, Michigan who has captured national audience attention with her audacious voice.
The Assyrian Nation from Jonah to Aghajan
Dr George Habash
Jonah, a Hebrew prophet and man of God (c. 800-750 BC) was keen in seeing Nineveh wiped out than go and “preach” and “proclaim” the word of God to Ninevites, but God rebuked Jonah in the last verse of Jonah’s book (in the Old Testament) by telling him “Should I not be concerned about that great city” Book of Jonah does not tell us more about the Ninevites and the Assyrian nation but what it says is more than enough to fathom the might of that nation. The Book says the city was very large and it took three days to go all through it and more than 120,000 people lived in the city.
Browsing through Georges Roux’s book about our ancient homeland, the period Jonah encountered covers the reigns of kings Shalmaneser IV, Ashur-dan III and Ashur-nirari V, but which “king of Nineveh” Jonah met is not clear to me.
Billy Graham, the thirteenth disciple of Jesus Christ who brings one lost soul to Christ every five minutes, said in a sermon I have watched on TV that Jonah eventually went to Nineveh in a peace mission and in order to avoid an imminent Assyrian foray into the Hebrew land.
Now after just under 3 millennia we come to where we are to another era of not Jonah and king Shalmaneser, but to today’s saviours typified in the examples of Aghajan, Afram, Baito, Hakari, Mansoor, Hadaya, Hariri and Hariri.
There is a Chinese proverb which says that when the tigers are absent from the mountains, the monkey becomes king and the Assyrian political status looks like that.
For nearly a hundred years we have failed to produce a proper leadership that would seek the salvation of the Assyrian masses, but in the last 25 years or so we were awakened by a miracle after a long dope and we had hope and dream that one day the Assyrian might will be manifested.
All of a sudden the house of cards collapsed and our heroes became castrated and the nation is left in the same fate of Jonah the Prophet at the mercy of blowing winds in the rough seas.
Great efforts have been made by some genuine Assyrian writers and activists to shake the ground and speak up before our total annihilation and the voices have become hard to ignore by those at the helm.
The Aghajan plot is to hijack the hard work of the Assyrian activists and prevent it from being genuinely Assyrian by purporting it as a gift from benefactor Kurds who reside on mount Seri-rush in Salah-aldin.
The Assyrians opt for a free and autonomous homeland subtended between the Tigris and upper Zab rivers; living in peace in a par-not subordinate with our Kurdish neighbours. Here we could establish a bi-zone north, one to the west and the other to the east.
Accordingly the Assyrian masses reject the agenda of those Kurdified saviours who until recently rejected the idea of Assyrian autonomous region on the ground that we lack the infrastructure to build a nation.
Every Assyrian nationalist must stand with the genuine Assyrian agenda and stall the hidden schemes of today’s saviours and thwart Aghajan and the likes from presenting a false Christmas present to our Assyrian masses.
If Aghajan succeeds where would our Assyrian parties stand? Will they become redundant? Will they continue to be parties for a communiqué here and a communiqué there? Will they vanish and remain just dinner-dance parties?
Future will unravel everything.
New Assyrian Movie: Holo Malke bi Malkutho
By Afram Barryakoub, reporting from Sweden
(ZNDA: Stockholm) After three years of shooting the film, finally the long-awaited film featuring George Faraj was released this week in Germany. The film titled "Holo Mmalke bi Malkutho" (Western Assyrian, Uncle Malke in Paradise) follows the success of the previous George Faraj film, "Holo Malke bi Golutho" (Uncle Malke in the Diaspora).
In this new comedy, Uncle Malke decides to experience Paradise before his death, so he takes his donkey Kasherto (Assyrian, The Capable) with him on his journey. The movie is an examination of the losses and gains made by the Assyrian nation in the Diaspora, as well as future left for the coming generations.
Holo Malke bi Malkutho premiered in a local cinema in the German city of Gütersloh on 12 November 2006. According to Zinda sources the tickets for the first screening were sold out, was the case for the coming second screening. The movie will be shown in several European countries with large Assyrian communities.
George Faraj was born in Qamishly, Syria. He is a playwright, director, poet and singer. George wrote, directed and played in the first major theatrical production in the western Assyrian dialect. The play titled "Grash U Huto" or Pull the Thread was performed in 1971 in Qamishly. The play, full of criticisms, became an instant success among Assyrians. After that, many other successful theater plays followed.
In 1976 George Faraj moved to Germany and continued his artistic work, producing several plays for the Assyrian audiences.
The cast of George Faraj's new movie include himself (playing Holo Malke), Hanan Faraj (Hilto Wardo), Simon Kaplo (Fahmi), , Klara Danho, George Kaplo, Nabil Anah, Gabi Gall Esaifo, Rihane Shahino, Rabi Aho, Shamiram Ayaz, George Tulonay, Gabriel Gonish Jakob Kaplo and Besim Uiank.
For more information on Holo Malke bi Malkutho's future showtimes in Europe see Zinda's future issues.
ZINDA Magazine is published on Mondays. Views expressed in ZINDA do not necessarily represent those of the ZINDA editors, or any of our associated staff. This publication reserves the right, at its sole discretion, not to publish comments or articles previously printed in or submitted to other journals. ZINDA reserves the right to publish and republish your submission in any form or medium. All letters and messages require the name(s) of sender and/or author. All messages published in the SURFS UP! section must be in 500 words or less and bear the name of the author(s). Distribution of material featured in ZINDA is not restricted, but permission from ZINDA is required. This service is meant for the exchange of information, analyses and news. Any material published in Zinda Magazine will not be removed later at the request of the sender. For free subscription to Zinda Magazine, send e-mail with your name, address, telephone number to: email@example.com.
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