Assyrian Bishop Wants Friendship With Israel: Bradley Martin, Algemeiner, June 21, 2016— “Israel has stability, the ear of the world community, and the ability to be a modern state in the Middle East. Israel has withstood the test of time,” says Mar Awa Royel, the first American-born Assyrian bishop in history.
The Assyrians’ plight has been overshadowed by the suffering of the Yazidis. But they are very much in danger: Terry Glavin, National Post, June 9, 2016 — They are the original people of Mesopotamia’s cradle of civilization, the indigenous people of ancient Sumer and Babylon, and they’ve been around for at least 5,000 years. From their heartland on the Nineveh Plains and the Upper Tigris in what is now the transboundary region of Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq, their empires waxed and waned down through the centuries from the Caucasus Mountains to Cyprus and Egypt and deep into the Arabian Peninsula.
Autonomous Assyria: The Only Possible Solution to the Arab World’s Terminal Disorder: Paul Merkley, Bayview Review, Apr. 27, 2016— Christianity was born in the Middle East – long before the Middle East became Arab and Muslim. For perhaps a decade or two following the Ascension of Jesus Christ, all of the people who accepted the Christian message were Jews – most of them living in Jerusalem. But then missions, headed originally by surviving apostles, went out beyond Judea and Samaria and sought converts among the many neighboring kingdoms that were, like the Jews of Judea, subject to Roman rule.
Obama's Refugee Policy: Yes to Potential Terrorists, No to Victims of Genocide: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, June 5, 2016— "Without doubt, Syrians of all confessions are being victimized by this savage war and are facing unimaginable suffering. But only Christians and other religious minorities are the deliberate targets of systematic persecution and genocide." — U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, March 17, 2016.
On Topic Links
The Orlando Shooting Launches a War on Christianity: David French, National Review, June 15, 2016
Arabs Using Christians to Fight Israel: Shadi Khalloul, Gatestone Institute, May 29, 2016
The Pope Who Gained the World, But Lost His Own Soul: Raymond Ibrahim, Breaking Israel News, June 6, 2016
Christian Zionists Are Among Our Best Supporters: Pini Dunner, Algemeiner, June 17, 2016
Algemeiner, June 21, 2016
“Israel has stability, the ear of the world community, and the ability to be a modern state in the Middle East. Israel has withstood the test of time,” says Mar Awa Royel, the first American-born Assyrian bishop in history. Born David Royel in Chicago, Illinois on July 4, 1975, His Grace Mar Awa, Bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East, who presides over the Diocese of California, conveys his desire for friendship between Israel and the Assyrian people.
Noting that “we’ve had a long history,” he cites prophecy in the Book of Isaiah in order to provide a biblical foundation for his desired brotherhood with Israel, and describes several church-organized pilgrimages that he has led to Israel.
While there are very few Assyrian Christians in Israel, until 1853 the Assyrian Church of the East shared a part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Numerous records and Assyrian manuscripts are now in the possession of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Israel.
Bishop Royel also described the relations and commonalities between Jews and Assyrian Christians in Iraq prior to the establishment of the state of Israel. Even after the Arab Muslim conquest of the Middle East, which installed Arabic as the lingua franca of the region, Assyrians continued to speak Assyrian.
The Nash Didan (Aramaic for “our people”) refers to Jews who lived in villages in northern Iraq (modern-day Kurdish Regional Government) and near the borders of Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. Tradition indicates that the community was founded by Jews who fled to that area during the Babylonian Exile, and did not return to their homeland after the declaration issued by Cyrus II of Persia. Assyrian and the Nash Didan dialect are very close. It is currently estimated that about 300,000 of the Nash Didan live in the state of Israel.
“We are the most Semitic of the churches,” says Bishop Royel. Jews and Assyrians in the region were bound by more than a common linguistic heritage. Royel describes the Targumim (the Aramaic translations/paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible and accompanying rabbinic teachings) as an influential text in Church doctrine. In fact, the Targumim are the antecedents of the version of the Old (and New) Testament of the Assyrian Church of the East. Queen Helena of Adiabene, an Assyrian who converted to Judaism in about 30 C.E., spent the latter part of her life in Jerusalem, where she gave gifts to the Second Temple of Jerusalem and was meticulous in her observance of the precepts of Judaism.
Assyrian churches themselves are a fusion of synagogue and Jerusalem Temple worship. “There are no examples like it in any churches that are found in North America,” says Royel. “Facing east, there is a Holy of Holies, and a bima in the middle of the church building where the Scriptural readings take place.” The Assyrian Church of the East also follows the Jewish practice of not pronouncing the holy name of God when the Bible is read in church. Readings from the Old Testament are also featured more prominently than in other church services.
The Assyrian Church at one time had an estimated 80 million adherents. As it now stands, their worldwide numbers have been reduced to a little less than 4 million people collectively. In Iraq, 1.5 million Assyrians lived in the country at the start of the US invasion in 2003. Today, the Assyrian Christians in Iraq number around 150,000. That is a 90 percent reduction of Assyrian Christians in their ancient homeland.
“Iraq does not view Assyrians as part of their society,” says Royel. “Maybe, it is time to reconsider Sykes-Picot. There is talk of establishing martial law in Iraq, like in Egypt, but that doesn’t seem practical. Egypt is more homogenous than Iraq.”
When asked what a modern state of Assyria would look like, Royel stated that he would like very much to see a free Assyrian homeland for his people to live in peace within its borders. Friendship between Israel and Assyria would be mutually beneficial, with both countries being strong allies. Whereas Israel would serve as a model for a successful Middle Eastern state for Assyria, Israel would gain a strong ally in an increasingly tumultuous region.
Bradley Martin is Deputy Editor at CIJR and a Fellow of the Haym Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought
National Post, June 9, 2016
They are the original people of Mesopotamia’s cradle of civilization, the indigenous people of ancient Sumer and Babylon, and they’ve been around for at least 5,000 years. From their heartland on the Nineveh Plains and the Upper Tigris in what is now the transboundary region of Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq, their empires waxed and waned down through the centuries from the Caucasus Mountains to Cyprus and Egypt and deep into the Arabian Peninsula.
The Assyrians were among the world’s first peoples to adopt Christianity, and they still speak varieties of Aramaic, the language of Christ and his apostles. They survived a series of genocidal anti-Christian frenzies during the Ottoman Empire’s final convulsions a century ago, and again in the 1930s. They survived the persecutions and ethnic cleansings waged against them by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and the Iranian Khomeinists. But their survival now, as a distinct people, looks bleak.
There were perhaps 1.5 million Assyrians holding out in the region at the close of the 20th century. Two years ago, Minority Rights Group International reckoned their numbers in Iraq had dwindled to maybe 350,000 There are probably fewer — estimates are wildly conflicting — in Syria.
With Syria’s continuing destruction, mainly at the hands of President Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies, and with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) carrying out its bloody jihad in Iraq from Mosul to Fallujah and the outskirts of Baghdad, the Assyrians are again wandering the roads of the Middle East. They’re huddled in makeshift displaced-persons camps or fleeing as United Nations’ refugees to the four corners of the earth.
But they are not without hope. The cause of an Assyrian homeland has gained a great deal of traction lately: not an independent country, but a separate province, in a federated and decentralized Iraq. “An autonomous region. A safe haven. That’s what the people want — a homeland. We want to be able to protect ourselves,” Juliana Taimoorazy, founding president of the Chicago-based Iraqi Christian Relief Council, told me the other day. The idea is not as implausible as it sounds.
The Assyrian predicament has been overshadowed by the suffering of the Yazidis, a similarly ancient non-Muslim minority in the region. Targeted for genocide and enslavement by ISIL in the autumn months of 2014, hundreds of thousands of Yazidis were forced to flee an ISIL advance in the Yazidis’ homeland in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The encirclement of hundreds of unarmed Yazidis on Mount Sinjar captured the world’s attention and finally shamed the NATO countries into mounting an air-power campaign to curb ISIL’s depredations — a coalition effort that first involved a half-dozen Canadian CF-18s and now includes the Canadian Special Operations Regiment in a “train, advise and assist” mission, mostly with the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga.
The Western support won by the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq, and the KRG’s tentative allies among the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) guerrillas of Rojava in northern Syria, has been a mixed blessing for the Assyrians. The secularist KRG goes out of its way to insist that it embraces the Assyrian minority, but Assyrians are wary and mistrustful. Iraqi Kurds have turned on them before, and as recently as 2011 anti-Assyrian riots broke out in the predominantly Kurdish city of Duhok, incited by a Kurdish political party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. “At any moment, some mullah can declare a fatwa against us,” Taimooorazy said.
With Syria and Iraq having degenerated into hellholes of jihadism, mass murder and unceasing sectarian war, the Assyrians’ allegiances of convenience have sometimes left outsiders perplexed about whose “side” they’re on.
The Assyrians sided with the Kurds against Saddam Hussein from the 1980s to the 2003 Anglo-American invasion. “We hoped the Americans would help us regain our land, the way the Zionists did,” Taimoorazy said, “but that didn’t happen.” As a result, a lot of Assyrians cooled to the Americans. At the same time, while Israel is seen as a pariah in much of the Arab world, many Assyrians see Israel as a “model,” Taimoorazy said.
In Syria, meanwhile, Assyrian church leaders and their flocks tended to oppose the uprising against Assad for fear of what might follow and doubts about the NATO countries’ willingness to intervene to protect them against jihadists. But other Assyrians have formed militias in alliance with Kurdish and Arab guerillas to fight both ISIL and Assad’s regular troops. Still, the crux of the Assyrian dilemma in the region’s turmoils is fairly straightforward, Taimoorazy said: “We don’t trust the Arabs, and we don’t trust the Kurds.”
He insisted that Assyrians are not demanding an independent state. “We don’t want Iraq to fall apart. We want Iraq to stay together.”
An Assyrian province in a more decentralized Iraq would be an uphill battle because it would have to come at least partly at the expense of the KRG, in areas it now controls. But it would also offer a refuge to Yazidis and minority Turkomans and Shabaks. But then again, there are now-powerful Sunni Arabs in Iraq who are also contemplating a constitutional breakout from Baghdad’s control.
Owing to the Shiite-dominated government giving every appearance of being hopelessly mired in brutal sectarianism and runaway corruption — and not least because of the growing influence of Iran’s Khomeinists in semi-official militias as vicious as ISIL, as well as in Iraq’s official security apparatus — a move is underway to establish a semi-autonomous Sunni region in Iraq. About a third of Iraqis are Sunni.
“But the Assyrians are not just a religious group,” Taimoorazy said. “We are an ethnic minority, and we are losing our language and our culture. The world has to begin to see the Assyrian people not just as Christians, but as a distinct people. And we are being wiped out.”
Bayview Review, April 27, 2016
Christianity was born in the Middle East – long before the Middle East became Arab and Muslim. For perhaps a decade or two following the Ascension of Jesus Christ, all of the people who accepted the Christian message were Jews – most of them living in Jerusalem. But then missions, headed originally by surviving apostles, went out beyond Judea and Samaria and sought converts among the many neighboring kingdoms that were, like the Jews of Judea, subject to Roman rule. Among the first of these Kingdoms to accept Christian faith as its national faith was Armenia — a prosperous Kingdom in part of what is today Turkey. Shortly thereafter, various Kingdoms in Egypt, Abyssinia (Ethiopia), North Africa and Arabia also entered the world of Christianity. Nearly six centuries later, Islam came into the world.
For perspective, we might note that several further centuries would again go by before the English language came into the world. And yet it is safe to say that most people who imagine themselves well-informed about history nod passively before the politically-correct fiction that Islam is indigenous to the Arab world, and that where there are churches anywhere in that world these were imposed during recent centuries by European missionaries working hand-in-hand with political imperialists. It is Islam that was and is the imperialist in this story.
Within a few decades of the appearance of the Qur’an (630 AD), these Christians were faced with the terrible dilemma of either surrendering to fanatical illiterates everything that they believed — or converting, by simple vocal declaration. Ever since then, those brave souls who stayed with the faith have lived under the stigma of being subversive opponents of Truth, denied the benefit of full participation in the circles of those who govern and subject to punishing taxes from which the faithful are exempt. This is called the dhimmmi system, the system under which non-Muslims are allowed to exist but with restricted liberties, as less than citizens. This state of affairs continued legally until the last of the Muslim empires fell – that is the Ottoman Empire, which was dismantled about the end of the First World War.
At the same time, the Islamic warriors who founded their kingdoms beyond Arabia quickly became aware of certain benefits that they could gain by not bearing down too far on their Christian subjects, by not compelling their conversion. Compared to the Muslim warriors who were sweeping in from Arabia, indigenous Christian people throughout the Middle East and beyond had enjoyed high levels of literacy, education, professional accomplishment, economic success and extensive connections abroad. Accordingly, the Arab masters drew the Christians into eminent roles in the public life.
The political leaders in the Arab world have always had to tread a fine line as they sought to sustain these valued indigenous, non-Arab, non-Muslim communities, while fending off accusation from the Muslim majority that they are aggrandizing the enemies of Allah. In moments of extraordinary crisis in the public life of the Arab world, these political masters swiftly turned their backs on the Christians and surrendered them to the Muslim mobs.
I have space here only to note two major extirpation campaigns of this kind that have taken place since the year 1900. One of these campaigns resulted in the absolute ejection from the Arab world of one of the most ancient Christian communities – the Armenians. The other, still ongoing, has so far resulted in the savage reduction of numbers and of political and social significance of the Assyrians, who existed until recently in scattered communities in parts of Iraq and Syria, but who are being targeted for annihilation by the Islamist politicians who have come to power during the so-called Arab Spring. While this has happened, Western governments and Western news media have looked the other way.
Shortly after World War One began, the new nationalist-secularist leaders of what had been the Ottoman empire, found themselves courted by the masters of both camps in that War. Anticipating (reasonably enough) a great victory for the Central Powers, the Turks threw their lot on the wrong side – against the Allied Powers (including Britain, France and Russia.) Under cover of preventing massive Armenian betrayal of the national interest, the Turks conducted a popularly-supported extermination campaign against the Armenians — remembered as “the Armenian massacre” of 1915…
[To Read The Full Article, Click the Following Link–ED]
Paul Merkley is a CIJR Academic Fellow
Gatestone Institute, June, 5, 2016
"Without doubt, Syrians of all confessions are being victimized by this savage war and are facing unimaginable suffering. But only Christians and other religious minorities are the deliberate targets of systematic persecution and genocide." — U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, March 17, 2016.
Christians account for 10% of Syria's total population — yet they account for less than 0.5% of the refugees received into America. Sunni Muslims are 74% of Syria's population — yet 99% of those received into America. In other words, there should be 20 times more Christians and about one-quarter fewer Sunnis granted refugee status than there already have been.
ISIS is "taking advantage of the torrent of migrants to insert operatives into that flow." — James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence. Although the U.N. and U.S. know that Sunni refugees are terrorizing Christians in their camps, they abandon the true victims who deserve sanctuary in the West, while "humanitarianly" taking in their persecutors. The Obama administration has been escalating a policy that both abandons Mideast Christians and exposes Americans to the jihad.
Late last year it was revealed that 97% of Syrian refugees accepted into the U.S. were Sunni Muslims — the same Islamic sect to which the Islamic State belongs— while fewer than half-a-percent were Christians. This disparity has since gotten worse. From May 1 to May 23, 499 Syrian refugees — a number that exceeds the total number of refugees admitted during the last three years — were received into the United States. Zero Christians were among them; 99 percent were Sunni (the remaining one percent was simply listed as "Muslim"). These numbers are troubling.
First, from a strictly humanitarian point of view — and humanitarian reasons are the chief reason being cited in accepting refugees — Christians should receive priority simply because currently they are among the most persecuted groups in the Middle East. Along with the Yazidis, Christians are experiencing genocide at the hands of ISIS, as the State Department recently determined. The Islamic State has repeatedly forced Christians to renounce Christ or die; has enslaved and raped them, and desecrated or destroyed more than 400 of their churches.
Sunni Muslims are not being slaughtered, beheaded, and raped for refusing to renounce their faith; they are not having their mosques burned, nor are they being jailed and killed for apostasy, blasphemy, or proselytization. On the contrary, non-ISIS affiliated Sunnis are responsible for committing dozens of such atrocities against Christian minorities every single month all throughout the Islamic world.
Even before ISIS' new "caliphate" was established, Christians were and continue to be targeted by Muslims— Muslim mobs, Muslim individuals, Muslim regimes, and Muslim terrorists, from Muslim countries of all races (Arab, African, Asian, etc.) — and for the same reason: Christians are infidel number one. See Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians for hundreds of anecdotes before the rise of ISIS as well as the Muslim doctrines that create such hatred and contempt for Christians who are especially deserving of refugee status…
[To Read The Full Article, Click the Following Link–ED]
The Orlando Shooting Launches a War on Christianity: David French, National Review, June 15, 2016— We are now fully through the looking glass. A Muslim man walked into a gay nightclub and gunned down 49 men and women, most of them gay or lesbian. He paused in the middle of his massacre to call 911 and a local television station, making clear that he wanted the world to know he had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Arabs Using Christians to Fight Israel: Shadi Khalloul, Gatestone Institute, May 29, 2016— Christians in Holy Land, Judea and Samaria — what today is called the West Bank or the Palestinian Authority (PA) — are, with the Jews and assorted Arabs, the indigenous people of the land. The region has been inhabited by Jews and then Christians for nearly three thousand years; until the seventh century, Muslims did not even exist.
The Pope Who Gained the World, But Lost His Own Soul: Raymond Ibrahim, Breaking Israel News, June 6, 2016— Last week I appeared on the Glazov Gang discussing Pope Francis’ increasingly strange remarks. This special edition of The Glazov Gang presents The Raymond Ibrahim Moment with Raymond Ibrahim, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Christian Zionists Are Among Our Best Supporters: Pini Dunner, Algemeiner, June 17, 2016— Shortly after moving to the United States, I was introduced to Evangelical Christian supporters of Israel for the first time. I found them confounding and intriguing.