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Throughout this article the writer has used the names Nestorian, Chaldean and Syriac which need to be defined. Nestorian is a derogatory term given to the Assyrian church of the East and its members when it declared its independence from the Roman Catholic Church in the 5th century AD and was accused of practicing Dyophysitesm. Syriac is a new term used for the Assyrians of the Syrian Orthodox church which flourished in northern Mesopotamia after it separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the 5th century AD promoting the Monophysitesm ideology.

A new Church in the plain of Nineveh established by a group of Assyrians was given the name Chaldean by the Pope Julius III in 1553 when it united with the Roman Catholic Church.

The writer has also wrongly applied the name Aramean to the Assyrians.

For more information about this subject see articles at: christiansofiraq.com/Assyrian

 

Film Review: The Last Assyrians

January 3, 06

Christianity began in Palestine and spread through the oral and written traditions of the Aramaic language ­ the language Jesus spoke.

By Sonia Nettnin
Special to PalestineChronicle.com

"The Last Assyrians" (Les Derniers Assyriens) is an amazing documentary about the history of the Aramaic-speaking Christians from ancient Mesopotamia until their present-day existence in the Middle East.

For six years director Robert Alaux researched and wrote this historic documentary. It is the first film that tells the complete history of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people. History overlooks how they suffered from massacres, hunger and starvation during the1915 genocide. Despite their pain and suffering this indigenous Christian community, including the Diaspora, seek justice, peace, prosperity, security, and solidarity in the Middle East.

Through archival footage, maps animations and interviews with religious leaders, academic scholars and famous singers, the director brings the history of this Christian population in the Middle East and in the Chaldo-Assyrian-Syriac Diaspora alive. Some of the people interviewed are: Patriarch of Babylon for the Chaldeans since 2003, Emmanuel III Delly; Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East Mar Dinkha IV; Mar Raphael I Bid Awid, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch (from 1989 until 2003); Dr. Sebastian Brock, Oxford University; Linda George, famous singer; Juliana Jendo, famous singer; and Dr. Joseph Yacoub, Lyon University.

In 53 minutes the film explains how various Mesopotamian ethnic groups came together through culture, language, land, and religion only to be taken over by other ethnic groups through the centuries.

More than 3,000 years ago during the time of Ur, the Sumerians had invented mathematics, writing and the wheel. The two reigning cities were Babylon on the Euphrates River and Nineveh on the Tigris River. At the time Aramaeans were like Arab Bedouins that roamed the land, but they established their kingdoms eventually and cultivated the lands. They had cultural contact with Phoenicians (present-day Lebanon). Although the Akkadian language (Assyrian cuneiform characters) was in use, more people spoke and wrote Aramaic over time because the language consisted of only 22 letters.

In 612 B.C. the Chaldeans crushed the Assyrian Empire, seized Jerusalem and expelled the Jews to Babylon. The Aramaic language spread to Palestine. Christianity began in Palestine and spread through the oral and written traditions of the Aramaic language ­ the language Jesus spoke. In Mesopotamia the official language was Aramaic. Even though the Assyrians split from the Roman Christian Church and began the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Syriac Church became independent also all of these people spoke the Aramaic language.

In 630 A.D. Muslim Arabs invaded the Middle East and the indigenous Christian community welcomed them. There were churches across Arabia so Christians and Muslims lived together in peace for decades. In Damascus, the Christians created Muslims monuments and shared their church. In 705 A.D. the church became the Umayyad Mosque. Over time the Arabic language and Islam became dominant so when people spoke Aramaic they identified themselves as Christians.

In the seventh century Nestorian monks spread Christianity to India, Mongolia and China to approximately 60 million people after three centuries. Ancient Aramaic scripts were found in these regions by Jesuit missionaries centuries later. In 1258 A.D. the Mongols invaded Baghdad and massacred the Muslims. Initially the Mongol invaders showed obedience to the Patriarch of Baghdad. But later the Mongols chose Islam and slaughtered Christians. The descendents of the Aramaic-speaking people survived only in mountainous areas.

For the most part the people were left undisturbed throughout the Ottoman Empire. They created more monasteries, safeguarded ancient Syriac scripts and lived simple, rustic lives close to nature. Eventually the Pope wanted to bring these people back into Rome's fold. People who accepted his authority were called Chaldeans of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Even though Chaldeans, Nestorians and Syriacs differed on religious details they spoke Aramaic and they shared their Christianity and ethnic identity.

During the 19th century ethnic groups began to identify strongly with the concept of nationalism, so Arabs, Chaldo-Assyrians, Kurds, Turks and Persians became more separated communities. During WW I the Turks massacred over one million Armenians, and hundreds of thousands of Chaldo-Assyrians and Syriacs. This tragic moment in history is more hurtful to these communities because past and current governments dispute what happened and do not want to acknowledge that an ethnic and a religious genocide took place.

When Saddam came to power he required submission from all Chaldo-Assyrians. He considered them Christian Arabs. In 1979 the Assyrian Democratic Movement was created. In 1991 the Assyrian Aid Society raised money for the reconstruction of Christian villages destroyed by Saddam who was fighting the Kurds, and to build Syriac-speaking schools.

When I asked the director why he did not explore the current reality on the ground with regards to the violence and the kidnappings he said: "Even if they suffer a lot, something very important happened in the North of Iraq: for the first time they did not say 'we are poor victims and we try to resist,' but we are proud and we want to affirm our culture (Syriac schools, big meetings and festivals...)."

Anyone who sees this film will come away with a good understanding of the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac peoples, along with their past and present struggles from a humanistic view. The film is an excellent, educational opportunity that maintains viewer interest through scenes of their daily life, the natural landscape of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and the archaeological and religious sites of the Middle East. It shows the Diaspora in the USA and Europe also.

When asked why he made a film about the Aramaean Christians, Robert Alaux said: "I respect them a lot and I admire them for their courage."

-Journalist Sonia Nettnin writes about social, political, economic, and cultural issues. Her focus is the Middle East.

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Who are the Christians of Iraq? 

January = Canoon Kharaya 

The Last Assyrians Jan. 3, 06

Egypt Appoints First Christian Governor in Three Decades Jan, 3, 06

If Only Rocks Could Talk!  Jan . 2, 06

Car bombs, fuel riots usher in New Year in Iraq Jan. 1, 06

Errors in Biblical Dating According to Ancient Assyrian records January 1, 06

December = Canoon Gadmaya

Many treasures looted from Iraqi museum still lost  Dec. 30, 05

Don't Blame the Hanukkah on the Assyrians  Dec. 30, 05   Revised 

Kurds Are Flocking to Kirkuk, Laying Claim to Land and Oil Dec. 29, 05 

Iraq's jailed former deputy PM Aziz gets family call for Christmas Dec. 28, 05

Family of Kurdish Historian Accuses Barzani of His Murder Dec. 28, 05

The arrest of Dr Kamal Sayid Qadir emerges as a key test of Kurdish Regional government Dec. 28, 05 

Christians trying to find a place in war-torn Iraq  Dec. 28, 05

Hopes for peace in Iraq this Christmas Dece. 26, 05

Assyrians make sure Iraq pays attention Dec. 26, 05

Christmas Celebrations in Turkey Dec. 26, 05

Fearful Christmas in Baghdad Dec. 25, 05 

Bullet-riddled body of Iraqi student leader found Dec. 25, 05

Iraqi Government Wishes Christians Merry Christmas Dec. 24, 05

For Iraqi Christians, Christmas represents church, family, fears Dec. 24, 05

Christians celebrate a wary Christmas in Baghdad  Dec. 24, 05  

Iraqi Christians Pray and Brace for Election Outcome Dec. 24, 05

Safety fears hang over celebrations in Iraq Dec. 24, 05

Fear overshadows Christmas joy in Baghdad December 23, 05

U of T pharmacology postgraduate student from Woodbridge Came to Canada from Iraq in 1996 Dec.23, 05

Democracy in Iraq or Ethnic cleansing of the Christians? Dec. 21, 05

Sunnis, Secular Shiites Threaten Boycott Dec. 21, 05

Large Assyrian Turnout in Iraq Election Marred By Kurdish Voting Fraud Dec. 21, 05

The Real War On Christmas Dec. 19, 95

Iraq Expats Narrowly Favor Christian Assyrian Slate Dec. 19, 05

Concern expressed for Assyrian Christians in Iraq  Dec. 18, 05

Iraqis Vote in Historic Election toward Freedom, Democracy Dec. 17, 05

Turkmen Complain Kurds Cheated in Elections in Kirkuk Dec. 17, 05

Touch of Assyria in San Jose. Dec. 16, 05

Iraqi Christians flee to Jordan, Syria in response to increased persecution Dec. 16, 05

The Mid-East's beleaguered Christians Dec. 16, 05

Exiled Iraqi Christians Vote With Concern About Their Future Dec. 15, 05

Tension Mounting on Day of Iraqi Elections Dec. 15, 05

Iraqi Americans Cast Their Votes Dec. 14, 05

Information about Voting in Canada Dec. 14, 05

A vote for democracy 12, 14, 05

Iraqi expatriates to vote in elections, hopeful new government can end bloodshed Dec. 13, 05

Iraqi Americans Ponder Role in Homeland's Vote Dec. 12, 05

Iraqi-Americans ready for polls Dec 12, 2005  

The Latest information about Iraq's Out-of-Country Voting Dec. 12, 05

Between Iraq and a hard place, Iraqi Christians in Syria Dec. 12, 05

Half a Million Iraqi Assyrians (including Chaldeans and Syriacs) have taken refuge in Syria Dec. 11, 05

Assyrian Claims Discussed in Australian Parliament Dec. 11, 05

Iraqis here get voice in Baghdad's future Dec. 11, 05

Official Information about Iraq's out of the country voting Dec. 10, 05

Iraq's Voting in Canada Dec. 10, 05

Iraqi community to cast votes at fairgrounds in Pleasanton Dec. 9, 05

Fostering creativity in dangerous times Dec. 8, 05

Meet Miss World Canada 2005, Ramona Amiri Dec. 8. 05

IRAQ: KURDISH PRESIDENT OFFERS REFUGE TO CHRISTIANS  Dec. 8, 05

Iraq Establishes 8 Polling Centers in the U.S. 12, 8, 05

News From Iraq Dec. 8, 05

740 Stained with the blood of our Martyrs Dec. 6, 05

Kurdistan Democratic Party Stops Assyrian Group From Campaigning Dec. 6, 05

Campaign activity, insurgent violence rise in Iraq  Dec. 5, 05

Myths About the Situation in Iraq Dec. 5, 05

Competition for the best design of the Ancient Assyrian Costumes Dec. 3, 05

List of "Reported" Assyrians murdered in Iraq in 2005. Dec. 3, 05

Dylan's quest: Six-year-old needs blood matches Dec. 3, 05

Shades of voter apathy Dec, 2, 05

Holywood Tapestries Featuring Semiramis is on Auction  Dec. 2, 05

Iraq's Oily Referendum Dec. 1, 05

Iraqi Parliamentary Elections In California Dec. 1, 05

 

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