Aprim Shapera Lectures in Athens
On Sunday evening, November 5, 2000, Aprim Shapera delivered a lecture before the Assyrian Federation of Greece (AFG) on the subject of "Nationalistic Activity in the Assyrian Diaspora". This topic mirrors the title of Mr. Shapera’s latest publication (Spectulative Terminals on the Assyrian National Performance – A Comparative Review Between Homeland and Diaspora) a book printed by Alpha Graphic printing, which some may have acquired while attending the September convention in Chicago.
In his opening remarks, Hanna Khoshaba, an Assyrian officer in the AFG, expressed the warm appreciation of his group to Aprim Shapera, and commended the speaker’s initiative in visiting with the Assyrians in Athens. This was followed by Rev. William Yako's introduction of the speaker. Rev. Yako gave the attendees a résumé of Mr. Shapera's activities and his numerous writings in the service of his people. The principal theme of Mr. Shapera's address related to the issue of Assyrian émigrés, and their important role within the larger question of the Assyrian people. Drawing on his personal observations and experience, Mr. Shapera encouraged his audience to be realistic in their personal and civic performance in Western countries, but at the same time, he added, they should retain Assur or Bet Nahrain as the spiritual and moral guiding light for their performance. Mr. Shapera's message is consistent with his belief that Assyrians living in such "wait stations" deserve at least as much, if not more, encouragement and sustenance from Assyrian writers and intellectuals.
Modern Assyrian history in Greece began in the early 1920's, when some ten thousand of them migrated from Russia. This first wave of Assyrians in Greece had experienced a miserable period as refugees, following the Great Exodus from the Hakkari Homeland, 1915-1918. In the mid 1930's, following the Assyrian massacre in Simel, a few nationalistic Assyrians created the Assyrian Federation of Greece. The first wave of immigrants has passed on, and to a great extent their children have integrated into Greek society. Among the third generation in this group, it is rare to find one who speaks Assyrian. It might be noted in passing that the President of the AFG, a Mr. Marcus, typifies this legacy. He is a Greek national with deeply-held feelings for his Assyrian heritage; and while he understands the language of his people, it is most difficult for him to speak it. There has been something of a renewed consciousness among Assyrians in Greece concerning their identity, and this has been sparked largely by the arrival of Iraqi Assyrian refugees in more recent times. For the most part, these new immigrants came to Greece via Lebanon in the mid-1970's (where typically they were duly registered as refugees by the Beirut office of the UNHCR and by the World Council of Churches). This Assyrian infusion in Greece has prompted the AFG to become more active, particularly in dispensing aid to those with special needs. In addition, with Mr. Marcus at the helm, the organization has just purchased a piece of land for U.S.$25,000, where it plans on building its facilities.
Typical of Assyrians everywhere, our community in Greece is divided along two confessional lines. Those of the Chaldean faith number between 3,000 and 4,000, and they are ministered by Kasha Fawzi. Adherents of the Church of the East number between 2,000 and 3,000, and they are ministered by Kasha William Yako. Very unfortunately, only a few of our brothers and sisters in Greece have secured a regular job, and virtually none has received Greek nationality. In fact, very few of the new arrivals are interested in establishing their residence in Greece. The majority of them are patiently biding their time, hoping that some opening will permit them to enter some other Western country, preferably the U.S., Canada or Australia. While they are waiting, they are for the most part living very difficult lives, even as they remain uncertain of their final destination.
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