Assyrian Education Network

“Chaldeans” Living in Semblance of their True Identity

Posted: Wednesday, August 06, 2003 at 06:01 PM CT


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Constantine I the Great (circa 27 February 280 - 22 May 337AD) professed Christianity in about 312 AD.  His conversion helped spread Christianity throughout the imperial realm.  In the course of time, the Roman Empire abandoned its pagan religion and embraced Christianity as its official state religion. 

Yet, long before Rome’s religious transformation, Christianity had already taken firm root in Israel, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, by the mid first century AD. Towards the end of the first century, several neighbouring countries had also had Christian congregations and Churches established there.

After Pentecost Day in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit strengthened the Church and empowered the disciples to continue to spread the Word of God. Beginning in the Middle East, Christianity spread throughout the world.

In the Middle East, the Christian Church grew and spread all the way to Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean Basin, to Constantinople.   At the time, there already had been seven leading churches in existence, established in Asia, the Church of Ephesus being one of most important one of them.  Many other churches had also been established in the first century.   The Assyrians of Mesopotamia had embraced Christianity through the evangelical work of St Thaddaeus (sent by St Thomas) in around 71 AD - about 320 years long before Nestorius was even born (b. in late 4th century AD –d. in c. 451).

Claims of the Roman popes to pre-eminence and thereby pressing on the Eastern churches their belief was received with extreme irritation by the Eastern patriarchs and had never been acknowledged in the East.

Since the early first century AD and until the year 312, many Christian churches had been established at the hands of the Disciples and the Apostles in Asia and in countries within the Roman realm.  At the time, these churches operated discreetly because of persecution of adherents of the Christian Religion. However, the Assyrian church of the East had grown and flourished in Syria, Mesopotamia and the most easterly part of the Roman Empire more than two centuries earlier than the Roman Church.

Since the advent of Christianity, all the Christian Churches of the East had been established on the teachings of the Holy Bible and its laws, with doctrines set out and constituted by the disciples and apostles themselves. In essence their doctrine was one and the same.  The only difference from one another was that they retained their own rites and canon law. The Concept of the Christian Godhead had not yet been fully understood in the western world. Yet despite its shortcoming, the Roman Church believed that it was within its right to unite the Christian churches and bring them all under its wing because of its imperial mentality.

The authority of the Roman Imperial power of both the state and the church, looked at doctrines of the Christian churches of the East, which predated the Western Church, as misguided or in error of the Roman doctrine.  The Roman Church wanted all members of the Council of Churches to abide by the Roman credo.  The Assyrian church of the East, including other churches that refused to submit to its doctrinal issues declared by Constantinople, were viewed as defiant of the Imperial Authority of Rome of both the State and Church.  

Churches that refused to acknowledge the Papal authority of Constantinople were disfavored. The Roman Church took a hostile stance against several Asian churches that disagreed with it straight-out on doctrinal matters. They were anathematized, antagonized and pressured to submit to the doctrine of the Roman Church or face retribution and expulsion from their abodes.  The Roman Church, relying on the Imperial power, began dictating its terms on certain Greek, Cypriots and Eastern Christian communities. 

And so, beginning from the 5th century, disaffection increased between the Eastern and the Western Churches due to theological disputes.  Zealotry intensified the disputes.  The Vatican, having the upper hand due to its position in Rome, used the Roman state authority as part of its bullying tactics. The two estranged Churches continued to live in alienation of each other for over five centuries - until the mid-11th, when the Western Church officially declared its separation from the Eastern Church; hence the final separation known as the Great Schism of 1054.

Churches and Christian communities that succumbed to the Roman Church were allowed to stay and function under the full protection of the Roman Imperial power.  They submitted to the Papal authority and affiliated with the Roman Church. Still, other Churches became Uniate to avoid intimidation or excommunication and even expulsion from their dwellings. Those that resisted Roman dictates were openly persecuted.

Certain Churches that differed from the Doctrine of the Roman Church yet had lived under the rule of the Imperial power of Rome continued to be bullied, with threats of expulsion from their habitat.  Several church groups were expelled from their abodes to territories beyond the direct rule and sphere of influence of the Roman Empire.  Their leaders were banished to outposts of extreme harsh and hostile environment.   The Assyrians that had resisted Roman pressure were forcibly removed from their dwellings and exiled to Persia.  While in Nisibis, the Assyrians were besmeared with the misnomer “Nestorian”.  After their exile to Persia, the Romans labeled the Assyrians “Mesopotamian-Persian”.

In about the mid-fifteen century AD (1445), the Vatican, and for the first time in the history of its church, used the term “Chaldean” on the Cypriots that reconciled with Rome to distinguish them from Nestorians proper. Those Nestorian Cypriots that had submitted to Catholicism and termed  “Chaldean” were not Assyrian in nationality. They were given protection and allowed to seek asylum in countries under Roman rule and influence of the Roman Church. The Vatican has since used this delusive “Chaldean” term on the Assyrian Catholics of Mesopotamia (of present-day Iraq). The “Chaldean” miscall has no valid relation with the nationality of the Greek Cypriots or any other Middle Eastern nationality.   The term “Chaldean” does not signify a racial identity.   It is meant to denote a denomination, not a nation; be the person or church Greek, Cypriot, Assyrian or Arab.

In the case of the Assyrian Christians of Mesopotamia, they had been falsely accused of being followers of Nestorius, as if the Assyrians had not had their own Christian church doctrine.  They were forced to submit to Rome.  Those that succumbed to the Vatican were termed “Chaldean” to distinguish them from Assyrians proper. 

The Assyrians were victimized. They likened their expulsion from their homes, by the Vatican, to Persia during the Imperial Roman Rule, to that of the Babylonian Captivity of the Israelites by the Chaldeans.  Yet, the Assyrians take heart and find solace in Job 14: 7-9 and Isaiah 19: 23-25.  

Since fragmentation of the Assyrians, they have been left at the mercy of their enemies. In the ensuing years, as religious conflicts grew among various creeds, the Assyrian Church of the East had been marked as heretic and as enemy of the imperial authority of Rome of both the State and Church.  They were destined to a dire consequence. They were anathematized and restricted in their movement to within their own confines. Surrounded by hostile elements, their activities dwindled and came to a halt, especially during the Islamic occupation in mid-7th AD and invasion of the Middle East by the Mongols during the latter half of the 14th century. 

In the mid-sixteenth century, the Assyrian Bishop John Sulaka competed for leadership of the Church of the East.  He challenged the headship of the Church and demanded that the office of the headship for the Patriarch’s chair be elected rather than appointed.  The synod of the Church explained to Bishop Sulaka that since the Assyrians proper have been estranged, with no permanent abode, in a kind of captivity, it was impractical to call the fragmented ecclesiastics to assembly for election. Since the fifteen-century, the custom had arisen of transmitting the office from uncle to nephew, to ensure continuity, until circumstances improved. The eclectics promised to reconsider the matter as soon as the situation improved. Bishop Sulaka was unheeding.

Bishop Sulaka refused to compromise. He remained adamant. With an avid desire for the high office, he turned to Rome.   He reconciled himself to submit to the Vatican and affiliate to the Roman Church to gain bishopric office, rather than listen to reason. He seceded from his Assyrian Church of the East with avid desire for a patriarchal post. He professed his faith to Rome and was ordained patriarch.  Bishop Sulaka was appointed patriarch of the Assyrian (Chaldean) Catholics by Pope Julius III in 1551.  The Patriarch has since borne the title “Patriarch-Catholicos of Babylon of the Chaldeans.”  The Vatican for some ambiguous reason refuses to call the “Chaldean” Catholic by his genuine nationality as “Assyrian Catholic.”  His breakaway split the Assyrian nation in two, both, in nationality and sect.   

Since creation of Iraq as an Arab Islamic State in 1921, the central government has stopped calling the Assyrian Church of the East and its members by their proper name.  It uses the term “Nestorian” for both the Assyrian Church of the East and its members. Instead, the official term the Iraqi government uses on the Assyrians is the Misnomer “Nestorian.”  The long-term policy of both the Iraqi government of the day and that of the Vatican are to annul the racial identity of the Assyrian and replace it with either the fake “Chaldean” or “Nestorian”.

During the reign of the Roman Empire, Uniate Churches in Asia were allowed to function under protection of the Roman imperial authority. They were allowed freedom of movement, of running schools and of printing textbooks and other related material. While Eastern churches that differed in doctrinal issues with the Vatican were disallowed. They were excommunicated and anathematised.  All the Catholic Churches and its affiliates in Iraq, in particular the so-called “Chaldean” still enjoys these privileges.  The Assyrian Church of the East does not.  It is still denied these “privileges”, until the present day. The Assyrian Church of the East was accused of Nestorianism.  Several adherents were expelled, in groups, from their abodes en masse.  They were driven out of their villages and towns, and forced out into hostile territories, many of them, beyond the Roman realm. The Assyrians were left to fend on their own.

Contribution of the Church of the East in the world of evangelism had been most successful.  So was its accomplishment in spreading the Word.  It was immensely successful to the extent that the Assyrian Church of the East had a hierarchy of twenty-five metropolitans and over two hundred bishops spread all over Central Asia and the Far East. Such achievements were reached outside the sphere of influence of the Roman imperial state and church powers.  After the latter half of the 14th century, the Assyrian Church of the East (miscalled “Nestorian”) suffered terrible losses.

Centuries of oppression under the Islamic rule of the “millet” policy since (mid-7th AD to the present) has reduced their number considerably.  Their preaching activity waned and came to a halt.   The Assyrians were brought close on the brink of extinction. Despite all the adversities, both church and people miraculously survived the onslaught of the Persian Zoroastrians, the Arab Moslem sword, the Chinese Mongol brutality, the treacherous Marauder Kurds, the genocide of the Ottoman Turks and last but not least, the Vatican’s bitter opposition of the Assyrian Church of the East during the whole span of the Roman era, to our own very days!

As time went on, those Assyrians, who had adopted the name “Chaldean”, are now claiming kinship to being the contemporary remnants of the ancient Babylonian dynasty. They claim to be the direct descendents of the high priests and astrologists of the clan of Kaldu that once inhabited the land of Chaldea, situated in the wetland of south of Babylonia of present-day marshlands of southern Iraq. They have been pressured by the Vatican to remain distant and dissociate themselves from the Church of the East.

The few but outspoken Assyrian (Chaldean) Catholics want to replace their Assyrian national identity with the expired Chaldean one. Just like the Kurds, who distort the nationality of the indigenous Assyrians by calling them “Christian Kurds”; also like the Arabs who call the Assyrians: “Christian Arabs.”   They attempt to blot out the name “Assyria,” and replace it with any term that aims to destroy the Assyrian link to their homeland. “Chaldeans” are playing the same dirty game - they want to do away with their racial identity. 

Chaldea was no more than a patch-land bordering the head of the Persian Gulf situated in the southern part of Mesopotamia of the marshlands of present-day Iraq (referred to earlier, in their time, as the “Sealand”).  Chaldea was a mere dynastic tribe, mentioned in the annals of the Assyrian history as a group of priests.    They were engaged in trade, hieratical duties and astrology.

In 721 BC, the Chaldean Merodach-baladan, ruler of Bit-Yakin, a district of Chaldea, rebelled against Assyria. He seized the Babylonian throne and held it for 11 years.  He was ousted in 710 BC.  By virtue of being an elite class of astrologers and priests, the Chaldeans occupied a privileged position within the bureaucracy of Babylon, the Assyrian southern capital of Mesopotamia.  The Chaldeans had colluded with the Medians for the demise of the Assyrian Empire. After the fall of Assyria in 612 BC, the Chaldean dynasty, in collaboration with the Persians, made Babylon its capital and assumed rulership.

History has never bestowed the title of Empire on the Chaldeans.  They were mere aperiodic rulers of the Babylonian Empire. Chaldeans were not the conceivers of the imperial title of the “King of Kings”; the Assyrians were. The Persians, under Cyrus, attacked and took full and total control of Babylon, routed out the last Chaldean dynasty and sealed its fate in 539 BC.  In the latter years of the fall of Ninveh, the dynastic rule of the Chaldeans was no more than eight decades or less (612 to 539 BC).

The Chaldeans usurped the Babylonian throne, but were never able to usurp its imperial title. The Chaldeans remained to be known as “Chaldean Rulers” of the Babylonian Empire, never as the Chaldean Empire.  There has never been a Chaldean empire.

Since the deep sectarian schism of 1551 and separation of the two Assyrian Churches, neither one is called by its genuine identity as Assyrian.  Their nationality has since been dropped.  They are called by their religious sect, “Chaldean” meaning Catholic, affiliated to the Roman Catholic Church, or “Nestorian” meaning Assyrian proper, member of the Assyrian Church of the East.  Both terms are misnomers.

Assyrian Catholics who term themselves “Chaldean” are in fact genuine Assyrians.  They were and are the original dwellers of the Land of Assur, the indigenous people of the North of Bet Nahrain (Land of the Rivers). Yet, because of their submission to Catholicism, they were forced to take on the term “Chaldean” in reference to identifying themselves with the Roman Catholic faith - to distinguish themselves from the Assyrians proper of the Church of the East.

Because of the defeatism imposed upon them by the Roman Catholic Church, the Assyrian Catholics accepted the name change. They hid their genuine Assyrian nationality by being ordered to adopt the falsified term “Chaldean”.  The main reason for accepting this name change was to avoid the wroth of the Vatican.

When it comes to their national identity, the ”Chaldeans” fail to corroborate authenticity of their claim. Their claim is a fabrication, based on falsehood. They live in obscurity of their true identity, in a state of limbo. History relates the ancient Chaldeans and their origin to desert tribes of southern Mesopotamia. The Catholic Assyrians of Iraqi origin are desperate in trying to create a link to the ancient group of astrologers, whose trace was referred to as ‘Chaldean’ in the south. It is an act of deceit.

So long as the Assyrian Catholics deny their genuine Assyrian racial identity, disguising their nationality under the pretentious name of the so-called ancient Chaldeans, their demise is inevitable. All the Catholic Assyrians of Iraq will eventually be losers. They will in the course of time end up losing their identity altogether and become subservient to the Kurds and Arabs.

The Kurds are engrossed in placing the name “Kurdistan” in place of the land named “Assyria,” while the Iraqi government’s policy has always been to Islamise northern Iraq, placing it under loose Kurdish control.  Islam’s feverish attempt is to put an end to Assyrian claim to Ninveh, finally phase out the term “Assyria” and deny any existence of its native Assyrians.

Islam is indulged in nullifying the Assyrian name in Iraq.  Its objective is to cut it off from the indigenous Assyrian through name-change. By the same token, the Vatican’s ploy is to give precedence to the name “Chaldean” in a concerted effort to convert the Assyrian of Iraq to Catholicism. This course of action is already underway, prompted by both the government of Iraq and the Vatican.  They are both bent on phasing out the name “Assyria” and destroy the Assyrian Church of the East. Their ultimate aim is to seal the fate of Assyria through this name-change.

Furthermore, by modifying the historical name of the ancient city of “Uruk,” in the South, to “Iraq,” the name Assyria has been dropped.  Islamic regimes have Islamised the whole of Mesopotamia and linked it to (Dar Al-Silm) Abode of Peace States, considering the whole region totally Islamic.  Assyrians have been robbed of their home, and for those Assyrians who are of the Catholic faith; their nationality is being changed to “Chaldean” or Arab. Chaldeans have signed the death warrant of their own national identity. 

Successive Iraqi regimes have always, in the past and present, schemed to eradicate the ancient capital city of Assur from existence.  Saddam’s previous regime had planned to flood the historic city, by building a dam and submerging the whole region under water (and in doing so, adding another erosive force to the Assyrian history).  Islam will heave a sigh of relief by casting-off the whole of the Assyrian legacy to oblivion.  The Arab League will smoke the peace-pipe, jointly with the Iraqi regime of the day and the Vatican, as a mark of triumph over the “Nestorian” Assyrians for eroding their name and casting it to oblivion.

Islam’s objective is to annul Assyria’s legacy.  The Vatican continues to appease the Government of Iraq in order to secure its presence and influence over the Assyrian Church in the region. Mesopotamia’s lingua franca was Aramaic during and after the Islamic conquests of mid-7th century AD.  Why do the “Chaldeans” now deny it, and use the Arabic language instead? 

Historically, “Chaldeans” and Kurds are intruders into Assyria.  Ancient Chaldeans were nomadic tribes of the southern region of Mesopotamia, indigenous to the south.  The Kurds were mountainous nomadic tribes. They are indigenous to the Asian countries situated around the Caspian Sea, north and northeast of Assyria.  Both groups should go back to their old settlements and stay whither they came from  - the so-called contemporary “Chaldeans” back to the south, if they wish to pursue their botchy claim to linking themselves to ancient Chaldea; and return the Kurds to Asia, beyond the borders of Assyria proper.

The Assyrian Catholics of Iraq are bringing harm to the whole Assyrian community. They are politicizing their Catholic Church for their own selfish end. Changing their sect does not justify the use of the defunct “Chaldean” racial identity in place of their true one.  Qlibayi, members of the Roman Catholic Church are Assyrian in nationality, an acceptable segment of the Assyrian Nation.

All “Chaldeans” of northern Mesopotamia are genuine Assyrians.  There is no historical proof that the bulk of the ancient Chaldeans ever migrated to the north. Their claim to being “Chaldean” is due to their conversion to Catholicism, to avoid being branded “Nestorian” and dispersed as the Vatican did to their brethren earlier, centuries past.

After the demise of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20s, Assyrians that had affiliated with the Roman Church in Persia, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Cyprus are no longer termed “Chaldean”.  Only the Assyrians of Mesopotamia (now confined to Iraq) remain under this curst “Chaldean” term. God resolved to rout out Babylon/Chaldea.  He condemned it to total destruction and utter ruin – never to rise again. If they are true to God, upright in their claim, why then, they are defying God.  Or are they all following the example of their past leaders treating non-Catholic Christian flocks as enemies of the Roman Church?  Or is Rome following the maxim: Succumb or suffer.

Since the late 20th century, the Vatican in Iraq has used this “Chaldean” term, exclusively to Assyrian converts to Catholicism.   In an act of defiance, it continues to use this dubious term.  Following the 1045 schism, the Vatican accused the Assyrian Church of the East with heresy, and labelled it with the misnomer “Nestorian.”   Beginning in 1445, and for the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican officially adopted the term “Chaldean” and used it on the Greek Cypriots that submitted to Catholicism, and termed the Assyrian Church of the East “Nestorian.”

Using an expired term such as “Chaldean” for the specific purpose of distancing the Assyrian Catholic from the Assyrian proper is unjust.  This denigrating act is a distortion of the true national identity of the Assyrian Catholic.  It splits the Assyrian Nation into two separate nationalities.  It is a recipe for disaster, a prelude to head-on collision between the two Assyrian sects. Assyrian aim is to move forward in a united way to achieve their common objective and live as one people, under one name, one banner.

Changing the Chaldean sect into a nationality does grievous harm to the Assyrian nation as a whole.   Why should an Assyrian carry an additional false nationality to his actual Assyrian one?  This imposition of name change, from Assyrian to “Chaldean” is a fraud, perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church. It is an ill-gotten stratagem to get at the Assyrian Church of the East and discredit the Assyrian national legacy.

Members of the Assyrian Church of the East and Assyrian Catholics are the same in racial identity.  They are both Assyrian.   The Roman Church has created a profound misunderstanding for the Assyrian Catholics, who have had their national identity suppressed, in order to dissociate themselves from their kinfolk and reduce the chances of rapprochement with the Assyrian Church of the East. 

The mother tongue of the Assyrian Catholic is becoming much more like the Kurdish language, a mixture of their neighboring countries.  The stifling control of the Roman Catholic Church and influence of Arab rule have pressured a significant proportion of the Assyrian Catholic (Chaldeans) to adopt the Arabic language and identify closely with the Arab nationality, even with their liturgical services.  It is a mixture of Aramaic, Latin and Arabic.  The movement to change their language into Arabic is the result of a well-planned plot to do away with the Assyrian language altogether. Many “Chaldeans” can hardly speak the language anymore. Though meaning well, they babble.

Assyrians of the Church of the East profess their faith without ambiguity. They also declare their Assyrian nationality without reservation, and speak their mother tongue with eloquence.  While Catholic Assyrians feel embarrassed and instead, call themselves “Chaldean”. They deny their Assyrian nationality, because they had at some point in time abandoned their racial identity and some of their traditional attributes and become “QLIBAYI” – yet still clinging to a thread of hope that they might someday find a way out of their torment – a beaten soul, lost in the wilderness – their mind on Babylon, south; their heart in Assyria, north and their soul far away at the Vatican, Rome – a shattered being, living in semblance of their true selves.

The “Chaldeans” dissent, abandon their traditional church, adopt a falsified racial name for a sect, and brand the Assyrian Church of the East with the misnomer “Nestorian.”  They forsake their Church and abandon their nationality.  They are in disarray!  They are a misfit and an embarrassment to the world of academia. They defame the Assyrian Church, calling it heretic. They have hijacked the Assyrian legacy and besmeared it with the Chaldean dynasty of witchery.  Though they are Catholic, they are Assyrians - a segment of the Assyrian Nation.   Their claim to being racially different is as far away from decency and truth, as is earth from heaven. Camouflaging their true Assyrian identity under the falsified "Chaldean" nationality is an illusion.

From the time of accepting Christianity, the Church of the East prospered, and sent out missionaries as far as India and China (no small feat at the time) – and the Indian branch of the church is still around.  Yet, under the oppressive rule of the Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Ottomans and currently Arabs, the Assyrian faith has been tested in the furnace for some 2,000 years.  Nations rise and fall; yet the bulk of its people survive, and it is through their Christian faith that the Assyrian identity has been kept from disappearing.

Assyrians appreciate all Christian churches that accept them and recognize them as Assyrian in nationality.  It is incorrect and inappropriate for a church to miscall an Assyrian either “Chaldean” or by any other name such as “Arab,” or “Kurd”, when such a church member is truly Assyrian. It is unchristian and insulting.

Assyrians being in affiliation with other churches should not lead to suppression of their national identity. Their nationality should continue to be recognized as Assyrian and remain so.  Assyrian Catholics are forced to differ, under the pretentious “Chaldeans” bogey name.  They have been the product of Vatican “flock stealing” from their traditional Assyrian Church of the East.

The “Chaldeans” have been deceived into adopting a fake national name for a sect. They loom upon the Assyrian Church of the East with contempt. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and a few prominent “Chaldean” leaders continue to pose as archrivals of the Assyrians. They stand in opposition to the national aspiration of the two groups, not allowing them to unite as one people under their one Assyrian national name.   Catholic Assyrians have simply been beguiled into forsaking their Assyrian Church and abandoning their kinfolk and true racial identity.

The “Chaldean” Qlibayi do not dare admit the truth and reveal their true Assyrian heritage, for fear of being discriminated against by the Roman Catholic Church.  They are pawns in the hands of their clergy, unable to associate freely with their Assyrian brethren.   Qlibayi continue to call themselves “Chaldeans”.   The Catholic Church is engrossed in highjacking the Assyrian legacy, claiming pre-eminence to deny the Assyrians legitimacy over their traditional homeland up north.

Religion is not a race.  Calling a Catholic “Chaldean” is untrue. A person may change his religion and pursue any creed, but cannot change his racial identity.  Whether the Church membership is affiliated with the Roman Papal Church, the Orthodox Church, or other various sects of the Protestant Church, an Assyrian remains an Assyrian in his national identity – not so-called Chaldean, Kurdish, or Arab.  A person may change his nationality by immigration and by acquiring a new citizenship.  But his racial identity will forever remain with him.  It is in his genes, it is his biological signature.

Even today, there are many Assyrians who are members of the Papal Church of Rome. They have adopted the name “Chaldean” due to marriage or conversion. Many Assyrian families have members belonging to different sects – Church of the East, Orthodox, Protestant etc., but are biologically relatives. They are all Assyrian.  Sect does not change ones nationality.  They have been duped into believing that “Chaldean” is a nationality and not a dynastic clan of Assyrian ancestry.

At 18 years of age, I recall my uncle Nathaniel relating to me the story of his escape, with his mother and sister, from Iran to the city of Mosul, Mesopotamia (now Iraq) during WWI.  The Kurds killed his father, Reverend Gabriel, a priest of the Assyrian Church of the East, during their escape. My uncle with his mother and sister ended up in Assyrian villages, in northern Mosul. All three were rescued by Assyrian villagers and cared for by their old kinfolk until they were able to manage on their own and went their separate ways.

My uncle was only a child when he was orphaned, and so was my aunt.  He was cared for by the Catholic Church and raised in a Catholic orphanage, and married in the Catholic Church and lived by its creed.  My aunt was placed with an Assyrian foster family, member of the Assyrian Church of the East.  She married in the Assyrian Church of the East and lived by its creed.  My uncle was registered as member of the Catholic Church by the local registrar, and my aunt as member of the Assyrian Church of the East.

In the nosecount, my uncle was classified  “Chaldean” by the Iraqi Government of the day.  My aunt, being member of the Assyrian Church of the East, was classified “Nestorian.”  They were enumerated on two separate tally sheets: my uncle as “Chaldean” and my aunt as “Nestorian”. Neither one of them was registered, on the official tally sheets, as “Assyrian” in nationality.  Their Assyrian racial identity was denied.  It was deliberately suppressed.

Changing the Assyrian nationality to the millet sect of “Chaldean” or “Nestorian” is a conspiracy.  It is being carried out by the Iraqi government, in collusion with the Roman Catholic Church to drop the Assyrian name from future censuses.   Their ultimate objective is to stop the Assyrians from using it, and phase out their identity altogether to discourage them from demanding their basic human rights. Worse still, this action prevents the true-blue Assyrians from claiming their right to their homeland up north.  

If the so-called Chaldean leaders wish to launch their own campaign, under the pretentious name of Chaldea, then they should turn their focus on the south. They should move down to the marshlands of modern Iraq.  Only then, they will realize how wrong they were and that Chaldea has, forever, been lost in the folds of history.

The Vatican, in agreement with the Islamic Central Government of Iraq, in post World War I, had sponsored this name change.  Their aim is to substitute the name “Chaldea” for “Assyria” so that neither group, Assyrian or so-called Chaldean, would have a leg to stand on, when launching their campaign for restoration of their national rights.  Although the “Chaldeans” have, at times, been spared the Islamic sword for compromising their Assyrian nationality, they have not always escaped the sword.   They have suffered, too, at the hands of the oppressive Islamic regimes, forcing them to assimilate with the Arab mass.  Many 'Chaldeans' have adopted Arab characteristics. And many are seen wearing the Arab long flowing garment – dish-da-sha.  Many carry Arab names such as, Ali, Tariq, Karim, Hassan etc. Since they have denied their roots, “Chaldeans” will eventually end up terming themselves Arab. Where do they stand in regard to defending their genuine nationality if they have a false one? They would accept an Arab or a Kurdish one. It would not matter to them anymore, would it?  Since they had been knowingly carrying a false national identity, they would not mind exchanging it for a more convenient one. 

The so-called Chaldeans need to decide to either return to the fold as Assyrians, or go it alone under the misnomer “Chaldean”. Both the Vatican and the Assyrian Church of the East need to take up the matter and discuss it seriously to narrow the wide gap and patiently heel the rift.  They need to unite the two communities by abrogating the unjust misnomers, namely, “Nestorian” and “Chaldean”. Whatever their denomination, they are of Assyrian nationality and Christian faith. They need to be called by their proper Assyrian national name, even though they may be of different Christian sects.

Assyrians belong to various denominations of the Christian religion, spread all over the world.  Yet, both community members of the Assyrian Church of the East and that of the Papal Church of Iraq are of the same race.   They live together. They intermarry.  They worship the same God.  They honour the same saints.  They even share the BA’OTA D’NINWAYI. If members of the “Chaldean” sect are not truly Assyrians, then why celebrate this three-day fasting with the Assyrians? Yahweh sent the Prophet Jonah to bring the message to Ninveh, to the Ninvite Assyrians up north, not to the Chaldeans, down south.   Yet, the hierarchy pressure the two groups to keep them apart and remain distant, a product of the Church hierarchy, colluding against their integration, keeping the two brotherly groups separate.

It is up to the Assyrian Papal brothers and sisters to declare decisively and openly, without fear of reprisal from their Papal Church, which road they wish to take.  They need to communicate with their elders of their desired wish to identify themselves racially as Assyrians.  They have the right to express themselves without fear or backlash from their Catholic hierarchy.  The Assyrians henceforth should, with all due respect, identify and call the “Chaldeans” by their proper name as Catholic Assyrians – not by the pretentious and tawdry “Chaldean” name. Assyrians should not be coerced by the Roman Catholic Church to falsify their genuine nationality to “Chaldean”.

We have and shall always accept and welcome our Papal brothers and sisters, with open arms and sincerity.  We encourage them to hold on to their Assyrian nationality and protect it, be proud of their Assyrian Nation as being once the cradle of civilization.  They have the right to identify themselves with the Vatican Church, as “Catholic,” in affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church, but not as “Chaldean.”

Our hearts and Church, our schools and learning centers are open to all. The Catholic Assyrians of Iraq should not cower. In the world of the 21st century, there are enough counter-balancing political forces to allow the people of a nation to speak about their identity and assert themselves as the true children of Assyria.


REFERENCES

Baluch, Muhammad Sardar Khan (1965) The Great Baluch. Lion Art Press (Karachi), Karachi.

Benjamin, Yoab (2002) ‘Our Roots are Still Alive’ and ‘Thou Shalt Not Tread on History’ in Yoab Benjamin’s Studies in Language and Literature. Mall Publishing Company, Illinois.

Bettenson, Henry (1988) Documents of the Christian Church (2nd Edition). Oxford University Press, New York.

Cureton, W. (1864) Ancient Syriac Documents (Relative to The Earliest Establishment of Christianity in Edessa and the neighbouring countries from the year after our Lord’s Ascension to the beginning of the fourth century). Williams and Norgate, London.

Douglas, JD et al (1987) New Bible Dictionary (2nd Edition). Inter-Varsity Press, Illinois.

Latourette, Kenneth Scott (1975), A History of Christianity, Volume I: to A.D. 1500 and Volume II: A.D. 1500 – A.D. 1975. Harper Collins, New York.

Copyright © Frederick P. Isaac.  All Rights Reserved.



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