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Iraqi Assyrian Christians in London

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Iraqi Assyrian Christians in London

Nov-09-2000 at 00:47 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

Dr. Madawi Al-Rasheed made a study about the Assyrian community in London. Dr. Madawi discusses in her book the way of life of the Assyrians and how they fit in British society. She looks back at the Assyrian migration processes beginning from the 1950s till the early 1990s and their settlement in Ealing. She talks about this 4000 or so strong community and its organizations, and the struggle and challenges Assyrians face in order to protect their identity. The researcher examines the process of internationalization of the Assyrians of London, particularly in relation to other Assyrian immigrants in Europe, United States, and Australia. Meanwhile, the principle issue addressed in this study is perhaps ethnic identity, so often mixed and united with notions of nationality and race. This post is neither a review of the book, nor it is a challenge to the study, it is only to present an undisputed knowledge among those Assyrians in London whom she interviewed and information she gathered from published counts.

In Chapter Two Part II, under the subtitle The Seeds of Nationalism we read:

Assyrians in the plains of Mosul in present day Iraq had been in contact with Catholicism since 1553. In that year, Sulaqa, an Assyrian monk of the Rabban Hurmizd monastery objected to the principle of hereditary succession of the Patriarch which had been introduced by the Assyrian Church after about 1450. The office was expected to pass in one family, generally from uncle to nephew. Coakley claims that this was an efficient way of preserving the succession when patriarchs and bishops were few and hard to assemble. After the death of Mar Shimun VI in 1551 and his succession by his nephew, part of the church elected a rival Patriarch, Sulaqa who was dispatched to Rome to be accepted as Catholic by Pope Julius III (Coakley 1992:15). After the monks return from Rome, he was imprisoned by the Ottoman Pasha of Diarbekir and later was murdered. Some of his followers in the plains of Mosul converted to Catholicism and since then became known as Chaldeans. In some historical accounts, those converts to Catholicism were referred to as Assyro-Chaldeans.

It is believed that the Catholic Church began to popularize the name Chaldeans to distinguish those Assyrians who adopted Catholicism from the rest of the community whose members followed the Ancient Church of the East. However, it was only in 1844 that the Chaldean Uniat Church was finally established on a strong foundation independent of the Assyrian Church. The followers of the Chaldean Church were recognized by the Ottoman government as a separate millet distinct from the Assyrians. The Chaldean patriarch was then established in Mosul. The Assyrian Church became divided into two sections: those who had established communion with Rome and those who remained followers of the Old Assyrian Church. Despite this formal distinction, the people of the plains of Mosul were believed to be more Nestorian than Catholic in sentiment. Assyrians regard this to be the first split in their ancient church. While Assyrians contact with Catholicism did not have significant influence on the way the community perceived itself, nevertheless, this contact led to a religious schism among the community and the development of two religiously distinct groups, the Chaldeans and the Assyrians, which only in the 20th century began to search for common national bonds, claimed to have persisted despite religious differences. Today, Assyrians regard Chaldeans as belonging to the Assyrian nation although they follow a church different from theirs.

In Chapter Five, under the subtitle Ethnic Boundaries, we read:

Another group of Christians with whom Assyrians writers wish to establish an ethnic link is the Chaldeans, mainly found in the area around Mosul, Iraq. The Chaldeans have been converted to Catholicism, but their church language remains Syriac-Aramaic and their vernacular resembles that of the Assyrians. Assyrian nationalists regard the establishment of the Chaldean Church as an attempt to divide the Assyrian Church of the East and the Assyrian nation. One writer shows how this took place: In 1551 Mar Youkhana Solaka, the bishop of Mosul who did not agree with the hereditary succession in one famity and wanted the Patriarch to be elected by a council of bishops (such elections were held before the 14th century), went to Rome and he was ordained by the Pope as the Patriarch of Babylon. This Mar Solaka tried to affiliate his group with the Roman Catholic Church. This is the first division perceived to have taken place among Assyrians. Another bishop Mar Yousip joined the Roman Catholic Church and was ordained in 1681 by the Pope as the Chaldean Patriarch. According to the same source, the Patriarch of Babylon and the Chaldean Patriarch were loined together under the title the Patriarch of Chaldean over Babylon. The author asserts: It is a historic fact that both names Patriarch of Babylon and Patriarch of Chaldean were branded by the Pope of Rome on a portion of the Assyrian Nation, seeking protection from the West, in an attempt to divide the ancient Assyrian Church.

Today it has become common to refer to the followers of the Chaldean Church by the name Chaldeans, an appellation which is rejected by some Assyrians, especially those who wish to include them among their ethnic brothers. A leaflet entitled, The Chaldeans, Religion denomination or Nationality, was published in Arabic by a group of writers calling themselves Assyrian intellectuals in 1991 to clarify the issue. The writers argue that Chaldeans share with Assyrians all national characteristics. Their history, land, language, culture, and social customs are the same. The leaflet concludes by declaring that the name Chaldean refers only to a religious sect rather than a nation or nationality. Also it warns that some religious leaders may have contributed to this confusion among people who are unfortunately divided by religion, but should remain as one nation. The leaflet strongly calls for restricting the use of the word Chaldean to refer to a religious denomination which should not be confused with nationality. The authors claim that they reached this conclusion on the basis of scientific and objective historical facts which can be consulted by those in doubt.

Defining ethnic boundaries has become a serious concern for Assyrians. Their national and ethnic texts are full of references to what they regard as authentic historical evidence supporting arguments relating to groups whom they felt have been slipping out of the category Assyrian. This has been interpreted as the work of those wishing to divide the nation in the past and the present and blur the connection between Assyrians and other Middle Eastern Christians, especially those still living in Iraq. Their texts often represent reactions to present political developments and parallel ideological discourses taking place in Iraq. Both history and the past are used to resist any attempts to reclassify groups in such a way as to severe their connection with an Assyrian nation. The emphasis in Iraq on promoting a national unity which brings together different religious groups (Sunni, Shia, and Christians) under the wide umbrella of Arab nationalism has led to counter attempts to correct the situation and restore past classifications and categories. Assyrians fear that some Christians, especially Chaldeans may fall into the trap of being classified among Christian Arabs, a category which, according to an Assyrian in Ealing, does not exist. His motto is all Iraqi Christians are Assyrians. This of course does not include Armenians.

Iraqi Assyrian Christians in London
By Dr. Madawi Al-Rasheed

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Assyria \ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)   1:  an ancient empire of Ashur   2:  a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)   3:  a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender   4:  a democratic state that believes in the freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the principles of the United Nations Charter — Atour synonym

Ethnicity, Religion, Language
» Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
» Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
» Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
Assyrian \ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)   1:  descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur   2:  the Assyrians, although representing but one single nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.  These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the Christian Era.  No one can coherently understand the Assyrians as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control, religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a criterion of nationality.   3:  the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya, Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean, Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu, Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye, Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. — Assyrianism verb

Aramaic \ar-é-'máik\ n (1998)   1:  a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.   2:  has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.

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