Last edited on 06/30/2011 at 00:08 AM (UTC3 Assyria)
Herman Teule, Chair of Eastern Christianity at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands, speaks at a lecture held at the Herald R. Clark Building on Wednesday. Photo: BYU University
Lecture discusses Christianity in Iraq by BYU University. June 22, 2011.
Herman Tuele, chair of Eastern Christianity for Radboud University in the Netherlands, spoke about Christianity in Iraq during the Kennedy Center Lecture on Wednesday. Tuele discussed the history of Christianity in Iraq, the current condition and what is done in Iraq today for Christians.
Beginning with the history of Christianity in Mesopotamia but more specifically in Iraq, Tuele explained that in the 6th century Christians from the west began to penetrate into the Persian empire. He spoke of the periods when Christians were persecuted throughout the Middle East and the constant desire they felt to be Christian and Arab. Tuele said that in the Middle East, religion and government are not usually separated. After World War I, many of the Christian churches left for other countries, but some leaders simply relinquished their roles as government leaders and became “content with a religious role,” Tuele said.
More recently, Christian leaders have identified themselves simply as Assyrians. And certain ruling bodies, such as the Kurdish government, have appreciated that distinction and given more political power to those groups. Tuele said according to Iraq’s constitution, cultural and ethnic minorities can build a structure to maintain identities.
Some Christian groups have begun to bond together and wish to be recognized more publicly, such as the parliament in Iraq. Tuele said although there may be many Christians, because of recent persecution they have moved to countries such as Jordan and Syria.
Tuele said the “small community” of Christians today numbers somewhere between 300,000 and 350,000, which is down from 1 million at the end of Saddam Hussein’s reign. He also said Sarkis Aghajan, a Christian leader in Iraq, is pushing for political autonomy for Christians, an idea which is being debated today.
At the end of his lecture, Tuele discussed a recent book by Philip Jenkins and the theology of extinction. Tuele said the book, which is focused on the numbers of Christians declining in Iraq, is not entirely correct.
“The senate and Vatican in Rome was convened to fix that,” Tuele said. He also expressed that the trend of Christians leaving places like Iraq is on the decline and he is hopeful more will come back.
\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.)
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 —
Ethnicity, Religion, Language
Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
\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.
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. —
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.