National News [USA, Canada, Europe and Australia]

My Say - Virtual New World
by Joseph Wakim
Posted: Monday, October 09, 2000 06:35 pm CST

The virtual world created by the Internet is becoming a reality. Communities dispossessed of their homeland by natural disaster or war are reconstructing their land in cyberspace.

Some once dominant civilisations find themselves find themselves a persecuted minority under a new regime.

The Assyrians for example stem from Mesopotamia and Babylon, a region now covered by Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.

This Christian population speaks Aramaic and Syriac, a derivation of the language spoken by Jesus Christ.

The Internet has been a powerful tool for the Assyrians. More than 40 Web sites provide a new Assyrian landscape complete with libraries, schools, entertainment, language, social clubs, art, sport and history.

For the first time in more than 2000 years Assyrians have a homeland, albeit virtual.

Many other diasporas share this experience: Kurds have more than 60 sites and Palestinians more than 100.

The profound meaning derived from daily visits to these virtual homelands does not imply that the Australian identity is eroded or undermined. One can fulfil all the obligations of national citizenship while belonging to an international community.

Joseph Wakim is founder of the Australian Arabic Council.

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