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Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syrian Orthodox Church and the Census 2000
by William Warda - November, 1998.
Posted: Friday, June 09, 2000 06:51 pm CST

Sometimes it is easy to see why the Syriac speaking culture has had such a tragic destiny. Thanks to the leaders of our religious denominations and their inability to lead us wisely we have lost our traditional villages, towns, homes and have become wanderers around the four corners of the world. How can a people who refuse to agree on one historic identity survive in a hostile world? An Arab whether he is Shiite or Sunni will call himself "Arab" no matter where he lives. There is more than a thousand miles distance between a Saudi Arabian and an Egyptian Arab. They are Geographically, historically and genetically far removed from each other but that does not stop them from considering themselves as one people. Such an unshakable unity has allowed the Arab culture to flourish at the expense of people like us who do our best to divide ourselves into insignificant religious tribes. Today Arab culture rules ten percent of the earth surface and sits on top of one third of the known petroleum resources, but we have nothing left to call our own.

Based on its own investigations and consultation with scholars versed in historical and ancestry knowledge, U.S. Census Bureau has classified the following people as Assyrians.
482-489 ASSYRIAN
482 Aramean
482 Assyria
482 Chaldean
482 Chaldo
482 Jacobite
482 Kaldany
482 Kaldu
482 Kasddem
482 Kasdu
482 Nestorian
482-489 Telkeffee

According to the Census Bureau "Ancestry refers to a person´s ethnic origin or descent, "roots," or heritage or the place of birth of the person or the person's parents or ancestors... Many decisions were made to determine the classification of responses. These decisions affected the grouping of the tabulated data. For example, the "Assyrian" category includes both responses of "Assyrian" and "Chaldean. "... The Bureau of the Census is prohibited from collecting information on religion. Thus, if a religion was given as an answer to the ancestry question, it was coded as an "Other" response."

Members of the Syrian Orthodox church who identify themselves as Syrians on the census forms will be counted as former citizens of the State of Syria.

For unexplainable reasons leadership of the Chaldean Church has lobbied the Census Bureau and the U. S. politicians to have Chaldeans counted as a separate ethnic group. They have also asked the Assyrian American Federation to agree on changing the "Assyrian" category to "Chaldean/Assyrian" which equates the religious term Chaldean with the national term Assyrian. The fictional term Kaldu/Ashure has been also used by the Chaldean Leadership in Northern Iraq to identify the Syriac speaking people of that region although in a recent speech to the Kurdish officials in Northern Iraq the Chaldean Patriarch mentioned only the Chaldean name.

One has to wonder who profits from such determination to keep our people divided along confused identities. The extremist Kurds, Arabs and Turks who would like us to disappear from the face of the earth must be rejoicing to see that our religious leaders continue to divide us so that we will never be strong enough to ask for our equal rights.

The terms Chaldean/Assyrian or Kaldu/Ashure stand for a divided people who can not even agree on a common identity which is exactly what our enemies would like to see. Although there is no historical evidence that members of the Chaldean Church have a separate and different ancestry than Assyrian the Chaldean Church is determent to invent one. The latest news from Northern Iraq (historically Assyrian lands) is that the Chaldean Church has created a Chaldean organization to represent the Chaldean church and its members as a separate and distinct ethnic entity. Our common enemies must be rejoicing to see us fractured, divided and weak.

Our neighbors the Armenians, the Kurds, the Jews, the Persians and others have different factions within their community also. But none will dare to undermine their true historic identity. For example Persians call themselves Persians whether they are Zoroastrians or Moslems - two completely different religions. Thanks to their unwavering unity other nations have managed to keep their land, their cities, towns, villages, their resources their dignity and their independence by uniting under one historic identity which has allowed them to stand proud and triumphant over adversities.

Meanwhile The Syrian Orthodox Church leaders contend that their Syrian name has derived from "Cyrus the king of Persia (559-529 B.C.) who conquered Babylon (539 B.C.) and liberated the Jews by permitting them to return to Judea" Some Syrian Orthodox Church leaders would like us to believe that:

"The name "Syrian" is equivalent to the term "Christian" which was applied to the disciples in Antioch for the first time, because converted Jews [ in Israel] believed that Cyrus, their liberator from captivity in 538 B.C., resembled Christ the liberator of captive mankind. So they used to repeat Christ's name connected with his name for pride and honor, as their forefathers did upon their return to Judea. [imagine equating Christ with Cyrus] When this news arrived to the gentile elements in Antioch, they called themselves "Syrians" or "Christians". From that time onwards the name "Syrian" prevailed first among the Christians of Syria and afterwards among the Christians of Mesopotamia, Persia, India and the Far East, through the work of the Syrian Apostles and preachers. Until the present days the Christians who speak Syriac, are called in this sense, "Suroye" or "Suraye" or "Curyaye" Whereas the name "Christian" prevailed among the Western Christians."

Thirteenth century Syriac writer Bar-Hebreus was the originator of the above explanation. Since his father was Jewish it is not surprising that he has somehow linked the origin of term "Syrian" to the Jewish history. None the less the above hypothesis is contrary to the available historical evidence. Cyrus was known as Kurush among the Jews and other none Greek nations.

  1. If this king's name was the origin for what the Syrian Orthodox Church leaders call themselves then they would have been known as " Kurushoyee" or " Kurushayee" or perhaps "Cyrusoyee" or "Cyrusayee" and they would have been called " Cyrucians " and not "Syrians". It is obvious that the Syrian Orthodox Church leaders who refuse to acknowledge their Assyrian identity are doing it so that they can have absolute control over their parishioners not only religiously also secularly. At times the entire membership of some churches were locked out because members wanted to assert their Assyrian identity.
  2. The word Christian in Aramaic/ Syriac language is "Msheekhayee" or "Msheekhoyee" and not "Syrian" or "Suroyee".
  3. Syrian was applied to the Assyrians by the Greek long before Christianity.
  4. Herodotus in mid 5th century B.C. clearly indicates that the word "Syrian" is merely a Greek corruption of the "Assyrian". He describes the Assyrian infantry in the Persian Army during the rule of King Xerxes (485-465 B.C.) as follows:

"The Assyrians went to war with helmets upon their head, made of brass, and plated in strange fashion, which is not easy to describe. These people, whom Greeks call Syrian, are called Assyrian by the barbarians. The Babylonians serve at their rank"

Barbarian is a term the Greek usually applied to none Greek nations which in this case Herodotus means the Persians the Assyrians and the Armenians.

In fact the Armenian term for "Syrian" is "Asori" which is an adjective meaning belonging to "Ashure" the name of the God, the land and the people of Assyria.

During the first century before the down of Christianity, Strabo confirms Herodotus statement by writing:

"When those who have written histories about the Syrian empire say that the Medes were overthrown by the Persians and the Syrians by the Medes, they mean by the Syrian no other people than those who built the royal palaces in Babylon and Ninus; and of these Syrians, Ninus was the man who founded Ninus (Nineveh), in Aturia (Assyria) and his wife, Semi-ramis, was the woman who succeeded her husband...

Strabo continues:

"Now, the city of Ninos was wiped out immediately after the overthrow of the Syrians. It was much greater than Babylon, and was situated in the plain of Aturia."

Historically the term Syrian when applied to the Christians of Mesopotamia and Syria could mean nothing more than Assyrian.

Leaders of the Chaldean and the Syrian Orthodox church compromise their own credibility by denying the Assyrian heritage of their followers. Their church members are better educated than in the past and have access to the latest historical information. Sooner or later they will realize that they have been misled by religious leaders whom they have so innocently trusted. Such revelations will ultimately shake their faith in their church and its leadership.

Leaders of our churches and their predecessors are responsible for what has happened to the Syriac speaking people in the last 2,000 years. Their tendency to sacrifice the secular interest of their followers on the altar of their religious denominations has had profound negative impact on the destiny of our people regardless of what church they belong to.

Progressive nations have long realized that there is greater strength in Unity than there ever was in disunity. It is for this reason that the European nations have put their petty differences aside so that they can build a stronger and more prosperous Europe. Divisiveness undermines our resources and the principal elements which have contributed to our survival. Unless our religious leaders realize this reality and act accordingly they will prove that they are not qualified to work for the best interest of their follower. Their denial of our common Assyrian heritage and their clinging to mythical identities will continue to tear us apart and lead our shared culture and heritage into extinction.


Herodotus, Aubrey De Selincour translation, "Herodotus The Histories", Penguin Books, 1971
Strabo, Horace Jones translation, "The Geography of Strabo", Putnam's Sons, New York, 1916

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