Category Archives: Christian Assyrians
(AINA) — Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II Karim of the Syriac Orthodox Church issued a statement on the assassination attempt on his life last week. On June 19, while the Patriarch was leading a commemoration service for the Turkish genocide of Assyrians in World War One, a suicide bomber attacked the service but was stopped by the Assyrian Sutoro military forces in Qamishli, Syria (AINA 2016-06-19).
Here is the text of the statement.
The Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East
Damascus, Wednesday June 22, 2016After returning safely to the Patriarchate in Damascus following his pastoral visit to the city of Qamishly, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, offered prayers of thanksgiving and condemned the suicide bombing which took place during His Holiness’ visit. On Sunday June 19, 2016 following the celebration of the feast of the Pentecost and after the inauguration of a monument for the Syriac Genocide Sayfo which His Holiness presided over, the faithful were gathered inside the auditorium of St. Gabriel School to celebrate the 101st annual Sayfo commemoration when a suicide bomber set himself off a short distance from the place. Two members of the Sutoro Protection Units fell martyrs and several were injured. This terroristic act is planned and executed by people who want to spread hatred and create division among the people of the region. Such acts cause great suffering to the people and aim at destroying the unity of our beloved country Syria.
His Holiness gives thanks to God Almighty for protecting him and all the others who participated in the said event, by His divine care.
He prays for the souls of the martyrs, especially the two young people who lost their lives as a result of this act of terrorism, and offers condolences to their families. He likewise prays for the quick recovery of the injured. His Holiness expresses his thanks and gratitude to their Holinesses and Beatitudes the Patriarchs of the sister churches, as well as different governments and community leaders who offered their sympathies and prayers for His Holiness’ safety by calling or writing. He, likewise, thanks the hierarchy, members of the clergy, and the entire faithful of the church who offered their prayers and expressed their concerns through phone calls, emails or text messages.
His Holiness prays the Lord to bless Syria with peace and security so that these difficult times come to an end and life returns to normal in this dear country Syria.
Patriarchs of Antioch remember the two Bishops kidnapped: “We do not have the support of the ‘giants’. Our only hope is in the Lord”
(Agenzia Fides) – Three years since the disappearance of 2 Metropolitan Bishops of Aleppo – Syrian Orthodox Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Boulos Yazigi – the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Yohanna X, remember the story of the two confreres kidnapped near Aleppo on April 22, 2013 in a long and intense message addressed to their “beloved spiritual children”, to the Syrians and to all men.
The case of the two Bishops – says the message kidnapped, sent to Agenzia Fides – is “a miniature of the great human suffering coming from terrorism: massacres, abductions, deracination, takfir, and explosions”. But if the intention of the kidnapping was to spread terror among the baptized, the two Patriarchs warn that the operation failed: “We Christians”, reads the document “are the descendants of those who, two thousand years ago, put on the name of Christ in this particular land. (…). We are no giants, and we do not have the support of the “giants””, but “we preserve our identity as Antiochian Easterners, through whatever difficulties or tribulations”. “In this troubled path – underline the two Patriarchs – we have spared no effort, but our main and only hope is in God”.
The words of the Primates of the two Churches of the East sweep away all the maneuvers of those who seek to exploit the suffering of Christians in the Middle East: “We shall continue to live in this East, ringing our bells, building our churches, and lifting up our Crosses. And the arm that will be extended to these Crosses or bells will be twisted by our Muslim brethren from all our national spectra”, says the long patriarchal text, where it repeats that the followers of Islam “are suffering like us from the bitterness of blind terrorism and takfir”, defined as “a condemned intruder” to our past and present Christian-Muslim relationships. The sufferings of the Eastern Christian are read in the light of salvation promised by Christ: “Despite the horror of the situation and its severity” – write the Patriarchs Mar Aphrem and Boulos – “we throw all this on the way of Golgotha of our Lord Jesus Christ. We cover all the darkness of this age with the light of the Virgin’s eyes, venerated by both Christians and Muslims, whom we implore to bring back to us all kidnapped people, our brother bishops of Aleppo, along with the abducted priests”.
In the document, the two Patriarchs highlight the way in which the lives of Christians in the Middle East are also reported in the global media debate. “We” the message reads “were not a minority, and will never be”. For those “who are keen about the “minorities,” and those who are opening wide the doors to receive the various spectra of Syrians, the two Patriarchs repeat that it is more fitting for them to seek a resolution, saving people from the burden of the perilous sea travel and ship wreckage.
“We appreciate every humanitarian effort of governments or organizations. However, insist the two Patriarchs, we cannot be protected through facilitating the migration of refugees. We are not petitioning for protection. Rather, we are seeking peace”. A peace that “is not founded on the notions of minorities and majorities, but is based on coexistence, citizenship and moderate religious discourse. Peace does not come by enforcing economic blockades and foreign economic sanctions that only hurt the homeless children and the poor people, those people who became cheap commodities for the arms’ market, used according to countries’ interests”.
Returning to the case of the Bishops kidnapped, in the final part of the document, the two Patriarchs thank the international community for the many public expressions of solidarity received, but invite all, starting with “decision-maker countries”, to replace “statements of condemnation and promises” with concrete initiatives that document in facts good intentions.
The two Patriarchs invite all their brothers in faith to also look at their own suffering in the light of the Risen Christ, the one who can “comfort the heart of our children, and establish peace in the land of peace. This land of the East”, said the statement “is bleeding now, but no doubt will rise again. We are the children of the Resurrection, and the Light”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 22/04/2016)
(AINA) — ISIS today released 22 Assyrian hostages in Syria. 16 of the hostages were captured on February 23 when ISIS attacked the 35 Assyrian villages on the Khabur river in the Hasaka province. ISIS captured 253 in the initial attack and drove 3,000 Assyrians from their villages. The other 6 hostages who were released were captured in the town of Qaryatain on August 6, 2015, when ISIS captured the town (AINA 2015-08-07).
The group of released hostages was comprised of women and children.
ISIS executed three of the Khabur hostages on September 23 (AINA 2015-10-08). The number of Assyrians from Khabur still being held is now 73.
With the release of 6 Assyrians from Qaryatain ISIS is now holding 179 Assyrians from that town.
ISIS has released Assyrians from Khabur on the following dates:
- January 29, 2016: 16 released
- January 14, 2016: 16 released
- December 25: 25 released
- December 9: 25 released
- November 24: 10 released
- November 7: 37 released
- August 11: 22 released
- June 16: Francois Sawa released
- May 26: two elderly women released, Ramziyya Rehana (80) from Tel Jazira and Yoniyya Kanoon (70) from Tel Shamiran
- March 3: Two Assyrians from Tel Shamiram were released, Yatroun Marko and his wife Wardiyya Yonan. Two Assyrians from Tel Goran were released, 6 year-old Mariana Mirza and her father’s aunt, Bobo Mirza.
- March 1: 19 Assyrians Released, all from the village of Tel Goran
ISIS Has released Assyrians from Qaryatain on the following dates:
- January 29, 2016: 6 released
- October 14, 2016: 50 released
- September 4, 2015: 15 released
The following are the names of the hostages released from Khabur:
- Sabina Hawil Youkhana
- Ramina Hawil Youkhana
- Lewis Hawil Youkhana
- Christine Joseph Lazar
- Bashara Joseph Lazar
- Katrine Joseph Lazar
- Peter Joseph Lazar
- Ilyan Saeed Youkhana
- AlmasSaeed Youkhana
- Lewis Saeed Youkhana
- Sargon Ninus Sarkis
- Yosip Ninus Sarkis
- Valentina Paulus Odisho
- Marganta Yushiya Adam
- Somer Shawil Elisha
Please pray for Christians in Syria.
On January 17 in Stockholm, Assyrians held a demonstration against the Kurdish PYD party and its armed wing the YPG in Syria. It was organized by the Assyrian Federation of Sweden and more than 200 Assyrians braved the freezing cold to join the rally.
The YPG has known ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the U.S. designated a Marxist terrorist group. The Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG) is the military arm of the Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat (PYD), the Syrian affiliate of the PKK. Most of the YPG commanders and fighters are Qandil-Kurds, i.e. PKK.
The Obama administration acknowledge the PKK and YPG have links and coordinate with each other in the fight against Islamic State, but they said the U.S. continues to formally shun the PKK while dealing directly with YPG.
The PKK says its affiliates—Syria’s YPG and groups called the PJAK in Iran and the HPG in Iraq—are separate but closely linked. PKK fighters and some analysts say they are one and the same.
“It’s all PKK but different branches,” Ms. Ruken said, clad in fatigues in her encampment atop Sinjar Mountain this spring as a battle with Islamic State fighters raged less than a mile away at the mountain’s base. “Sometimes I’m a PKK, sometimes I’m a PJAK, sometimes I’m a YPG. It doesn’t really matter. They are all members of the PKK.” source
In the early hours of Tuesday, January 12th, members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) conducted a large attack (AINA 2016-01-12) on Assyrian checkpoints that surround Al-Wusta, an Assyrian neighborhood in the center of city of Qamishli, using more than 30 vehicles and hundreds of heavily armed Kurdish fighters against the Assyrian Gozarto Protection Forces. The fighting lasted for at least three hours and ended after the Kurds called upon a Syrian government representative to mediate a cease-fire. One Assyrian was killed and two injured; three Kurds were killed.
Qamishli is located in the Hasaka province, in northeast Syria.
The population of the province of Hasaka is nearly equally divided between Assyrians, Arabs and Kurds. The city of Qamishli was almost entirely Assyrian until the early 1980s and was established by Assyrian survivors of the genocide of 1915 perpetrated by Ottoman Turks against the Christian populations of Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians. At that time many Kurdish clans acted as the henchman of the Ottoman government. It is natural that the recent developments in Qamishli recall those memories of Christians, who do not trust Kurdish expansionism and self-declared autonomy and control over the region.
YPG’s latest attacks on Assyrians came after their earlier attacks on Turkmen, Arabs and other Kurdish groups not willing to collaborate with them. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both recently documented massive human rights violations by the YPG, a Syrian PKK offshoot, including forced evictions and the destruction of homes and property of non-Kurdish populations in regions under its control (AINA 2015-11-10).
Dec 10, 2015: (Voice of the Persecuted) Three car bombs exploded in the Assyrian town of Tel Tamar in the Hassaka province of Syria on Thursday. The blast killed 50-60 people and wounded 100. At least 4 Assyrians were killed. According to the AINA, the attacks were in heavily populated areas, including a marketplace and near a hospital, leading to the massive civilian toll. ISIS has since confirmed its responsibility for the bombs saying they targeted Kurdish bases, using three trucks packed full of explosives as bombs. Earlier in the week it was reported that ISIS had advanced onto hills overlooking the town. Often they will launch bomb attacks against a town to weaken the morale of defending forces and overwhelm the limited medical facilities before fighting begins.
Tel Tamar is one of the 35 Assyrian villages on the Khabur river captured by ISIS in February and took 253 hostages. 120 have been released, 3 executed, but 120 are still being held. ISIS had destroyed all the churches in the villages, looted and razed homes—a majority remain uninhabitable. ISIS had warned released hostages not to return to their villages or they will be killed. The villages are now liberated, but the majority of 3,000 Assyrians who lived there have not returned. Most have fled to Hasaka and Lebanon, others to Germany, Australia and Sweden.
Christians held a combined funeral in Tel Tamar, Syria for the 4 Assyrians who were killed by the triple ISIS suicide bombings. The deceased Assyrians have been identified as George Ballo, Slivo Isaac, Milia Tolo and Hisham Bato.
Please pray for the those who, a few short weeks before Christmas, are intensely grieving. Pray for Christians who remain and targeted by this murderous group. Pray they will find peace while seeking refuge in other countries. Many are being overlooked in the overwhelming refugee crisis. Some have even faced further persecution by Muslims in refugee camps and centers. Pray for peace in the Middle East.
(Agenzia Fides) – On Wednesday, December 9 the jihadists affiliated to the self-styled Islamic State (Daesh) released other 25 Assyrian Christians, who were part of the large group of hostages kidnapped by them on 23 February, when the jihadi militias had unleashed an offensive against the predominantly Christian Assyrian villages scattered along the valley of the river Khabur, in the northeastern Syrian province of Hassake. According to reports from local sources, and re-launched by the Assyrian International News Agengy (Aina), the group of hostages freed includes men, boys and two children under ten years of age, who after their release reached the town of Tel Tamar.
More than 250 Assyrian Christians of the valley of Khabur were taken hostage by jihadists in February. Since then several groups of prisoners have been released. Last time, on November 24, 10 Assyrian Christians from Khabur were released by Daesh. At the moment, there are roughly 130 hostages of that group who still remain in the hands of the jihadists of the Islamic State. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 10/12/2015)
(Agenzia Fides) – Islamic State (IS) jihadists have hacked the website of Our Lady of Mercy Syriac Catholic Church, posting videos of Islamic State terrorists beheading, shooting and burning victims alive and threatening a war against infidels until “Rome” is conquered.
Members are mostly people from Iraq and Syria and it has been involved in providing shelter for Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have fled the violence in the region. The attack has caused shock and bitterness among the faithful of the parish community, who nonetheless responded vigorously to the atrocious intimidation.
“Whatever happens, the church posted on its Facebook page, our churches remain holy and we will always remain faithful praying on our knees”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 09/12/2015)
In all the self-righteous talk we’ve been hearing about Muslim refugees from Syria, who’s talking about the Christians? Over the past several years, no religious group has been more persecuted throughout the Middle East than the Christians. And yet, hardly a peep.
Yes, the Jewish way is not either/or. We’re supposed to be inclusive. So, with all the beautiful, heartfelt sentiment so many American Jews are expressing for Muslim refugees, why are we not including oppressed Christians in our hearts?
For some reason, the notion of “suffering Muslims” seems to resonate more with liberal hearts than “suffering Christians.” Maybe Muslims are seen as more “exotic” or “misunderstood”; maybe it’s the fact that many liberals have contempt for fundamentalist Christians in America, with their anti-abortion and anti-gay positions.
Whatever it is, the poor Christians can’t seem to catch a break. A 2012 Pew study found that “Christians continue to be the world’s most oppressed religious group.”
Even the world’s two most prominent Christians—President Barack Obama and Pope Francis—have hardly said a word about the plight of Christian refugees in Syria.
The current refugee system overwhelmingly favors Muslim refugees. Even though Christians represent more than 10 percent of the Syrian population, of the 2,184 Syrian refugees admitted to the United States so far, only 53 are Christians while 2,098 are Muslims.
This low number is tragic, because Christians living in Muslim lands are in especially dire straits. “ISIS and other extremist movements across the region,” Eliza Griswold wrote in The New York Times last July, “are enslaving, killing and uprooting Christians, with no aid in sight.”
As author and Arab expert Raymond Ibrahim adds, “At the hands of the Islamic State, which supposedly precipitated the migrant crisis, Christians have been repeatedly forced to renounce Christ or die; they have been enslaved and raped; and they have had more than 400 of their churches desecrated and destroyed.”
This horrible situation, Ibrahim writes, was not always the case: “Christians and other religions minorities did not flee from Bashar Assad’s Syria, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, or Muamar Gaddafi’s Libya. Their systematic persecution began only after the U.S. interfered in those nations in the name of ‘democracy’ but succeeding in only uncorking the jihadi terrorists that the dictators had long kept suppressed.”
Replacing evils with worse evils — that seems to be the nature of the beast in the Mideast jungle.
In any case, if we believe in the concept of triage—taking care of the most urgent cases first—the West ought to seriously wake up to the plight of the Christians of the Middle East, who have no “Christian country” in the area to escape to.
There are many Arab/Muslim countries who could take in Muslim refugees, but refuse. As reported recently in the Washington Times, Saudi Arabia has over 100,000 empty, air-conditioned tents that could house up to 3 million refugees, but has shut its doors to fellow Muslims in need. I guess oil-rich Arab countries figure the “compassionate West” can handle them.
The irony is that the very persecution of Christians makes it harder to rescue them. As Patrick Goodenough reports on CNSNews.com, the U.S. federal government relies on the United Nations in the refugee application process – and since Syrian Christians are often afraid to register with the U.N., they and other non-Muslims are left out.
This means that refugees who are in most need of rescue are the hardest to reach. But isn’t that the real meaning of compassion — to go the extra mile for those in greatest need? Even if we put aside the charged issue of Muslim terrorists possibly infiltrating the refugees, and just look at basic human need, don’t we owe it to the Christians to pay more attention to their plight?
If the most powerful country on Earth can’t go the extra mile to rescue Christian refugees, who will?
If the most powerful man on Earth can’t stand up for the most oppressed, who will?
Who will speak up for the most persecuted religious group in the world?
Who will start the #IamChristian hashtag?