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Posted by pancho from ( on Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 2:27PM :

+++What the hell...let's get banned around the world.

>by Thomas C. Oden
>Our Turkish-speaking drivers were taking us through the Fertile Crescent, that crossroads of great civilizations, but it did not appear very fertile.

++++Depleted Uranium makes for poor fertilizer

On this visit to eastern Turkey, religious freedom advocate Paul Marshall and I saw little cultivated land and a striking level of depopulation.

+++On a drive through the United States Paul would find little toleration for Islam...and...he'd find even less in Israel. I guess it just comes down to which religion you drive through.

We met the only two monks remaining in the monastery of the village of Sare (or Sarikoy). They were resigned, calm, and ready for the apocalypse.

+++Pretty much the way Iraqis feel right now. Why is it a tragedy that there are only two monks...why is it a tragedy that any religion "declines"? Isn't it more important that people's actual lives are declining? If you all want to get to heaven so're getting there faster. If the point is to make life here on earth meaningful, then take the meaning out of these competing religions...they all send each other to hell much too fast. Give the rest of us a break.

>Syriac-speaking Christians in this area have persisted through more than a dozen centuries of Muslim, Ottoman, and now Turkish rule.

+++For which you can thank the Ottomans...Jews also did far better than among their Christian brethren. In Christian countries, Muslims and Jews fared very badly...they were killed outright.

They languish between the secularizing government of the Republic of Turkey and an Islamic culture that views them as heathen outsiders.

+++Thank god there are secularizing governments left anywhere in the want Islamic fundamentalist governments...or your own favorite, Christian Fundamentalizing governments? Both the same nuts.

+++Have you been to Turlock, California? they ARE heathens.

The government has long given them minimal "freedom of worship" while decisively restricting property rights for local congregations.

+++Christianity has been no friend to that region...not since the Christian Powers gathered to hastyen the end of the Ottomans so they could get the oil...still at it. Christianity was rightly viewed as a wedge issue the foreigners could exploit, and sow dissension in the land. In America they locked up the Japanese and no need to tell you what the Germans did to those they were "suspicious" of.

Nor do authorities allow them any avenues of new growth—communication, speech, normal press freedom, or economic development.

+++Under the circumstances...can't blame them at all. Christianity makes cow eyes and declares its innocence whenever it gets caught in the act. They have no reason to 'forgive" you don't either.

>Syriac-Aramaic comes as close as any living language to what Jesus spoke.

+++Big deal. Is that supposed to impress anyone? Lots of people spoke it was hard to avoid.

It is the liturgical and poetic language of these Christians. Yet authorities forbid Christians on Turkey's southeastern border with Syria, Iraq, and Iran to teach that language

+++Because it isn't anything but Christianity you all teach with it...who you kidding?

—nor can their schoolchildren learn any subject in it. Christians in Syria, by contrast, legally teach and worship in that language.

+++Then let them behave themselves...let them never allow an Armenian uprising...let them never threaten to blow up the Bank of Turkey, let them not call on the West to come "save" them...and they should continue enjoying that freedom. However...let any Christians fly airplanes into Syrian buildings...and you might see a falling off in enthusiasm for the language and religion.
>Besides the secular and Islamic opposition, modern forces also threaten. Dams for electric power and irrigation are filling up the great valley of the Tigris, threatening to submerge lands—including churches and monasteries—on which Christian families have lived for more than a millennium.

+++Don't take it personally...not everyone is out to get you when a tree falls in the forest. People are going to need more water all over this globe. Stop lamenting the loss of a religion over tha damage done to people in the name of all these religions...Christianity especially as the most powerful, wealthy, greedy and grubby and bloody countries the world has ever seen are Christian.

In any case, as in the rest of Turkey, Christians cannot buy property.
>In short, the government would be pleased to see the Christian communities quietly disappear altogether.

+++Can't blame them at all. Look what happened to John Walker Lindh, and he didn't shoot anybody. If you ask outseide powers to intervene on your behalf, no matter how much you suffer will be seen as a traitor and a nest of potential traitors. Blacks had it rough in America, still do. Yet they would be crucified if they asked China to come in and save them. That's just the way it is. Our own silly belief in Brits and Gringos coming to our rescue, like they don't screw their own people daily, is what gets us here every time.

Christians have been caught in the middle of a war between the government and the Kurds. Now it matters little to the government that the Hezbollah as well as the Kurds are harassing them.

++++If the Christians there petitioned the US and Britain to stop all Sanctions and CIA plots to secure oil rights and the rest of it...if they declared their solidarity with their fellow-countrymen and women...they'd get a lot further along the road to justice and fair play in those countries...instead they DEMAND regime change and Sanctions and death and the name of sweet Jesus...what else?

>Christians abroad, meanwhile, know little of their life-and-death struggle.
>First Christian Generations
>The Turkish government has told the Christian villages, in effect: You cannot have seminaries in your language. You cannot repair your churches. Or if you do, you must do it without any help and under local Turkish government surveillance.

+++Of course they do...anyone would do the same. If those same simple minded monks didn't pay their allegence to Italy and Washington and Canterbury, relying on God and the Pentagon for the Second Coming...they might stand a chance. As it stands now Christian institutions are a tremendous liability because our chumps are ever susceptible to the sweet music of the West...the Christian West that has never hesitated to use religion as a snare and device for policy...leaving us hloding our dead...rightfully despised by our neighbors.

>Heirs of the ancient Chaldeans and Assyrians, today these Christians affiliate mainly with the Syrian Orthodox Church, with separate church patriarchates in Damascus: one Jacobite, the other Antiochene. The Christian population has dwindled to nearly nothing in villages that have called Christ Lord for well over 15 centuries.

+++That's the way the wafer crumbles. What did you expect? When a religion that says that through loss, humiliation and degradation lies your path top greatness, joy and salvation, IN HEAVEN...meets another one that says that through rigorous resistance and war fare whenever necessary will you get to Heaven, especially if you fall in battle and NOT on your knees in supplication...when these two meet...gues who is going to lose ON EARTH! You can have heaven...and should be thrilled you're getting there faster.

>No one doubts that there are viable arguments for continuity between these ethnic Syriac-speaking Christians and the earliest Christian beginnings.

+++Our real viability was broken when we deserted Ashur for a Jew God...our earliest beginnings were much earlier than the Christian era...and certainly our greatness, not our consolation through humiliation, came well before Chrisrianity saved Abgar from the Clapp...or rather Judaisim, there was no Christianity in Christ's day...he was a Jew.

Before Christ, there were Jewish communities in this area in which the first generations of Christians eventually grew.

+++Before Christ there were Assyrians all over the place.

>One of the major Christian centers of learning, hymnody, and monasticism during the fourth and fifth centuries a.d. flourished at Urfa, previously called Edessa (the ancient Haran). The fathers of the Edessa churches, along with their scholars, hymn-writers and poets, were lauded and quoted throughout the Christian world. By the seventh century, dozens of monasteries—some of them with up to 700 monks—covered the nearby hills. Few Christian families remain there.

+++Yes...people come and go. The Assyrians are gone...the Amorites, the followers of the Assyrian religion and their god Ashur are all gone...and now Christianity is losing the spot to One day islam and Christianity and Judaism may be replaced as well...and maybe then our children and this poor planet will know some peace.

>In Nisibis (now Nusaybin), an ancient city in the upper Euphrates valley (on the river Djada), the Christian community dates back to the second century. A fourth-century church there was locked up and abandoned shortly after World War I, when the community fled south into Syria. For 60 years there had been no Christians in this church. Now the Syriac diocese has sent a Christian family from one of the surrounding villages into Nisibis. They live in a little apartment in the church and keep it from falling apart.

+++Power to them. The loss of Christians is oddly enough only a tragedy to Christians. It makes others in the region sleep more comfortably. Any civilized behavior in our Christians came to them from our roots in Ashur...the farther we've gone from those, the less like Assyrians we've become till we're just Christians lamenting for a Christian land.. of.which ther none left in the MidEast. Get over're all in Germ aren't you?

>In the church crypt lies the tomb of Jacob of Nisibis, from whom comes the term Jacobite. Representing Syriac Christianity, he attended the Council of Nicaea in a.d. 325. Jacob was the teacher of the great poet, Ephrem the Syrian, whom John Wesley called "that man of the broken heart."
>This ancient church, once so important in Christian history, now sits alone in an entirely Muslim culture. I turned my gaze from the sarcophagus in the crypt to the richly decorated arches, then to the geometric design on the lectern. Marshall, a Senior Fellow at Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom, stood with me by the silent crypt of this deserted church dating back to a.d. 359.

+++Well, why didn't you say you were all Christian reps to begin with?

>Suddenly, our driver broke into song, an ancient hymn of the church. His voice was strong and sure, filling the empty stones with a flood of music, without being prompted. if you could only hear what existed before Christ...that beautiful Assyrian music!

>We asked him what the words meant. He said the lyrics came from the great Ephrem:
>Listen, my chicks have flown,
>left their nest, alarmed
>By the eagle. Look,
>where they hide in dread!
>Bring them back in peace!

++++They will not come back in peace...they were driven out by war...war of Christian Byzantine against Muslim Arab. They wont come back through war either...not this time. Let them go in peace. It's over. You boys get the rest of the world...leave the lands of Ashur, the lands before Christ, alone. They chose freely as any Mexican native ever had Christianity driven into him at spearpoint and canon. Bury your dead...don't create more out of revenge...and let us all live in peace.

>This church had nurtured Ephrem, the greatest of the Syriac theologians. After being expelled from Nisibis, he spent the last 10 years of his life (363–73) in exile in Edessa (Urfa).
>The Nisibis church and others in the area deserve to be introduced to the rest of the world. Yet they remain virtually inaccessible. Christians especially should have the opportunity to understand the area's history, poetry, liturgy, and the early growth of monasticism here.

++++Unfortunately...due to the earlier Crusades...and this one, any growth in Christianity as seen as a return to those bad old days when Western Powers had an easy "in"...a means to play their old game of divide and rule. Go study where you will...get the Christian West to pay a fair price and stop trying to rule the world...and maybe someday what you wish might happen...not now. Now would be too close to another stage set for some provocation that will give further excuse to the neo-Imperialists...who've used Christianity in the past...even if you didn't want them to. Learn to see things as they are, for now...and try to mend your ways so they might get better.

>An armed group, the Hezbollah, still operates in the area. This is not exactly the same Hezbollah that operates in the Middle East but is related to them. It has frequently attacked Christian villages in these areas and sought to drive them out. There may be only a few thousand Christians left in southeastern Turkey.

+++Tragic, but perfectly understandable. Muslim villages in upstate New York would make Christian Fundamentalists nervous too. We had a KKK, you boys had Nazis, Israelis have the IDF...and Muslims have Hezbollah...happ
ens everywhere.

>Caught in a Vise

+++At which end?

>This community is coming to a decisive moment: either great courage or complete collapse. Some sense of solidarity with the outside Christian world would help.

+++THERE!...that is exactly why they fear and mistrust you're doing it AGAIN...calling on the "outside world"...whom do you mean, monks and nuns...or the Pentagon? Knew you'd reveal your old selves again.

Their plight cries out for understanding by art historians, museum curators, theologians, political scientists, and sociologists, as well as concerned laypeople.

+++Laypeople screw people. It isn't art historians you're calling onm fer chrissakes. You want a letter from them to Hezbollah? That's just window dressing. What you're calling for is soldiers and tanks and sanctions and pressure and murder and starvation...those are things working now. You use this mild mannered Christian bull to get us soft and squishy, then while we're too busy weeping you call in the Marines.

+++Art historians and professors are already on "your" side. What could they possibly do? Nice try, Fritz.

>If Christians abroad began to take an active interest in them, either through business enterprise or by visiting, empathizing, and getting to know them personally, the balance could shift. The displaced Christians of Upper Mesopotamia who are now in Europe might begin to come back. That could encourage economic development.

+++No way, Alice...and you know it. Tourism is going to stop Hezbollah? If anything it will make them more determined to keep out a Christian influx of tourists...but that wouldn't be too bad for you guys eithert...would it? Maybe you too can get more of us killed...a busload of Christian tourists from America or Britain maybe? I'm sure you'd set up the charter flights in an instant...but you wouldn't drive the bus. Get more Christians killed and maybe you provide the convenient excuse the West might need down the road? In Turkey, of all placed, where they already did this the last century!

>The aggressive campaigns of the ministry of tourism notwithstanding, the Turkish government has grossly neglected these ancient Christian sites. The tourist literature nowhere mentions them. Instead, the government has supervised the demise of numerous Christian villages or passively watched them deteriorate.

+++Well of course they would. They have every right and reason to distrust Christianity as an organized religion whose leaders have no qualms about using their own parishoners for the greater glory of god...evcen if it gets them killed, and maybe in order to get them killed...for Christ, of course.

>Yet encouraging the government to develop area tourism would likely be more persuasive than moral arguments for freedom of religion. Some churches here have remained in use largely without interruption since the fourth century. As Freedom House's Marshall remarked, this whole area is a museum—an ancient Christian museum.

+++Don't give up your day job just yet...making "persuasive arguments" can't pay very well. You think Euro-dollars will do the trick huh?...where "moral" arguments fail? Funny.

>The possibility of a new wave of tourism appears very remote without encouragement from Western political, academic, and church interests. Through a kind of passive-aggressive neglect, the government denies access to all except those with insider connections. If I were a Muslim, I would be encouraged to go on Hajj to Mecca. But if Christians want to go to Nisibis, someone with a badge is standing in the path, saying, "Show me your invitation."

+++The Haj takes place in a Muslim country...why would any Muslim want to see a badge? Try getting Muslims to go on Haj to Cordoba and see how easy it is. Christianty, as a formal institution, is not trusted over thyere...and for very good reason. Why should that surprise you so? They have every right to do with their land as they see Christian emperors did when it was theirs. In fact...the only empire in the world that has EVER shown tolerance for all three sisters from hell, has been the Ottoman Empire. Everywhere else, in Christian lands, Muslims were killed outright and Jews too, when they weren't forced to convert to Christianity and THEN killed down the road by the Inquisition for being "insincere" in their conversion.

>Eastern monasticism, music, liturgy and theology thrived here and spread to much of the remaining Christian world. These sites contain a precious heritage that belongs not just to the Turkish government. It belongs to Christians everywhere.

+++Nothing belongs to Christian everywhere...and the sooner you stop calling for waves of bombers or waves of tourists...the sooner you might get what you seem to be asking for. But I suspect it isn't going to stop with the "right" to visit an old monastary...that's the tip...the wedge all over again by which you boys hope to "liberate" the land for Jesus again.

+++It's over...done...finis...unless you want to start Armageddon...which you fundamental boys, Jew, Muslim and Christian are all eager to get down to...see if your version of the same god will be left standing. Thank Ashur you wont be given the chance.

>Thomas C. Oden is a CT executive editor. For more information on the area and on relief efforts, contact the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of the Western United States, 417 E. Fairmount Rd., Burbank, CA 91501.
>Thomas C. Oden is a CT executive editor. For more information on the area and on relief efforts, contact the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of the Western United States, 417 E. Fairmount Rd., Burbank, CA 91501.

+++Fred Parhad is an Assyrian existing somewhere between heaven and hell...on earth with both feet planted firmly on the ground who doesn't much care what reason is given for killing children...that's all you boys have achieved in the dismal end...that's all.

-- pancho
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