Posted by sankho from CPE-203-45-1-117.vic.bigpond.net.au (22.214.171.124) on Monday, November 18, 2002 at 0:26AM :
In Reply to: Re: Why Muslim Assyrians can't exist...... posted by panchmaster from pool0138.cvx24-bradley.dialup.earthlink.net (126.96.36.199) on Sunday, November 17, 2002 at 10:15AM :
Ok, makes more sense now…
Your Huxley-esque view of ‘religion as morphine for the masses’ is one possible explanation for the switch. What’s intriguing about the Assyrians though is how religious they were way BEFORE Christianity. Their entire lives were dominated by appeasing the gods – much more so than after Christianity. This was even when they were at the height of 'Culture'. You could say the ancient Assyrians were obsessed with their gods. And they carried that across to their new religion. It wasn't the poorest areas that accpeted it... the Kingdom of Urhai was very rich.
Assyrians accepting Jesus’ teachings doesn’t seem so odd to me. At the time of Christ, there wasn’t this division of religions into the three great beliefs of today’s Middle East: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It was Judaism and a whole lot of pagan beliefs. Assyrian religious belief was not a single, coherent religion. It took on many different forms. Then comes Jesus. He couldn’t have looked THAT foreign to the Assyrians of the day. He spoke the same language and was a close neighbour, from the same part of the world. Lots of Assyrians converted to Judaism even before Jesus..... the queen of Arbela (Erbil), Queen Helena, for example, even before Abgar in 36AD.
Jesus’ message must have appealed to the Assyrians. Then they see this ‘half-god half-man’ who reminds them of the story of Gilgamesh nailed to the symbol of their god Tammuz (the cross) who then like Tammuz comes back to life again. Assyrian religious ideology at the time was not organized. So one group of Assyrians embraces ‘Christianity’. Gradually the idea gains ground. And here we are today. I don’t believe the Assyrian zeal for Christianity had as much to do with wanting to escape the ‘embarrassment’ of being Assyrian than with their inherent religiosity and passion for the story of Jesus. Look at Tatian, who unashamedly called himself an Assyrian (and thought the East was better than the West in everything) and was a fanatical Christian – an ascetic. Besides, Jesus’ teaching was officially accepted by one of the Assyrian ‘kings’ (Abgar…And yes, I believe that story).
Father Akbulut must be one of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I stayed at his church, the Mart Maryam Church in Amid [Diyarbakir] in Turkey’s southeast, for 4 days in September. He is very oomtanayah. In a place where the word ‘Assyrian’ disgusts many priests, he calls himself one. [I met with another priest in Elazig in southeast Turkey – before he let me into the church he asked whether I am Assyrian or Oromoyo. Now, believing myself to be just as Aramaic as Assyrian I said sure I’m Aramaya [too]. He smiled and said Oh you can come in. He lifted his finger to his neck and making a slicing action against his throat said that all Assyrians are dead. Contrast that with a person like Akbulut who has four very old stone columns at the altar of his church. They are ‘pagan’ Assyrian columns he told me. One had a very worn Assyrian star engraved on its surface. He is proud of them.]
It’s odd that he’s meant to have said those things about the genocide to reporters ‘in private’. When the papers asked to interview him, he was told VERY SPECIFICALLY that everything he says will be published in the paper. Private? Hardly. When the journalists left, they said to him ‘you realize that a lot of good can’t come out of this interview’ or ‘that this interview will be bad for you?’ or something like that. He told them he can’t help the truth.
Believe me, saying what he said, in Turkey, CANNOT be ‘private’. It just doesn’t add up. In these countries run by the secret police, things said even among family in utter privacy can lead you into DEEP shit. Imagine a priest talking to two journalists about a topic that is very, very taboo in Turkey. No, whichever way you look at it, it’s pretty brave. It's easy for us in the West to say big deal, but even apparently small things like what Akbulut said and did is a BIG deal there. The secret police run the joint in southeast Turkey, like the Baathey's secret police run things in Syria and Iraq and the Persian secret police in Iran. Other areas of Turkey are more liberal but THAT part is diseased with intense government paranoia. Also, he denies having gotten off on a technicality. It was more the Turkish government wanting to show the West it is more liberal these days. And after that case things definitely ARE much better. He and others can speak relatively more freely and while he will be made to feel very uncomfortable and ‘an enemy of the state’ (as Assyrians, Armenians, Georgians, Kurds etc were made to feel), he certainly will not be subjected to what he was 2 years ago.
Akbulut stated the facts. Facts you can’t escape when you travel that part of the world. And his fellow priests did NOT support him. They in fact derided him. THEY are the ones who in real privacy believe the genocide happened but officially deny it. They admit to being too scared to officially recognize the genocide. Akbulut faced 3 years imprisonment. Many Assyrians in the area didn’t support him either – too scared of the implications for themselves. We take freedom of speech in the west for granted. I never knew what freedom is until I went to the ME. The secret police there, unlike the CIA or ASIO or other western secret intelligence forces, WANT you to feel their presence: they WANT you to know they’re there. Life can be pretty uncomfortable when one of your relatives might be a member and keep the secret police informed of your thoughts and activities. It's hell.
Things are a lot better for Assyrians in Turkey now. Some Suryoye are going back to their villages with the government’s blessing (whatever the underlying motive may be, it’s still a good thing). They are even telling the world things like ‘the Assyrian pople’s history goes back at least 4 thousand years in Turkey.’ [that’s from a tourist brochure].
I just hope that the new government sustains these positive changes.
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