“I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. HE THAT BELIEVETH IN ME, THOUGH HE WERE DEAD, YET SHALL HE LIVE; AND WHOSOEVER LIVETH AND BELIEVETH IN ME SHALL NEVER DIE. BELIEVEST THOU THIS?” – JOHN 11:25-26
In 2017, the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) and its Member Federations celebrated the Year of the Aramean Identity. This year, we mark the Year of the Aramean People. While wishing all WCA Members a Blessed Easter, we also take the opportunity to highlight the importance of this year’s theme that will introduce fantastic projects and activities to help strengthen our sense of peoplehood.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). These were Jesus’ last words on the Cross, expressed in Aramaic. Having survived ethnic cleansing, genocide and mass exoduses, many Aramean Christians from the Middle East may have felt abandoned by the international community and even by God. Much of their heritage and presence have disappeared and their existence in the homeland has become uncertain. Moreover, these recent years in Iraq and Syria have shown us again that praying in our churches or our homes, hoping that nobody will come to harm us, is no longer an option for survival – either as Christians or as Arameans.
As Arameans, we take pride in being among the first nations to believe in the Gospel and resurrection of Christ. Our learned church fathers have passed on to us encouraging writings that teach us, as followers of Jesus Christ, that we – like certain other Christian nations – are an ancient people with a rich cultural heritage and identity.
Intellectuals such as the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Michael the Elder (†1199) have proudly written about our Aramean kings and kingdoms in Antiquity. The famous writer Jacob of Serugh (†521) identified our homeland in Southeast Turkey and Northeast Syria as Aram, Mesopotamia (Beth-Nahrin), Aram-(Meso)potamia (Aram-nahrin) and the House/Land of the Arameans (Beth-Oromoye). These and other church fathers have also expressed their immense pride in our Aramaic mother tongue, mainly because it was spoken by none other than Christ Himself.
Easter includes the central messages of faith, hope and resurrection. It can inspire us to rethink where we stand in the world, how we can strengthen our self-belief and why we must confidently work towards the revival of our threatened people and our endangered cultural heritage. Every single Aramean – young or old, male or female, rich or poor, clergy or layperson – can contribute one way or another to these critical questions.
Having invested in our church infrastructure for 1700 years was a great virtue. However, if we wish to protect this unique heritage, we must also invest in a national/people’s infrastructure. Thanks to your membership, WCA can continue to work effectively on ensuring our human rights within the framework of international law and on developing our diplomatic relations with governments to make our people heard, seen and supported.
We will soon share ideas with you to empower our people, but Easter should remind us that God has never turned away from us. Having faith in Him and in the strength He keeps granting us, our Lord has also gifted us with a free will. This helps us to achieve our individual and national dreams and to determine our own destiny.
May we shine brightly and shed light to others as Christians, while upholding our moral duty to preserve our cultural heritage as Arameans. Let us praise God, because Christ is risen! Let us also celebrate, as WCA Family, the Year of the Aramean People and inform the world that the Aramean people and their Aramaic language and heritage have risen from the ashes of death and destruction.
WCA WISHES YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES A HAPPY AND BLESSED EASTER!