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           Jun 03, 2013



Opening Remarks by Bishop Mar Ibrahim Ibrahim- the General Chaldean National Conference

(Southfield, Michigan May 15, 2013)

Thank you Oday, thank you Shawqee!

I got a difficulty; I didn’t know which language I should use in my presentation this evening. If I use three languages (Chaldean, Arabic, and English) in my speech, it would be too long. I know that the language is meant to be understood, so I am going to speak the language that is most understandable by the majority of you present here. I will try to switch from Arabic to the Chaldean. When the document is in Arabic, I am going to read it in Arabic.

First of all, on behalf of you all, I would like to thank all the members of the Chaldean Democratic Forum for preparing and for inviting all of us this evening. So thank you dear members of the Chaldean Democratic Forum.

Second, the patriotic or national rights of everyone are fundamental rights. They are not political rights, but they are fundamental rights for every human being, so when we are talking about patriotic or national rights, we are seeking fundamental rights. We don’t like to create a (new) country for us. We (already) have a homeland; the whole world is our homeland. (For example) We have Iraq and America that are enough for us to live in. Our meeting (today) is not planned to be against any person, any organization, or any party. So the purpose of this conference is to unite all the Chaldeans men and women who are working in this field in order to make them speak with one voice and unify their speech. We want to unite all the Chaldean assets and make them intensify their efforts because when the Chaldeans become as one hand and one heart, all the other Christians such as Assyrian and Syriac people become also one hand and one heart with them.

I wish to share some background information:

The last empire reigned in Iraq (Mesopotamia) was the Chaldean Empire which rose in 620 BC and fell down in 538 BC. Then after the downfall of this Empire all the others (Empires), which reigned in Mesopotamia, were invaders from the outside. Only the Chaldean Empire was from the country and belonged to Iraqis, Mesopotamians, and Chaldeans.

National rights are human assertions, which are the results of a certain group of people that belong to each other; they have a spirit of affiliation to each other. Members of this group work together to maintain their nomenclature, history, civilization, language, and traditions. Therefore, what we are doing in this meeting today is to exactly achieve this objective. That is, to maintain our culture, our language, our traditions, our customs, and to get our national rights as our fundamental rights.

What has historically been the attitude of the Chaldean Catholic Church with these questions of nationalism? We all know that the Church has a message to serve man the human and preach his salvation. But, the Church also has an obligation to protect the victims of injustice, to guard the poor, and to defend the justice. If there is no justice then there will be oppression. The Church has a role and should intervene for the benefit of everyone.

I shall now cite some details about this subject during the past 150 years of Chaldean history:

Patriarch Yousif Audo (1848-1878) asserted and defended Chaldean rights. He didn’t allow anyone to stand against them. He defended these rights until the last breath of his life. The issue of “Balla & Burdie” is considered an example of the consequences of his defence of these Chaldean rights. Patriarch Audo had been saying to his Church that “the bishops meet from all of the archbishoprics of the Chaldean Nation” and this documented is in a book of his letters, which I translated.

The next Patriarch, who came after Patriarch Audo, was Patriarch Peter XII Abbou Al-Younan (1887-1894). In the preface of the Chaldean Breviary, the book of liturgical prayer (Hodhra) he writes “All the Archbishoprics and the Churches of our Chaldean Nation are still observing this liturgy, and therefore we will order all the churches to keep to it now as it had been our custom we the Chaldeans”.

The next Patriarch Emmanuel II Thomas, wrote in1900- 1947 “The Papal Nuncio, who was sent by Rome, always wanted to merge the Chaldean Patriarchal Seminary with the Seminary of Dominican Fathers and make them one institute in Mosul, in order to be given to the Dominican fathers, but this objective never materialized”. Apparently, in 1925 the Papal Nuncio in Iraq had written to Rome “The issue of Patriarchal Seminary and the issue of handing over its management to the Dominican fathers or merging them both is the desire of Rome and the desire of papal Nuncio in Iraq, but this was not the desire of Chaldean Patriarch”. The Bishop Added, “In October 1926 the Papal Nuncio and the patriarch signed two agreements to merge the two institutes but these agreements were only ink on the paper, because the Chaldean Patriarch insisted to form his young people in order to bring them up according to the liturgy and culture of the Chaldean Nation”. The same Patriarch wrote another letter saying, “The Seminary is the joy of the Chaldean Nation”.

When 18 Chaldean bishops, who gathered in Baghdad on September 3, 2003, after the death of Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid to elect a new Patriarch, signed a letter to Paul Bremer (the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq following the 2003 invasion) stating the following, “the Chaldeans are the descendants of the original Iraqi people, and they constitute today the third nationality after the Arabs and Kurds of Iraq, thus forming 70 to 80% of Iraqi Christians. Until 1958, the Chaldean patriarch served as a member in the Iraqi Upper Chamber (Parliament). But today there are no Chaldeans representatives in the Iraqi governing council or in the Iraqi provisional government. This is considered an obvious oppression and unfairness over the rights of our Chaldean People, which we openly and insistently protest. We hereby ask your honourable administration to respect the Chaldean nationality, its position, and its role among the other nationalities, and we hope that the Chaldean nationality and its rights would be included in the new Iraqi constitution”.

On June 25, 2009, Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly sent a letter to the President of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) stating, “We assert our national Chaldean name beside the other nationalities. During Synod of the Chaldean bishops in Ankawa on May 5, 2009, we remind Your Excellency of our reasonable request asking to include the Chaldean National Name, independently with its own identity and legal rights, along with the other nationalities”. In other words, Patriarch Delly asked the President of Kurdistan Region to make the constitution of KRG compatible with the Federal Iraqi Constitution, article # 125.

Finally, the present Patriarch Sako known to you all. I shall be open and honest. Patriarch Sako does specify the role of the Church in the field of nationality as following: In an article published by the Chaldean Patriarchate on April 20, 2013, he explains, “The role of the Church in the field of nationalism implies the preservation of our history, heritage, language, liturgies, existence, etc.” This definition is only lacking one more thing, the preservation the Chaldean Name.

But misunderstanding began when His Beatitude added, “Nationalism must not replace the Church’s message”. Of course [Nationalism] must not replace the Church’s message. Who is claiming that? Who is saying that if anyone loves his homeland, or his nationality, or his people will betray the Church’s mission? The spiritual mission is always present in the Church, but caring for the people and defending their rights are fundamental task of the Church, as well. We don’t have to replace the two. That is, if we love our nationalism, we shouldn’t forget the mission of the Church. No, the Church preaches, completes her mission and, at the same time, can defend her nationalism. That was the deficiency of his commentary, and His Beatitude made the issue little more confused and more ambiguous when he added, “The subject of Nomenclature (Chaldean, Syriac, Assyrian) needs scientific study that should be carried out by specialists”. This is unacceptable for us. We don’t need specialists to tell us we are Chaldeans. We are Chaldeans without the opinion of the specialists. The Assyrians are Assyrians, the Syriacs are Syriacs, the Kurds are Kurds and the Arabs are Arabs, without anyone telling them who they are. We don’t need specialists in this field because every nation knows herself and doesn’t need others to teach them what is their nationalism.

So my brothers, I have to leave you with this information, and I wish success for all the members who are meeting now, and also I wish they will achieve unity. If the Chaldeans unite their forces, efforts, and voices in Iraq, then it is up to the Assyrians, Syriacs and the others to come to the Chaldean or not. Thank you and I apologize for prolonging.


Translation by: Haseeb Amboulus