After So Many Years, a Glimmer of Hope For AssyriansTuesday, May 12, 2015
After spending a long and tiring day networking at a recent conference, I decided to venture outside to let the fresh air clear my head. A group of us walked beside the blue waters together, leaving our footprints in the warm sand on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. This particular group held a mixture of nationalities – from French and Polish to Assyrian, and from African-American to Mexican. We turned our faces to the breeze and all commented on how calming it was.
I eventually distanced myself from the group, seeking some rare alone time to enjoy my surroundings. I closed my eyes and breathed the air deep into my lungs before opening them to gaze at the distant horizon. I watched the beautiful sun, which had earlier blazed so hot it burnt my skin, now lose its intensity and turn to a beautiful orange color. I closed my eyes again, took another deep breath through my nose and exhaled through my mouth, trying to memorize the moment. I could hear birds of all kinds chirping in harmony, as though they were singing a beautiful melody composed by a divine power. I was in the midst of nature, a place in which I rarely have the chance to be. What made the whole feeling more glorious was the sound of waves rushing to the shore and withdrawing back into the ocean, over and over again. How incredible is this creation! And what an amazing thought it was that ocean waves have repeated this very act since the beginning of time.
I watched those waves – without exhaustion – slamming against the shore and hitting the rocks lying in their wake. I noticed that over time, the waves had worn holes in the rocks and, in some places, created a pathway to the other side of the land. They reminded me of my nation, a nation whose children have experienced horrific injustice since the fall of their empire in 612 B.C. They have been conquered by different powers and have faced Arabization and Islamization. Mother Assyria witnessed her children die for their ethnicity and for their faith decade after decade and century after century for more than 2,000 years. But what astonishes me is this nation’s will to survive.
I looked up and stared at the perfect blue sky and prayed a little prayer for these tired but determined people.
As I began to walk down the rocks that I had climbed up earlier, I was taken back to 1915, the year my ancestors were among the myriads that fled the wrath of the Ottoman Turks and Kurds. As I felt the rocky path under my thin flip-flops, I thought of the hundreds of thousands of Assyrians and Yazidis who, in the summer of 2014, had fled from the Islamic State to the mountains – some of them barefoot.
Where is the international outcry? Who is asking the vital question: What can be done for these ancient peoples?
Two conference attendees approached as they saw me struggling to get down from the rocks. Claude and Maria had listened attentively to my earlier presentation and wanted to talk. Claude, a strong Christian, helped me down the hill and immediately expressed his solidarity, exclaiming, “Juliana, Assyrian Christians are not your people only. They are my people too. Through baptism, they are my Christian brothers and sisters.” With tears rolling down her face, Maria hugged me and pledged her support to bring justice to Assyrians.
For the very first time, as a native Assyrian, I see real worldwide interest in assisting the persecuted nations of the Middle East. Although there is religious cleansing underway against ancient communities in Iraq and Syria, the fact that these people are being massacred for their ethnicity is an act classified as genocide in the 21st century.
The Philos Project, a New York City-based organization that promotes positive Christian engagement in the Middle East, recognizes the urgent need for a concrete solution to this humanitarian crisis and historic tragedy. Bringing the young Assyrian leadership together with Christians who deeply care about their fellow brethren in Christ is the first step toward creating tangible solutions.
On June 6, 2015, under the banner of Justice for Assyrians, The Philos Project will host an important event to bring together people who want to make a difference. Attendees will hear important messages during this two-hour event, igniting the fire within to get involved in assisting this nation that was once known as the “Cradle of Civilization.” We believe the attendees will be moved to action from the riveting firsthand account of an Assyrian refugee who fled persecution to the show of solidarity expressed by our influential American Christian keynote speaker.
I am optimistic that the Justice Conference participants will gain a thorough knowledge of the plight of the indigenous people of Iraq, the Assyrian Christians, and will be ready to meet the members of this community who have stood with Christ even to the point of death – a community that is looking forward to a collaboration between different groups to create a bright future for these indigenous children of the Land [Iraq and Syria] and original Christians.
As the Atlantic Ocean waves reminded me of the Assyrian resilience and the will to live, the gentle breeze caressing my face reminds me of the love and support offered by the Western Christians during these tumultuous times.
The long awaited “Justice for Assyrians” is here and is starting with The Philos Project’s calling on the West to action. Please tweet #justiceforassyrians.