Assyrian Christians appeal to White House

 ABP A Middle Eastern ethnic umbrella organization has written President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden asking them to push for an autonomous region for Assyrian Christians in Iraq.  The Assyrian Universal Alliance released letters Feb. 10 appealing to Obama and Biden to urge Iraq to establish a self-administered region in ancestral Assyrian lands under jurisdiction of Iraq’s central government.

Calro Ganjeh, secretary of the alliance’s Americas region, said the action is needed save Iraq’s dwindling Assyrian population from extinction.  Though predominantly a Muslim country, Iraq is home to one of the oldest Christian communions in the world. More than a million Chaldean Christians are thought to have fled sectarian violence in the country that followed by the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.  Dozens of Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul died in a string of murders last fall, apparently because of their ethnic identity, amid a power struggle between minority Kurds and Sunni Muslims in provincial elections.

The letters to Obama and Biden said the situation in northern Iraq, the heart of Assyrian ancestral lands, “points to alarming deterioration of our nation’s status.”  “With so many Assyrians having fled Iraq, the very survival of the Assyrian nation hangs in the balance,” Ganjeh wrote. “Our numbers are dwindling and our communities are being shattered. Should this continue, the world will witness the demise of one of its most ancient and historically significant nations.”  Formed in 1968, the Assyrian Universal Alliance brings together various Assyrian national federations and organizations around the world. It exists to inform the world about the plight of ethnic Assyrians and promote safety and rights of Assyrian peoples wherever they live.

Ganjeh said an Assyrian region would encourage refugees and internally displaced Assyrians to return to Iraq.  Assyrians, also known as Chaldean Christians or Chaldo-Assyrians, date their community to the first century. The group includes both Eastern-rite Catholics who recognize the pope’s authority and an independent church. Christians were offered protection under former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but since his overthrow have been subjected to persecution by fundamentalist Muslims who say all Christians should either leave Iraq or be killed.

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