To begin with, who are the Assyrians? Well, they are an ethnic group from Assyria, a region located in the Middle East. The commonplace that forms the Assyrian homeland is the part of Iraq, Turkey, northwestern Iran, and north Syria. While many speak Semitic languages, mostly the Neo-Aramaic Branch, most of them speak the primary languages of the country of residence.
Contrary to what may believe, Assyrians are primarily Christian, mostly adhering to the East and West Syriac liturgical rites of Christianity. The churches that constitute the East Syriac rite include the Chaldean Catholic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, and the Ancient Church of the East, whereas the churches of the West Syriac rite are the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Syriac Catholic Church. Both rites use Classical Syriac as their liturgical language.
If you live in North America, Australia, Europe, and Russia, there is a particularly good chance you’ve met or know someone of Assyrian heritage. Many Assyrians have been displaced and migrated to these countries seeking asylum because of wars or religious persecution including:
· The massacre of Hakkari
· The massacres of Diyarbakir, the Assyrian genocide (which occurred in parallel with the Armenian and Greek genocide)
· The Semele massacre
· The Iranian revolution
· The Arab nationalist policies in Iraq
· The Syrian take over by the Islamic State
· The 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies
· The 2011 Syrian civil war
· General displacement in the hands of religious extremists in Iraq and Syria
Before I let you go, here are 5 things you need to remember:
2. Much of the Christian influence came because of the Roman-Persian Wars. Christianity influenced Assyrian culture. Many Assyrian customs are common in other Middle Eastern cultures. Main festivals occur during religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas.
3. They also excelled in philosophy, science, and theology. It is worthy to note that personal physicians of the Abbasid Caliphs were often Assyrians, such as the long-serving Bukhtishu dynasty. Many scholars of the House of Wisdom were of Assyrian Christian background.
4. The most significant recent persecution against the Assyrian population was the Assyrian genocide which occurred during the First World War. Between 275,000 and 300,000 Assyrians were estimated to have been slaughtered by the armies of the Ottoman Empire and their Kurdish allies, totaling up to two-thirds of the entire Assyrian population.
5. People often greet and bid relatives farewell with a kiss on each cheek and by saying Shlama/Shlomo lokh, which means: “Peace be upon you” in Neo-Aramaic. Others are greeted with a handshake with the right hand only; according to Middle Eastern customs, the left hand is associated with evil.
Are you of Assyrian heritage, know an Assyrian friend you would like to give a gift, or are you interested in Assyrian artwork? We might have something of interest to you. Please check out the link below.