I recently read Joyce Wiswell's piece entitled "Will - and should - Chaldeans and Assyrians unite?" and I firmly believe that the identity designation of "Chaldean" should not be used interchangeably with "Assyrian.”
Many Assyrians argue that the designation of the Chaldean name is religious, and not cultural. At first, when the Catholic Church gave the Assyrian Catholics the name “Chaldean” in 1553, we shared nearly identical traits in our culture with the other Assyrians. But we are currently living half a millennium after the fact. In those 500 years, Chaldeans have developed their own dialect, traditions, and ways. Our culture is directly correlated to our religion, Catholicism. This doesn’t mean that we cannot have a culture to supplement our strong religious values.
In Michigan alone, there are 120,000 Chaldeans. I would venture to guess that 80% refuse to denote themselves as Assyrians. There’s a reason for this choice; we are no longer the same people. Our parents didn’t just decide that we aren’t Assyrians out of thin air. We’ve acknowledged ourselves as Chaldeans for centuries, and we’ve embraced our culture. It’s ours, and we shouldn’t be willing to compromise it by assimilating into an Assyrian identity. In my 18th year as a Chaldean, I’ve been criticized for not calling myself Assyrian, which isn’t only an identity I don’t associate with, but also a name that will become the end to our culture.
Examine the consequences of Chaldeans accepting ancient relations and identifying themselves as Assyrians. Already, the forced assimilation has occurred in media. A prime example is of the recently martyred Father Ragheed Ganni of Iraq, who was mentioned as an Assyrian priest killed in an Assyrian Church, with no mention of his ties to the Chaldean Catholic Church. Our Chaldean villages, like Telkeppe and Alqosh, are designated as Assyrian villages on the user-edited Wikipedia, which millions of users use as a source of reliable information. Our name is being erased, and this systematic and carefully planned Assyrianization (as I call it), will prove to be the end of the Chaldeans. We'll be remembered historically as the Ancient Chaldeans, and that's if the history books of the future don’t decide to call us Catholic Assyrians.
Assyrianization is very similar to the Arabization process. The Arab name was forced on us in Iraq. We were forced to speak Arabic, and punished when we spoke our mother tongue. Indeed, history repeats itself, and this time, it’s more subtle. This approach is proving an end to our rich culture, just by simply identifying as an Assyrian. As I’ve already illustrated, there’s so much to a name; it is not just a name.
Hopefully, Assyrian groups will not insist an identity change from the Chaldeans. It is my hope that we can work together, without forcing an identity on anyone else, in order to help our suffering people of Iraq. We’re related to the Assyrians historically, but we’re no longer the same people. We’re simply Modern Assyrians and Modern Chaldeans. We’re different. And everyone should assess the consequences of this very important issue before a culture is erased.
ashur (assyrians): i love assyria!
yousif (chaldeans): bro, assyria doesn't exist anymore
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