The Foundation of the European Syriac Union

242 delegates representing the following institutions participated in a congress held in Brussels between 14 and 15 May 2004:

  • Syrianska-Assyriska Riksförbundet i Sverige (Sweden)
  • Renyo Hiro Magazine (Sweden)

  • Union of the Syriac Associations in Switzerland

  • Bethnahrin Informationnetwork  Switzerland (BINS)

  • Bethnahrin Culture Centre Germany

  • Bethnahrin Information Bureau in the Netherlands

  • Institut Mésopotamie de Bruxelles

  • Centre Culturel du Peuple de Mésopotamie in Belgium

  • Assyrian-Syriac Culture Centre Vieanna, Austria

  • Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac Union (ACSU)

  • Bethnahrin Women Union (HNB)

  • Union of the Youth of Mesopotamia (HCB)

On the first day of the congress the draft of the constitution was presented to the delegates and was accepted through democratic elections. According to the constitution, the name of the new organization is the “European Syriac Union (ESU)".

Then, the president and the executive council of the union were elected. The president was elected first and then 18 members of the board as well as 12 deputy members of the board, altogether 31 members of the board, were elected as the Board Council of the ESU in separate ballots. Later, the Managing Board Committee selected six members of the Board as the Executive Committee of this organization.

Numerous guests and representatives of the press joined the delegates for the second day of the Congress. Mr. Iskender Alptekin, the chairman of the European Syriac Union, started the second day with an inaugural address. After explaining the goals of the ESU he presented the Managing Board to all participants.

The following speakers then presented their views to the auditors:

  • Professor Dr. Herman Teule, Director of the Institute of Christian Orient from the University of Nijmegen (Netherlands)

  • Mr. Ayad Mossad, Chairman of the Union of the Christians from the Middle East (Netherlands)

  • Mrs. Brigitte Grouwels, Flemish Christian-Democratic leader

  • Mr. Walter Van Den Bosche, Flemish Christian-Democratic leader

  • Senator John Nimrod, Secretary-General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA)

  • Mr. Eshaya Isho, Secretary-General of the Assyrian National Organization (ANO)

  • Rev. Daniel Chammoun, Deputy of Mar Odisho Avraham, Archbishop of the Assyrian Church of the East in Europe.

The Syriacs are one of the oldest people of the Middle East. They appeared in the year 4000 B.C. with different names and at different times. Starting from 2350 B.C. they formed political states, empires and kingdoms under the names of Akkad, Assyria, Babylon, Aram and Osrohene (dynasty of Abgarits). The Syriacs are one of the first people who converted to Christianity. Because of their particular civilization and Christian characteristics they spread their culture in the entire Middle East.

For more than 1600 years the Syriacs have been persecuted due to their Christian faith. Although they had no political power they could retain their existence. The events of the First World War, which took place within the borders of the Ottoman Empire, took a great toll on the progress of this people. At that time hundreds of thousands of Syriacs were massacred and forced out from their homes. Afterwards they were excluded from the political re-organization in the Middle East. In the period between the First World War and the end of the Cold War, the Syriac people confronted complete extermination. The policy of the great forces, directed and determined in the Cold War, was driven by oil and led to the non-consideration and isolation of the Syriac people. While in the region the rulers were determined, there were no democratic conditions for the Syriacs in the whole Middle East, which could ensure their future existence. Due to the unstable and uncertain situation and the constant suppression they had to leave their homeland into all four directions.

In the last 40 years active emigration of the Syriacs to the Western European countries has taken place. In Europe the Syriac people could develop and become active in social and cultural fields, and found numerous associations and federations. Due to these political and social movements, that took place for 10 years, the consciousness search for an ethnic identity was once again conceived and promoted. Furthermore innumerable demonstrations, hunger strikes, political, cultural and social events and actions were organized, in order to refer to the persistent suppression for hundreds of years of the Syriac people and to terminate the current discrimination and persecution. Therefore, the demands for democratic rights could develop within the Syriac people.

On the other hand the demands of our people were published on the agenda of the European parliaments and other platforms. Therefore a necessity became apparent. Because the legitimately entitled rights of our people had to be transmitted more professionally to the responsible international authorities. Due to this challenge and due to the global change process taking place now, and their requirements of the Syriac people, the European Syriac Union (ESU) was founded. The scope of the ESU will be in the context of the European right terms.

Conclusion

We believe that the Syriacs could play an important role in the democratization of the Middle East because the Syriacs are an integral component of the Middle East and Europe. The Syriacs living in Europe for the last 40 years are integrated in the European society and could therefore act as a bridge between the cultures of the East and the West. This point of view and confidence rely on the historical experiences and values, which could be won in the last years of our movement. Additionally the Syriacs could participate due to their peaceful and friendly relations to all denominations in the Middle East in the construction of a democratic environment. Therefore we are convinced that in this way the understanding of friendship, brotherliness and the mutual confidence between the Orient and Occident could grow and could be spread widely.