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Self-Dignity, the Consequence of Freedom

Christianity is the religion that makes a positive difference in the lives of individuals and nations; it moves men and cultures from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge of truth: it transforms people from misery to happiness, and from sinfulness to holiness. Christianity offers salvation to the believer because it is the religion of charity, hope and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christianity guarantees God’s given rights: freedom, self-determination and the pursuit of happiness to every person Almighty God created. The coming in flesh of the Son of God, revealed these principles and for more than 2000 years the Church has proclaimed them in the context of promoting the message of the Kingdom of God, to all nations of the earth.

On the strength of such an understanding of the nature of Christianity and the mission of the Church, and putting aside historic and scholarly considerations and looking at the matter from the perspective of human rights, I would like to comment on some of the statements made in the 2011 Christmas letter of the Assyrian Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV.

Over the years it has been a custom for Patriarch Mar Dinkha to “talk the talk but not walk the walk”. He preaches about “the clergy’s obligation to avoid intervention in politics”, “the duty of everyone to live charitable and vitreous life” and “the obligation of all to avoid hatred, jealousy and strife”. But, amazingly in the same letter he imprudently undermines others by making empty claims about them, namely, asserting that Christians from the Chaldean Church, the Syriac Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, ALL belong to one nation (his nation), i.e., the Assyrian Nation. He completely dismisses the mention of the Ancient Church of the East in his letter.

The question that many ask is: based on what authority would Mar Dinkha deny Chaldeans and Syriacs the being of their own particular, historic, cultural and nationalistic identity, in the way they apply it and in the manner they see fit? Does this Assyrian Patriarch realize that self-identification is God-given right to individuals and nations, and no decent person should undermine, or coerce others to change or rename what fittingly and willfully belongs to them? How can any civilized person – – let alone a man of God, as a bishop or patriarch – – in good conscience abolish the aspiration and identity of his brothers and sisters? A real Christian would not even dare to attempt doing such a thing against his enemy! Or, how can Patriarch Mar Dinha by a stroke of his pen dismiss the name of the Ancient Church of the East? Without judging Mar Dinkha’s intention, but only observing the consistency of his previous action in regard to this matter, there are two possible answers: either ignorance or ill will.

I am sure many noble and decent Assyrians who worship Christ as their God and Savior reject such attitude and would not condone or vindicate the elimination of others, in particular their Chaldean brothers and sisters. On the contrary, there are scores of Assyrians that I know, and even may not personally, who love and appreciate Chaldeans, Syriacs and the Ancient Church of the East. We respect their right to self-identification and support their cultural and nationalistic aspirations. These Assyrians know well that they must treat Chaldeans in the same way they wish to be treated, with equality and reciprocity; and vice versa. Honorable Assyrians stand today in solidarity with Chaldeans throughout the world and unequivocally support their rights and freedoms. These freedoms are God-given and therefore there is no favor to any one in doing so, but in fact there is only the sign of clarity of faith in God and the evidence of being civilized and decent.

The heartbreaking tragedy is not only in what Mar Dinkha says, but also in how much he has misguided his clergy, institutions and many of his faithful. The root cause of this unfortunate situation is his capacity and choice to continue living in ecclesial isolation from other Churches, to disorient and disconnect himself and his flock from every ecclesial apostolic body in Christianity, in particular from the Successor of Saint Peter, the Bishop of Rome. Because of this serious situation, and for the sake of the salvation of souls, and in faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the Church he established, thousands of my beloved flock and clergy, along with myself, in year 2007 requested full-communion from the Catholic Church and in 2008 entered into the Chaldean Catholic Church. Thanks be to God and may His grace be to everyone, as well.

Written January 6, 2012.