The year of mercy lecture series culminated on Tuesday 2-23-2016 with his Excellency, Mar Sarhad Jammo, lecturing on the future of the Chaldean Church. He started the final lecture by saying that few facts have to be acknowledged which had developed the last few years. According to the Iraqi government official census, the Christian population was about 1.4 million four decades ago. Today, the number is about 400.000, which is roughly one-third of what it was few years ago. One million Iraqi Christians had left their ancestor’s land and are living scattered throughout the world.
Furthermore, many of the areas that kept and used the Chaldean language for centuries are now empty of their inhabitants. Most of the churches in Iraq had switched to praying in Arabic instead of Aramaic- Chaldean. They have gone so far as to celebrate the installation of new priests, bishops, or even a patriarch not using our traditional, and properly fit, Chaldean language but Arabic language. Most of the Christians that were forced to move from their areas are now taking to the language of the areas they moved to, like Kurdish language in Kurdistan, north of Iraq, and Arabic in the middle and the south of Iraq. Language is what distinguishes people and gives them their identity.
To add to the disappointment of the situation, Chaldean church leaders had modified their behavior to fit the Islamic atmosphere of Baghdad and Kurdistan. You are a Christian only at your home and at church but nothing else. It is a tragedy, indeed, that the sons of princes had lost their rights. To add insult to injury, these leaders had introduced prayers to our liturgy that are not ours but belong to others for hope of unity when the others had turned their faces away. Here we are after so many years and no one of the other churches had extended a hand of unity.
Our leaders are further abandoning our identity by adopting the Syriac name for our culture. Have you ever seen, for example, a polish clergy, a French clergy, or any other clergy being convinced by others that he is polish, French, or whatever he happens to be. This is the level our church leaders had reached in abandoning our Chaldean language for the Syriac language. We are not Syrians, and never were throughout history, even though we respect our Syrian Christian brothers in Christ. We have our own Chaldean identity and our Chaldean language that we take pride in and cherish and maintain.
His Excellency went on to say; now, and at this point in history, we have a responsibility toward the one million that had left their motherland, which is also a reality that we need to deal with. These Christians left to escape severe religious persecution and to try to preserve their heritage in countries that offer them freedom of religion and language. What’s next for the future of those 1 million outside their motherland are two vital issues: Their Language and their church Liturgy. Language unites people anywhere and maintaining liturgy assures the continuation of their heritage from this generation to future ones. Also, being faithful and honest to that liturgy we received all the way from Mar Addi and Mari. Reform is to faithfully purify any impurities that had been added over generations and return the liturgy to its original form. It is a mistake to put down our language of which St. Matthew had referred to as the language of our Lord Jesus Christ that originated in Babylon. To claim that our liturgy is “old” and unfit to modern life, then come to any Chaldean church in California and listen and watch the beauty of that old. The 1 million that had left could not take the humility of being called Arabs and denied their Chaldean language. Our liturgical heritage is both heavenly and apostolic and we are doing everything to preserve it for our people.