Aram Nahrin: the
Aramaeans, the Bible, Christianity, and the West
To illuminate the
extraordinary contribution of the Aramean Nation to the formation and
development of Christianity, Islam and other religious systems, and to
underscore the terrible plight that afflicted the religiously and
politically multi-divided nation, we decided to have an interview with
an outstanding Armaean thinker and activist, Mr. Gabriel Sengo, Chairman
of the Aram Nahrin Organization.
By Prof. Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin
We are confident that through the several consecutive parts of the
necessarily lengthy and very informative interview, the average Western
reader will have an unparalleled opportunity to see the dark side of the
Middle Eastern moon that has long been kept under secretive silence. A
series of further articles on the Aramaeans, whom no one should call
‘Asyrians’ or ‘Chaldaeans’ anymore, will contextualize this interview.
An Interview with Mr. Gabriel Sengo, Chairman of the Aram
- Would you describe the deeds and the targets of Aram Nahrin
Aram Nahrin is an international Human Rights and Cultural organization
for defending worldwide the interests of the Indigenous Aramean Nation.
This includes, amongst other responsibilities, promotion of their
genuine cultural heritage, fighting for recognition of their fundamental
human rights in particular in the Middle-East, combating the Western
Colonial spiritual practices, fighting for the recognition both of the
spiritual as well as physical genocide, and providing the world with
unbiased and genuine information regarding the Aramean nation. To
achieve this, we amongst others participate in the United Nations
meetings of interest, report to the international institutions/
organizations on a number of topics concerning the rights of our nation,
write to governments to help educate them, etc., etc..
- Whom does Aram Nahrin represent?
- Aram Nahrin represents the Aramean (also known as "Assyrians" or
Chaldeans) Indigenous nation of the Middle-East who have been present
since thousands of years in this area. However since the beginning of
20th century many of them fled to the West, mainly because of
persecutions and discrimination. Arameans are not the same as
‘Armenians’ and they are distinct from Arabs. In the Middle East they
can be found in Syria (1.5 million), Lebanon (2.0 million), Israel
(50.000), Jordan (70.00), Iraq (500.000-600.000), Iran (10-20.000) and
are known under religious names such as "Maronites", "Syrian orthodox",
"Syrian Catholic", "Chaldeans", "Nestorians or Assyrians", "Melkite (Greek)
orthodox"and "Melkite (Greek) Catholic".
- Where do the Aram Nahrin members come from?
They come from various countries of the Middle-East. To mention a few:
Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan etc..
- To what extent are the Aramaeans known in the West?
- The Arameans (including "Assyrians" and Chaldeans) are quite
unknown in the West by the public, although sometimes wrongfully as
"Arab Christians". The majority of the public in the West is aware of
the Aramaic language, the language spoken by Christ Jesus, Moses and
Abraham. However, many of them are not familiar with the owners of this
language, namely the Aramean nation, who have been present for thousands
of years in the area of Aram-Nahrin which became known to many people as
Mesopotamia. As for the little that is known of them in the West, they
are not correctly represented, but rather with fake names invented by
the Colonial Spiritual activities of the West to split and destroy our
History and the Bible
- Would you give our readers a brief diagram of the Aramaean
The area where the Aramean people come from was known as "Mesopotamia"
and since the 20th century has been divided into the modern countries
Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
In ancient times the cradle of the
Aramean forefathers was called Aramnahrin (or: Aram-Nahrin) in
Aramaic. In Hebrew it was called Aram-Naharaim which we encounter in the
Old Testament. When the Old Testament was translated into Greek, the
term Aram-Naharaim was translated into Mesopotamia, which most of people
become familiarized with through reading educational and historical
The northern area of Aram-Naharaim was called Paddan-Aram, meaning
the land of Aram where Biblical figures like Abraham and Jacob lived and
In Genesis 24:4 Abraham says to his servants,
"You must go back to the country where I was
born and get a wife for my son Isaac from among my relatives."
Abraham says, "….the country where I was
born…." meaning the country of his Aramean fathers
Paddan-Aram (part of Aram-Naharaim). (Please also compare Deuteronomy
Roughly speaking, this area is situated in present south-eastern
Turkey. A section of Paddan-Aram is now called Tur Abdin in the Aramaic
(Syriac) language, which means "the mountains of the servants of the
Lord", due to the overwhelming presence of monasteries and churches.
Because of overwhelming presence of Arameans in the southern part of
Aram-Nahrin, in the era of early Christianity, it was called
Beth-Aramaya, meaning (in Aramaic) "the house of the Arameans".
Indigenous Aramean traditions and Proto-land Paddan-Aram / Tur- Abdin
According to the Aramean indigenous traditions, the origin of the
Arameans can be traced to the upper- Mesopotamia, the plain of
Paddan-Aram- in particular ‘Tur Abdin’ – which is the proto-land of the
Aramean nation. From this proto- or indigenous land, in the course of
time, the Arameans started to expand all over the near east. They
established many kingdoms. To mention a few of them: Aram-Damascus,
Aram-Beth Eden (Amos 1:5), Aram-Bit Bahiani, Aram-Bit Zamani (Diyarbekir),
Arpad, Samal and Hama.
The awareness of the proto-land Tur-Abdin / Paddan-Aram as the land
of Arameans is clearly attested to by the brilliant Indigenous scholars
of the Syrian Church of Antioch. These scholars had access to genuine
historical sources, which disappeared in the course of time, at their
disposal and thus their testimonies are of higher values than theories
invented by some (materialized and sometimes politicized) modern
scientists! A few examples may clarify this:
*John Beth Rufina (John Rufus, the bishop of Maiumuni, Palestina, end
of the fifth century) says, "After the flood in the days of Noah, the
Arameans inhabited Beth Nahrin."
*Michael the Great (Turkey, Malatya, 1199) says, "The kingdoms which
have been established in antiquity by our race, (that of) the Aramaeans,
namely the descendants of Aram, who were called Syrians
*Patriarch Afrem Barsauwm, also called ‘the star of the Middle-east’,
says, ""Beth Nahrin Beth Abraham, the land of Noah, Shem and Aram"
*Patriarch Afrem Barsauwm (called ‘the star of the Middle-east’) says,
"The first inhabitants of Tur Abdin were the Arameans. This was also
repeated by the East- Aramean Chaldean metropolitan Aday Sher, born in
1867 in Shaqlawa (Northern Iraq), who later became the archbishop of
Yacob Avgin Manna (Jacques-Eugene Manna 1867-1928), Bishop of the
East-Aramean Chaldean church wrote, "The people from Babylon and Assur,
are Arameans. The countries of Babylon and Assur were always called Beth
Aramaye, that means country of the Arameans."
Not only the Aramean indigenous traditions, but also the Biblical
traditions regarding Laban and Betuel the Arameans of Paddan-Aram
(Genesis 24:1-66) and Abraham (2038 BC) the wandering Aramean (Deuteronomy
26:5) reveal something about proto-land Paddan-Aram / Tur Abdin.
3. Arameans and
After the coming of Jesus Christ, the Arameans of Aram-Naharaim
accepted the teachings of Christ and established together with the
apostles of Jesus and the converted Jews, the Syrian Church of Antioch,
the second Patriarchy after Jerusalem, where for the first time the
followers of Jesus Christ were called Christians (Acts 11:26). This
church was the mother of all the Churches and the first Church
established outside Israel, whose Patriarch currently resides in
The Semitic Arameans (‘not to be confused with "Armenians") underwent
a change of name after they had embraced Christianity and were then
called "Syrians", in order to be distinguished from the Arameans who
were not converted. However, this should not be confused with the
present-day Syrian Arabs.
In a deeper sense, the name "Syrian" belongs to the Aramean people
and not to the Arab invaders. However, after the conquering of
Mesopotamia by the Arabs, they adapted the name "Syrian", with the
result that the real Syrians, that is to say the Arameans, became
strangers in their own indigenous lands.
The Arameans were spread throughout the Middle East. However, in the
very beginning of Christianity, geographically they were divided into
East-Arameans, those living in Persian Empire and West-Arameans, those
living in the Roman (Byzantine) Empire. Roughly speaking, Euphrates was
The Church in the Roman Empire: Syrian orthodox church of Antioch,
the mother Church, with Antioch as the Ecclesial Jurisdiction.
The Church in Persia: The Church of the East or the Church of Persia,
Seleucia Ctesiphon was the seat of the Catholicos. However the Arameans
in Persia were still under the jurisdiction of Antioch.
The Arameans, who did not convert to Christianity, remained heathens;
however with the advent of Islam many of them converted to Islam, forgot
their Aramean origin, and hence were called "Arabs".
- What religions, denominations do modern Aramaeans believe/practice?
Would you give details about numbers of believers, religious hierarchy,
The Arameans consist of various denominations, for example: Orthodox,
Catholics and smaller factions like Protestants, Baptists etc.. The
Majority however consist of Orthodox and Catholics.
The numbers mentioned here below and elsewhere are only estimated. In
the Middle East, the governments are not generous with providing exact
numbers regarding their Christian subjects!
Hierarchy Orthodox: Patriarch – Bishop –
The head of the Church is the patriarch, the bishops are the heads of
the Archdiocese and the Priests (married in the case of Orthodox) are
the heads of the local churches.
The priests are responsible to the bishops and in turn the bishops
are responsible to the Patriarch. The monks generally live separate from
the outside world in the monasteries and lead an ascetic life!
Instead of patriarch, the Aramean Catholics are subjects of the pope
of Rome, and this includes West-Aramean Syrian Catholics, West-Aramean
Melkite Catholics, West-Aramean Maronites, and East-Aramean Chaldeans.
The priests are not married. Apart from this, their hierarchy is more or
less the same.
The main church is the Syrian Church of the East or the East-Syrian
Church which also became known as "The Nestorian Church", "The Church of
Persia", "The Church of the East" and more recently (since 1976) as "The
Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East".
In Iraq there are around 20.000-25.000 "Assyrians", while worldwide
they are estimated to be around 400.000, many of them living in the
However, they may also be found in Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia,
Iran, Syria and Lebanon.
The Church leaders in the East and the West:
For the mainstream "Nestorians", their church leader is Patriarch Mar
Dinkha IV, who resides in Chicago, the United States.
In 1968, the East Syrian Church was split, and the separated part was
called: The Ancient Church of the East, sometimes also refered to as
"the Assyrian Orthodox Church".
Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East is Mar Addai II who
resides in Baghdad.
In addition there are also small sects originating from the East
Syrian Church for example, Nestorian Baptists, Protestants, Assyrian
Pentecostal Church etc.. etc..
In the year 1553 the Roman Catholic missionaries brainwashed a part
of the East-Aramean "Nestorian" clergy by means of bribery to call
themselves "Chaldeans" and with that, the Chaldean Church (of Babylon)
was born and the division within the East-Arameans was a fact! These
Chaldeans can be found mainly in northern of Iraq. However there are
also Chaldeans in Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the West, in particular the
United States of America. In Iraq there are around 200.000- 300.000
Chaldeans and worldwide there are around 500.000-600.000.
The Church leader is Patriarch Mar Emmanuel III Delly, resides in
Iraq. Patriarch Delly is a subject of the Pope.
Main Stream: The Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. The Patriarch is
Mar Zakka Iwas I, who resides in Damascus. Adherents, around 1.000.000
worldwide, in Iraq around 80.000, 160.000 in Syra and 80.000 in Lebanon.
Furthermore, they can be found in Turkey, Israel, Jordan and the West (including
North America, Brazil and Argentina).
Syrian Catholic Church:
Existed since 17th century. Patriarch Ignatius Peter III Abdel Ahad,
resides in Beirut, subject of the Pope of Rome. Around 100.000 adherents
worldwide, in Iraq 40.000.
Syrian Maronite Church:
Since 1182 subject to Rome. Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Cardinal
Sfeir, resides in Bkerke Lebanon. The Aramean Maronites are the largest
of all the Aramean denominations. Worldwide the Aramean Maronites are
estimated to be around 4-5 million, while other sources speak of 12
million people. In Lebanon there are around 1 million Maronites. In the
West, they mainly live in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and
Melkite (Greek) Orthodox Church, Antiochian
(The term "Greek" has no relation with ethnicity, it is rather
They are followers of the ecumenical council of Chalcedon since 451.
Their Patriarch is Mar Ignatius IV (Hazim), who resides in Damascus in
Syria. Most of the Melkite Orthodox Arameans live in Syria and Lebanon.
In Syria their number is estimated to be around 600.000, while worldwide
they total at around 1.200.000- 1.400.000. Furthermore they can be found
in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey, the West (including north and south
America, Australia and Europe)
Melkite (Greek) Catholic Church:
Since 1724, separated from Melkite (Greek) Orthodox Church. Patriarch
Gregorios III Laham, resides in Damascus, Syria and is subject to the
Pope of Rome. There are worldwide around 1.100.000 West- Aramean Melkite
Catholics with around 700.000 in the Middle- East. The West- Aramean
Melkite Catholics can be found in Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Brazil,
Canada, Australia, Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina.
Very rough calculations: Total amount of Arameans worldwide: 400.000
+ 600.000+ 1.000.000+ 100.000 +4.000.000 + 1.400.000 + 1.100.000 =
If we assume that there are 12 million Maronites, the total amount of
Arameans would be: 16.600.000.
- Are there non-Christian Aramaeans?
- Yes there are! Between Midyat (Tur Abdin, Turkey) and Mardin (Turkey)
there are around 300.000 Arameans who are called "Mhalmoye", sometimes
wrongfully referred to as "Kurds". These "Mhalmoye" are known as "Ahlamu
Arameans" in the annals of the Assyrian kings. Tiglath- Pilsere I
(1114-1076) says about these Ahlamu Arameans "
I marched against the Akhlamu Aramaeans, enemies of the god Ashur… … I
crossed the Euphrates twice in one year, in pursuit of the Akhlamu
The Mhalmoye were Christians, however a few centuries back they
converted en mass to Islam due to a dispute they had with one of our
Aramean bishops. In Lebanon there are around 70.000 Sunni-Muslims who
are called "Mhallami or Mardinli" (i. e. those from Mardin). We don’t
know if these Mhallami are the same as "Mhalmoye" or Ahlamu. If they are
the same as Mhalmoye, then they are definitely not ‘Kurds’, but the same
group of Arameans who a few centuries ago coverted to Islam.
There are in Syria two villages called Jubb ‘Addin and Bakh’a (50 km
from Damascus) where the inhabitants are Moslems. These Moslems speak
Aramaic and are aware of their Aramean origin. They are so proud of
their Aramean origin that they even translate songs from other languages
into Aramaic and maintain their customs and traditions. However, other
Arameans who converted to Islam and did not maintain their Aramaic
language, adopted Arabic and hence are called in our days "Arabs".
However, these "Arabs" are not Arabs in the sense of their ethnicity,
but rather because they have adapted Arabic. Thus they are
linguistically "Arabised", not ethnically!
In other words: there are millions of Islamic Arameans who "lost"
their ethnicity after their conversion to Islam and are called "Arabs".
We don’t know whether these Arameans are aware of their Aramean origin (Compare
this with Persia: After their conversion to the Islam, they kept their
language and therefore were not "Arabised", but remained ethnically
There are also the Mandeans of Ahwaz and Khorramshar in Western Iran
(Khuzistan). We don’t know if these Mandeans are Arameans or if they
consider themselves as Arameans. Some people say that they are Arameans,
while others say that they are Palestinians (based on their ‘The Inner
The interview with Mr. Gabriel Sengo will be published in several