Syriac Maronite Union Congress, New York, May 20th 2017

 

 

Amine Jules Iskandar

 

On behalf of Tour Lévnon - SMU, the Syriac Maronite Union, allow me to express my gratitude to each one of you. Thank you to all those who travelled a long way to be here with us today. Thank you to those who worked hard to make this event happen, and thank you to each and every friend who came to support us and encourage us, and for believing in our cause, the cause of the Christians of Lebanon and the Middle East.

Today we are launching Tour Levnon: the Syriac Maronite Union. As our friend and founder Henry (will explain to us in a while), the SMU was born as a result of the union of many groups, individuals and organizations all working for the same purpose and beliefs. Some of us are teaching Syriac language, others are spreading Syriac culture and history, while others founded the Aramean center for research and reviving Syriac. But all of us are aware of the importance of language as the nucleus of all. This is the starting point and the most solid expression of identity.

Today, Lebanon is in danger, Maronites are in danger, Christianity in the Middle East is in danger since it was denied its own true identity. By losing our language, we lost our culture, our heritage, history and awareness; the awareness of being part of this land that is also part of us. We became foreigners in our historical land. Our people started emigrating from countries to which they could not identify anymore.

To save Christianity in that part of the world, the region where it was born, it is necessary, there is no doubt, to provide help and assistance in the fields of security and economy. But these very important elements for survival are still somehow secondary. Because the main issue here remains the ability to exist as free human beings and to practice this full existence in everyday life. The ability to transmit our culture and heritage from generation to generation is what will make us hold on to our country.

In fact, we can find security and economical wealth in Western countries, but we will never find there the expression and traces of our heritage and identity. So what if this heritage and identity where already lost in the land of our forefathers? In that case why should we stay?

No wonder, the empires that invaded us did everything in their power to choke our language and push it to the grave. As Bat Yeor wrote in her book on Dhimmitude, about the last days of the Ottoman Empire; she says: at that time Serbs, Armenians, Hebrews and Greeks started working on reviving their dying languages. And from there, and only from there, were they able to rebuild their nations.

Unlike them, the Syriacs (especially the Maronites) did nothing to revive their language and identity. Instead, they even gave their best to others language, culture and literature. The result, says Bat Yeor, was amazing and as wonderful and beautiful as the last swansong. The song the swan offers just before it dies.

So let us today correct this historical mistake. Let us sing, compose and create in our own language. The swan of Middle Eastern Christianity will not die. We owe this to our forefathers, Martyrs and Saints.

We owe this to you and to the Western World. We owe this to every people or society that is in danger today somewhere around the world. Because we are fighting for our rights and for the Truth. And in that matter, we happen to be at the forefront of democracy, freedom and human rights.

Allow me here to mention the great Charles Malik (President and Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights 1952) (responsible for the drafting and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948) wrote in his two letters to the Maronites:

“Who is more worthy then the Maronites to respect, honor, admire, study and perpetuate the Syriac-Aramaic language? It has been given to them. It is living in their quintessence. They –not others- are primarily accountable for it, and not only to study it historically, theoretically, and with the same curiosity as Europeans and Westerners. They are accountable for it; thus, tying them both culturally and spiritually to remaining elements of the Eastern civilization and living Diaspora around the world”.

This shows us that reviving Syriac is not a way back to the past. It is our future and our strongest link to our Diaspora and to the world.

And Charles Malik insists and goes on in his two letters to the Maronites. He says:

“Language is the most significant phenomenon of civilizations, because it is life in its deepest meanings… Why have the Maronites preserved their Aramaic heritage? Was it preserved simply by coincidence? …

“The believer is not satisfied with any of these explanations. He lives in the presence of something real beyond nature and the mind, something that rejects coincidences in principle and practice. At least the believer wonders: does not Providence have a hand in this matter?

“If God existed and His Providence concerning everything in existence, also existed, including beyond and above all Man and his destiny, is it not possible and even expected that the survival of the Maronites and their ancient Syriac-Aramaic heritage has an eternal purpose especially in these special times and in this special region…?”

We are talking here about the reason or purpose of existence, or what we would call the “raison d’être” of the Maronites, and their existence on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.

So, dear friends, our struggle to revive our Syriac language is a battle for survival and existence. Because we insist on staying, living and flourishing in our land. Yet, this mission is not directed against anyone. As much as we want our neighbors to accept us as we are, we also need to, and have to, respect them as well as their culture.

Strengthening our identity is in no means a way of isolating ourselves from our surrounding and environment. On the contrary, it should be the starting point from which we will approach the Other and get to know each other’s in full honesty away from all sorts of hypocrisy. Strengthening our identity is our cause and faith that we will always accomplish with true love to our people, for sure, but also and above all, to our neighbors, because this is the true value of Christianity.

Ladies and gentleman, we promise you to never stop this combat until we succeed. We promise not to count on anyone else, on any existing political party in Lebanon or on any local organization or association. We will collaborate with them but we will never count on them. With the help of Philos Project and all of you, the SMU will provide by itself all the necessary means to accomplish its mission by fully collaborating with the people and the Church. It will always be independent and able to say what others cannot denounce because of their local and regional ties and engagements.

Today, our action is already taking place on all levels. We are providing Syriac language courses, we are spreading our knowledge on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…) We are giving conferences and interviews on several TV channels. We are using our Diaspora all over the world because this Diaspora is our power; and to demonstrate this fact, we are launching the SMU from here in New York.

The SMU will continue in publishing books and articles the way it did in the past. We will continue in teaching and giving interviews and conferences in schools, churches, universities etc... We even started providing help to Christian families in need all over Lebanon. We will continue in extending and in expanding our network of friends, allies and supporters in the West beyond our Diaspora to reach all Westerners who believe in our common cause.

We believe in Lebanon. We believe Lebanon has to regain its natural place and close ties with the West. It is, and should always be, a predominantly Mediterranean country attached to its Judeo-Christian roots, culture and values. We believe in our people in Lebanon, in our Diaspora, and especially in you (Americans and other Westerners) and in your devotion and faith. You are our power.

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for your support.

Moryo nvarékh

God bless

Bar Julius

(Amine-Jules Iskandar)

الإتحاد_السرياني_الماروني

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