Saturday, November 12, 2016

Surprising Survivors--by Linden Malki

Ninevah, the imperial capital of Assyria, went from the powerhouse of the Middle East to a pile of ruins in a century, as prophesied.  The city was destroyed and the location lost until 19th century archaeologists found the ruins. However, the Assyrian people survived—I married one.  The Assyrians became part of one of the earliest churches, tracing their religious heritage to the Antioch church of the New Testament and claim that their liturgy is that of St James of the original Jerusalem church. At least five of the original apostles moved north and east, and Thomas is believed to have gotten as far as India, where there are still St Thomas churches which are part of the Syriac/Assyrian family.

There are records of Assyrian soldiers in the Persian and Roman armies; they survived waves of invaders from the Babylonians, Persians, Alexander, Parthia and Rome. They were actively involved in the church councils and theological disputes of the first six centuries of the church, and became parts of four major church factions which still survive; there are hierarchies in communion with Rome and with the Greek Orthodox family; and two more that have been completely independent since the 400’s and the 600’s. They also survived the Muslim invasions without converting; which meant being dhimmis with few civil rights and subject to periodic violence. (Most Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa had about 20% Christian minority populations until the last century.)

My father-in-law was born in SE Turkey, near where the borders of Turkey, Syria and Iraq converge. His family was historic Syrian Orthodox (this church is in a town very near his birthplace), but his family moved to the coast and were converted by American Presbyterian missionaries, so the family has been Protestant for three generations. They were caught up in a massacre of Christians after World War I; Grandpa and one brother got out, their father and a third brother were killed. The surviving brothers wound up in Lebanon, and John’s family emigrated to the US. There are also relatives who escaped from Turkey and Syria here in America as well as Europe. There are an estimated 100-400,000 Assyrians in the US, and 100,000 each in Germany and Sweden.   Grandpa’s home countryside is in the general area of ISIS, and there are some family members that have not been heard from.

The ancient Assyrians were closely associated with Judah for over a hundred years; and even though they were pagans at the time, they knew about Judah’s God. They may have even added Him to their own list of idols. I find it interesting that they were open to the Gospel in those first generations of the church, and were faithful through two millenia of invaders and persecutions.  We might even say that there is fruit of the ancient prophets!

No comments:

Post a Comment