Author Topic: National Review: The Syriac Christian Renaissance  (Read 206 times)

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Offline TomSea

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National Review: The Syriac Christian Renaissance
« on: August 10, 2019, 02:45:30 PM »
Magazine | August 26, 2019, Issue
The Syriac Christian Renaissance
By Sam Sweeney
August 8, 2019 10:49 AM

Syriac Christians pray in the Syrian-Kurdish-controlled city of Qamishli, April 21. (Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
A civil war, a revival of language and culture, an uncertain future

A civil war, a revival of language and culture, an uncertain future

In Syria’s northeast, in Qamishli, al-Hasakah, and other cities and their surrounding villages, a renaissance is under way in the area’s beleaguered Syriac Christian community, which is attempting to revive the Syriac language and culture after decades of neglect and oppression. Syria’s Christian community as a whole has suffered immensely during the ongoing eight-year conflict, and the country’s Syriac minority is no exception. The conflict has, however, also brought about social changes that previously would have been thought impossible, particularly in areas under control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Escalating its threat to invade the area despite the presence of American, British, and French troops, Turkey could reverse these changes and even jeopardize the continued existence of the Christian community there.

Syria’s northeast, beyond the Euphrates River, falls into al-Jazira, a region that extends into Turkey and Iraq. Historically, this was Upper Mesopotamia, a patchwork of ethnicities and religions. The various groups here have preserved their unique languages and cultures in the face of decades of Arabization. Kurdish, Syriac, Armenian, Turkish, and other languages, as well as Arabic, are spoken in their respective communities, making the area distinct from other parts of Syria, where Arabic is spoken almost exclusively. Arabic as the country’s official language is imposed nationwide in schools, the government, and the media.

Fast-forward to 2011 and the beginning of the Arab Spring, when Syrians in the northeast region, like those elsewhere, began speaking out for freedom and democracy. Peaceful protests gave way to an armed insurgency, and the government in Damascus eventually withdrew from most of Syria’s northeast, leaving the area to the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) and allied groups, including the Christian-led Syriac Military Council. Chaos engulfed the country as ISIS and other radical groups made advances on areas that the government had abandoned. In 2015, also in the northeast, the Assyrian Christian villages of the Khabur River valley were overrun by ISIS, which kidnapped over 200 people and held them for a year, until millions of dollars raised by the Assyrian community were paid as ransom to ISIS; the exact amount was never disclosed. Three were killed before the ransom was paid, and one girl never returned. She is believed to have been married off to an ISIS member.

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