“This is the last link to a culture that is not going to be there anymore,” Iraqi-born professor Amal Marogy stated while showing a picture of an older Christian woman in Iraq at a December 2 Hudson Institute presentation. “The Race against ISIS: Efforts to Preserve Ancient Christian Culture in the Middle East” discussed Christian communities disintegrating under Islamic history’s latest wave of repression before a luncheon lecture audience of about 35.
Hudson’s Nina Shea introduced Marogy by referencing a “phenomenal catastrophe” in which the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist movement has destroyed over the past summer the remnant of “Biblical Christianity” in Iraq. The last of Iraq’s Aramaic Christians who trace their ancestry to the apostle Thomas have fled their homes before ISIS’s murderous Muslim marauders for a meager refuge among tents in Iraqi Kurdistan. While infrastructure such as the Mosul Dam can be retaken from ISIS, the years needed to defeat ISIS in cities such as Mosul place in doubt any reconstitution of expelled Christian communities there. While only recently receiving attention in the United States, “this…eradication of the Christian presence” in Iraq means the “end of a peaceful civilization” that “has been there for millennia.”
Because the “Middle East has been ruled by fear,” Marogy described recent Iraqi events as reflecting a “crisis of culture.” The historical pattern of the region’s societies is that a dictatorial “one man rules them all” à la the Lord of the Rings. Yet “peace will be a mirage” as long as this trend continues.
Marogy noted that the Middle East has “no homogenous culture” while emphasizing the importance of preserving the region’s many minorities. “Otherwise it is not going to be the Middle East.” While Christian culture itself is “really enrichment for everyone” in the Middle East, Marogy warned that “after the Christians come the other minorities” as targets of religious fanaticism and nihilism.
While showing pictures of ruined Christian homes and churches in Iraq, Marogy discussed her efforts to preserve elements from the “rich and ancient past” of Aramaic, one of the oldest known languages. Marogy described elderly Aramaic Christians in a picture as being part of the “last fluent generation” in an “endangered language.” Thereby the culture’s accompanying “customs and traditions…are equally endangered.”
Recent violence has ravaged Aramaic heritage in the region, destroying documents such as baptism records. Marogy’s own Aramaic relatives in Belgium have found no documentation of their Aramaic past in Belgium. “Christians don’t need a church for praying,” Marogy said while citing a bombed Syrian church, but structures like Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddha statues, destroyed by the Taliban, represent humanity’s heritage. This sense of a universal human legacy motivated one broad-minded man to repair a stone inscription on a bombed church photographed by Marogy, even though he did not understand the Aramaic.
By Andrew Harrod, PhD. – Religious Freedom Coalition –