Youth Declaration for Cultural Unity

As the descendants of the Chaldean, Assyrian, and Syriac people, it is imperative as youth that we set aside our personal differences and finally recognize ourselves as one. We have an obligation to unite in order to protect our people, save our language, and preserve our cultural heritage.  As such, signatories of this declaration support our new organization, E'rootha, which has been created to ensure that our people, culture, and language will continue to grow, spread, and remain vigilant in our minds.

We, the undersigned, share a common concern for the future of the last Aramaic-speaking people of the world. Today, our people are facing extinction. The days of the ancient empires have long been over and the influence of outside cultures has put our own in a perilous position. In our homeland, our brothers and sisters are forced to abandon our Aramaic language, our ancient customs, and our traditions. This has led us to rapid assimilation into Kurdish, Turkish, Arab, and Persian lands. Diaspora communities have quickly spread beyond the Middle East and are now heavily concentrated in the United States and Europe, resulting in the degradation of the values and the identity of our people. Yet, today as our numbers continue to dwindle and the strength of our ethno-cultural identity rapidly declines, we reject our own people who share our rich culture and history. The time has come for change.

In the spirit of progressive change and unity, we accept Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Syriacs to be one and the same. Our common language of Aramaic, along with our shared customs, traditions, values, and history bind us together as brothers and sisters. All of our ancestors partook in the foundation and spread of the Christian faith. They died side-by-side as brothers and sisters during the genocides in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Today, they all continue to suffer equal persecution at the hands of dictators, religious extremists and criminal opportunists.

While many focus on separatist movements based on debates of descendancy from different ancient periods and religious affiliations, we fail to see that we are one people. While our specific religious sect may be a noteworthy aspect of our culture, it is not our defining characteristic as a people. For example, there is no Chaldean Catholic culture separate from our Assyrian and Syriac brothers and sisters. We all must begin to sideline our pride and focus on the lives at stake and the future of our culture and people.

This can be done with the spirit of Pope John Paul II in mind as in 1994; he alongside Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, signed the Common Christological Declaration beginning a process of reconciliation between the different churches of our people. In 1997, the process continued through the Joint Synodal Decree for Promoting Unity signed by Mar Bidawid, the Late Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, and Mar Dinkha IV. This later culminated in the Guidelines for Admission to the Eucharist Between the Chaldean Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, adopted in 2001. The process of reconciliation has begun. It is now our responsibility as youth to further it through a unified secular movement.

Moreover, with our commitment towards the future of humanity, we are part of a movement to unify our people. In our ancestral homeland, our brothers and sisters are suffering a cultural genocide that is rooted in the massacres inflicted upon our people during World War I. Kurds, Turks, Persians and Arabs claim our lands to be theirs. They claim our people to be of their ancestry. They promote a Christian identity and subvert our ethnic identity in order to gain Western support in their quest for independence and power. Our churches are bombed and our countrymen are murdered. No religious sect has been spared from the violence, exemplified by the recent murders of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho (Chaldean Catholic), Father Youssef Adel (Assyrian Orthodox), and Father Faiz Abdel (Syriac Orthodox). While we amount to only three percent of the Iraqi population, we account for over forty percent of Iraqi refugees. This does not include the millions in diaspora around the world.

Essentially, we are losing our homeland. When other groups such as Armenians, Italians or the Irish immigrate to America or elsewhere, they have a common bond through a homeland that unites them. This allows them to maintain their ties to their homeland, ensuring their culture's survival. When a nation loses their homeland, it loses one of its most defining characteristics. This, coupled with the assimilation process, will destroy our identity and leave our people to suffer under a wrath of neglect and violence. If we do not begin to act now, we will not have this necessity in the near future. The unification of our people is essential towards garnishing the power and the resources needed to protect innocent lives and the world's oldest culture.

There must be a major focus on the real life issues facing our people. We must help refugees coming into our diaspora communities, raise awareness about our struggles, promote the unity of our people, and work for the eventual goal of a self-administered region in the Nineveh Plains for the protection of our people. Furthermore, there must be a concerted effort focused on reviving our Aramaic language, familiarizing the youth with our history and culture, and promoting the foundation of K-12 cultural schools that teach our language and history as well as basic education.

At this pivotal point we have the opportunity to begin working for progress by unifying our people, who share a common language, culture, and history. Our identity must not be founded on the separation of our people by their religious affiliation. We must focus on similarities, not religious differences. We must work to bring all members of our community together, creating an environment of acceptance in which our people and culture will begin to flourish once again. As signatories, we agree with the principles, motives, and goals of this declaration and support the creation of a new, secular, and youth organization based on unity and commitment to the preservation of our culture and people called E'rootha (Aramaic for "Awakening"), also known as the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Youth Union. With this, we hope to put our people on the path to harmony and progress.

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