ASSYRIAN CHRISTIANS UNDER ATTACK: WHO ARE THEY?

Acton Institute
Feb 27 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015
By Elise Hilton

In both Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State is literally hunting
and killing Assyrian Christians. Just this week, dozens of these
Christians in Syria were captured by the Islamic State; their fate
remains unknown. Who are these people facing persecution?

Michael Holtz, at1 The Christian Science Monitor, examines the long
history of these Christians.

Alternatively known as Syriac, Nestorian, or Chaldean Christians, they
trace their roots back more than 6,500 years to ancient Mesopotamia,
predating the Abrahamic religions. For 1,800 years the Assyrian empire
dominated the region, establishing one of most advanced civilizations
in the ancient world.

The Assyrian empire collapsed in 612 B.C. during the rise of the
Persians. Then, 600 years later, they became among the earliest
converts to Christianity. They still speak an endangered form of
Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, and consider themselves the
last indigenous people of Syria and Iraq.

Following the birth of Christianity, Assyrian missionaries spread
across Asia, from the Mediterranean to the Pacific, and built a new
empire that lasted until Arab Muslims swept through the Middle East
in 630.

Modern Assyrian Christians are all too familiar with religious
persecution. One hundred years ago, the Assyrians were the victims
of genocide at the hands of Armenians in modern-day Turkey. About
40,000 Assyrian Christians remain in Syria today; many have fled the
country because of extremist groups like the Islamic State.

The Islamic State has imposed a "religious tax" on any groups that
are not Muslim in Syria and other regions, and there are reports
that the group has ordered the removal of crosses from churches. Of
course, these are small concerns compared to the mass kidnappings
and executions the Islamic State is known for.

Read "Who are the Assyrian Christians under attack from Islamic
State?" at The Christian Science Monitor.1

2

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