martes, 23 de septiembre de 2014

Nestorian Israelites or Church of the East

Assyrian Church of the East

The Assyrian Church of the East (Classical Syriac: ܥܕܬܐ ܕܡܕܢܚܐ ܕܐܬܘܪܝܐ), officially the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East Classical Syriac: ܥܕܬܐ ܩܕܝܫܬܐ ܘܫܠܝܚܝܬܐ ܩܬܘܠܝܩܝ ܕܡܕܢܚܐ ܕܐܬܘܪܝܐ ʻIttā Qaddishtā w-Shlikhāitā Qattoliqi d-Madnĕkhā d-Āturāyē), is a Syriac Church historically centered in Assyria, northern Mesopotamia. It is one of the churches that claim continuity with the historical Patriarchate of Seleucia-Ctesiphon – the Church of the East. Unlike most other churches that trace their origins to antiquity, the modern Assyrian Church of the East is not in communion with any other churches, either Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, or Catholic.

Theologically, the church is associated with the doctrine of Nestorianism, leading to the church, perhaps inaccurately, also being known as a "Nestorian Church", though church leadership has at times rejected the Nestorian label, and was already extant some four centuries prior to Nestorius. The church employs the Syriac dialect of the Aramaic language in its liturgy, the East Syrian Rite, which includes three anaphoras, attributed to Saints Addai and Mari, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius.

The Church of the East developed between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD from the early Assyrian Christian communities in the Assuristan province (Parthian ruled Assyria) of the Parthian Empire, and at its height had spread from its north Mesopotamian heartland to as far as China, Central Asia and India. A dispute over patriarchal succession led to the Schism of 1552, resulting in there being two rival Patriarchs. One of the factions that eventually emerged from this split became the Assyrian Church of the East, while another became the church now known as the Chaldean Catholic Church, originally called The Church of Athura (Assyria) and Mosul, which eventually entered into communion with the Catholic Church, both in continuation from the Church of the East.

A more recent schism in the church resulted from the adoption of the Assyrian Church of the East of the Gregorian Calendar rather than maintaining the traditional Julian calendar that is off by 13 days. The opponents to the reforms introduced formed in 1964 the Ancient Church of the East headquartered in Baghdad and headed since 1968 by a separate Catholicos-Patriarch.

The Assyrian Church of the East is headed by the Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Dinkha IV, who currently presides in exile in Chicago, Illinois, United States. Below the Catholicos-Patriarch are a number of metropolitan bishops, diocesan bishops, priests, and deacons who serve dioceses and parishes throughout the Middle East, India, North America, Oceania, and Europe (including the Caucasus and Russia).

Early years of the Church of the East

The Church of the East originally developed during the 1st century AD in the Mesopotamian Eastern Aramaic speaking regions of Assyria and northwestern Persia (today's Iraq, southeast Turkey, northeast Syria and north western Iran), to the east of the Roman-Byzantine empire. It is an Apostolic church, established by the apostles St Thomas (Mar Toma), St Thaddeus (Mar Addai), and St Bartholomew (Mar Bar Tulmay). St Peter (Mar Shimun Keapa), the chief of the apostles added his blessing to the Church of the East at the time of his visit to the see at Babylon, in the earliest days of the church when stating, "The elect church which is in Babylon, salutes you; and Mark, my son (1 Peter 5:13).

Official recognition was first granted to the Christian faith in the 4th century with the accession of Yazdegerd I to the throne of the Sassanid Empire. In 410, the Synod of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, held at the Sassanid capital, allowed the Church's leading bishops to elect a formal Catholicos, or leader. The Catholicos, Mar Isaac, was required both to lead the Assyrian Christian community, and to answer on its behalf to the Sassanid Emperor.

Under pressure from the Sassanid Emperor, the Church of the East sought increasingly to distance itself from the western (Roman Empire) Catholic Church. In 424, the bishops of the Sassanid Empire met in council under the leadership of Catholicos Mar Dadisho I (421–456) and determined that they would not, henceforth, refer disciplinary or theological problems to any external power, and especially not to any bishop or Church Council in the Roman Empire.

As such, the Mesopotamian and Assyrian Churches were not represented at the various Church Councils attended by representatives of the Western Church. Accordingly, the leaders of the Church of the East did not feel bound by any decisions of what came to be regarded as Roman Imperial Councils. Despite this, the Creed and Canons of the first Council of Nicea (325); affirming the full divinity of Christ; were formally accepted at the Synod of Seleucia-Ctesiphon. The Church's understanding of the term 'hypostasis' differs from the definition of the term offered at the Council of Chalcedon. For this reason, the Assyrian Church has never approved the Chalcedonian definition.

The theological controversy that followed the First Council of Ephesus, in 431, proved a turning point in the Church's history. The Council condemned as heretical the Christology of Nestorius, whose reluctance to accord the Virgin Mary the title 'Theotokos' ('God-bearer' or 'Mother of God') was taken as evidence that he believed two separate persons (as opposed to two united natures) to be present within Christ. (For the theological issues at stake, see Assyrian Church of the East and Nestorianism.)

The Sassanid Emperor, hostile to the Roman Empire, saw the opportunity to ensure the loyalty of his Christian subjects and lent support to the Nestorian schism. The Sassanid Emperor took steps to cement the primacy of the Nestorian party within the Church of the East, granting its members his protection, and executing the pro-Roman Catholicos Babowai, replacing him with the Nestorian Bishop of Nisibis, Barsauma. The Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Babai I (497–503) confirmed the association of the Persian Church with Nestorianism.

Eastern expansion

During the medieval period the geographical horizons of the Church of the East extended well beyond its heartland in present-day northern Iraq. Communities sprang up throughout Central Asia, and missionaries from Assyria and Mesopotamia took the Christian faith as far as China and the Malabar Coast of India.

Schism and the establishment of the Chaldean Church

The massacres of Assyrian Christians by Tamerlane (1336–1405) destroyed many bishoprics, including the ancient Assyrian city of Ashur. The Church of the East, which had previously extended as far as China, was largely reduced to an Eastern Aramaic speaking Assyrian remnant living in its original heartland in Upper Mesopotamia (what had been Assyria), the triangular area between Amid, Salmas and Mosul. The See was moved to the Assyrian town of Alqosh, in the Mosul region, and Mar Shimun IV Basidi (1437–1493) appointed Patriarch, establishing a new, hereditary, line of succession.

Growing dissent in the church's hierarchy over hereditary succession came to a head in 1552, when a group of bishops from the Northern regions of Amid and Salmas elected Mar Yohannan Sulaqa as a rival Patriarch. Seeking consecration as Patriarch by a Bishop of Metropolitan rank, Sulaqa traveled to Rome in 1553, and entered into communion with the Roman Catholic Church. On being appointed Patriarch, Sulaqa took the name Mar Shimun VIII and was granted the title of "Patriarch of Mosul and Athur (Assyria)". Later this title became "Patriarch of the Chaldeans", despite none of its adherents being from the long disappeared Chaldean tribe, or from what had been Chaldea in the far south east of Mesopotamia.

Mar Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa returned to the Near East the same year, establishing his seat in Amid. Before being put to death by partisans of the Patriarch of Alqosh, he ordained five metropolitan bishops, thus establishing a new ecclesiastical hierarchy, a line of patriarchal descent known as the Shimun line.

Sees in Qochanis, Amid, and Alqosh (17th century)

Relations with Rome weakened under Shimun VIII's successors, all of whom took the name Shimun. The last of this line of Patriarchs to be formally recognized by the Pope died in the early 17th century. Hereditary accession to the office of Patriarch was reintroduced, and by 1660 the Assyrian Church of the East had become divided into two Patriarchates; the Eliya line, based in Alqosh (comprising that portion of the faithful which had never entered into Communion with Rome), and the Shimun line.

In 1672 the Patriarch of the Shimun line, Mar Shimun XIII Denha, moved his seat to the Assyrian village of Qochanis in the mountains of Hakkari. In 1692, the Patriarch formally broke communion with Rome and allegedly resumed relations with the line at Alqosh, though retaining the independent structure and jurisdiction of his line of succession.

The so-called Chaldean Patriarchate was revived in 1672 when Mar Joseph I, then the Assyrian Church of the East metropolitan of Amid, entered into communion with Rome, thus separating from the Patriarchal See of Alqosh. In 1681, the Holy See granted Mar Joseph the title of "Patriarch of the Chaldeans deprived of its Patriarch", thus forming the third Patriarchate of the Assyrian Church of the East. It was this third Patriarchate that was to become known as the Chaldean Catholic Church in 1683.

Josephite line of Amid

Each of Joseph I's successors took the name Joseph. The life of this Patriarchate was difficult; stricken early on with internal dissent, the Patriarchiate later struggled with financial difficulties due to the tax burden imposed by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Despite these difficulties, the influence of the Patriarchate expanded from its original homeland of Amid and Mardin towards the area of Mosul, where ultimately the See was relocated.

Mar Yohannan VIII Hormizd, the last of the Eliya hereditary line of the Assyrian Church of the East in Alqosh, made a Catholic profession of faith in 1780. Though entering full communion with the Roman See in 1804, he was not recognized as Patriarch by the Pope until 1830. This move merged the majority of the Patriarcate of Alqosh with the Josephite line of Amid, thus forming the modern Chaldean Catholic Church.

The Shimun line of Patriarchs, based in Qochanis, remained within the Assyrian Church of the East, and refused to enter communion with Rome and join the Chaldean Church. The Patriarchate of the present-day Assyrian Church of the East, with its see in Chicago, forms the continuation of this line.

20th century

In 1915 the Assyrian Church see at Qochanis see was completely destroyed by the Ottoman Turkish Empire in the context of the Assyrian Genocide, Assyrian war of independence and Armenian Genocide. Survivors of the massacres escaped by marching over the mountains into Iran and Iraq to join their kinsmen. In 1918, after the murder of Mar Shimun XXI Benyamin and 150 of his followers, and fearing further massacres at the hands of the Turks and Kurds, the survivors fled from Iran into what was to become Iraq, seeking protection under the British mandate there, and joining ancient indigenous existing Assyrian communities of both Eastern Rite and Catholic persuasions in the north of that country.

The British administration employed Assyrian troops (Assyrian Levies) to put down Arab and Kurdish rebellions in the aftermath of World War I. In consequence, Assyrians of all denominations endured persecution under the Hashemite monarchy, leading many to flee to the West, in particular to the United States, where Chicago became the center of the diaspora community.

Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII

During this period the British-educated Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, born into the line of Patriarchs at Qochanis, agitated for an independent Assyrian state. Following the end of the British mandate in 1933 and a massacre of Assyrian civilians at Simele by the Iraqi Army, the Patriarch was forced to take refuge in Cyprus. There, Shimun petitioned the League of Nations regarding his peoples' fate, but to little avail, and he was consequently barred from entering Syria and Iraq. He traveled through Europe before moving to Chicago in 1940 to join the growing Assyrian diaspora community there.

The Church and the Assyrian community in general faced considerable fragmentation and upheaval as a result of the conflicts of the 20th century, and Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII was forced to reorganize the church's structure in the United States. He transferred his residence to San Francisco, California in 1954, and was able to travel to Iran, Lebanon, Kuwait, and India, where he worked to strengthen the church.

In 1964 he decreed a number of changes to the church, including liturgical reform, the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, and the shortening of Lent. These changes, combined with Shimun's long absence from Iraq, caused a rift in the community which led to another schism. In 1968 traditionalists within the church elected Mar Thoma Darmo as a rival patriarch to Shimun XXIII Eshai, creating the Ancient Church of the East.

In 1972, Shimun decided to step down as Patriarch, and the following year, he married, in contravention to longstanding church custom. This led to a synod in 1973 in which further reforms were introduced, most significantly including the permanent abolition of hereditary succession a practice introduced in the middle of the fifteenth century by the patriarch Shemʿon IV Basidi who had died in 1497); however, it was decided that Shimun should be reinstated. This matter was to be settled at additional synods in 1975, however Shimun was assassinated by an estranged relative before this could take place.

Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV

In 1976, the current Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Dinkha IV, was elected as Shimun XXIII Eshai's successor. The 33-year old Dinkha had previously been Metropolitan of Tehran, and operated his see there until the Iran–Iraq War of 1980–1988. Thereafter, Mar Dinkha IV went into exile in the United States, and transferred the patriarchal see to Chicago. Much of his patriarchate has been concerned with tending to the Assyrian diaspora community and with ecumenical efforts to strengthen relations with other churches.

Assyrian Church of the East and Nestorianism

The Nestorian nature of Assyrian Christianity remains a matter of contention. Elements of the Nestorian doctrine were explicitly repudiated by Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV (South Sudan is considered to have many Israelites. One of it's ethnicities is called Dinka) on the occasion of his accession in 1976.

The Christology of the Church of the East has its roots in the Antiochene theological tradition of the early Church. The founders of Assyrian theology are Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia, both of whom taught at Antioch. 'Antiochene' is a modern designation given to the style of theology associated with the early Church at Antioch, as contrasted with the theology of the church of Alexandria.

Antiochene theology emphasised Christ's humanity and the reality of the moral choices he faced. In order to preserve the impassibility of Christ's Divine Nature, the unity of His person was defined in a looser fashion than in the Alexandrian tradition. The normative Christology of the Assyrian church was written by Babai the Great (551–628) during the controversy that followed the First Council of Ephesus (431). Babai held that within Christ there exist two qnome (essences, or hypostases), unmingled, but everlastingly united in the one prosopon(personality).

The precise Christological teachings of Nestorius are shrouded in obscurity. Wary of monophysitism, Nestorius rejected Cyril's theory of a hypostatic union, proposing instead a union of will. Nestorianism has come to mean dyaphysitism, in which Christ's dual natures are eternally separate, though it is doubtful whether Nestorius ever taught such a doctrine. Nestorius' rejection of the term Theotokos ('God-bearer', or 'Mother of God') has traditionally been held as evidence that he asserted the existence of two persons – not merely two natures – in Jesus Christ, but there exists no evidence that Nestorius denied Christ's oneness. In the controversy that followed the Council of Ephesus, the term 'Nestorian' was applied to all upholding a strictly Antiochene Christology. In consequence the Church of the East was labelled 'Nestorian', though its theology is not dyophysite.

The Church is governed by an episcopal polity, which is the same as other Catholic churches. The church maintains a system of geographical parishes organized into dioceses and archdioceses. The Catholicos-Patriarch, currently Mar Dinkha IV is head of the church. The Synod comprises Bishops who oversee individual dioceses, and Metropolitans who oversee episcopal dioceses in there territorial jurisdiction.

The Chaldean Syrian Church in India and the Persian Gulf is the largest diocese of the church. Its story goes back to the Church of the East that established presence in Kerala. The converts were from lower, untouchable castes, for in a caste-ridden Malabar society. During times of disturbances in the Persian Empire and the Middle East, Assyrian inflow into Kerala ceased and local converts had to take responsibility for the churches. Nevertheless, Malabar churches retained their Nestorian connections. Connection between the Malabar church and the Church of the East was sporadic for a long period till the arrival of the Portuguese. The church is represented by the Assyrian Church of the East and is in communion with it.

In spite of both ethnic and religious persecution and a serious decline in membership since their height around the fourth century, the Assyrian Church of the East has survived into the 21st century. Here is St. Mary Assyrian Church in Moscow.


The current hierarchy and dioceses is as follows. The Patriarchate of the Church of the East was located for centuries in the cathedral church of Mar Shallita, in the village of Qudshanis in the Hakkari mountains, Ottoman Empire. After the exodus in 1915 the Patriarchs temporarily resided between Urmia and Salmas, and from 1918 the patriarchs resided in Mosul, Iraq. After the Simele massacre of 1933, the then Patriarch Shimun XXIII Eshai was exiled to Cyprus. In 1940 he was welcomed to the United States where he set up his residence in Chicago, Illinois and administrated the United States and Canada as his Patriarchal province. The patriarchate was moved to Modesto, California in 1954, and finally to San Francisco, California in 1958 due to health issues. After the assassination of the Patriarch and the election of Mar Dinkha IV in 1976, the patriarchate was temporarily located in Tehran, Iran where the patriarch already resided. Since 1980, the Patriarchate again returned to Chicago, Illinois where it currently remains. The Diocese of Eastern United States served as the patriarch's province from 1994 until 2012.

Due to the unstable political, religious and economic situation in the church's historical homeland of the Middle East, many of the church members now reside in Western countries. Churches and dioceses have been established throughout Europe, America and Oceania. The largest expatriate concentration of church members is in the United States, mainly situated in Illinois and California.

Church of the East (Nestorian Christianity)

The Church of the East (Syriac: ܥܕܬܐ ܕܡܕܢܚܐ ʿĒ(d)tāʾ d-Maḏn(ə)ḥāʾ), derogatorily and both doctrinally, historically and chronologically innacurrately known as the Nestorian Church, is a Christian church, part of the Syriac tradition of Eastern Christianity. It was founded in Assyria (Athura) in northern Mesopotamia between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD, during the Parthian Empire. It was to become the church of the Persian Sassanid Empire, and quickly spread widely through Asia. Between the 9th and 14th centuries it was the world's largest Christian church in terms of geographical extent, with dioceses stretching from the Mediterranean to China and India. Several modern churches claim continuity with the historical Church of the East.

The Church of the East was headed by the Patriarch of the East, continuing a line that, according to tradition, stretched back to the Apostolic Age. Liturgically, the church commonly adhered to the East Syrian Rite, and theologically, it later became associated with the doctrine of Nestorianism, which emphasized the distinctness of the divine and human natures of Jesus. This doctrine and its chief proponent, Nestorius (386–451), were condemned by the First Council of Ephesus in 431, leading to the Nestorian Schism and a subsequent exodus of Nestorius' supporters to Sassanid Persia. The existing Eastern Aramaic speaking Assyrian Christians within the Sassanid Empire welcomed these refugees and adopted Nestorian doctrine at the Synod of Acacius in 486AD (officially adopting the decrees of the local 484AD synod of Bit Lapat), leading the Church of the East to be known alternately as the Nestorian Church. However, in 544AD the controversial Synod of Mar Aba I attempted to reverse the influence of 484 and 486 and was the basis of the reforms carried out by Babai lauded by Rome as well as the Assyrians and their branches. Eventually, the Church of the East rejected Babai and Mar Aba I but accepted King Khosrau's Synod of 612AD which was the first to describe Miaphysite Christology later adopted by the Oriental Orthodox. Catholicos Timothy I of Baghdad is perhaps the best recorded exemplar of the Church's approach to a wide variety of subjects at the turn of the 9th century AD.

The church grew rapidly under the Sassanids, and following the Islamic conquest of Persia, it was designated as a protected dhimmi community under Muslim rule. From the 6th century, it expanded greatly from its north Mesopotamian heartland, establishing communities in India (the Saint Thomas Christians), among the Mongol tribes in Central Asia, and China, which was home to a thriving Church of the East Christian community under the Tang Dynasty from the 7th to the 9th century. In the 13th and 14th centuries the church experienced a final period of expansion under the Mongol Empire, which had influential Church of the East Christians in the Mongol court.

From its peak of geographical extent, the church experienced a rapid period of decline starting in the 14th century, due in large part to outside influences. The Mongol Empire dissolved into civil war, the Chinese Ming Dynasty overthrew the Mongols and ejected Christians and other foreign influences from China (also including Manichaeism), and many Mongols in Central Asia converted to Islam. The Muslim Mongol leader Timur (1336–1405) nearly eradicated the remaining Assyrian Christians in Mesopotamia; thereafter, Nestorian Christianity was largely confined to Upper Mesopotamia and the Malabar Coast of India. In the 16th century, the Church of the East in the Assyrian homeland of northern Mesopotamia went into a schism from which two distinct churches eventually emerged amongst the Assyrians: the modern Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in communion with the Holy See.

Organization and structure

The head of the church, the Patriarch of the Church of the East, also bears the title of Catholicos. Like the churches from which it developed, the Church of the East has an ordained clergy divided into the three traditional orders of deacon, priest (or presbyter), and bishop. Also like other churches, it has an episcopal polity: organization by dioceses, each headed by a bishop and made up of several individual parish communities overseen by priests. Dioceses are organized into provinces under the authority of a metropolitan bishop. The office of metropolitan bishop is an important one, and comes with additional duties and powers; canonically, only metropolitans can consecrate a patriarch. The Patriarch also has the charge of a province: the Province of the Patriarch.

For most of its history the church had six or so Interior Provinces in its heartland in northern Mesopotamia, south eastern Anatolia, and north western Persia, and an increasing number of Exterior Provinces elsewhere. Most of these latter were located farther afield within the territory of the Sassanids (and later of the Caliphate), but very early on, provinces formed beyond the empire's borders as well. By the 10th century, the church had between 20 and 30 metropolitan provinces including in China and India. The Chinese provinces were lost in the 11th century, and in the subsequent centuries, other exterior provinces went into decline as well. However, in the 13th century, during the Mongol Empire, the church added two new metropolitan provinces in northern China, Tangut and Katai and Ong.

Nestorian priests in a procession on Palm Sunday, in a 7th- or 8th-century wall painting from a Nestorian church in China, Tang Dynasty


The Church of the East is associated with Nestorianism, a Christological doctrine advanced by Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople from 428 – 431 AD, which emphasizes the disunion between the human and divine natures of Jesus.

Nestorius's doctrine represented the culmination of a philosophical current developed by scholars at the School of Antioch, most notably Nestorius's mentor Theodore of Mopsuestia. This became a source of controversy when Nestorius publicly challenged usage of the title Theotokos (literally, "Bearer of God") for the Virgin Mary. He suggested that the title denied Christ's full humanity, arguing instead that Jesus had two loosely joined natures, the divine Logos and the human Jesus, and proposed Christotokos (literally, "Bearer of the Christ") as a more suitable alternative title. These statements drew criticism from other prominent churchmen, particularly from Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, leading to the First Council of Ephesus in 431, which condemned Nestorius for heresy and deposed him as patriarch. Nestorianism was officially anathematized, a ruling reiterated at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. However, a number of churches, particularly those associated with the School of Edessa in Assyria and northern Mesopotamia, supported Nestorius—though not necessarily the doctrine ascribed to him—and broke with the churches of the Roman and Byzantine Empires. Many of Nestorius' supporters relocated to Sassanid Persia. These events are known as the Nestorian Schism.

Christological spectrum during the 5th–7th centuries showing the views of The Church of the East (light blue)

Although the "Nestorian" label was initially a theological one, applied to followers of the Nestorian doctrine, it was soon applied to all associated Eastern Rite churches with little regard for theological consideration. While often used disparagingly in the West to emphasize the Church of the East's connections to a heretical doctrine, many writers of the Middle Ages and since have simply used the label descriptively, as a neutral and conventional term for the church. Other names for the church include "Persian Church", "Syriac" or "Syrian" (often distinguished as East Syriac/Syrian), and "Assyrian".

In modern times some scholars have sought to avoid the Nestorian label, preferring "Church of the East" or one of the other alternatives. This is due both to the term's derogatory connotations, and because it implies a stronger connection to Nestorian doctrine than may have historically existed. As Wilhelm Baum and Dietmar W. Winkler said, "Nestorius himself was no Nestorian" in terms of doctrine. Even from the beginning, not all churches called "Nestorian" adhered to the Nestorian doctrine; in China, it has been noted that none of the various sources for the local Nestorian church refer to Christ as having two natures. As such, in 2006 an academic conference changed its name from "Research on Nestorianism in China", explaining in the Preface, " was decided not to keep the term "Nestorianism" in the title of the future conferences and the present book, but to use the term Church of the East, which is correct and wide enough to cover the whole field of the research."

The 2000 work, The Ecclesiastical Organisation of the Church of the East, 1318–1913, offers an explanation in the first chapter:

The terminology used in this study deserves a word of explanation. Until recently the Church of the East was usually called the 'Nestorian' church, and East Syrian Christians were either 'Nestorians' or (after the schism of 1552) by the ethnic and geographic misnomer 'Chaldeans'. During the period covered in this study, the word 'Nestorian' was used both as a term of abuse by those who disapproved of the traditional East Syrian theology, as a term of pride by many of its defenders (including Abdisho of Nisibis in 1318, the Mosul patriarch Eliya X Yohannan Marogin in 1672, and the Qudshanis patriarch Shem'on XVII Abraham in 1842), and as a neutral and convenient descriptive term by others. Nowadays it is generally felt that the term carries a stigma, and students of the Church of the East are advised to avoid its use. In this thesis the theologically neutral adjective 'East Syrian' has been used wherever possible, and the term 'traditionalist' to distinguish the non-Catholic branch of the Church of the East after the schism of 1552. The modern term 'Assyrian', often used in the same sense, was unknown for most of the period covered in this study, and has been avoided.

The church was formed in Parthian and Sassanid ruled Assyria (Athura/Assuristan) and many of its original members in Upper Mesopotamia and south eastern Anatolia had since ancient times been described by both themselves and neighbouring peoples as Assyrians, however the church itself did not specifically use the prefix Assyrian until later times.

The Assyrian Church of the East has shunned the "Nestorian" label in recent times. The church's present head, Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV, explicitly rejected the term on the occasion of his consecration in 1976.


The Peshitta, in some cases lightly revised and with missing books added, is the standard Syriac Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition: the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East, the Indian Orthodox Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Maronite Church, the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, the Syro-Malabar Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

The Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated from the Hebrew, although the date and circumstances of this are not entirely clear. The translators may have been Syriac-speaking Jews, or the early Jewish converts to Christianity. The translation could have been done separately for different Old Testament texts, and the whole work was probably done by the 2nd century AD.

The New Testament of the Peshitta, which originally excluded certain disputed books (2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation), had become the standard by the early 5th century.

Parthian and Sassanid periods

Christians were already forming communities in Assyria (Athura) as early as the first century, when it was part of the Parthian Empire. By the third century, the area had been conquered by the Persian Sassanid Empire (becoming the province of Assuristan), and there were significant Christian communities in northern Mesopotamia, Elam, and Fars. The Church of the East traced its origins ultimately to the evangelical activity of the apostles Addai, Mari and Thomas, but leadership and structure was disorganized until the establishment of the diocese of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, the bishop of which came to be recognized as Catholicos, or universal leader, of the church. This position received an additional title later, Patriarch of the East.

These early Christian communities in Assyria, Elam and Fars were reinforced in the fourth and fifth centuries by large-scale deportations of Christians from the eastern Roman Empire. However, the Persian Church faced several severe persecutions, notably during the reign of Shapur II (339–79), from the ethnically Persian Zoroastrian majority who accused it of Roman leanings. The church grew considerably during the Sassanid period, but the pressure of persecution led to the Persian Church declaring itself independent of all other Christian churches in 424.

Meanwhile, in the Roman Empire, the Nestorian Schism had led many of Nestorius' supporters to relocate to the Persian Empire. The Persian Church increasingly aligned itself with the Nestorian schismatics, a measure encouraged by the Zoroastrian ruling class. The church became increasingly Nestorian in doctrine over the next decades, furthering the divide between Roman and Nestorian Christendom. In 486 the Metropolitan of Nisibis, Barsauma, publicly accepted Nestorius' mentor, Theodore of Mopsuestia, as a spiritual authority. In 489, when the School of Edessa in Mesopotamia was closed by Byzantine Emperor Zeno for its Nestorian teachings, the school relocated to its original home of Nisibis, becoming again the School of Nisibis, leading to a wave of Nestorian immigration into the Persian Empire. TheChurch of the East patriarch Mar Babai I (497–502) reiterated and expanded upon his predecessors' esteem for Theodore, solidifying the church's adoption of Nestorianism.

Now firmly established in the Persian Empire, with centers in Nisibis, Ctesiphon, and Gundeshapur, and several metropolitan sees, the Church of the East began to branch out beyond the Persian Sassanid Empire. However, through the 6th century the church was frequently beset with internal strife and persecution from the Zoroastrians. The infighting led to a schism, which lasted from 521 until around 539, when the issues were resolved. However, immediately afterward Roman-Persian conflict led to a renewed persecution of the church by the Sassanid King Khosrau I; this ended in 545. The church survived these trials under the guidance of Patriarch Mar Abba I, who had converted to Christianity from Zoroastrianism.

By the end of the 5th century and the middle of the 6th, the area occupied by Nestorians included "all the countries to the east and those immediately to the west of the Euphrates", including Persia, Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Socotra, Mesopotamia (Assyria and Babylonia), Media, Bactria, Hyrcania, and India; and possibly also to places called Calliana, Male, and Sielediva (Ceylon). Beneath the Patriarch in the hierarchy were nine metropolitans, and clergy were recorded among the Huns, in Persarmenia, Media, and the island of Dioscoris in the Indian Ocean.

Nestorian Christianity also flourished in the kingdom of the Lakhmids until the Islamic conquest, particularly after the ruler Al-Nu'man III ibn al-Mundhir officially converted in c. 592.

Ecclesiastical provinces of the Church of the East in 10th century

Islamic rule

After the Sassanid Empire was conquered by Muslim Arabs in 644, the newly established Rashidun Caliphate designated the Church of the East as an official dhimmi minority group headed by the Patriarch of the East. As with all other Christian and Jewish groups given the same status, the Church was restricted within the Caliphate, but also given a degree of protection. Nestorians were not permitted to proselytize or attempt to convert Muslims, but their missionaries were otherwise given a free hand, and they increased missionary efforts farther afield. Missionaries established dioceses in India (the Saint Thomas Christians). They made some advances in Egypt, despite the strong Monophysite presence there, and they entered Central Asia, where they had significant success converting local Tartar tribes. Nestorian missionaries were firmly established in China during the early part of the Tang Dynasty (618–907); the Chinese source known as the Nestorian Stele describes a mission under a proselyte named Alopen as introducing Nestorian Christianity to China in 635. In the 7th century, the Church had grown to have two Nestorian archbishops, and over 20 bishops east of the Iranian border of the Oxus River.

The patriarch Timothy I (780–823), a contemporary of the caliph Harun al-Rashid, took a particularly keen interest in the missionary expansion of the Church of the East. He is known to have consecrated metropolitans for Damascus, for Armenia, for Dailam and Gilan in Azerbaijan, for Rai in Tabaristan, for Sarbaz in Segestan, for the Turks of Central Asia, for China, and possibly also for Tibet. He also detached India from the metropolitan province of Fars and made it a separate metropolitan province, known as India. By the 10th century the Church of the East had a number of dioceses stretching from across the Caliphate's territories to India and China.

Nestorian Christians made substantial contributions to the Islamic Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, particularly in translating the works of the ancient Greek philosophers to Syriac and Arabic. Nestorians made their own contributions to philosophy, science (such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq, Qusta ibn Luqa, Masawaiyh, Patriarch Eutychius, Jabril ibn Bukhtishu) and theology (such as Tatian, Bar Daisan, Babai the Great, Nestorius, Toma bar Yacoub). The personal physicians of the Abbasid Caliphs were often Assyrian Christians such as the long serving Bukhtishu dynasty.


The Church of the East had a vigorous corps of missionaries, who proceeded eastward from their base in Persia, having particular success in India, among the Mongols, and reaching as far as China and Korea.


The Saint Thomas Christian community of Kerala, India, who trace their origins to the evangelism of Thomas the Apostle, had a long connection with the Church of the East. The earliest known organized Christian presence in Kerala dates to the 3rd century, when Nestorian Christian settlers and missionaries from Persia settled in the region. The Saint Thomas Christians traditionally credit the mission of Thomas of Cana, a Nestorian from the Middle East, with the further expansion of their community. From at least the early 4th century, the Patriarch of the Church of the East provided the Saint Thomas Christians with clergy, holy texts, and ecclesiastical infrastructure, and around 650 Patriarch Ishoyahb III solidified the church's jurisdiction in India. In the 8th century Patriarch Timothy I organised the community as the Ecclesiastical Province of India, one of the church's Provinces of the Exterior. After this point the Province of India was headed by a metropolitan bishop, provided from Persia, who oversaw a varying number of bishops as well as a native Archdeacon, who had authority over the clergy and also wielded a great amount of secular power. The metropolitan see was probably in Cranganore, or (perhaps nominally) in Mylapore, where the shrine of Thomas was located.

In the 12th century Indian Nestorianism engaged the Western imagination in the figure of Prester John, supposedly a Nestorian ruler of India who held the offices of both king and priest. The geographically remote Malabar church survived the decay of the Nestorian hierarchy elsewhere, enduring until the 16th century when the Portuguese arrived in India. The Portuguese at first accepted the Nestorian sect, but by the end of the century they had determined to actively bring the Saint Thomas Christians into full communion with Rome under the Latin Rite. They installed Portuguese bishops over the local sees and made liturgical changes to accord with the Latin practice. In 1599 the Synod of Diamper, overseen by Aleixo de Menezes, Archbishop of Goa, led to a revolt among the Saint Thomas Christians; the majority of them broke with the Catholic Church and vowed never to submit to the Portuguese in the Coonan Cross Oath of 1653. In 1661 Pope Alexander VII responded by sending a delegation of Carmelites headed by Chaldean Catholics to re-establish the East Syrian rites under an Eastern Catholic hierarchy; by the next year, 84 of the 116 communities returned, forming the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. The rest, which became known as the Malankara Church, soon entered into communion with the Syriac Orthodox Church; from the Malankara Church has also come the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.


Christianity reached China by 635, and its relics can still be seen in Chinese cities such as Xi'an. The Nestorian Stele, set up on 7 January 781 at the then-capital of Chang'an, attributes the introduction of Christianity to a mission under a Persian cleric named Alopen in 635, in the reign of Tang Taizong during the Tang Dynasty. The inscription on the Nestorian Stele, whose dating formula mentions the patriarch Hnanishoʿ II (773–80), gives the names of several prominent Christians in China, including the metropolitan Adam, the bishop Yohannan, the 'country-bishops' Yazdbuzid and Sargis and the archdeacons Gigoi of Khumdan (Chang'an) and Gabriel of Sarag (Loyang). The names of around seventy monks are also listed.

The Nestorian Stele, created in 781, describes the introduction of Nestorian Christianity to China

Nestorian Christianity thrived in China for approximately 200 years, but then faced persecution from Emperor Wuzong of Tang (reigned 840–846). He suppressed all foreign religions, including Buddhism and Christianity, causing it to decline sharply in China. A Syrian monk visiting China a few decades later described many churches in ruin. The Church disappeared from China in the early 10th century, coinciding with the collapse of the Tang Dynasty and the tumult of the next years (the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period).

Christianity in China experienced a significant revival during the Mongol-created Yuan Dynasty, established after the Mongols had conquered China in the 13th century. Marco Polo in the 13th century and other medieval Western writers described many Nestorian communities remaining in China and Mongolia; however, they clearly were not as vibrant as they had been during Tang times.

Mongolia and Central Asia

The Church of the East enjoyed a final period of expansion under the Mongols. Several Mongol tribes had already been converted by Nestorian missionaries in the 7th century, and Christianity was therefore a major influence in the Mongol Empire. Genghis Khan was a shamanist, but his sons took Christian wives from the powerful Kerait clan, as did their sons in turn. During the rule of Genghis's grandson, the Great Khan Mongke, Nestorian Christianity was the primary religious influence in the Empire, and this also carried over to Mongol-conquered China, during the Yuan Dynasty. It was at this point, in the late 13th century, that the Church of the East reached its greatest geographical extent. But Mongol power was already waning, as the Empire dissolved into civil war, and it reached a turning point in 1295, when Ghazan, the Mongol ruler of the Ilkhanate, made a formal conversion to Islam when he took the throne.

Jerusalem and Cyprus

Rabban Bar Sauma had initially conceived of his journey to the West as a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, so it is possible that there was a Nestorian presence in the city ca.1300. There was certainly a recognizable Nestorian presence at the Holy Sepulchre from the 1348 through 1575, as contemporary Franciscan accounts indicate. At Famagusta, Cyprus, a Nestorian community was established just before 1300, and a church was built for them ca.1339.

Schism and later history

Collapse of the exterior provinces

The 'exterior provinces' of the Church of the East, with the important exception of India, collapsed during the second half of the fourteenth century. Although little is known of the circumstances of the demise of the Nestorian dioceses in Central Asia (which may never have fully recovered from the destruction caused by the Mongols a century earlier), it was probably due to a combination of persecution, disease, and isolation.

The blame for the destruction of the Nestorian communities east of northern Iraq has often been thrown upon the Turco-Mongol leader Timur, whose campaigns during the 1390s spread havoc throughout Persia and Central Asia, but in many parts of Central Asia, Christianity had died out decades before Timur's campaigns. The surviving evidence from Central Asia, including a large number of dated graves, indicates that the crisis for the Church of the East occurred in the 1340s rather than the 1390s. Several contemporary observers, including the papal envoy Giovanni de' Marignolli, mention the murder of a Latin bishop in 1339 or 1340 by a Muslim mob in Almaliq, the chief city of Tangut, and the forcible conversion of the city's Christians to Islam.

At the end of the 19th century, tombstones in two East Syrian cemeteries were discovered and dated in Mongolia. They dated from 1342, and several commemorated deaths during a plague in 1338. In China, the last references to Nestorian and Latin Christians date from the 1350s. It is likely that all foreign Christians were expelled from China soon after the revolution of 1368, which replaced the Mongol Yuan dynasty with the xenophobic Ming dynasty.

By the 15th century, Nestorian Christianity was largely confined to the Eastern Aramaic speaking Assyrian communities of northern Mesopotamia, in and around the rough triangle formed by Mosul and Lakes Van and Urmia, the same general region where the Church of the East had first emerged between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. Small Nestorian communities were located further west, notably in Jerusalem and Cyprus, but the Malabar Christians of India represented the only significant survival of the once-thriving exterior provinces of the Church of the East.

Schism of 1552

Around the middle of the fifteenth century the patriarch Shemʿon IV Basidi made the patriarchal succession hereditary, normally from uncle to nephew. This practice, which resulted in a shortage of eligible heirs, eventually led to a schism in the Church of the East. The patriarch Shemʿon VII Ishoʿyahb (1539–58) caused great offense at the beginning of his reign by designating his twelve-year-old nephew Khnanishoʿ as his successor, presumably because no older relatives were available. Several years later, probably because Khnanishoʿ had died in the interim, he designated as successor his fifteen-year-old brother Eliya, the future patriarch Eliya VII (1558–91). These appointments, combined with other accusations of impropriety, caused discontent throughout the church, and by 1552 Shemʿon VII Ishoʿyahb had become so unpopular that a group of bishops, principally from the Amid, Sirt and Salmas districts in northern Mesopotamia, chose a new patriarch, electing a monk named Yohannan Sulaqa, the superior of Rabban Hormizd Monastery near the Assyrian town of Alqosh. However, no bishop of metropolitan rank was available to consecrate him, as canonically required. Franciscan missionaries were already at work among the Nestorians, and they persuaded Sulaqa's supporters to legitimize their position by seeking their candidate's consecration by Pope Julius III (1550–5).

Sulaqa went to Rome to put his case in person. At Rome he made a satisfactory Catholic profession of faith and presented a letter, drafted by his supporters in Mosul, which set out his claims to be recognized as patriarch. On April 9, having satisfied the Vatican that he was a good Catholic, Sulaqa was consecrated bishop and archbishop in the basilica of Saint Peter. On April 28 he was recognized as "patriarch of Athura and Mosul" by pope Julius III in the bull Divina disponente clementia and received the pallium from the pope's hands at a secret consistory in the Vatican. These events, which marked the birth of the Chaldean Catholic Church, created a permanent schism in the Church of the East.

Sulaqa was consecrated "patriarch of Athura and Mosul" in Rome in April 1553 and returned to northern Mesopotamia towards the end of the same year. In December 1553 he obtained documents from the Ottoman authorities recognizing him as an independent "Chaldean" patriarch, and in 1554, during a stay of five months in Amid, consecrated five metropolitan bishops (for the dioceses of Gazarta, Hesna d'Kifa, Amid, Mardin and Seert). Shemʿon VII Ishoʿyahb responded by consecrating two more underage members of the patriarchal family as metropolitans for Nisibis and Gazarta. He also won over the governor of ʿAmadiya, who invited Sulaqa to ʿAmadiya, imprisoned him for four months, and put him to death in January 1555.

Sees in Qochanis, Amid, and Alqosh

The connections with Rome loosened up under Shimun VIII Sulaqa's successors, who all used the patriarchal name Shimun. The last patriarch to be formally recognized by the Pope died in the 1600, and the heredity of the office was reintroduced, and thus by 1660 the Church of the East had become divided into two patriarchates, the Eliya line in Alqosh (which comprised those who had not entered in Communion with Rome) and the Shimun line. In 1672 the Patriarch of the Shimun line, Mar Shimun XIII Denha, moved his seat to the Assyrian village of Qochanis in the mountains of Hakkari. In 1692 he formally broke communion with Rome and he allegedly resumed relations with the line at Alqosh.

In the Western regions, a new start for the so called Chaldean Patriarchate began in 1672 when Mar Joseph I, then the metropolitan of Amid, entered in communion with Rome, separating from the Patriarchal see of Alqosh. In 1681 the Holy See granted him the title of "Patriarch of the Chaldeans deprived of its patriarch" as leader of the Assyrian people who stayed in communion with Rome, and thus forming the third patriarchate of the Church of the East.

Josephite line of Amid

All Joseph I's successors took the name of Joseph. The life of this patriarchate was difficult: the leadership was continually vexed by traditionalists, while the community struggled under the tax burden imposed by the Ottoman authorities. Nevertheless its influence expanded from the original towns of Amid and Mardin toward the area of Mosul, where they relocated the see.

Mar Elias (Eliya), the Nestorian bishop of the Urmia plain village of Geogtapa, c.1831 .The image comes from Justin Perkins, 'A Residence of Eight Years in Persia among the Nestorians, with Notes of the Mohammedans' (Andover, 1843)

Yohannan Hormizd, the last in the Eliya hereditary line in Alqosh, made a Catholic profession of faith in 1780. He entered full communion with the Roman see in 1804, but he was recognized as Patriarch by the Pope only in 1830. This merged the majority of the Patriarchate of Alqosh with the Josephite line of Amid, thus forming the modern Chaldean Catholic Church.

The Shimun line of patriarchs at Qochanis, which extended mainly in the Northern mountains, remained independent of the Chaldean Church, and the patriarchate of the present-day Assyrian Church of the East, now located in Chicago, Illinois, forms the continuation of this line.

20th century

The Assyrian Church of the East faced a further split in 1898, when a bishop and a number of followers from the Urmia area in Iran entered communion with the Russian Orthodox Church, and again in 1964 when some traditionalists responded to ecclesiastical reforms brought on by Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII (1908–1975) by forming the independent Ancient Church of the East.

Today the Assyrian Church has about 170,000 members, mostly living in Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The Patriarchate of the Assyrian Church of the East is in exile in Chicago, and that of the Ancient Church of the East is in Baghdad.

In the Common Christological Declaration between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East in 1994, the two churches recognized the legitimacy and rightness of each other's titles for Mary.

Chaldean Catholic Church

The Chaldean Catholic Church (Classical Syriac: ܥܕܬܐ ܟܠܕܝܬܐ ܩܬܘܠܝܩܝܬܐ; ʿītha kaldetha qāthuliqetha), is an Eastern Syriac particular church of the Catholic Church, under the Holy See of the Catholicos-Patriarch of Babylon, maintaining full communion with the Bishop of Rome and the rest of the Catholic Church. The Chaldean Catholic Church presently comprises an estimated 500,000 people who are ethnic Assyrians indigenous to northern Iraq, and areas bordering it in southeast Turkey, northeast Syria and northwest Iran.

The history of the Chaldean Church is the history of the Church of the East founded in Assyria (Persian ruled Athura) -represented today by at least eleven different churches, including the Assyrian Church of the East, of Assyria (then ruled by the successive Parthian and Sassanid Empires, where it was known by its derivative names of Athura and Assuristan)- between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. The Assyrian region of northern Mesopotamia was also the birthplace of the Syriac language and Syriac script, both of which remain important within all strands of Syriac Christianity.

It was originally a part of The Assyrian Church of the East before the 1553 consecration of Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa who entered communion with the Roman Catholic Church, when it was renamed The Church of Athura (Assyria) and Mosul, subsequent to this, it was again renamed by Rome in 1683 as The Chaldean Catholic Church, despite none of its Assyrian adherents being connected ethnically or geographically to the long extinct Chaldeans.

After the extensive massacres of Assyrian and other Christians by Tamerlane in around 1400 AD had devastated many Assyrian bishoprics, the Church of the East, which had previously extended as far as China, Central Asia, Mongolia and India, was largely reduced to Assyria, its place of origin, and followed by the core of Eastern Aramaic speaking ethnic Assyrians who lived largely in the area of Northern Mesopotamia between Amid (Diyarbakır), Harran and Hakkari in the north to Mosul and Kirkuk in the south, and from Salmas and Urmia in the east to Al-Hassakeh in the west; an area approximately encompassing ancient Assyria.[4]:55 The episcopal see was moved to Alqosh, in the Mosul region, and Patriarch Mar Shimun IV Basidi (1437–1493) made the office of patriarch hereditary within his own family.

19th century: expansion and disaster

The following years of the Chaldean Church were marked by externally originating violence: in 1838 the monastery of Rabban Hormizd and the town of Alqosh was attacked by the Kurds of Soran and hundreds of Christian Assyrians died and in the 1843 the Kurds started to collect as much money as they could from Assyrian villages, killing those who refused: more than ten thousand Assyrian Christians of all denominations were killed and the icons of the Rabban Hormizd monastery defaced.

In 1846 the Chaldean Church was recognized by the Ottoman Empire as a millet, a distinctive religious community within the Empire, thus obtaining its civic emancipation. The most famous patriarch of the Chaldean Church in the 19th century was Joseph VI Audo who is remembered also for his clashes with Pope Pius IX mainly about his attempts to extend the Chaldean jurisdiction over the Indian Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. This time was a period of expansion for the Chaldean Catholic Church.

In the early 20th century Russian Orthodox missionaries established two dioceses in North Assyria, and many Assyrian leaders believed that the Russian Empire would be more interested in protecting them than the British Empire and the French Empire. Hoping in the support of Russians, World War I and the subsequent Assyrian Genocide was seen as the right time to rebel against the Ottoman Empire, and an Assyrian War of Independence was launched, led by Agha Petros and Malik Khoshaba. On 4 November 1914 the Turkish Enver Pasha announced the Jihad, the holy war, against the Christians. Assyrian forces fought successfully against overwhelming odds in northern Iraq, southeast Turkey and northwest Iran for a time. However the Russian Revolution in 1917, and the collapse of Armenian resistance, left the Assyrians cut off from supplies of food and ammunition, vastly outnumbered, and surrounded. Assyrian territories were overrun by the Ottoman Empire and their Kurdish and Arab allies, and the people forced to flee: most who escaped the massacres and continuation of the Assyrian Genocide died from winter cold or hunger. The disaster struck mainly the regions of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean dioceses in North Assyria (Amid, Siirt and Gazarta) were ruined (the Chaldeans metropolitans Addai Scher of Siirt and Philip Abraham of Gazarta were both killed in 1915).

A further massacre occurred in 1933 at the hands of the Iraqi Army, in the form of the Simele massacre, which resulted in thousands of deaths.

21st century: eparchies around the world

A recent development in the Chaldean Catholic Church has been the creation in 2006 of the Eparchy of Oceania, with the title of 'St Thomas the Apostle of Sydney of the Chaldeans'. This jurisdiction includes the Chaldean Catholic communities of Australia and New Zealand, and the first Bishop, named by Pope Benedict XVI on 21 October 2006, is Archbishop Djibrail (Jibrail) Kassab, until this date, Archbishop of Bassorah in Iraq. There has been a large immigration to the United States particularly to Southeast Michigan. Although the largest population resides in Southeast Michigan, there are populations in parts of California and Arizona as well. Canada in recent years has shown growing communities in both eastern provinces, such as Ontario, and in western Canada, such as Saskatchewan.

In 2008, Mar Bawai Soro of the Assyrian Church of the East and 1,000 Assyrian families were received into full communion with the Chaldean Catholic Church from the Assyrian Church of the East.


The Chaldean Catholic Church uses the East Syrian Rite.

A slight reform of the liturgy was effective since 6 January 2007, and it aimed to unify the many different uses of each parish, to remove centuries-old additions that merely imitated the Roman Rite, and for pastoral reasons. The main elements of variations are: the Anaphora said aloud by the priest, the return to the ancient architecture of the churches, the restoration of the ancient use where the bread and wine are readied before a service begins, and the removal from the Creed of the Filioque clause.

Ancient Church of the East

The Ancient Church of the East (Syriac: ܥܕܬܐ ܥܬܝܩܬܐ ܕܡܕܢܚܐ ʿĒtā ʿAttīqtā d'Maḏnəḥā, Arabic: كنيسة المشرق القديمة‎), officially the Ancient Holy Apostolic Catholic Church of the East (ܗܝ ܥܕܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ ܕܐܫܬܬܐܣܬ ܒܫܢܬܐ) was established in 1964. It is one of the churches that claim continuity with the historical Patriarchate of Seleucia-Ctesiphon – the Church of the East, one of the oldest Christian churches in Mesopotamia.

The Ancient Church of the East was established as the result of a schism within the Assyrian Church of the East, distinguishing itself by opposition to introduction into the Assyrian Church of the East of the modern Gregorian Calendar in place of the traditional Julian calendar (which differs from the Gregorian by a widening number of days, currently thirteen). The Ancient Church of the East seated itself in Baghdad, headed by a separate Catholicos-Patriarch. The first, Mar Thoma Darmo (1968–1969), was succeeded as Catholicos-Patriarch by Mar Addai II Giwargis in 1970.

The position of Catholicos-Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East remained vacant for the initial four years of the Church (1964-1967). In 1968, the followers of the newly established church elected a rival catholicos-patriarch Mar Thoma Darmo while Mar Shimun XXIII continued as the official head of the Assyrian Church of the East. The elected catholicos-patriarch Mar Thoma Darmo was a native of Mesopotamia, a former Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church of the East in India from 1952 to 1968 based at Thrissur, India. He became the head of the Ancient Church of the East in October 1968 and relocated to Baghdad.

Following Patriarch Mar Thoma Darmo's death in 1969, Mar Addai II was elected to head the Ancient Church of the East in February 1970.

The head of the church is the Patriarch of the Church of the East, who also bears the title of Catholicos, presently Mar Addai II. The Ancient Church of the East has an ordained clergy divided into the three traditional orders of deacon, priest (or presbyter), and bishop. It also has an episcopal polity, meaning it is organized into dioceses, each headed by a bishop and made up of several individual parish communities overseen by priests. Dioceses are organized into provinces under the authority of a metropolitan bishop.


In September 1968 Mar Addai Giwargis was consecrated Metropolitan of Iraq, Mar Aprem Mooken was consecrated Metropolitan of India, and Mar Poulose Poulose was consecrated Bishop of India. These prelates in turn consecrated Mar Thoma Darmo Catholicos-Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East during the first week of October 1968. Mar Thoma Darmo died in September 1969, and Mar Addai Giwargis became Acting Patriarch. Mar Addai Giwargis consecrated two Metropolitans in December 1969, Mar Narsai Toma for Kirkuk, and Mar Toma Eramia for Mosul and Northern Iraq. Mar Addai's jurisdiction now was Baghdad.

In February 1972, Mar Narsai Toma of Kirkuk and Mar Toma Giwargis of Nineveh consecrated Mar Addai Giwargis as Catholicos-Patriarch.

Mar Daniel Yakob, Bishop of Kirkuk for the Assyrian Church of the East was accepted in the Ancient Church of the East, in 1985, to head the North American parishes. In July 1992, Mar Yacoub Daniel was consecrated Bishop for Syria and in June 1993 Mar Emmanuel Elia as Bishop for the Patriarchate of Baghdad. In 1994, Mar Emmanuel Elia shifted his residence and became Bishop of North America (USA and Canada).

Several changes occurred in the church hierarchy during November–December 1995. Mar Aprem Mooken, Mar Pouluse Poulose and the Church in India united with the Assyrian Church of the East. Timothaus Mar Shallita was accepted into the Holy Synod and appointed Metropolitan of Europe, and Mar Yacoub Daniel was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan.

In June 2010, the Ancient Church of the East Synod officially declared that the church will begin starting 2010 to celebrate Christmas on the 25 December of each year according to the Gregorian calendar. From its establishment, the church had continued to celebrate Christmas on January 7 of each year. This move will mean that both the Ancient Church of the East and the Assyrian Church of the East will follow the same calendar. The calendar issue was one of the main reasons the Church of the East had split. Easter will continue to be celebrated according to the Julian calendar.

The Ancient Church of the East acknowledges the traditional lineage of the Patriarchs of the Church of the East from Thoma Shlikha, (Saint Thomas) (c. 33-c. 77) until the schism 1964-1967 and considers itself a true continuation of this lineage.

During the reign of Mar Shimun XXIII, in 1964, a schism appeared in the Assyrian Church of the East causing the establishment of the Ancient Church of the East. The seat of the new church remained vacant for three years before Mar Thoma Darmo was assigned as Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East, while Mar Shimun XXIII continued as the official head of the Assyrian Church of the East.

Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (Classical Syriac: ܥܕܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ ܬܪܝܨܬ ܫܘܒܚܐ) is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Eastern Mediterranean, with members spread throughout the world. It employs the oldest surviving liturgy in Christianity, the Liturgy of St. James the Apostle, and uses Syriac as its official and liturgical language. The church is led by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. The Syriac Orthodox Church traces its history to one of the first Christian communities in Antioch, described in the Acts of the Apostles (New Testament, Acts 11:26) and established by the Apostle St. Peter in AD 37.

The Church belongs to the Oriental Orthodox family of churches, which has been a distinct church body since the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451 but its roots date back to the first founded church outside Jerusalem in Antioch in AD 37 when and where the followers of Jesus Christ were first called Christians. The precise differences in theology that caused the split, "arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter", according to a joint declaration by the last head of the Syriac Orthodox church, Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, and Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II in 1984. However, this view is not held by the Eastern Orthodox Church, one of the participants in the Council of Chalcedon. The Syriac Orthodox Church participates in ecumenical discussions, being a member of the World Council of Churches since 1960, where the last Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas served as a president, and a member of the Middle East Council of Churches since 1974.

The Church has twenty-six archdioceses and eleven patriarchal vicariates. In 1959, the Patriarchate was moved to Damascus, modern-day Syria.

Apostolic Succession

The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch claims the status as the most ancient Christian church in the world. According to Saint Luke, "The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch," (New Testament, Acts 11:26). St. Peter and St. Paul the Apostle are regarded as the cofounders of the Patriarchate of Antioch in AD 37, with the former serving as its first bishop and he is considered as the first Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church.

As Jewish Christianity originated at Jerusalem, so Gentile Christianity started at Antioch, then the leading center of the Hellenistic East, with Peter and Paul as its apostles. From Antioch it spread to the various cities and provinces of Syria, among the Hellenistic Syrians as well as among the Hellenistic Jews who, as a result of the great rebellions against the Romans in A.D. 70 and 130, were driven out from Jerusalem and Palestine into Syria.

When St. Peter left Antioch, Evodios and Ignatius presided over the Patriarchate. Because of the prominence of St. Ignatius in the church's history, almost all of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs since 1293 were named Ignatius.

Patriarchate of Antioch

The spiritual care of the Church was vested in the Bishop of Antioch from the earliest years of Christianity. Given the antiquity of the bishopric of Antioch and the importance of the Church in the city of Antioch which was a commercially significant city in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire, the First Council of Nicaea (325) recognized the bishopric as a Patriarchate along with the bishoprics of Rome, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, bestowing authority for the Church of Antioch and All of the East on the Patriarch.

Even though the Synod of Nicaea was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine, the authority of the ecumenical synod was also accepted by the Church in the Persian Empire which was politically isolated from the Churches in the Roman Empire. Until 498, this Church accepted the spiritual authority of the Patriarch of Antioch. The Church also maintained a smaller non-Chalcedonian church under a Catholicos (Katholikos), known by the title Maphryono, until the 1860s. This Catholicate was canonically transferred to India in 1964 and continues today as an integral part of the Syriac Orthodox Church with the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch as its head.

The Christological controversies that followed the Council of Chalcedon in 451 resulted in a long struggle for the Patriarchate between those who accepted and those who rejected the Council. In 518, Patriarch Mar Severius was exiled from the city of Antioch and took refuge in Alexandria. On account of many historical upheavals and consequent hardships which the church had to undergo, the Patriarchate was transferred to different monasteries in Mesopotamia for centuries. In the 13th century it was transferred in the Mor Hananyo Monastery (Deir al-Za`faran), in southeastern Turkey near Mardin, where it remained until 1933. Due to an adverse political situation, it was transferred to Homs, Syria and in 1959 was transferred again to Damascus.

The Patriarchate office is now in Bab Tuma, in Damascus, capital of Syria; but the Patriarch resides at the Mar Aphrem Monastery in Ma`arat Sayyidnaya located about twenty five kilometers north of Damascus.

Ecumenical Relations

The Church of Antioch played a prominent role in the first three Synods held at Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381), and Ephesus (431), shaping the formulation and early interpretation of Christian doctrines.

In terms of Christology, the Oriental Orthodox (Non-Chalcedonian) understanding is that Christ is "One Nature—the Logos Incarnate, of the full humanity and full divinity". Just as humans are of their mothers and fathers and not in their mothers and fathers, so too is the nature of Christ according to Oriental Orthodoxy. The Chalcedonian understanding is that Christ is "in two natures, full humanity and full divinity". This is the doctrinal difference which separated the Oriental Orthodox from the rest of Christendom.

By the 20th century the Chalcedonian schism was not seen with the same relevance, and from several meetings between the authorities of Roman Catholicism and the Oriental Orthodoxy, reconciling declarations emerged in the common statement of the Oriental Patriarch (Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas) and the Pope (John Paul II) in 1984.

The Syriac Orthodox Church is very active in ecumenical dialogues. It has been a member church of World Council of Churches since 1960 and the Patriarch, Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas is one of the presidents of World Council of Churches. The Syriac Orthodox Church is also actively involved in ecumenical dialogues with the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches. There are common Christological and pastoral agreements with the Catholic Church. It has also been involved in the Middle East Council of Churches since 1974.

Since 1998, the heads of the three Oriental Churches in the Eastern Mediterranean i.e. the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicate of Cilicia, Antelias, Lebanon) meet regularly each year.



Syriac Orthodox clergy and some devout laity follow a regimen of seven prayers a day, in accordance with Psalm 119. According to the Syriac Tradition, an ecclesiastical day starts at sunset:

Evening or Ramsho prayer (Vespers)
Night prayer or Sootoro prayer (Compline)
Midnight or Lilyo prayer (Matins)
Morning or Saphro prayer (Prime or Lauds, 6 a.m.)
Third Hour or tloth sho`in prayer (Terce, 9 a.m.)
Sixth Hour or sheth sho`in prayer (Sext, noon)
Ninth Hour or tsha` sho'in prayer (None, 3 p.m.)


The liturgical service, which is called Holy Qurbono in Syriac Aramaic and means 'Eucharist', is celebrated on Sundays and special occasions. The Holy Eucharist consists of Gospel Reading, Bible Readings, Prayers, and Songs. During the celebration of the Eucharist, priests and deacons put on elaborate vestments which are unique to the Syriac Orthodox Church. Whether in the Eastern Mediterranean, India, Europe, the Americas or Australia, the same vestments are worn by all clergy.

Apart from certain readings, all prayers are sung in the form of chants and melodies. Hundreds of melodies remain and these are preserved in the book known as Beth Gazo. It is the key reference to Syriac Orthodox church music.

Bible in Syriac tradition

Syriac Orthodox Churches use the Peshitta (Syriac: simple, common) as its Bible. The Old Testament books of this Bible were translated from Greek to Syriac between the late 1st century to the early 3rd century AD.

The Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated from the Hebrew, probably in the 2nd century. The New Testament of the Peshitta, which originally excluded certain disputed books, had become the standard by the early 5th century, replacing two early Syriac versions of the gospels.


The Different Ranks of Priesthood in SOC i.e. Patriarch, Catholicos, Metropolitan, Corepiscopos, Priest, Deacon, Laymen.


In the Syriac Orthodox tradition, different ranks among the deacons are specifically assigned with particular duties. The six ranks of diaconate are:

‘Ulmoyo (Faithful)
Mawdyono (Confessor of Faith)
Mzamrono (Singer)
Quroyo (Reader)
Afudyaqno (Sub-deacon)
Mshamshono (Full Deacon)

Only a full deacon or Masamsono can take the censer during the Divine Liturgy to assist the priest. However, in Malankara Church, because of the lack of deacons, altar assistants who do not have any rank of deaconhood assist the priest. The deacons in Malankara Church are allowed to wear a phiro, or a cap.


The priest is the seventh rank and is the duly one appointed to administer the sacraments. Unlike in the Roman Catholic church, Syriac deacons can marry before ordained as a full priest; however he cannot marry after ordained as priest.There is another honorary rank among the priests that is Corepiscopos who has the privileges of "first among the priests" and are give a chain with cross and specific vestment decorations. Corepiscopos is the highest rank a married man can be elevated in the Syriac Orthodox Church. Any ranks above the Corepiscopos are unmarried.


Episcopos is a word that means "the one who oversees". In the Syriac Orthodox Church, an episcopos is a spiritual ruler of the church. In episcopos too there are different ranks. The highest and the supreme is the Patriarch, who is the "father of fathers". Next to him is the Maphriyono or Catholicos of India who is the head of a division of the Church. Then there are Metropolitans or Archbishops and under them there are Episcopos or Bishops.


The clergy of the Syriac Orthodox Church have unique vestments that are quite different from other Christian denominations. The vestments worn by the clergy vary with their order in the priesthood. The deacons, the priests, the bishops, and the patriarch each have different vestments.

Celebration at a Syriac Orthodox monastery in Mosul, Ottoman Syria, early 20th century

The priest's usual dress is a black robe, but in India, due to the harsh weather, priests usually wear a white robe. However, during prayers in the church, they wear a black robe over the white one. Bishops usually wear a black or a red robe with a red belt. They do not, however, wear a red robe in the presence of the Patriarch who wears a red robe. Bishops visiting a diocese outside their jurisdiction also wear black robes in deference to the bishop of the diocese, who alone wears red robes. Priests also wear phiro, or a cap, which he must wear for all the public prayers. Monks also wear eskimo, a hood. Priests also have ceremonial shoes which are called msone. Without wearing msone, a priest cannot distribute holy Eucharist to the faithful. Then there is a white robe called kutino symbolizing purity (Mormon priests, which are all worthy male members, wear white shirts every sunday symbolizing purity as well. It's the same with Shinto priests.). Hamniko or Stole is worn over this white robe. Then he wears girdle called zenoro and zende meaning sleeves. If the celebrant is a bishop, he wears a masnapto, or turban (Very different from turban worn by Sikh men). A cope called phayno is worn over these vestments. Batrashil, or Pallium, is worn over the Phayno by Bishops (Very similar to Hamnikho worn by priests). An important aspect is that Bishops and Cor-Episcopas have handheld crosses while ordinary priests have none.

Primacy of Saint Peter

The Fathers of the Syriac Orthodox Church tried to give a theological interpretation to the primacy of Saint Peter. They were fully convinced of the unique office of Peter in the primitive Christian community. Ephrem, Aphrahat and Maruthas who were supposed to be the best exponents of the early Syriac tradition unequivocally acknowledge the office of Peter.

Global Presence


It is estimated that the church has about 3,500,000 members globally including around 1,600,000 members in India. There is another orthodox faction in India "Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church", which has about 2,600,000 members, this church is independent and has its own Catholicos in India. There are 800,000 Syriac Orthodox members in Syria and 5,000 in Turkey, 1,750 in Palestine (500 in Jerusalem and 1,250 Bethlehem) (numbers in Iraq are unknown). In Lebanon they number up to 50,000. In the diaspora, there are approximately 80,000 members in the United States, 80,000 in Sweden, 100,000 in Germany, 15,000 in the Netherlands, 200,000 members in Brazil, Switzerland, and Austria and around 1,000,000 in Central America, including a large number of indigenous Mayan converts in Guatemala.

Official Name

Since the church has never been the officially-adopted religion of a modern-day country, a unique name had long been used to distinguish the church from the polity of Syria in most languages besides English. This includes Arabic (the official language of Syria), where the Church has always been known as the "Syriani" church; the term "Syriani" being the same word used to identify the Syriac language in Arabic. The meaning of this term is entirely unique from the term for "Syrian" in Arabic, which is translated as, literally, "Syrian". Being the lone exception up until the year 2000, English identified the church as the "Syrian Orthodox Church"; with "Syrian" being derived from the term "Syrian church" used by English-speaking historians to describe the community in ancient Syria prior to the ecumenical divisions. The confusion between "Syrian" and "Syriac" in English led to some nationalists favoring the term "Syrian Orthodox" and some Assyrians favoring the term "Assyrian Orthodox". However, the term "Syrian Orthodox" failed to distinguish the church as in other languages and the term "Assyrian Orthodox" led to confusion with the Assyrian Church of the East. Hence, in 2000, a Holy Synod ruled that the church should be named after its official liturgical language of Syriac (i.e. Syriac Orthodox Church), as it is in most other languages. The official name of the church in Syriac is pronounced ʿĒdtō Suryōytō Triṣaṯ Šuḇḥō; this name has not changed, nor has it changed in any language other than English. The church is often referred to as Jacobite (after Jacob Baradaeus), but it rejects this name.


The church today has two seminaries, and numerous colleges and other institutions. Among those there are several religious institutions which are noteworthy. Patriarch Aphrem I Barsoum (†1957) established St. Aphrem's Clerical School in 1934 in Zahlé, Lebanon. In 1946 it was moved to Mosul, Iraq, where it provided the Church with a good selection of graduates, the first among them being Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas and many other Church leaders. Also the church has an international Christian education centre which is a centre for religious education. In the year 1990 he established the Order of St. Jacob Baradaeus for nuns and renovated St. Aphrem's Clerical building in Atshanneh, Lebanon for the new order.[19]

Jurisdiction of the Patriarchate
Middle East

The Syrian Orthodox Church in the Middle East has several Archdioceses and Patriarchate Vicariates in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, UAE and the Arab States of the Persian Gulf.

The Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, the Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II.
Patriarchal Office Director in Damascus Archbishop H.E. Mor Dionysius Jean Kawak.
Patriarchal Secretary in Damascus Archbishop H.E. Mor Timothius Matta AlKhori.
Archbishopric of Jazirah and Euphrates under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Eustathius Matta Roham.
Archbishopric of Aleppo under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim.
Archbishopric of Homs & Hama under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Selwanos Petros AL-nemeh.
Patriarchate Vicariate for the Archdiocese of Damascus under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Ivanius Paulose Al-Souky.
Archbishopric of Mount Lebanon under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Theophilos George Saliba.
Patriarchate Vicariate of Zahle under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Yostinos Boulos Safar.
Archbishopric of Beirut & Benevolent institutions in Lebanon under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Clemis Daniel Malak Kourieh.
The Patriarchal Institutions in Lebanon under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Chrysostoms Michael Shimon.
Archbishopric of Baghdad and Basrah under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Severius Jamil Hawa.
Archbishopric of Mosul, Kirkuk and Kurdistan under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Nicodimus Dawood Sharaf. Served previously by the retired Archbishop but currently Patriarch Advisor H.E. Mor Gregorius Saliba Shamoun.
Archbishopric of St Matthew's "Matta" Monastery under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Timothius Mousa A. Shamani.
Archbishopric of Istanbul and Ankara under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Filüksinos Yusuf Çetin.
Patriarchate Vicariate of Mardin under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Filüksinos Saliba Özmen.
Patriarchate Vicariate of Turabdin under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Timothius Samuel Aktaş.
Archbishopric of Adiyaman under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Gregorius Melki Ürek.
Holy Land
Patriarchate Vicariate of Israel, Palestine and Jordan under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Severios Malke Mourad.
Patriarchate Vicariate of UAE and Arab States of the Persian Gulf under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Bartholomaus Nathanael.

Bethel Suloko Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church, Perumbavoor, Kerala

The Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, one of the various Saint Thomas Christian churches in India, is an integral part of the Syriac Orthodox Church, with the Patriarch of Antioch as its supreme head. The local head of the church in Malankara (India) is the Catholicos of India also called Catholicos of the East, currently Baselios Thomas I, ordained by the Patriarch in 2002 and accountable to the Patriarch of Antioch. The headquarters of the church in India is at Puthencruz near Ernakulam in the state of Kerala in South India. Another church, the Indian or Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, is an independent Orthodox church Knanaya Syrian Orthodox Church is an archdiocese under the Syriac orthodox patriarchate. Unlike most other patriarchal churches abroad, the language of the Syriac Orthodox Divine Liturgy in India is mostly in Malayalam along with Syriac. This is because almost all Syrian Christians in India hail from the State of Kerala, where Malayalam is the mother tongue of the people.


The Syriac Orthodox Church has four Archdioceses and Patriarchate Vicariates in North America, one Archdiocese in Central America and the Caribbean Islands and two Patriarchate Vicariates in South America.

Patriarchate Vicariate of the Eastern USA under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim now the Patriarch His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II.
Patriarchate Vicariate of the Western USA under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Clemis Eugene Kaplan (Kaplan is a very typical Levitic last name. Not by chance it's said that Nestorian churches have Israelite origin & where made to preach the Lost Ten Tribes.).
Malankara Archdiocese of North America under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Titus Yeldho Pathickal.
Patriarchate Vicariate of Canada under the spiritual guidance and direction Archbishop H.E. Mor Athanasius Elia Bahi.
Archdiocese of Central America, the Caribbean Islands and Venezuela under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Yaqub Eduardo Aguirre Oestmann.
Patriarchate Vicariate of Argentina under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Chrysostomos John Ghassali.
Patriarchate Vicariate of Brazil under the spiritual guidance and direction of the Apostolic Nuncio H.E. Mor Theethose Bolous Toza.

The Syriac Orthodox Church in Europe has seven Archdioceses and Patriarchate Vicariates.


Patriarchate Vicariate of Belgium, France and Luxembourg under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Severius Hazail Soumi.
Patriarchate Vicariate of Germany under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Philoxenus Mattias Nayis.
Ecumenical Movement in Germany under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Julius Hanna Aydın.
Patriarchate Vicariate of the Netherlands under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Polycarpus Augin (Eugene) Aydın.
Archbishopric of Sweden and Scandinavia under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Julius Abdulahad Gallo Shabo.
Patriarchate Vicariate of Sweden under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Dioskoros Benyamen Atas.
Patriarchate Vicariate of Switzerland and Austria under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Dionysius Isa Gürbüz.
United Kingdom
Patriarchate Vicariate of the United Kingdom under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Athanasius Toma Dawod.


Patriarchate Vicariate of Australia and New Zealand under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Malatius Malki Malki.

sábado, 20 de septiembre de 2014

There are plenty of Jewish roots in Africa III

Igbo Jews – Fascinating!

Members of the Jewish community mostly come from the Igbo tribe, which is the third largest ethnic group in the country. Members of the Igbo believe that they are descendants of Jews who had migrated to western Africa over many centuries via migrations south into sub-Saharan Africa, as well as west across North Africa, possibly following the path of the Arab conquests. Some Nigerian Jews hold that families amongst the community are descendants of Kohanim and Levites, the Jewish priests and their assistants who functioned in the Temple of Jerusalem. Descendants could also have arisen from migrants from Djerba, Tunisia who had fled to North Africa after the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples in Jerusalem. The Jewish community is said to be comprised almost entirely by descendants of Kohens.

Several Israelite/Jewish tribes settled in Western Africa during the glorious days of the Songhai, Mali and Ghana empires. As the early Jews were mainly traders, it is quite likely that Jewish traders made the treck across the African continent and eventually settled in various places of West Africa, just as Jewish traders had settled in Kaifeng, China due to their activity in trade along the Silk Route. Some sources have explained that a Jewish presence was present in Nigeria as early as 638 BCE. The Igbos are not the only group that claims such a heritage; the Sefwi people of Ghana too believe they are descendants of Jews that made their way to West Africa.

In Mali, there had been a documented community for quite some time until all Jewish families were forced to convert to Islam and till today there remains a Jewish Culture Society in Mali where those descendants of Jews seek to explore their culture and heritage.

Perhaps the Jews of Nigeria suffered the same fate and with the arrival of Islam were either forced to leave the territory or submit to the Islamic domination. It is believed that Judaism first came to the region many centuries ago, as many as 1500 years by traders, a profession that Jews during that time were prolific at. The Igbo Jews traditionally claim descent from three particular Israelite tribes: Gad, Zevulun, and Menashe. The Jews of Manipur and Mizoram, the Bnei Menashe, also claim descent from the tribe of Menashe. It is thought that these Jews fled to Africa after the destruction of the biblical Temples in Jerusalem and established communities all across the African continent.

Israel has, to date, not recognized the Igbo as one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. It took many years before the Chief Rabbinate recognized the Bnei Menashe as Jews, and it is thought that in due time the Igbo will also be recognized as descendants of Israel. One of the theories as to why Israel is reluctant to recognize the Igbo is because it has enjoyed good relations with Nigeria, and as the Igbo are a secessionist tribe, recognizing them as part of Israel may injure political and economic ties between the two countries.


According to the Igbo lore of the Eri, Nri, and Ozubulu families, Igbo ethnic groups with Israelite descent comprise the following 3 lineage types:

Benei Gath: Igbo people said to have descended from the Tribe of Gath ben-Ya`aqov ( Gad), who was the 8th son of the Israelite patriarch Ya`aqov (Jacob). This group traces its lineage through Gath’s son Eri ben-Gath. The groups from this lineage comprise the Aguleri, Umuleri, Oreri, Enugwu Ikwu, Ogbunike, Awkuzu, Nteje, and Igbariam clans.

Benei Zevulun: Igbo people said to have descended from the tribe of Zevulun ben-Ya`aqov (Zebulun), who was the 5th son of Ya`aqov (Jacob). These groups comprise the Ubulu Okiti and Ubulu Ukwu clans in Delta State who settled in Ubulu Ihejiofor. According to oral tradition, it is said that a descendant of the Tribe of Zevulun named Zevulunu, on the advice of a certain Levite, married a woman from Oji, who was descended from the Tribe of Judah, and from this union was born Ozubulu ben-Zebulunu. It is said that Ozubulu then went on to have 4 sons of his own who settled in other regions. These sons were: Amakwa, from whom a clan in Neni, Anambra State is descended, and Egbema, from whom the Egbema Ugwuta clan in Imo State and the Ohaji Egbema clan in Rivers State are descended.

Benei Menashe: Peoples whom Igbos theorize may be descendants of the Tribe of Menasheh ben-Yoseph (Manasseh). Menasheh who was one of the grandsons of Ya`aqov (Jacob) through his 11th son Yoseph ( Joseph). According to the Torah, Jacob claimed both Menasheh and his brother Ephrayim as his own sons. It is theorized that the Igbos of the Amichi, Ichi and Nnewi-Ichi clans are descended from this lineage.

Argument for the Historical Migration of the Igbo Jews

The Igbo Jews are said to have migrated from Syrian, Portuguese and Libyan Israelites into West Africa. Historical records shows that this migration started around 740 C.E. According to UCLA Jewish Historian Chinedu Nwabunwanne of Aguleri, “the migration started when the forces of Caliph Mohammed—the last leader of the Umayyads—and his Qaysi-Arab supportes defeated the Yamani-Arab Umayyads of Syria in 744 C.E; sacked the Yamanis and their Jewish supporters from Syria. The Syrian-Jewish migrant tribes Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher resettled in Nigeria where they became known as Sambation Jews.[citation needed] In 1484 and 1667 Judeans and Zebulonians from Portugal and Libya respectively joined Sambatyon Jews of Nigeria. Thus, Nigerian Jews originated from the following six Israelite tribes: Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher and Zebulon.

It is interesting to note that these six tribes are the same tribes Moses repeated their names twice when he blessed the Children Of Israel. These six tribes mentioned above are The House Of Judah and the children of Israel his companions (Ezekiel 37:16). Those remaining six tribes not mentioned above are The House Of Ephraim and the children of Israel his companion (Ezekiel 37:16).”

Historical Scrutiny

Stories affirming relationships between peoples now widely separated in spatial, historical, and cultural terms persist today, not only in Igboland but throughout Nigeria, in other parts of Africa, and in Europe, the United States, and beyond. Their roots in the example under consideration here lie in the assumption of a Judeo-Christian (and Islamic) Biblical framework as applicable to all of human history. In reference to West Africa this has taken the form of the “Hamitic hypothesis” (originally so-called for the putative descent of Africans from Noah’s son Ham), a model which firmly centered the beginning of West African history in the Near East rather than in West Africa itself.

Remarkably, for the Igbo, a very early (and widely influential) statement of this point of view came from an Igbo man, Olaudah Equiano, a Christian-educated freed slave who remarked in his autobiography of 1789 on “the strong analogy which… appears to prevail in the manners and customs of my countrymen and those of the Jews, before they reached the Land of Promise, and particularly the patriarchs while they were yet in that pastoral state which is described in Genesis — an analogy, which alone would induce me to think that the one people had sprung from the other.” For authoritative support, he gives reference to “Dr. Gill, who, in his commentary on Genesis, very ably deduces the pedigree of the Africans from Afer and Afra, the descendants of Abraham….

Contemporary Outreach

Outreach to Nigerian Jews by the wider Jewish world community gained official status in 1995–1997, when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sent a team to Nigeria in search of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Western rabbis and educators such as Rabbi Gorin have visited the community at times and Jewish communities in the West support those in Nigeria by sending books, computers, and religious articles. However, the State of Israel has, to date, not officially recognized the Igbo as one of the Lost Tribes.

Religious Practices

Many Igbo practices pose striking similarities with Jewish customs mentioned in the Torah and even in the present day. Such customs include: circumcision 8 days after the birth of a male child, a ban on eating un-kosher animals, separating men from women during the female cycle of menstruation, donning of the Tallit and Kippah, and the celebration of holidays such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. In recent times, the communities have adopted holidays such as Hannukah and Purim, holidays that only were beginning to be observed after many of the tribes of Israel had already dispersed. For example, the Ethiopian Jews and the Benei Menashe had no knowledge of such holidays.

Judaism in Nigeria Today

There are currently several Jewish communities across Nigeria and the structure is getting stronger. There are 26 synagogues across the country and the community is estimated as many as 40,000 individuals. Some of the larger and significant communities include the Gihon Institute in Abuja, as well as communities in the south such as Port Harcourt. Western rabbis and educators have visited the community at times and Jewish communities in the west support those in Nigeria by sending books, computers, religious articles and many more periodically. Western Jewish communities have been instrumental in establishing Jewish libraries in Nigeria and there is hope that some members of the Jewish community in Nigeria will be granted visas to go study Judaism in the United States, just as Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, leader of the Abayudaya in Uganda has done. By doing this, the leadership and knowledge of Judaism in Nigeria will continue to increase and the stability of the community with be strengthened as well. The Nigerian Jews are particularly interested in maintaining an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle and, as a result, western communities have refrained from sending ritual objects that have come from Reform congregations. However there is a dearth of religious books and many are photocopied or stapled together.

Similarly, as of yet, women have not taken an active, or have taken a minimal role in the leadership of the community, although this may change as has been the case amongst the Ugandan Jews. One of the individuals at the forefront of reclaiming the heritage of the Igbo people has been working on a second volume that details the Hebraic origins of the Igbo peoples and answers questions that may not have been answered in the first volume titled “The Igbo: Jews in Africa?”

Additional Information

Evidence of such communities includes the oral traditions of Hebraic lineage ranging from tribes in Sudan, all the way to Ghana, to the west. It is known that in the region of the Niger river, there is a group of people who, although they practice Islam today, are also believed to be of Jewish origin. These people are referred to as Iddao Ishaak. Some Igbo Jews claim they are descendants of the Temple priests and in accordance, wear similar garments of turbans and white robes, just as the priests of biblical times did. Although tests to determine the claims to Cohen priesthood have not been done, such as the tests that have been done amongst the Lemba in South Africa, there is strong evidence that such claims have validity and should be accepted as such. Perhaps additional convincing evidence that Jewish tribes arrived in Nigeria is the fact that there are a people amongst the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria referred to as “Strange People” or Bnei Ephraim who have retained certain portions of the Torah and Judaic practices. This evidence only confirms the Jewish origin of the Igbo Jews. Learned elders of the community serve as rabbis and western rabbis and other members of the worldwide Jewish community periodically visit Nigeria to teach and instruct the community in the ways of mainstream Judaism. However, the liturgy of the Igbo Jews has blended African music with Jewish prayers to produce a distinct Jewish-Nigerian melody during Shabbat services and other Jewish observances.

In addition to Jewish communities, Messianic Jewish communities have sprung up in Nigeria and although they believe in Jesus, they claim to be full Jews. This makes any census counting Jews residing in Nigeria more problematic. However, trends indicate such communities over time often abandon their belief in Jesus and accept mainstream Judaism. This has been the case with several communities and appears to be occurring to several more. Such trends also appear to be occurring in other communities around Africa including Rusape, Zimbabwe, and Kenya.

There are other communities in Nigeria that are not of the Igbo tribe that are practicing Judaism, such as those in Yorubaland. Thus, Jewish practice is not restricted to one ethnic group or location. The Igbo are Nigeria’s third largest ethnic group and many reside in many neighboring countries including Cameroon.

Over 60% of us African-americans are of Igbo descent. I have read that some Nigerian Igbo males have tested positive for the Cohen Modal Haplotype, which would confirm patrilinieal descent from Levite clans. Genetic testing can be used to verify haplotypes, and the CMH has found to have several variants, which would cover various clans of Levites and/or Cohanim. I am having my brothers DNA tested for this marker and I suspect that, if African-american and Afro-caribbean males tested for the CMH, there are most likely cluster populations found in various New World locations, including the Caribbean.

Jewish foundation to Bambara, Malinke, Sunufu, Dogon, Bobo Cultures of Mali

It's said that the Malinke are Jews & Arabs so they might mix in which blacks are mixed with Jews & Arabs so we can find Arab Malinke pockets & Jewish Malinke pockets. The Bafur Ephraimites were part of the Malinke once.

Partially Israelite tribes are the Hausa, the Dogon, Yoruba, Zulu... Contrary to to Igbos that are believed to be Israelites in origin, Yorubas are believed to have Arab origin, but among them there are some Israelite pockets  or clans like the ones called "Strange People" or "Bnei Ephraim". Even the name "Yoruba" might come from the Israelite king Jeroboam

When God afflicted Egypt with the Ten plagues by the hand of Moses, the Knowledge of the God of the Jews spread throughout the known world!

On a Sunday night in January 2002 during our return to Mali after 14 years absence that I discovered the Jewish base to many culture groups of Mali. This precious jewel of knowledge surfaced during a discussion with Pastor Matthew and a Nigerian brother of the IBO culture. They both declared that their cultures were based on the Old Testament, that they both had a Jewish heritage. The Ibo of Nigeria never lost the knowledge that they were Jewish and this past century all have become Christian. But the Jewish based cultures of Mali have lost the knowledge that they are practicing the Jewish faith. Though it is mixed with animism.

How can this conclusion be reached, that there was a Jewish influence??

From the Books of Moses in the OT, we read of the Exodus of the Jews with Moses, the 10 plagues which God worked on the Egyptians, and that Pharaoh drowned in the Red Sea as the Israelites were delivered from the slavery of Egypt. Just think, Egypt and its power were known across the world at that time. Each plague was used to destroy each of the 10 different false gods which formed the Egyptian religion.

The Old Testament also refers many times to the fact that many nations knew of God and Israel through the 10 plagues. The news would travel within a few months along trade routes, across Northern Africa, down to Nubia, then Ethiopia, then west to Mali. More than 5 major cultures in Mali received the teachings of the laws of Moses. These include the Bambara, Malinke, Dogon, Sunufou, Bobo.

Pastor Matthew grew up in this culture as a member of the clan of preists. Matthew became a Christian in 1980 and then trained to be a pastor going to bible School. There he deduced that the Bambara culture had a strong Jewish influence as he studied the Exodus, Leviticus and Deutoronomy in the Old Testament.

What evidence is there, you might rightly ask?

Among the practices which Pastor Matthew Fané and others have verfied to be in their culture are:
1- the passover sacrifice of Moses in which the blood is placed on the door lintel.
2- the litany of other sacrifices to cover the sins of the people
3- the scapegoat offering,
4- a preisthood consisting of the blacksmiths within the Bambara culture, serve as the Levitical & Aaronic preisthood.

But the most significant is the application of social values that were withing the Books of Moses. Among these are:
- to care for the orphan,
- to take care of the widow,
- to welcome the stranger or sojourner within your land,
- not to oppress your workers,
- to watch over the prosperity of your brother.

How are these social values seen within the Bambara Malian culture?

There are next to no orphanages within Mali.
Widows are cared for in Malian society, by family and neighbours. But most valued within Malian culture is the welcome of the stranger and sojourner in Mali. For Malian to learn how different their country, they have only to visit a neighbouring country. There they must fend for themselves but back in Mali, travellers, strangers are always offered food and lodging, even in the capital.

Temne people

The Temne people are currently the largest ethnic group in Sierra Leone, at 35% of the total population The Temne are predominantly found in the Northern Province and the Western Area, including the national capital Freetown.

The Temne are rice farmers, fishermen, and traders. Temne culture revolves around the paramount chiefs, and the secret societies (this might come from the secrets kept by the priestly Israelites), especially the men's Poro society and the women's Bondo society. The most important Temne rituals focus on the coronation and funerals of paramount chiefs, and the initiation of new secret society members. During the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, hundreds of thousands of Temne were captured and shipped to the Americas as slaves.

Today the Temne are mostly Muslim at about 85% of their population; they interweave Islamic beliefs with traditional African practices (syncretism). About 14% of Temne are followers of Christianity.

Before British domination, Temne were ruled by a king called the Bai or Obai. In 1898, the Temne fought against British rule, in what is known today as the Hut Tax War of 1898.

The English word cola (as in Coca-Cola, which originally contained extracts of the kola nut), is said to derive from the Temne word aŋ-kola, meaning kola nut. The Temne people speak Temne, a language in the Mel branch of the Niger–Congo languages. The Temne language, along with the creole Krio, serve as the major trading languages in northern Sierra Leone. As well as being spoken by the Temne people, Temne is spoken by other Sierra Leonean ethnic groups as a regional lingua franca, especially in Northern Sierra Leone; the language is spoken by around 40% of Sierra Leone's population.

Sierra Leone's national politics centers on the competition between the north, dominated by the Temne and their neighbour and political ally, the Limba; and the southeast, dominated by the Mende, who are a Mande people like the Mandinka, Bamana, and Malenke (of Guinea, Senegal, Mali, etc.). The current president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, is the first Sierra Leonean president from the Temne ethnic group; he receives most of his support from Temne-dominant areas in the north and western regions of Sierra Leone.

It is said by some Temne elders and chiefs that the Temne's ancestral home is Israel. You can find many traces of Hebraic customs whithin their culture. Most Temne acknowledge their ancestral home as Fouta Jallon, in the territory of present-day Guinea. Like other minority ethnic groups in Fouta, such as the Yalunka, the Susu, the Kurankoh, the Temne started to emigrate from the Fouta into what is now Sierra Leone to secure a settlement along the salt trade route from the coast to the north and north east. On their way, the Temne fought and forced the Limba to the northeast and the Bullom southwards to secure the new trade route. It reached from Bakeh towards the northern part of the Pamoronkoh River (today known as the Rokel River). They followed the Rokel River from its upper reaches to the Sierra Leone River, the giant estuary of the Rokel River and Port Loko Creek, which forms the largest natural harbor in the African continent. Historians believe the Temne were involved in the long-distance kola nut trade during the period of the Mali and Songai empires, when West African trade was directed north across the Sahara Desert. They used their commercial expertise gained during that earlier period when they embarked on the new coastal trade with European traders, beginning in the 15th century.

According to some oral traditions, the history of the Temne migration toward present-day Sierra Leone begins in ancient Israel. From Israel the Temne migrated to Ethiopia, from Ethiopia to the Mali Empire. After the Mali Empire, they migrated to Jalunkandu Empire in the 11th and 12th centuries, mainly due to the fall of the Jalunkandu Empire in what latter become Fouta Jallon, in the High Lands of present-day Republic of Guinea. It is said that the Temne are from the tribe of Judah.

There were Temne speakers along the coast in what is now Sierra Leone when the first Portuguese ships arrived, in the 14th century. Temne were indicated on subsequent Portuguese maps, and references to them and brief vocabularies appear in the texts. Trade began, albeit on a small scale, in the fifteenth century with the Portuguese and expanded in the late sixteenth century with the arrival of British traders, and later traders of other nations. Slaves, gold, ivory and local foodstuffs were exchanged for European trade goods—mostly cloth, firearms, and hardware.

Temne traders had relationships with representatives at the permanent European "factories" in the river mouths. Similarly, they established trading relationships with the settlement at Freetown after its founding in 1792. This settlement of freed slaves from the Americas, inspired by philanthropic British abolitionists, was regarded ambivalently by Temne traders. The freedmen developed a different culture, incorporating their traditions from lives in the American colonies and Caribbean; they became known as Creoles or Krios, after the language they developed. The Temne had long been involved in the profitable export of people for the slave trade, typically taken as captives in warfare or from competing groups. During the early years, they sometimes raided Freetown trying to take back slaves.

In the nineteenth century, following British abolition of the African slave trade, its crews often took liberated slaves from illegal ships to Freetown for resettlement, adding new African groups to the culture of the Creoles. Freetown became the primate trade entrepot on the coast. It attracted trade caravans from Temne and beyond. Creoles (Krios) from Freetown moved progressively up-county to trade in the second half of the nineteenth century. Their relations with the Temne and other indigenous ethnic groups in the country were not always amicable, as they had competing cultures.

In addition, the British colonial government at Freetown followed a policy of "stipendiary bribery," punctuated by threats to use armed force, in an attempt to prevent Temne and other chiefs from hindering trade from and with areas farther inland. When diplomacy failed, British expeditions invaded the Temne area of Yoni (anything to do with the Hebrew prophet Yonah) in 1889 and then at Tambi in 1891.

The British proclaimed the Protectorate of Sierra Leone in 1896, which annexed the interior territories. Colonel Frederic Cardew was appointed as military governor, but all his experience was in the armed forces. Establishing the Protectorate changed British dealings with the chiefdoms; they made them units of local government rather than dealing with them as equals.

Temne rebellion/Hut Tax War of 1898

In 1898 Colonel Cardew instituted a hut tax and requirement that chiefs put together work crews to maintain roads. This threatened the local subsistence culture.

Britain's imposition of a hut tax sparked off two rebellions in Sierra Leone in 1898, the most notable one led by Temne chief Bai Bureh. the military governor, Colonel Frederic Cardew, had decreed that the inhabitants of the new "protectorate" should be taxed on the size of their huts (this resembles the American rebellion against the British that was motivated because of the taxes the Brits imposed. In this case Americans are white Israelites). The owner of a four-roomed hut would pay ten shillings a year, those with smaller huts would pay five shillings. Colonel Cardew was not an administrator, but a professional soldier who had spent years in India and South Africa. First imposed on January 1, 1898, the hut tax aroused immediate and intense opposition.

Bai Bureh, a Temne war chief, and 23 other chiefs unsuccessfully petitioned the governor for relief from the tax, demonstrating its adverse effects on their societies. Bai Bureh had long been an ally of the British and made numerous peace overtures, which they ignored. The colonial authorities reacted to rumours and suspicions, firing the first shots at his followers in an attempt to arrest him. After that, Bai Bureh led the defense against the British colonialists. There was related resistance by the Mende in the southeast of the country.

The operations against Bai Bureh, from February to November, involved "some of the most stubborn fighting that has been seen in West Africa," according to a British commander. Several British troops were killed. .

When the British Governor to Sierra Leone Sir Frederic Cardew offered the sum of 100 pounds as a reward for his capture, Bai Bureh reciprocated by offering the sum of five hundred pounds for the capture of the Governor. Bai Bureh had the advantage over the vastly more powerful British for several months of the war. By 19 February, Bai Bureh's Temne warriors had completely severed the British line of communication between Freetown and Port Loko by blocking the road and the river from Freetown. Wrote Colonel Marshal, the British commander. "No such continuity of opposition had at any previous time been experienced on this part of the coast."

After 1898, the colonial government expanded its administration and increased penetration of the hinterland. Railway construction and, later, feeder roads were pushed in an effort to increase exports. Towns developed to meet the needs of government and increased trade. Expatriate firms, Sierra Leonean-Lebanese and Krio traders expanded their activities throughout Temne areas. Schools developed slowly under Christian missionaries.

The government established the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMB) for exports, to increase revenues. Gold, most of it produced further inland than the Temne territory, had been traded from Sierra Leone since the 15th century. It reached its last peak in the 20th century in the 1930s. British groups discovered new resources; the Sierra Leone Development Company (SLDC/DELCO) exported iron for the first time in 1933, from the mine at Marampa.

Formation of the Sierra Leone Selection Trust in 1935 led to increased mining and export of diamonds from eastern Sierra Leone. The number of jobs attracted large numbers of Temne as wage laborers. Initially the business was illegal, conducted in Kenema District, a predominantly Mende land, and Kono District, an area largely inhabited by the Kono people.

Domestic slavery in Sierra Leone ended in 1926, but, before then, wealthier Temne used slave workers as well.

The chief of each chiefdom is said to "own" the land comprising it, given that he "bought it" and the people on it during that part of his installation ceremonies usually called Makane. The land or chiefdom was originally secured by the chiefly kin group by occupation of vacant land or by conquest. According to tradition, chiefs "gave" portions of land to people to farm. They reciprocated with a return gift to the grantor-chief as the seal on their agreement. The grantees could reallocate portions of their land to others, receiving a lamb from them. Such transfers were regarded as permanent. After 1900, as the best farmland became shorter in supply, temporary land-use rights were negotiated with the chief to seal the deal.

Most Temne are staunch Muslims, although like other West Africans, they combine their Islamic faith with a strong adherence to traditional African religious beliefs and practices (read Israelism or ancient Judaism).

Temne culture places great emphasis on individualism, hard work, and personal initiative. Sierra Leoneans sometimes refer to their Temne neighbors affectionately as "Germans" because of their reputation for aggressiveness.

Sierra Leone's national politics centers on the competition between the north, dominated by the Temne and their neighbors and allies, the Limba, Loko and Kuranko and the south-east dominated by the Mende and their political allies, the Sherbro, Kissi and Kono, etc.

Traditionally, Temne resided in villages that varied in size and plan. During the nineteenth century, the village of a Temne chief was larger and included people from several clans, which were patrilineal in terms of kinship. Often it was either palisaded or had a walled fortress/redoubt built nearby, where the population could reside in times of emergency. Other villages in a chiefdom were built by those given land-use rights by the chief. The initial grantee could give land-use rights to other patrikin groups as well.

If a household farmed land at some distance, people would build a hamlet near the land to reduce travel. the main paths connecting villages were often paralleled by secret paths used only by local people. During the colonial era, public paths were cleared and secret paths fell into disuse. Village palisades and mud walls were left to deteriorate. When the motor road system developed, villages cut paths to the roads, and some Temne villages, in whole or in part, relocated along them. The compact village plan gave way to a linear pattern along the roads, where larger garden areas separated houses.

The traditional Temne house was round, of varying diameter, with walls of mud plastered over a stick frame; the roof frame, of wooden poles connected by stringers, was conical and covered with bunches of grass thatching. Rectangular houses with a gabled roof became more commonplace during the colonial era. Houses became larger—and also fewer—after the "Hut Tax" was instituted. Chiefs and some subchiefs had rectangular, open-sided structures with thatch roofs, which they used for hearing court cases and for various ceremonies. Some associations had small buildings for regalia. Adobe-brick and cement-block structures were introduced during the colonial era, along with iron-pan and tile roofs.

Muslim contacts probably go back several centuries. The 15th-century Portuguese explorers and traders recorded contacts with Muslim peoples. Early traders, holy men, and warriors brought Islam into the Temne area. The Temne have combined Islam with their traditional religion in syncretic practice. Many of the Temne believe in witches, who can be either male or female. These witches are believed to derive pleasure from causing accidents and spreading sickness among the tribe. As a result, many people fear the witches and carry charms or medicines to ward off their evil acts.

Portuguese Christian missionary efforts began before the Protestant Reformation but had no lasting effects on the Temne. Protestant missionaries accompanied the founding of Freetown in the late eighteenth century, and most of the new settlers were Protestant Christians. Church Missionary Society representatives were active up the Rokel River and elsewhere in Temne country throughout the 19th century. In the 1890s the Soudna Mission was the first United States mission in the Temne area; American Wesleyans and the Evangelical United Brethren subsequently joined the field. Gradually, some Temne adopted Christianity. Today, 5 to 10% of Temne are followers of Christianity.

NAZARENES: These group of Salone Jews who some would label Messianic Jews, are a small minority in Sierra Leone, but are rapidly growing in numbers. "The Congregation of YAHUAH in Sierra Leone" was founded by a Temne descendant from the U.S.A., Yahshurun Obai Agyemang. When interviewing Temne elders, chiefs, and elders Yahshurun discovered that the Temnes and other tribes in Salone, were Jews that were in the diaspora who had lost there identity. This led him to write a book titled: "The Hebraic Origins of the Temne: According to Biblical and Oral History". Yahshurun, Samuel Turay, Abu Fofana, Gideon, Ugochukwu Timothy, Gideon, and others have established the Israelite culture back to the people of Salone.

The traditional Temne creator God is Kurumasaba (meaning God in English), who, in judging the Temne, is thought to be kind, generous, just, and infallible. Kurumasaba is never approached directly, only through patrilineal ancestors as intermediaries. These ancestors also judge their descendants. Sacrifices are offered to them to obtain help for the living. Various nonancestral spirits, some regarded as good and helpful, others as mischievous and even vicious, also receive sacrifices and make agreements to help or—at least not to harm—the living. 

Traditional diviners used various methods and made protective charms for individuals to protect farms from thieves and to protect a house or farm from witches. These specialists paid for the necessary knowledge from established practitioners during an apprenticeship. Morimen, itinerant Muslims, provided the same range of services with different methods. Officials of the major associations (Poro, Ragbenle, Bundu, and so on) used techniques particular to their group. Confidence in particular practitioners and particular techniques varies over time.

Ceremonies are held for most life-stage transitions for both sexes. For women, circumcision, coming of age, initiation into the Bundu society, marriage, and giving birth are paramount. For men, circumcision, initiation into the Poro society, marriage, and fathering children are most important. The primary public ceremonies are those that mark the end of initiation of groups into Bundu and Poro, both for ordinary initiates and the rarer initiation of officials, and those that are part of the installation or burial of a chief. The principal Christian and Muslim holidays are also marked by ceremonies (e.g., Christmas and the end of Ramadan).

Relatives assemble after a death, and the corpse is washed, oiled, and dressed in good clothing. Burial usually occurs in or near the deceased's house. Mourning periods and the number and form of sacrifices vary with the status of the deceased. Divination of the cause of death was usual in the past.

Graphic and plastic arts are essentially limited to the adornment of utilitarian objects and the masks and other items used by the various societies. In the past, the Ragbenle masks, especially, were many and varied. The verbal arts are stressed, and Temne use riddles and proverbs in instruction, engage in storytelling that verges on dramatic performance, and employ vocal music and drumming on various occasions. Jewelry is becoming more popular.

Although the incidence of polygynous marriages has declined since the 1950s, especially in urban areas, nearly four of every ten married men still had two or more wives, and six of every ten married women were part of a polygynous family. A polygynously married man's first wife becomes the head wife. Co-wife tensions can lead to discord but usually do not. The man is responsible to provide for his whole family.

Since the 1950s, divorce rates have increased in urban areas; There are generally accepted grounds for a husband, and also for a wife, to secure a divorce in the urban areas and among the Temne Christians, but a wife usually do not have the power to divorce her husband in the rural areas, particularly among Temne Muslims.

The Temne were traditionally organized into fifty-odd chiefdoms, each lead a chief (called bai in the Temne language), whom the British would later call a paramount chief. Some of the larger chiefdoms were sectioned, but usually each large village or group of smaller villages had its own untitled subchief. Each village also had an elected headman. In the chief's village there usually resided four to six titled subchiefs, who served their chief as advisors and facilitators. One of these, usually titled kapr me se m, served as interim ruler after his chief's demise. A chief selected his subchiefs, and they were installed with him. Each subchief, titled or not, selected a sister's daughter as his helper (mankapr), and each chief selected one or more sister's daughters to help him. These "female subchiefs" had only ritual—not administrative—duties.

The intrachiefdom power game was primarily a struggle between the chief and those elders who supported him and those elders who opposed him. In some instances, the chief and his supporters ruled tyrannically; in others, the chief became a manipulated figurehead. Some chiefs were well liked and had a broad base of popular support; others were disliked, distrusted, and generally opposed.

With the proclamation of the Protectorate in 1896, the chiefdoms became units of local government, and the chiefs, on stipend, became low-level administrative bureaucrats. Some small chiefdoms were amalgamated to make fewer, economically more viable units. Each British district commissioner worked with and through the paramount chiefs of the chiefdoms comprising his district. As chiefly administrative responsibilities widened, nonliterate chiefs had to hire literate assistants, chiefdom clerks. After the Native Administration (N.A.) system was implemented, the chiefs' courts were more closely regulated, and, in the larger chiefdoms, N.A. messengers/police were hired. In 1951 a district council was created in each district, composed initially of the paramount chiefs and an equal number of elected members and chaired by the district commissioner. When political parties were first formed in the 1950s, they dealt with the chiefs and depended upon them as "ward healers" to turn out their voters for elections.

Among nineteenth-century Temne, the law did not have the preeminent place in the resolution of disagreements and conflicts in the way court systems do in twentieth-century democracies. There was no separate, largely independent judiciary; sociopolitical leaders tried certain cases as a prerogative of their positions. Rather than applying abstract ideals of justice, equity, and good conscience, these leaders made decisions in light of the particular political and social settings in each specific instance. Disagreements and conflicts between individuals and groups were adjudicated at, first, the kin-group and residence-group level; second, at the association level (especially the Poro and Bundu societies); and third, at the chiefdom and subchiefdom level (in a chief's court). The first level used primarily moot proceedings, the second usually inquisitory techniques, and the third, a kind of adversarial contest. In the colonial court system, only courts of those chiefs recognized as paramounts served as local courts. Somewhat modified, the system continues today.

Raiding and warfare among Temne and between Temne and people of other groups were long-standing. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries raids were carried out to steal foodstuffs and people, both disposed of in domestic and foreign trade. People on and near the coast tried to prevent inland traders from having direct contacts and thus preserve middleman profits for themselves. A period of "trade wars" occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century, and a body of professional warriors developed then. These were full-time, itinerant mercenaries, known for their cruelty and fearlessness, who inspired terror and specialized in quick, surprise raids. For defense, Temne surrounded larger villages with walls of tree trunks and mud and built separate fortresses, to which people from several smaller villages could retire in times of emergency. The establishment of the colonial overgovernment put an end to Temne raiding and warfare.

Kingdom of Loango

The Kingdom of Loango (different sources attest of the Jews of Loango, the Vili or Bavili ethnicity), also known as the Kingdom of Lwããgu, was a pre-colonial African state from approximately the 15th to the 19th century in what is now the Republic of the Congo. At its height in the seventeenth century the country stretched from Cape St Catherine in the north to almost the mouth of the Congo River.

Loango exported considerable copper to the European market, and was a major producer and exporter of cloth.

Historical evidence is uncertain, but it is widely believed that Njimbe was the founder and first ruler of the kingdom. With the death of King Buatu in 1787, the succession of leadership is uncertain. The kingdom came to end after the Conference of Berlin (1884–1885), when European powers divided most of Central Africa between them.

The inhabitants, who are a branch of the Bakongo, spoke a northern dialect of the Kikongo language also spoken in the Kingdom of Kongo. Missionaries who visited the Loango coast at the end of the nineteenth century often called the people of Loango Bafiote, and their language Fiote. Their ethnic name today is usually given as Vili or Bavili. This term is attested as early as the seventeenth century, where it was usually spelled "Mobili" (plural Mobilis). This term is from the singular form (Muvili today) pluralized according to the rules of Portuguese.

The origins of the kingdom are obscure. The most ancient complex society in the region was at Madingo Kayes, which was already a multi-site settlement in the first century CE. At present archaeological evidence is too scarce to say much more about developments until the late fifteenth or early sixteenth centuries.

Loango is not mentioned in early traveler's accounts of the region, nor is it mentioned in the titles of King Afonso I of Kongo in 1535, though Kakongo, Vungu, and Ngoyo, its southern neighbors. It is therefore unlikely that there was a major power on the coast of Central Africa north of the Congo River.

The earliest reference to Loango in a documentary source is a mention around 1561 by Sebastião de Souto, a priest in Kongo, that King Diogo I (1545–61) sent missionaries to convert Loango to Christianity. Duarte Lopes, ambassador from Kongo to the Holy See in Rome in 1585, related that "Loango is a friend of the King of Congo and it is said that he was a vassal in past times" which is consistent with Loango's origins from Kakongo, a vassal of Kongo.

Dutch visitors recorded the first traditional account of the kingdom's origin in the 1630s or 40s. In their account as reported by the geographer Olfert Dapper, the region where Loango would be constructed was populated by a number of small polities including Mayumba, Kilongo, Piri and Wansi, "each with their own leader" who "made war on each other." He recorded that the founder of Loango, who boasted hailing from the district in Nzari in the small coastal kingdom of Kakongo, itself a vassal of Kongo, triumphed over all his rivals through the skillful use of alliances to defeat those who opposed him, particularly Wansa, Kilongo and Piri, the latter two of which required two wars to subdue. Once this had been effected, however, a range of more northern regions, including Docke and Sette submitted voluntarily. Having succeeded in the conquest, the new king moved northward and after having founded settlements in a variety of places, eventually built his capital in Buali in the province of Piri (from which the ethnic name "Muvili" eventually derived).

The English traveller Andrew Battel, wrote that when he was there in about 1610, that the predecessor of the unnamed king ruling at that time was named "Gembe" or Gymbe (modernized as Njimbe), A Dutch description published in 1625 said that a ruler who had died sometime before that date had ruled for 60 years and thus had taken the throne around 1565. The documentary chronology thus makes it very likely that Njimbe was the founder and first ruler mentioned in the traditions, and this supposition is supported by traditions recorded around 1890 by R. E. Dennett which also named Njimbe as the first ruler.

On the basis of later traditions from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that linked the founding of Loango to that of Kongo, Phyllis Martin posited a much earlier foundation, the late fourteenth or early fifteenth centuries. She then argues that the absence of Loango from early titles of the king of Kongo is evidence that Loango was already independent at that time.

Njimbe had created a rule of succession which was in place around 1600, in which the king gave command over four provinces to members of his family, called the provinces of Kaye, Boke, Selage, and Kabango,and the king was to be chosen from a rotation between them. When the king died the ruler of Kaye took over, as he did indeed in the pre-1624 succession, and if the rule was followed then the ruler of Boke took his place; the other two provincial rulers advanced as well, and the king appointed a new ruler for Kabango.[15][16]

In 1663, the king ruling then was baptized as Afonso by the Italian Capuchin priest Bernardo Ungaro, but there was considerable opposition to this from within the country, and indeed when he died, a non-Christian took over, but this one was himself overthrown by one of the Christian party in 1665. This civil war that was still on-going in the 1670s. In the aftermath of this civil war, a number of the Christian party fled to neighboring territories, one of whom, known to history as Miguel da Silva, was elected ruler of Ngoyo and was ruling there in 1682.

When Nicholas Uring, an English merchant came to Loango to trade in 1701,he reported that the king had died and the power of the administration was in the hands of the "Queen or Chief Governess of that Country," named "Mucundy" and with whom he had to deal as if with the ruler. This title, referred to a woman had a regular role in the administration as overseer of women's affairs.

Many years elapsed before we have another snapshot of Loango's government, during this time the rules of succession, whether formal or informal seem to have changed. When the French missionaries directed by Abbé Liévin-Bonaventure Proyart came to Loango in 1766, they noted that there was no clear succession to the throne, that anyone born of a person regarded as a princess (only female succession mattered) could aspire to the throne. Moreover, the death of a king was cause for a frequently long interregnum; the king ruling in 1766 had come to power only after an interregnum of seven years, during which time the affairs of the country were managed by a regent called Mani Boman. The Mani Boman was appointed by the king during his lifetime, usually two were appointed to cover the eventuality of the death of one of the two. They, in turn received the petitions of a number of eligible candidates for the throne.

Eventually, the electors of the kingdom, who were those who held offices appointed by the late king, met to decide on the next king. In theory, as the old constitution maintained, the king named his successor as well and placed him as ruler of Kaye, to succeeded him at his death, but as there was so much contention as to who should hold the position, the late king died without naming a Ma-Kaye.

Historian Phyllis Martin contends that the external trade of the country had enriched some members of the nobility ahead of others and had thus put pressure on older constitution as wealthier upstart princes pressed their case forward. She argues that important members of the council were people who had obtained their positions through contact with external trade, particularly the slave trade, and they had come to share power with the king. She posits that this alteration in relative power allowed the council to dominate the king by forcing longer and longer interregna. In fact, after the death of King Buatu in 1787, no king was elected for over 100 years. However, to some extent royal authority remained in the hands of a person entitled the Nganga Mvumbi (priest of the corpse) who oversaw the body of the dead king awaiting burial. Several of these Nganga Mvumbi succeeded each other in the late eighteenth and through the nineteenth centuries.

In theory the kings of Loango had absolute and even divine power. In the seventeenth century, the king appointed a number of provincial governors to office, choosing them from among his own family. Olifert Dapper's description of the government in about 1640 is the only comprehensive one in existence for the seventeenth century. The king ruled closely over a cluster of villages and small territories around the province of Loangogiri. Other districts lying further away were typically ruled by their own elite, and followed their own rules, but were overseen by officials from the court. Mayumba, Dingy and Chiloangatiamokango, for example were overseen by nobles appointed from the court, while Gobby was not under any royal supervision.

In the central district, each village or neighborhood was ruled by a noble appointed by the king, and in addition he had a substantial number of councilors, also appointed by him.

Reports on the government in the later eighteenth century show little change in the theory of Loango's government; royal despotism still had the feel of Divine Right, and his religious power was considerable. Free people within the country were obliged to pay taxes on their persons, the extent of land they cultivated, the number of slaves they possessed and the livestock they owned. Royally appointed officials governed at the provincial and village level, they collected taxes and carried out judicial tasks in the king's name. The sometimes overcharged the taxes, taking four goats for example, when they were only supposed to collect three . The royal council had a number of bureaucratic offices: Magovo and his associate Mapouto was in charge of foreign affairs, Makaka was the minister war and commander of the army, Mfouka was the minister of commerce, Makimba was the "grand master of waters and forests" as well as a number of others. Each minister in turn employed a number of slaves to carry out their tasks.

The king took a strong interest in the administration of justice, much of his time was spent in hearing cases and resolving disputes, though the Abbot Proyart, who recorded these institutions believed that royal officials, acting in the king's name, often abused his decisions and made too many demands, inflicting "trouble and desolation on an entire province."

Dutch visitors of the first half of the seventeenth century left a detailed description of Loango's religion, especially as reported by Olfert Dapper. They noted that the people of Loango believed in god, whom called "Sambian Ponge" (modern Kikongo: Nzambi a Mpungu) but he claimed they only knew his name and did not wish to know more about him.

Cosmology was not handed down from a centralized authority. For example, there were various opinions current in the seventeenth century concerning the fate of those who had died, some held they were reborn as in reincarnation, others that the soul simply ends, others still that it becomes a deified "hero."

According to Dapper, for whom all African divine beings were manifestations of the Devil, their principal worship was devoted to what he called "field and house devils (velt en huisduivelen) which they made "in various forms, and each had its own name." However, he also noted that an nkisi ("mokisie") was neither good nor bad, but a general term for all types of divinity. Although these deities had specific jurisdictions in the natural world, they were also localized to a particular place, though they might travel with people as well. New ones were made all the time, and they competed for authority, or people judged them effective or not according to their performance. Priests, ("devil hunters" to Dapper) called "Enganga Mokisie", (modern Kikongo e nganga nkisi), used an elaborate ceremony to achieve possession by a divinity, and thus created a continuous revelation to identify a protector for a household or community.

He also provided descriptions of many other regional shrines. Thiriko was in a village of the same name, it was a large shrine made of a house shaped like a man, which protected the general welfare of that country. nkisi had a square pouch of lion's skin filled with shells, stones, iron bells and other ingredients. It was portable, travelers and merchants carried such a pouch with them on their journeys. In the town of Kiko there was the nkisi called Lykikoo, which was a wooden statue in the shape of a man. He preserved the people of Kiko from death, and was able to make the dead do work for him. Malemba was in the form of a mat on which baskets full of various ingredients were hung, and which protected the health of the king. Other nkisi such as Makongo, Mimi, Kossie, Kitouba, Kymayi, Injami, Panza, Pongo, Moanze were all equally regional or town shrines, typically including carved staffs, baskets and other items filled with the same sort of ingredients, shells, horns, vegetable material and the like that were characteristic of such shrines.

Virtually from the beginning of its independent existence, Loango had an engagement with Christianity. Diogo I of Kongo sent missionaries to Loango during his reign (1545–61) which coincided with the Loango's expansion and independence. According to an account of a priest in Diogo's court, the king and "all of his people" converted, as did the king's brother "Manilembo" a priest of "pagan idols." In 1583, Carmelite missionaries on their way to Loango were told that the king had sent to be baptized and to ask for missionaries for his people, a request that was repeated to Jesuits in 1603. Yet another Jesuit report noted the conversion of the country to Christianity in 1628.

In 1663, the Hungarian Capuchin priest baptized the king as Afonso and also 6,000 of his subjects. Upon his death there was a civil war, and an alternation of kings, but the Christian party was defeated in 1665.

Loango was again seeking Christianity in 1773 when French missionaries came to the country.

In spite of all these attempts, there was never a permanent, state sponsored Christian church in Loango as there was in Kongo. There is little doubt that some of the population was Christian including those who lived near Portuguese merchants, traders who had worked in Kongo and been converted there, and so on.

Already in the seventeenth century, Vili merchants were traveling some distance from their homeland in search of commercial opportunities. Among the earliest noted were voyages to copper mines in Mindouli and the territory of "Bukkameale" (perhaps the Niari valley) where copper could be obtained. Early Dutch commercial records indicate that Loango exported considerable copper to the European market during this period. Loango was a major producer and exporter of cloth, both to the interior and to the Portuguese in Luanda, where thousands of meters of Loango cloth were imported in the early seventeenth century.

In the late seventeenth century and beyond, Vili merchants also engaged in the slave trade. Loango did not export many slaves in the earlier part of its contact with European merchants, but eventually the country did export slaves in considerable quantities. While some of these slaves were acquired locally, many more were acquired from various regions in the interior. An early slave trade led to the Kingdom of Kongo, where merchants there saw opportunities to export slaves to Dutch and English merchants and avoid taxes and regulations that hindered the market in Portuguese controlled Luanda. Communities of Vili were reported in São Salvador, Kongo's capital in 1656, where some converted to Christianity. By 1683, they were operating in the Mbundu-speaking regions of eastern Angola; a treaty with Queen Verónica I (1683–1722) of Ndongo-Matamba specified that she would promise not to continue trading with them.

However, efforts on the part of Portugal to prevent their commercial contacts failed,and Vili communities could be found all over Kongo and Ndongo-Matamba as well as neighboring regions between them. In addition to buying and selling slaves, the Vili became involved in local industry, specializing in smithing.

Vili trade also extended inland into the lands of the Teke Kingdom and territories beyond that on the Congo River. By the late eighteenth centuries slaves from the "Bobangi" area beyond the Teke area were a significant percentage of exports.

Although European shippers visited Loango regularly, they did not establish a permanent presence in the form of factories, as happened in some other parts of Africa. Rather, shippers anchored off shore and made arrangement with local officials, the mafouks, who managed trade in the royal interest and kept direct European influence at arms' length. Mafouks also benefited commercially from the arrangements,and were at times able to influence royal policy toward them and toward trade.


This brief survey introduces the Igbo people, traces the origin of the Igbo people, and talks about why the Igbos must invest all their energy, strength and resources to know who they are, and reconnect to their source.

Presently the Igbos are a sub-Saharan African people numbering up to 40 millions that are autochthonous/indigenous in the territory that is currently called the South East of Nigeria. The term ‘South East’ is a political designation. The South East in Nigeria means the area called the ‘core’ Igbo states. These are Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo. These states are also regarded, and referred to as the Igbo heartland.

There are also Igbos that are autochthonous/ indigenous in Edo, Delta, and Rivers states of Nigeria.
The Igbos are Igbos today, but what were they before they became Igbos? The word ‘Igbo’ is helpful in the quest to answer the question.

The tribal/national name of the people in discussion ‘Ibo; or ‘Igbo’ is derived from Ibri. Interestingly a foreigner dropped the hint which helped me to unravel the puzzle, in my opinion.

According to the foreigner; one of the missionaries who worked in Igboland: ‘All my attempts to trace the origin of the name Ibo have been unsuccessful. My most reliable informants have been able to offer no other alternative than that it is most probably an abbreviation of a longer name connected with an ancestor long since forgotten.’

Abraham is the ancestor of Israel. And Abraham was specifically referred to as ‘Abram the Hebrew’ (Gen.14:13). Many Igbos have suggested that the word ‘Ibo’ which virtually all non Igbos use to address the Igbos is a corruption of ‘Hebrew.’ I know that they mean Ibri or Ivri which are the Hebrew language equivalents of Hebrew which itself is a Greek-Latin-English translation of Ibri or Ivri.

If as Genesis 14:13 posited, Abram is the Ibri. And his descendants from Isaac and Jacob went on to retain the name ha-Ibri (the Hebrews), we do not have to go far to know where the name/word ‘Igbo’ came from. The people known as the Jews today were known as the Israelites, and also as ha Ibri (the Hebrews), after their ancestors Israel and Abraham. All that we have seen in Igbo culture indicate that the Igbos emanated from the twelve tribes of Israel. Logic tells the rest of the story. It is a tradition for the Igbos to bear the names of their ancestors. All Igbos are from one clan or the other, and all the clans or most of them bear the names of their ancestors/founders, or at least names formed from those of the founding fathers or in a few cases mothers. One could ask; why won’t the Igbo people as a whole assume the name of their ancestor- ha Ibri? Listening to a modern Jew pronounce Ibri, you would conclude that he/she is saying Igbo. With all the aforesaid we can say that the Igbos simply retained the earliest name of/designation for the people of Israel, and the name that all the tribes would feel comfortable with. Perceptive modern Jews have observed that Igbos may feel more comfortable if identified as Hebrews rather than as Jews, because they didn’t all descend from the Jews (from the tribe of Judah). This deserves more talk though. The term ‘Jew’ is also used to represent the Israelites and the Hebrews presently, just as England stands for Great Britain, and the United Kingdom. And the U.S.A., and Russia respectively stand and stood for the American continent, and the defunct U.S.S.R.

So the above having been said and done with I repeat that the Igbos are of Hebraic descent. 99.9% of the Igbos know that the Igbos came from Israel. One would be right to wonder about why 0.1 % of the Igbos would not know about their origins. The explanations would be multifaceted. One could say that all the Igbos know that the Igbos were Hebrews a few years ago, because the knowledge of who the Igbos are was more in previous years, and in fact it recedes year by year. Knowledgeable Igbo elders who did not have the benefit of the European type education that became fashionable after the British conquest and colonization of the Igbos knew that the Igbo people are ha Ibri (Hebrews), because their fathers told them. I talked with some of them at Nri clan, and preserved their testimonies for posterity in the Igbo Israel Video Interview series. Today the knowledge is receding because Igbo history as a subject of instruction has been absent from the curricula of all the educational and religious institutions that have ‘catered’ to the ‘needs’ of the Igbos, since the Igbos were defeated and colonized. A close reading of the earlier works of Chinua Achebe, John Munonye, Chukwuemeka Ike, and Remy Chukwukaodinaka Ilona will reveal that the Igbo people began to develop feelings of inferiority, and self-hate, after the colonial authorities had intervened, and branded Igbo culture pagan.

The event or process that I described above led to severe losses. The same can be said about most of the mass media that have sold their products to the Igbo people. Save the National Times newspaper, no newspaper in Nigeria talks about Igbo history and culture. And Nollywood! The film industry which was built up with Igbo sweat and money but which the Igbo builders have virtually handed over to people from the competing peoples of Nigeria, because the Igbo film marketers/producers as they are called want to make money. Nollywood has excelled! It has excelled in distorting Igbo history, and ridiculing the Igbos! Even though Omenana has room for egalitarianism and republicanism only, Igbo film-makers specialize in making ’Igbo films’, which portray this Igbos as corrupt feudalists with still more corrupt monarchies. And interestingly as the film producers stray they get more destructive. Presently they use non Igbo film actors to play the roles of Igbo ‘kings’. So would anybody be surprised if a few Igbos do not know that the Igbos are Israelites. And a great majority of those that know that the Igbos are Israelites do not know that Omenana (Igbo culture) is Israelite culture, i.e, their knowledge of their origins is not really meaningful, because they do not know what Omenana is, and that the Hebrew Bible is extracted from Omenana. However there is a minority that retain the knowledge that the Igbos are Jews, as the modern Hebrew is more regularly addressed, in a meaningful way, i.e, they know that the Igbos are Jewish, and that that sets them apart as people of God, and gives them the responsibility to live differently from their neighbours; i.e, demands that they live according to the dictates of the Written and Oral Laws of God (the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the Mishna and the Gemarah). This minority is the Igbo-Israel.

This minority is working to heal the Igbo people, and rebuild Igbo intellectual, spiritual, and material heritage.

I have been privileged to work with this section of the Igbos. That the Igbo people are in trouble is the best kept secret in the world. In Nigeria the catch-phrases for the Igbos today is ‘Igbo problem’, and ‘marginalization’. Where the Igbos live in exile the story is not different. The situation is bad to the extent that it prompted an Igbo intellectual, one of the most productive minds of the Igbos; who lives in the United States to write the following missive:

“Anybody who sees the Igbo situation in simple linear perspective either is ignorant of the profound realities or dishonest. The Igbo has entered an emergency phase, and it requires good old political and social organizing to restore it. One of the most critical problems in Ala-Igbo today is the nature of its human and ecological environment:social instability - that is, difficulties in the prospects of settling has made it impossible for Igbo young men and women now to marry at the natural age - between 25-35. Young men now marry at the average age of 40 years. Many Igbo women are without prospects of marriage, having crossed certain thresholds. The implication is that 45% of Igbo people are not reproducing a new generation. Those who get married are suffering from curious stages of infertility as a result of environmental degradation and chemical pollution- through oil exploration activities and groundwater toxification. An epidemiological survey carried out in the whole of Igbo land today will reveal a most deadly truth: a huge number of the Igbo are dying from AIDS, new forms of Cancer, and Diabetes - from poor nutrition.These are issues that we must address holistically because they flow from the nature of the relationship between the PEOPLE and their government. The Igbo themselves have not sat down to confront their elected representatives with an action plan, and with suggestions of the means to carry it out, and a timeline and oversight. The problem of insecurity occasioned by new waves of kidnapping only complicatesthis: but to put this simply, our greatest problem is not the problem of this new wave of selective and directed terrorism. It is that the Igbo as a people have learnt to be DEPENDENT on some external factor orfigure whom they expect to solve their problems. I have said this before, WE ARE ALL GUILTY - either by silence, inaction, or directcomplicity. All those who wish to participate in the restoration and rebuilding of Igbo land must begin to re-think our relationships with that land.Anaghi ano uti agba ntele ukwu. We must get active”.

The situation is as bad, or even worse than as portrayed in the missive above, but only some elements among the Igbo-Israel have really seen the handwriting on the wall. That there is danger! That there is no time to waste! The generality of the Igbos feel helpless, because they are helpless. Disarmed by ignorance, and illiteracy in Igbo studies, Igbos with even post-graduate degrees do not know what to say or do to stem the decline of the Igbo nation. Fortunately Igbo-Israel is growing!

In recognition of the above problems, and inspired by the action plan and road map laid out in books: The Igbos: Jews In Africa-With Solutions To The Most Critical Igbo Problems and Introduction To The Chronicles Of Igbo Israel-And The Connections Between The Afro Americans and the Jews, a group of Igbo scholars, professionals, businessmen, artistes, and bureaucrats have come together as The Igbo Origin and Culture Research Society to contribute to the positive growth and development of the Igbo people, and Igboland. The Society will very likely present its programmes to the Igbo people in the month of October, in 2010. It will use the opportunity to present some of the afore-mentioned books and premiere the Igbo-Israel Video Interview to the Igbo, Jewish and general public. It is also organizing an Igbo summit where solutions would be found to many of the ills that plague ndi Igbo today; such as brother kidnapping of brother which is alien to Igbo culture. In addition it will also appraise ndi Igbo about some programmes that it is working on; such as the preservation of the Igbo migration story in film. And the Igbo-Israel International Music Festival, an initiative of Moore Black Chi Mmadike, an Igbo reggae artiste, and Vice President (International) Igbo-Israel Union (Society), who is based in Australia.