The dwindling number of Chaldean Christians in Iraq has raised
concerns about the need to preserve the culture of the once thriving
religion which the Islamic State is bent on wiping out. Dr. Shawqi
Talia, a lecturer on Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at
the Catholic University of America is on the quest to preserve the
history and culture of Chaldeans Catholics before it completely vanishes
so that their meaning can be passed on to the succeeding generations.
he does by asking the community to share their memories and
descriptions through the rich Middle Eastern tradition of storytelling
delivered in their own native Arabic and Neo-Aramaic languages -- some
of them singing and speaking the same language Christ himself used.
who is himself a Chaldean, wanted young people "to know how life was
and what life was all about for the Christians -- not just up north but
in Iraq as a whole -- in the '50s and the '40s and the '30s, and to know
that our history goes back for 2,000 years."
This will be done by
putting together materials and records of various kinds of the life of
Christian communities in the Middle East. The objective is to let
Chaldeans, who are now beginning to scatter around the world, to still
be able to see the stories, songs, histories and memories of the faith
that they observed in their home country.
Iraq's Chaldeans are
considered one of the oldest communities. About 1.5 million of them
thrived at the time of Saddam Hussein's overthrow. In the wake of church
burnings, kidnappings and the slaughter of Christians by Muslims, their
numbers have shrunk to 300,000. They now account for 40 percent of
Talia's team has begun interviewing Iraqi
Christians communities in Washington D.C. where some 150,000 Chaldeans
live. They plan to do the same to communities in Europe and elsewhere.
The interviews will be compiled in a documentary which will be funded by
the Michigan Humanities Council.