On April 2, 2018, the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) and the Assyrian Australian National Federation (AANF) hosted another successful Assyrian New Year festival at the Fairfield showground. An estimated fifteen thousand people were in attendance to celebrate this important Assyrian holiday.
The proceedings began with the official opening of the Dr. Donny George Exhibit at 1:30 pm. The Dr. Donny George Exhibit was established to highlight Assyrian contributions to the advancement of civilization. The Assyrian Cultural & Social Youth Association (ACSYA) organised this year’s exhibit, the theme of which was to raise awareness of the post-empire Assyria. The exhibit provided historical evidence of the continuation of Assyrian identity and culture after the fall of the Assyrian Empire. Photos from the last year’s Assyrian New Year celebration in Sydney were also displayed, reflecting how this celebration has grown over the past 13 years.
The customary New Year program commenced at 2:00 pm with the singing of both the Australian and Assyrian national anthems, followed by a blessing prayer by Rev. Chorbishop Narsai Youkhanis, of the Assyrian Church of the East.
After welcoming the attendees, the master of ceremonies Miss Melanie Alkhas, a member of the Young Assyrians of the AUA invited Mr. Hermiz Shahen, deputy secretary general of the AUA, to officially welcome the guests. Mr. Shahen extended a warm welcome to representatives of the local, state and federal governments for their attendance and support over the years. He also thanked representatives of Armenian, Coptic, Greek, Jewish, Italian, Mandean, Vietnamese, and Assyrian organisations from Sydney and Melbourne, as well as guests from the United States and Iraq, for attending. Mr. Shahen spoke about Assyrian history, observing that; “we are the descendants of a nation that has suffered the ravages of repeated wars of annihilation to uproot our existence from the land of our forefathers. Our faith in ourselves, our love and our great pride in our ancient heritage, religion and culture have given us the strength to face all challenges and atrocities by different invaders and aggressors who have occupied Assyria by force and tried to destroy our very existence in our own homeland”. Mr. Shahen went on to urge the Australian government to develop a comprehensive strategy to empower the Assyrian nation in its efforts to establish a self- governing protected region in the Assyrian heartland in northern Iraq.
Next, Mr. David M. David, president of the AANF, welcomed the attendees. Speaking in the Assyrian language, he stressed the importance of this national day for all Assyrians. Mr. David thanked our sponsors for their continued support.
Other guest speakers were: Senator The Hon. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, minister for International Development and the Pacific, representing the prime minister of Australia; The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP; The Hon. Luke Foley MLC, NSW opposition leader; The Hon. Chris Bowen MP, shadow treasure; Mr Chris Hayes MP, chief opposition whip; The Hon. Tanya Davies MP, representing The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian MP, premier of NSW; Mr Frank Carbone, mayor of the Fairfield city council; Reverend The Hon. Fred Nile, MLC, president of the Christian Democratic Party; and The Hon. David Clarke, MLC.
All speakers praised the role of the AUA for working productively with the Australian government. They talked about the inevitable success of the Assyrian people in their struggle to obtain full rights and freedom in Iraq. Mayor Frank Carbone presented the AUA and the AANF with the Fairfield resolution recognizing the Assyrian flag as a heritage flag of the Assyrian nation and people.
Other guests included Mr. Craig Kelly MP, federal member for Hughes; Mr. Guy Zangari MP, state member for Fairfield; Dr Hugh McDermott MP, state member for prospect; The Hon Paul Green MLC, president of the Christian Democratic Party; and Detective Superintendent Peter Lennon, NSW Police Force, Fairfield Local Area Command.
The conclusion of the official opening program saw many awards presented to prominent people and various sponsors.
The 2018 Young Assyrian Australian of the Year Award was presented to the Assyrian Cultural & Social Youth Association (ACSYA), in recognition of the significant contributions by association member to the Assyrian community, for successfully organising the Art Exhibition for the second year.
The 2018 Australian Assyrian of the Year award was presented to His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia AM, Metropolitan of Australia, New Zealand, and Lebanon, in recognition of his selfless devotion and tireless efforts toward the conservation of the Assyrian faith, language, and cultural heritage; and for being a driving force behind the establishment of the first Assyrian Christian college in the Western world.
The 2018 Friend of Assyria Award was presented to Dr. Paul Burgis, executive principal of Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Sydney. In recognition of his outstanding efforts in supporting and raising awareness of the plight of Assyrians in the education system, and, his personal efforts to implement a scholarship program for young Assyrian female refugees at the Presbyterian Ladies; College, Croydon.
The AUA introduced their guests from United States and Iraq and recognized their service to the Assyrian people. Lieutenant Colonel Sargis Sangari, USA (ret.), founder and CEO of the Near East Center for Strategic Engagement, and the founder and President of the United Assyrian Appeal, delivered a short speech in which he greeted the Assyrians around the world, thanked the organisers of the festival, and Australian officials for supporting the Assyrian cause. Underlying his comments were the importance of the MP’s in attendance to realize the significance of the Assyrians in Australia as the bridge for their peoples in the Middle East and to their adopted nation as Australia begins to discover its role in the 21st century as a base of influence and leading commercial, economic, and development hub in the Pacific and the Middle East. Mr. Emanuel Khoshaba, secretary general of the Assyrian Patriotic Party, also gave a short speech in the Assyrian language thanking the organisers of the festival and asking for the people to support the efforts of unity in Iraq among Assyrian political groups in the coming election emphasizing the critical last stand for the Assyrian people in Iraq.
At 6:00 pm, a dramatic arts piece was performed by Assyrian youth. The theatrical piece simulated some of the rituals Assyrian people held in ancient times for welcoming the King and Queen of Assyria to their towns.
The festival concluded at 9:00 PM with a beautiful fireworks display accompanied by live music.
Assyrian Universal Alliance-Australian Chapter