Mr. Hermiz Shahen, the regional Secretary of the Assyrian Universal Alliance in Australia and New Zealand received an invitation to participate as a key speaker at the Christian Forum hosted by Reverend The Honourable Fred Nile MLC and Rev Brian Seers OAM, and sponsored by the Australian Christian Nation Association, held at Jubile Room, NSW Parliament House on Monday 10 August, 2009.
The attendees to the conference included representatives from different Australian churches, Christian organisations, including representatives from the Assyrian Universal Alliance, Assyrian Australian National Federation and prominent Assyrians; Mr. Paul Azzo; an adviser to the Assyrian Universal Alliance on foreign affairs and Mr. Romel Badal, Assyrian Universal Alliance legal advisor.
Mr. Shahen’s topic was Avert a Genocide Planned against Iraqi Christians, his presentation was accompanied by a photo slide show of Assyrian history, maps and culture. He started his presentation by thanking the organisers, for taking the initiative in attempting to discuss issues of great concern to the future of Christianity in certain parts of the world with regards to the significant increase of the Islamic hardliner.
“My topic today will be about the necessity to raise international awareness of what is happening to Christians in the Middle East, It is essential that we know about their suffering, their future existence, the price they are paying daily for keeping the Christian faith because of their association with the West, and the pressure placed upon them to convert”, Mr. Shahen said.
“Christians of the Middle East have always been the human bridge between the Islamic world and the Christians in the West. Their exodus now from the Middle East would be like “pulling out the threads of a cloth” so that the whole social fabric risks unravelling and dying.”
Mr. Shahen briefed the audience about the history and the achievements of the Assyrian civilization, then turned to the systematic acts of genocide and massacres perpetrated against the Assyrian nation, mainly by the Islamic fundamentalists, who caused the rich and developed Assyrian culture and population to dwindle in number and spirit and to become a nation of refugees.
An extract of Mr. Shahen’s speech follows:
“Since the liberation of Iraq in 2003 from the tyrant Saddam Hussein, the ethnic cleansing of the Assyrians in Iraq began in full earnest. In a systematic campaign of massacre and destruction of this indigenous population of Iraq, the Assyrians have been intimidated, pressured to convert to Islam, kidnapped and murdered, their families have had their loved ones beheaded, raped, and daily threats are made against their lives.
Today, the Assyrian Christian population in Baghdad and other major cities has dwindled from a once-thriving community to almost nothing. Those who have fled to Jordan and Syria face governments unwilling to recognize their refugee status and are currently living in dire poverty. They were once productive members of society, they are now reduced to living as refugees in poverty and neglect.
The Christians of Iraq believe that they have not only been betrayed by the American-led coalition but they have also seen their legal status diminish. The destruction of Christianity in Iraq is taking place because of misguided American policies and because the Christian community is not deemed to be important. Under the American-led intervention, more Christians have left Iraq than under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, and there is a fear that a genocide against Christians will happen particularly after the American departure from Iraq.
The time has come for all Western nations including the British, American, Australian and other allied governments to start setting things right again for the humanity. They have to take responsibility for what they did in the past and present, and work to correct things today for a better future.”
In his concluding statements, Mr. Shahen said:
Assyrians, the indigenous people of Iraq, are entitled to human and national freedom within a pluralist, democratic and federalist Iraq. The recognition of their needs and demands is essential in preserving the vulnerable Assyrian nation and in enabling them to remain in their homeland. The world is lucky to still have the Assyrians with their wonderful culture and language. The Assyrian’s rights have to be re-established in Iraq today. They have to have a home like other nations in this world. It is their right to have a State. The state of Assyria at the heart of the Islamic world with a constitution of its own and based on the western style democracies will be a symbol at the heart of the Muslim world of change for the better. This will cause the Middle East governments to accept and tolerate other religions and people of all ideologies.
At the end of his speech, Mr. Shahen congratulated Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile MLC on behalf of the Assyrian Australian Community and the Assyrian Universal Alliance for organising such a successful Conference and for taking the initiative in supporting the plight of the embattled Christians in the Middle East and in particular the Assyrian people of Iraq.
Assyrian Universal Alliance