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Is the Islamic State Exterminating the Language of Jesus?


Society & Culture  (tags: Aramaic, Islamic State, Iraq )

David
- 1739 days ago - foreignpolicy.com
Deliberate destruction of Aramaic, unfolding in real time. They represent the last major concentration of Aramaic speakers in the world. The jihadist army now occupies the ancient heart of Christian Iraq. Beyond the urgent humanitarian crisis lies a cult



   

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Comments

Teresa W (782)
Saturday August 16, 2014, 2:18 pm
horrible
 

Anteater Ants (122)
Saturday August 16, 2014, 3:02 pm
shocking
 

Gillian M (218)
Saturday August 16, 2014, 3:30 pm
Qaraqosh, Tel Kepe, and Karamlesh are just three of the Iraqi towns on the Nineveh plains captured in early August by the Islamic State (IS), but they represent the last major concentration of Aramaic speakers in the world. Pushing northeast of Mosul towards Kurdistan, the jihadist army now occupies the ancient heart of Christian Iraq. According to U.N. officials, roughly 200,000 Christians fled their homes on the Nineveh plains on the night of Aug. 6, justifiably fearful that IS fighters would expel them, kill them, or force them to convert. A local archbishop, Joseph Thomas, described the situation as "catastrophic, a crisis beyond imagination."

Beyond the urgent humanitarian crisis lies a cultural and linguistic emergency of historic proportions. The extinction of a language in its homeland is rarely a natural process, but almost always reflects the pressures, persecutions, and discriminations endured by its speakers. Linguist Ken Hale famously compared the destruction of a language to "dropping a bomb on the Louvre" -- whole patterns of thought, ways of being, and entire systems of knowledge are among what is lost. If the last Aramaic speaker finally passes away two generations from now, the language will not have died of natural causes.
Aramaic covers a wide range of Semitic languages and dialects, all related but often mutually incomprehensible, now mostly extinct or endangered. The last available estimates of the number of Aramaic speakers, from the 1990s, put the population as high as 500,000, of whom close to half were thought to be in Iraq. Today the actual number is likely to be much lower; speakers are scattered across the globe, and fewer and fewer children are speaking the language. Nowhere does Aramaic have official status or protection.
It's a mighty fall for what was once almost a universal language. First spoken over 3,000 years ago by the nomadic Arameans in what is now Syria, Aramaic rose to prominence as the language of the Assyrian empire. It was the English of its time, a lingua franca spoken from India to Egypt. Aramaic outlasted the rise and fall of empires, flourishing under Babylonian power and again under the First Persian Empire in the sixth century B.C.E. Millions used it in trade, diplomacy, and daily life. Even after Alexander the Great imposed Greek on his vast dominions in the fourth century B.C.E., Aramaic continued to spread and spawn new dialects -- for instance in ancient Palestine, where it gradually replaced spoken Hebrew. It was in Aramaic that the original "writing on the wall," at the Feast of King Belshazzar in the Book of Daniel, foretold the fall of Babylon.
Nearly three millennia of continuous records exist for Aramaic; only Chinese, Hebrew, and Greek have an equally long written legacy. For many religions, Aramaic has had sacred or near-sacred status. It is the presumed mother tongue of Jesus, who is reported in the Gospel of Matthew to have said on the cross: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" ("My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?") It came to be used in the Jewish Talmud, in the Eastern Christian churches (where it is known as Syriac), and as the ritual and everyday language of the Mandaeans, an ethno-religious minority in Iran and Iraq.
Centuries after Alexander, Aramaic continued to hold its own across much of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. It was only after Arabic began spreading across the region in the seventh century C.E. that Aramaic speakers retreated into isolated mountain communities. The speakers of these varied "Neo-Aramaic" dialects were primarily Jews and Christians in what is now northern Iraq (including Kurdistan), northwestern Iran, and southeastern Turkey. Most Christian Aramaic speakers refer to themselves as Assyrians, Chaldeans, or Arameans; many call their language Sureth.
Though marginalized, this Aramaic-speaking world survived for over a millennium, until the 20th century shattered what remained of it. During World War I, as Ottoman power dissolved, Turkish nationalists not only massacred Armenians and Greeks, but also perpetrated what is known today as the Assyrian Genocide, slaughtering and expelling the Christian Aramaic-speaking population of eastern Turkey. Most survivors fled to Iran and Iraq. A few decades later, facing rising anti-Semitism, most Jewish Aramaic speakers left for Israel. Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran and Saddam Hussein's Iraq added further pressures and persecutions for the Aramaic-speaking Christians who stayed behind. Diaspora became a fact of life for the Assyrians, most of whom now live scattered across the globe, from countries bordering the former Aramaic-speaking zone like Turkey, Jordan, and Russia, to newer communities in places like Michigan, California, and the Chicago suburbs.

Please go to the article for the rest.
 

Gillian M (218)
Saturday August 16, 2014, 3:31 pm
Muslims like to destroy history and one of their achievements was the destruction of the famous library at Alexandria.
 

Beth S (330)
Saturday August 16, 2014, 6:21 pm
Yes, and a number of repositories for Buddhist and Hindu knowledge.

Complete totalitarian control is their objective. Destruction, death, rape, torture is their means. Stop the onslaught.
 

Shil O (0)
Saturday August 16, 2014, 11:06 pm
This is " Jāhilīyyah " (the time of ignorance before the islamic barbarians took over) and as such has no place in the mohammedan world -- also the reason why they destroy ancient artifacts like tombs and statues churches etc., There is only one truth in the mohammedan world - LIES -
 

Hilary S (65)
Sunday August 17, 2014, 1:46 am
the world has been groomed into helplessness in the face of the islamist totalitarian cult. i wonder if part of the fury with israel is for refusing to lie down and die, like these other minority peoples, thereby showing up the other democracies for their selective deliberate impotence.
 

Past Member (0)
Sunday August 17, 2014, 3:08 am
This is a very interesting and informative article.It shows the dangers of Islamic extremism and the true horror which they represent.They must be stopped.
 

Jennifer Ward (40)
Sunday August 17, 2014, 5:18 am
Henry XIII did a good job on the monasteries in Ireland and England- the Vikings were good destroyers of literature as well
 

Giana Peranio Paz (398)
Sunday August 17, 2014, 6:08 am
This is so terrible and really scary. They threaten the whole world.
 

Rhonda B (99)
Sunday August 17, 2014, 8:51 am
This is really scary. Thank you David.
 

. (0)
Sunday August 17, 2014, 11:45 am
this truely a terrible thing. i hope they can find safe places to hide their books for future generations to find so it will not be truely lost forever.
 

Charlene Rush (79)
Sunday August 17, 2014, 12:36 pm
Yes, the Islamic State is exterminating the language of Christ, but, then again, they don't believe that Christ was the son of god. They believe in a Abrahamic religion, with Muhammad being god's last prophet.

If you labor under the delusion that Muslims don't follow their own teachings, may I remind us all of our so-called Christian right.
They not only don't trust the word of Christ, but do not follow HIS teachings.
One minute they recite something from the Old Testament, and the next they fabricate Christ's teachings and meanings of those words, to suit their satisfaction.

As Mahatma Gandhi said:
'I LIKE YOUR CHRIST, I DO NOT LIKE YOUR CHRISTIANS. YOUR CHRISTIANS ARE SO UNLIKE YOUR CHRIST'.
For those unfamiliar with Gandi, he was the preeminent leader in Indian nationalism in British-ruled India, who employed nonviolent civil disobedience. He was a lawyer in South Africa was/is called _Sanskrit_, meaning 'high-souled'.

.
 

Stan B (123)
Sunday August 17, 2014, 4:52 pm
Looks like they are trying to exterminate everything and everybody that don't share their twisted beliefs.
 

Walter F (128)
Sunday August 17, 2014, 6:53 pm
They can't do it.They can murder people but never their beliefs.Christ speaks in every language to those who are prepared to listen.His sermon on the mount is inscribed in the hearts of all those who follow Him. Regarding Gandhi , he was not a Christian he was a Hindu, but that sermon was his favourite reading and he followed in the footsteps of Christ.
 

James merritt jr (144)
Sunday August 17, 2014, 8:44 pm
Scary...
 

Sheila D (194)
Sunday August 17, 2014, 9:16 pm
This is the scariest extremist group yet, threatening not just a country and its people, but religions, languages and history that belongs to us all. They're spreaing very quickly into the vaccuum the US created in Iraq nd Afghanistan, and all parts of the Middle East. They won't stop there...
 

Past Member (0)
Sunday August 17, 2014, 11:36 pm
Extremism rearing its ugly head. It seems that Religious extremists can do nothing but destroy. They can never do anything constructive.
 

Kevin K (23)
Monday August 18, 2014, 1:23 am
interesting article / well written and informative
 

Sheryl G (359)
Monday August 18, 2014, 7:34 am
Horrific. Language is the bedrock of a culture. Unfortunately this type of destruction is not limited to one religion and it should be so noted. The Christians did the same thing to the original inhabitants of North America, now referred to as First Nations, American Indian or Native American. Christians told the natives to convert or die, some did convert to save their lives, others were killed, and many fled. Some were given no choice and whole villages were eliminated children and all in equally savage ways. Read what Columbus did, he would be right at home with ISIS.

Churches were set up on the POW camps more commonly known as Reservations, and each POW camp was assigned a church to make sure that the rest of the Indians never spoke their language followed the Christian religion and outlawed all Indian Ceremonies until the mid 1970's when that law was removed. Many Nations in North America has lost their language completely, some trying to save what they know by having Elders teach the children how to speak it, and one man I know is trying to learn it and write it down by listening to really old recordings, but their cultures are in tatters. So I understand the significance of language loss.

This is an extremist group that started off calling itself ISIS or ISIL, now having gained territory, and honoring no boundaries, they call themselves the Islamic State. This group is a threat to many Nations, including the moderate Muslims who do not practice the archaic parts of their religion no more than most Christians practice their archaic parts of the Bible.

In the Book of Numbers that the Jews "waged the campaign against Midian, as Yahweh had ordered Moses, and they put every male to death... the sons of Israel took the Midianite women captive with their young children, and plundered all their cattle, all their flocks and all their goods.

They set fire to the towns where they lived and all their encampments. Then, when they took the captives, spoil and booty to Moses. Moses was enraged, 'why have you spared the life of all the women? So kill all the male children. Kill also all the women who have slept with a man. Spare the lives only of the young girls who have not slept with a man, and take them for yourselves". Num 31:7-19

Throughout history there has always been Extremist of one sort or another, and these Extremist need to be addressed by the worlds people. Not even Al Qaeda wants to hang out with them. No-one is spared if they do not think exactly like this terrorist bunch. They are vicious and drunk on blood. All Extremist, where-ever they are and whatever they are pushing for their agenda are dangerous.
 

Lindsay Kemp (6)
Monday August 18, 2014, 8:22 am
It would be a tragedy if Aramaic was lost completely, but it's people who matter most. What IS is doing is not jihad, it's genocide, and that should be roundly condemned in anyone's book.
 

Ulane V (48)
Monday August 18, 2014, 9:09 am
Noted,scary
 

Bella F (94)
Monday August 18, 2014, 11:20 am
So Sad
 

Judith Hand (55)
Monday August 18, 2014, 11:33 am
Noted. I'm reminded that Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, studied Aramaic which is the only language he spoke for the entire movie. I wonder if it's the only movie in which we can hear Aramaic spoken?
 

Past Member (0)
Monday August 18, 2014, 12:57 pm
Horrific, something needs to be done before it is too late!
 

Kathleen M (208)
Monday August 18, 2014, 1:23 pm
Noted. Thank you, David for posting. And thank you, Dandelion, for an eloquent and timely perspective on extremist viewpoints. All have similarities, including unreasoning hatred, ignorance, and violent expression in one form or another. Rather doubt that any cohesive human grouping is innocent, regardless of creed. Education and tolerance! Or we're doomed.
 

Jamie Clemons (282)
Monday August 18, 2014, 1:44 pm
Lest we forget it is not just the Christians anyone else also suffers under these extremist. Do you not remember the Buddhist statues that were dynamited by the Taliban?
 

. (0)
Monday August 18, 2014, 11:18 pm
lindsay language is the words of the people.
 

Darren Woolsey (218)
Tuesday August 19, 2014, 8:56 am
For the umpteenth time, "Jihad" refers to an *inner struggle with one's self* and not an external battle with everyone else.

I also wouldn't want Aramaic to disappear as a result of some nutcase faction of the Islamic world, but then, I wouldn't want any language to disappear, as they represent part of the cultural and historical identity of a people.
 

marie C (163)
Tuesday August 19, 2014, 5:39 pm
Can not send a green star to Dandelion as have done so within the last hour I
would have sent you about 3
Its a scary world at this time and obviously will end badly many innocent human and animal lives are being lost These fanatics want to take over the world so we are all in danger but I feel countries are not taking them seriously enough and they are growing and growing converting many in Europe I am often reading about English /British converts who go completely over the top its like a trigger in the brain they make stronger Muslim s than the born and bred ones
 

Salma-Ahmad Khan (3)
Wednesday August 20, 2014, 12:19 pm
~The racist, bigoted writer IS trying to SCARE the already PETRIFIED & IGNORANT Public. S\As she wrote Alexander replaced it with Greek ~~~she Must blame him for doing sooo. WHAT EVAAA is HAPPENING in the WORLD~~~ is all due ti the GREED , BRUTALITY, BARBARISM of the west ~trying to telll thousands of year old civilizations how to live~Leave them alone. Why don't you ppl get inside of your selves & seee what ATROCITIES the west has rained upon all peoples. How do you think English was made to spread in the sub~continent. Am NOT telling ~~~Gooooo DO the research. Just try to change the wayyyYYYyyysSSSs~the Chinese live& let's see what they do in retaliation~~~Go get informed all the nickle heads~~~Keep your noses outta other peoples' HOT soup~~~Orrrrr~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~!!!!?????

 
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