A new book in CRS's publication series: "Studies in Religion and Society" shows the first complete picture of the Assyrian identity. The book addresses different eras and issues that have not previously been highlighted:
-- There has been a void in the Assyrian people's story which my co-authors and I wanted to fill, says Önver Cetrez, Senior Lecturer in Psychology of Religion at Uppsala University.
The book "The Assyrian Heritage: Threads of Continuity and Influence"consists of 13 chapters in total which have been written by researchers from educational institutions in the UK, USA, Austria and Spain amongst others, is being published by the publishing house Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.
Önver Cetrez is the editor of the book together with Sargon Donabed, Assistant Professor of History at Roger Wiliams University of Bristol, Rhode Island and Aryo Makko, Post-Doctoral Researcher and Adjunct Lecturer at the Department of History, Stockholm University. Önver Cetrez has led several research projects on Assyrians and other immigrant populations in Sweden and is a member of the Impact Programme at the Religion and Society Research Centre (CRS).
-- The idea of publishing such a book came after various meetings with Assyrian young people where I lectured on identity issues and after conversations with fellow researchers. It was clear that there was a lot of interest in finding out more about the Assyrian identity, says Önver Cetrez.
A complete work which highlights the Assyrian identity both during the historical so called pre-Christian period and during the post-Christian period has previously been lacking according to Önver Cetrez. Many people know the Assyrian people's history as it was before Christ in Mesopotamia, Anatolia (the central uplands of Minor Asia, Turkey) and Persia; fewer people know what happened to the Assyrian people after the dissolution of the Assyrian Empire:
-- There have been gaps in the Assyrian people's story and an important goal has therefore been to fill in these gaps", says Önver Cetrez.
The book covers religious and cultural Assyrian issues that have been important to the creation of identity for the Assyrian people. A chapter on the Neo-Assyrian Empire during the Assyrian Empire's glory days describes how the national and ethnical identity evolved until the period after the fall of the empire. Other parts of the book highligthts the Assyrian identity before the nation state and facts surrounding the Assyrian people's language, symbols and religious faith until the post-Christian era.
It also describes periods that have previously not been highlighted:
-- In particular, the early pre-Christian period until 500 AD has contained gaps which we are now beginning to fill in. In addition the period up to the great Assyrian migration during the 19th and 20th century has been poorly described, says Önver Cetrez.
An important factor for filling in some of the gaps has been various archaeological findings and studies of both older and modern phenomenon. Multidisciplinary research about the Assyrian identity has also provided new knowledge.
The anthology shows that there are several elements of the Assyrian identity which live on, from pre-Christian times into modern times. Examples are given of various religious rites and symbols that originate from the Iron Age. Findings also show that Assyrian forms of government existed also after the fall of the Empire as well as a modern political identity.
-- I hope that we through this may weave together the picture of the Assyrian story", he says.
The next step is to publish a paperback, aimed at young people, their parents and others who wish to learn more. The book's contents will be adapted to a wider target group and will be translated into Swedish.
-- In particular in a secular country it is important to build a sustainable identity that is not solely based on religious affiliation. If you, like the Assyrian people, do not have your own country, these issues become complicated", says Önver Cetrez.
The book may be ordered from here.