Fairfield, Australia -- The Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) together with the Assyrian Australian National Federation (AANF) hosted one of the most successful Assyrian New Year Festivals in the last decade. Thousands of people were in attendance at Fairfield showground to celebrate the Assyrian culture. The Festival started at 10:00 am and the music and dancing continued till the 10:00 pm close.
The formal 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. This year however, the organisers of the exhibit, The Assyrian Cultural & Social Youth Association ACSYA together with The Young Assyrians TYA, saw it fit to use the exhibit as a platform to raise awareness of the ongoing genocide perpetrated against the Assyrian nation in both Iraq and Syria. The exhibit demonstrated the destruction in the Assyrian towns and villages in Nineveh plains in Northern Iraq and Khabour region in North East Syria by ISIS, in a clear and concise manner how the events in Iraq and Syria amount to genocide according to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The customary New Year Program commenced at 2:00 pm, with both the Australian and Assyrian national anthems performed by Mrs. Marlen Shukur, who was accompanied by a string trio. A blessing prayer followed by Reverend His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia, Metropolitan of the Holy Apostolic Catholic 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 Assyrian Universal Alliance, 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 and guests from USA and Iraq for their attendance. Mr. Shahen spoke about the Assyrians the creators of civilization, are one of the most widely scattered indigenous peoples in the four corners of the world and it is unfortunate that very little is known in the West about them, their language, or their traditions, more importantly perhaps, their contributions to human civilization that has been neglected due to the repressive regimes in the Middle East.
"I now wish to speak directly to all the members of the Australian parliament. The urgent establishment and enforcement of a safe haven in the Assyrian heartland is the only viable solution to preserving the Assyrian people from extinction. I call on you to push for the official recognition of the current atrocities perpetrated by ISIS against the indigenous Assyrians and other ethnic minorities of Iraq and Syria on religious, cultural and ethnic grounds, as a crime of genocide. Be the ones to take the first step towards justice and lead other nations on this rightful path. How long can you remain silent while ISISs brutality continues? If we do not act now, history will condemn us, and there will be no excuse for our failure". Mr Shahen said.
Mr. David M. David, President of the Assyrian Australia National Federation welcomed the attendees. Speaking in the Assyrian language he stressed the importance of this national day for all Assyrians. 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; Mr Chris Hayes MP; The Hon. Luke Foley MLC, NSW Opposition Leader; The Hon. Chris Bowen MP, Shadow Treasurer, representing the Hon Bill Shorten MP, Leader of the opposition. The Hon Tanya Davies, MP; Mr. Guy Zangari MP; Dr Hugh McDermott MP; Mr Frank Carbone, Mayor of Fairfield City Council; Reverend The Hon. Fred Nile MLC , President of the Christian Democratic Party.
All speakers praised in their speeches the role of the Assyrian Universal Alliance in its continued deliberations and meetings with the Australian government. They talked about the inevitability of the Assyrian peoples struggle to obtain their full rights and freedom in Iraq. They blessed this great occasion, expressed their appreciation of the D. Donny George Exhibit that was organised by the Young Assyrians and conveyed pride in the Assyrian civilization. Other guests included Mr. Nick Lalich MP; The Hon. Sophie Cotsis, MLC; Inspector Meznaric representing Superintendent Peter Lennon, Fairfield Police Station; Dr Stavros Kyrimis, Consulate General of Greece in Sydney.
The conclusion of the official opening program saw many awards presented to the various sponsors. The 2017 Friend of Assyria Award was presented to Mr Jude Simion, Chief Operating Officer of the Barnabas Fund Australia. The award was granted in recognition of their practical aid provided for persecuted Christians, and acting on behalf of the persecuted Church, to be their voice -- making their needs known to Christians around the world and the injustice of their persecution known to governments and international bodies. The Barnabas Fund has financially supported most of the Assyrian refugees arriving from Syria and Iraq by covering the cost of their flight.
The 2017 Young Assyrian Australian of the Year Award was presented to a talented young Assyrian, Ms Nahren Anweya from USA, in recognition of her selfless devotion and tireless efforts to promote the Assyrian national cause nationally and internationally, spreading awareness on the genocide occurring against the indigenous Assyrians of Iraq and Syria and for her mission, as an activist, to promote the unity and protection of all Assyrians and Yezidis.
The 2017 Australian Assyrian of the Year award was presented to Mr Wilson Younan, the Executive Producer, Assyrian Language Program at Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) Australia, for providing a professional news and current affairs program informing the listeners of local, as well as international news, and events that concern the Assyrian community". He helped to take the Assyrian voice further by reaching the entire world through the SBS - Radio program and deliver news to and from our Assyrian community in any country they live.
At 6:00 pm, a dramatic arts piece was performed by Assyrian Youth. The theatrical piece simulated some sacred rituals presented by ACSYA to bless the festivity which used to be performed before the arrival of King and Queen of Assyria.
The Festival ended with a beautiful display of Fireworks at 9:00 pm accompanied with live music.