AINA Editorial
Coalition of American Assyrians and Maronites Rebukes Arab American Institute

(AINA) -- The Coalition of American Assyrians and Maronites (CAAM), which includes seven Assyrian and Maronite Organizations, has sent an official letter to the Arab American Institute, asking it to stop identifying Assyrians and Maronites as Arabs. CAAM represents over 2.2 million Assyrians and Maronites in the United States. The letter was also sent to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, all twelve Cabinet members, all members of the House and Senate, The Chicago Tribune, Time Magazine and Groliers Multimedia Encyclopedia.

The CAAM letter was written in response to AAI's deliberate expropriation of the Assyrian and Maronite ethnic identities (AINA, 10-5-2001).

The letter follows.


Coalition of American Assyrians and Maronites

We the undersigned, speaking on behalf of over 2.2 million Assyrians, including Chaldeans and Syriacs, and Maronites living in America herewith assert that Assyrians and Maronites are not and have never been Arabs -- contrary to the claims of the Arab American Institute.

Assyrians and Maronites are the ethnically homogeneous, distinct and indigenous Christian people of Mesopotamia and Lebanon and have a history, spanning seven thousand years, that predates the Arab conquest of the region. Assyrian civilization at one time incorporated the entire Middle East, most notably the area of the Fertile Crescent. The heartland of Assyria lies in present day north Iraq, southeast Turkey, northeast Syria, and northwest Iran. Till today, significant indigenous populations of Assyrians reside in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran and Lebanon. Assyrians embraced Christianity in the first century A.D., and remained Christian throughout the Arab Muslim conquests. Assyrians are Semitic people and speak Modern Assyrian, which some scholars refer to as neo-Syriac or neo-Aramaic. The parent language of modern Assyrian is Aramaic, the language of Christ, and was made the second official language (with Akkadian) of the Assyrian State in 752 B.C.; it remained the lingua franca of the Middle East until 900 A.D. Syriac is the liturgical language of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Chaldean Church of Babylon, Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, and the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch

Assyrians and Maronites are ethnically descendant from a common, non-Arab root.

Maronites are ethnically of Syriac roots and their historical language is Syriac. Their ancestors included the Phoenicians who lived in Syria and Lebanon. Their church, the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch, started in northern Syria and moved to Lebanon in the 5th century. Since the 7th century A.D., the Maronites formed a homeland in Mount Lebanon called the Marada State and resisted the Arab conquests and empires for 7 centuries and the Ottoman empire for four centuries. Maronites spoke Syriac and derivative dialects until the end of the 19th century. In 1920 they chose to establish a Lebanese Republic separate from the Syrian Arab Republic. The Maronite emigrants who came to the Americas are an ethnic extension of the Maronites in Lebanon, hence are not Arab.

We ask the Arab American Institute to cease and desist from portraying Assyrians and Maronites of past and present as Arabs, and from speaking on behalf of Assyrians and Maronites. We ask the Arab American Institute to remove any and all references to Assyrians and Maronites as being Arabs from its literature and materials (audio, video, print and electronic). We ask the Arab American Institute to modify the reference to Assyrians in Helen Samhan's article, "Arab Americans", published in Grolier's Multimedia Encyclopedia, and any other articles, in which Assyrians or Maronites are identified as Arabs, and to submit this amendment to Grolier's Multimedia Encyclopedia, subject to prior approval with respect to the Assyrian content from the Assyrian Academic Society (www.aas.net), and the Maronite identity as it is defined by the Maronite World Congresses.

We further inform the Arab American Institute that it is not authorized to speak on behalf of Assyrians or Maronites in any capacity, except to state:

  1. Assyrians and Maronites are ethnically distinct from Arabs or any other ethnic group.
  2. Assyrians are linguistically distinct from Arabs or any other linguistic group.
  3. Assyrians and Maronites are Christians and belong to various denominations: Syriac Orthodox Church, Syrian Catholic Church, Chaldean Church of Babylon, Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Maronite Church, Presbyterians and other Protestant denominations.
  4. Assyrians are the indigenous people of north Iraq, southeast Turkey, northeast Syria, and northwest Iran. Maronites are the indigenous people of Lebanon.
  5. Assyrians and their civilizations, and the Phoenicians of Lebanon, span seven thousand years and predate the Arab conquest of the region.
We are happy to work with the Arab American Institute in showing our loyalty as Americans and informing our fellow Americans of our respective heritage, customs, language and religion. We thank the Arab American Institute for its cooperation and look forward to working together in the future.

Correspondence and inquiries should be directed to caam@aina.org.

Assyrian American National Federation
Atour Golani, President

Assyrian Universal Alliance
Senator John J. Nimrod, General Secretary

Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Alliance
O. Kaldoyo, Chairman

Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Union
F. Aho, Chairman

American Maronite Union
Tom Harb, Chairman

World Maronite Union
Sami Khoury, President

World Lebanese Organization
Dr. Walid Phares, President

Web resources:

Assyrian International News Agency
Assyrian American National Federation
Beth Suryoyo
Assyrian Academic Society
Nineveh Online
World Maronite Union
Zinda Magazine
Maronite Research Council
World Lebanese Organization


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