Father (Khuroyo) Kerim Asmar from Switzerland comments on the current situation and challenges facing his church, the Syriac Orthodox Church. He sees the new patriarch Afrem II Karim as a blessing for the church and a leader who can lead the people forwards during these dangerous times, when eradication faces all church communities in the Middle East. Up till now, Patriarch Karim has been cautious in his official statements regarding Kurdish assaults on Assyrians in Gozarto (North-Western Syria) and in North-Iraq in the “KRG” region. However, during a recent visit to Belgium, in an interview for the magazine Le Vif/L’Express [an important part is here translated and published by Human Right Without Frontiers– HRWF ] the patriarch opposes any Kurdish federation which divides the country. Here he highlighted Kurdish abuses in Gozarto by stating: “A number of Christians who live in the north-east of the country, which is under the rule of Kurds, are also in a difficult situation due to the unilateral management of these regions by the local powers. These Christian communities are also under pressure concerning military service and school education. For example, Kurds try to impose their school programs in our private schools.”
Father Kerim Asmar speaks as an individual but praises the acts of his patriarch. He claims that during his journey, the patriarch might join in coalitions, but he never compromises on his goal. Father Asmar therefore calls on both oppositional church men as well as secular Assyrian organizations to support the patriarch’s line of work.
On the question regarding the role of the Church that deliberately created divisions and instigated the name conflict that has paralysed the Assyrian community for over 40 years, Father Asmar replies that the church leaders may not have had the intention to create such divisions, but it was external forces that were actively interested in such fragmentation of the Assyrian people by spending a lot of money to buy the loyalty of some actors among our people. He continued that a weak church leadership was also a reason for worsening of this conflict, because it allowed a certain political organization to infiltrate the church in order to fight other movements within the Assyrian people. When the new patriarch was elected and assumed his leadership, he stopped this group and treated all parties equally within the church, says Father Asmar.
On the question whether we, as a nation, will risk losing our ethnic and national rights when we only identify ourselves as “Christians”, Father Asmar says, of course, Christianity is the best tool that unites all Christians in the Middle East. But Assyrians as a people are not just Christians. We have a rich civilization that has served humanity and is entitled to live in its historic land.