This website will report about Christianity and Christians in Kurdistan but also about Christ and the Lord in general. Amîn
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Îsa li ser Avê Rêve Diçe
Sunday, January 27, 2008
St. Joseph's Church, Ainkawa
Ainkawa, a Christian town in Iraqi Kurdistan on the outskirts of Erbil, is filling quickly with Christians fleeing the violence of Arab-controlled Iraq. There are roughly 10,000 displaced Iraqi Christians in Ainkawa, a town of about 25,000 people. Real estate prices are soaring, houses are packed with extra familiy members and friends, and the town is probably the only place in Iraq where new churches are actually being built rather than bombed. Many of the new residents of Ainkawa say that it is only a matter of time before Christian life in Iraq outside Kurdistan is effectively eradicated.
When TIME photographer Newsha Tavakolian and I visited one of these newly built churches for Sunday evening service yesterday, she bumped into an old friend, Hanni, who had been her driver in Baghdad for a month at the beginning of the war. Newhsa had strong memories of Hanni -- who saved her life at least once -- but lost touch after she left Baghdad for the last time. Hani, his wife and six children fled Baghdad a few months ago after Mulism militants burned down their house. "He had such hope for the new Iraq," said Newsha.
Daniel Ali 1959 (age 48–49), is an Iraqi Kurdish author, speaker and Islamic scholar. He was born in Iraqi Kurdistan and lived through the ethnic cleansing and Anfal campaign during the Baathist period from 1975 to 1988. He has published two books Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics in 2003, and Out of Islam, Free at Last, in 2007. He moved to the United States in 1993, was baptized in 1995, and entered the Catholic Church in 1998. He has worked with the Jesuit Mitch Pacwa and travels around the United States speaking to wide audiences about Islam, and Iraq.
<<< Kurmanci again
English verision : Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Click here to read in Bahdinani, Arabic, and English.
Click here to read in Kurmanji and in English.
The early history of Christianity in Kurdistan closely parallels that of the rest of Anatolia and Mesopotamia. By the early 5th century the Kurdish royal house of Adiabene had converted from Judaism to Christianity. The extensive ecclesiastical archives kept at their capital of Arbela (modern Arbil), are valuable primary sources for the history of central Kurdistan, from the middle of the Parthian era (ca. 1st century AD). Kurdish Christians, like their Jewish predecessors, used Aramaic for their records and archives and as the ecclesiastical language.
The persecution of the Christians in the Persian Sasanian Empire extended to Kurdistan as well. It was only after the conversion of the Empire's Christians to the eastern Nestorian church (from St. Nestorius, d. AD 440) and their break with Rome and Constantinople in the 6th century that they were given a measure of safety. At the time of the advent of Islam in the 7th century, central Kurdistan was predominantly Christian.
Anatolian Kurds, on the other hand, responded in two distinct manners to this new religion. The westernmost Kurds, i.e., those of Pontus and the western regions of Cappadocia and Cilicia in central and northern Anatolia, converted to Christianity before the 7th century. Their conversion, it turned out, was to cost them in the long run their ethnic identity. They were wholly Hellenized before the arrival of the Turkic nomads in Anatolia in the 12th century. The Kurds of eastern Anatolia, including eastern Cilicia and Cappadocia, and all those east of the Euphrates resisted conversion, and were punished for it by the Byzantines.
When in the 8th and 9th centuries the Byzantines deported and exiled the non-Christian populations from their Anatolian domain, Kurds suffered the most. The Cappadocian and Cilician Kurds were deported in toto (see Deportations & Forced Resettlements).
Christianity's effect on southern Kurdistan appears to have been marginal, but clear. The influence of Christian tenets on Yârsânism, which goes beyond the influences that would have been exerted via Islam, point to a direct exchange between the two religions.
With the waning and isolation of Christianity in Kurdistan and the Middle East following the expansion of Islam, the dwindling Christian Kurdish community began to renounce its Kurdish ethnic identity and forged a new one with its neighboring Semitic Christians. The Suriyâni (Nestorian) Christians of Mesopotamia and Kurdistan, who have recently adopted the ethnic name Assyrian, are a Neo-Aramaic-speaking amalgam of Kurds and Semitic peoples who have retained the old religion and language of the Nestorian Church, and the court language of the old Kingdom of Adiabene. A large number of these Suriyâni Christians lived, until the onslaught of World War 1, deep in mountainous northern Kurdistan, away from any ethnic or genetic influence of the Semitic Christians of lowland Mesopotamia. Their fair complexion, in marked contrast to that of their Semitic "brethren" in the Mosul region, also bears witness to their Kurdish origin.
Yet they speak Neo-Aramaic and insist on a separate ethnic identity. In the matter of language, the Christians in Kurdistan share the use of Neo-Aramaic with the Kurdish Jews.
Not all Christian Kurds found it necessary to exchange their Kurdish identity for their faith. The medieval Muslim historian and commentator Mas'udi reports Kurds who were Christians in the 10th century. In 1272 Marco Polo wrote, "In the mountainous parts [of Mosull there is a race of people named Kurds, some of whom are Christians of the Nestorian and Jacobite sects, and others Muhammadan" (Travels, I.vi). These are in fact Christian Kurds, as Polo earlier in his work distinguishes the non-Kurdish Christian population of the region.
There are records of missionary conversion of the Kurds to Christianity as early as the 15th century, a notable example being Father Subhalemaran (Nikitine 1956, 23 1). Many other missionaries have been sent from Europe and later America into Kurdistan since that time, with some of them producing the earliest studies of Kurdish language and culture, including dictionaries. Religious changes have almost always has entailed language change. Most Kurds who converted to Christianity eventually switched to Armenian and Neo-Aramaic, and were thus counted among these ethnic groups. A good example of this process was observed at the end of the World War 1.
At the time of the fall of the Ottoman Empire a considerable number of Christians who spoke only Kurdish left the area of western and northern Kurdistan for the French Mandate of Syria. There, having been told they "must be Armenian" if they were Christian, they were counted and eventually assimilated into the immigrant Armenian community of Syria and Lebanon.
Some non-Christian Kurds of Anatolia and even central Kurdistan still bless their bread dough by pressing the sign of the cross on it while letting it rise. They also make pilgrimage to the old abandoned or functioning churches of the Armenian and Assyrian Christians. This may well be a cultural tradition left with the Kurds through long association with Christian neighbors, or very possibly it stems from the time that many Kurds themselves were Christians.
Today there remain an uncertain number of Kurdish Christians, particularly in the districts of Hakkâri in north-central Kurdistan, Tur Abdin in western Kurdistan, and among the Milân and Barâz tribal confederacies in western Kurdistan in Turkey and Syria. In 1908 Sykes reports at least 500 Kurdish Christian families of the Pinianishli tribe in the Hakkâri district, whose leaders insisted they were an ancient community converted before the advent of Islam. Of the Hawerka tribe of Tur Abdin 900 families are listed as Christian, along with 700 more families from various other tribes in this region. Sykes is, however, silent on the number of MilAn Christians. Despite this, the question remains whether these and others are the modern descendants of the larger and more ancient Kurdish Christian community, or whether they are relatively recent converts by Christian Armenians, Assyrians, and Western Christian missionaries. Many centers for these recent proselytes were set up during the 19th and early 20th centuries in and around Bitlis, Urfa, Mosul, Urmih and Salmâs, to name a few. Likely, the Kurdish Christian population is an even mix of the ancient population and modern converts.
An educated guess for the total number of Christian Kurds (excluding the Assyrians, whose claim to a separate ethnic identity must be honored) would place them in the range of tens of thousands, most of them living in Turkey.
There is a renewed interest among the active Christian organizations in Europe, but par ticularly in the United States, to carry missionary work to Kurdistan. In fact, one of the first languages of the East into which the post-Renaissance Europeans translated the Gospel was Kurdish. New editions and new translations of the New Testament into North Kurmânji (Bshdinâni) are being attempted now. These translations and endeavors are targeted towards the Kurds in Turkey, as has been the case since the time of Father Subhalemaran.
The reason has been the faulty assumption of these missionary organizations that the Kurds of northern and western Kurdistan in Anatolia, having been under Byzantine rule prior to Muslim occupation, were mostly or all Christians, but that the other Kurds were not. The missionaries probably would find more fertile ground in central and part of southern Kurdistan, on the territories of the former Christian Kurdish kingdoms of Adiabene and Karkhu b't Salukh (Kirkuk), but not in northern and western Kurdistan, whose non-Christian inclinations made the Byzantines deport the populace in earlier times.
Further Readings and Bibliography: Asahel Grant, The Nestorians, or the Lost Tribes (London, 1841); Thomas Lauric, Dr. Grant and themountain Ne5torians (Cambridge, 1853); Helga Anschtitz, Die 5yrischen Christen vom Tor 'Abdin (Wiirzburg: Reinhardt, 1984); Michel Chevalier, Les montagnards chretiens du Hakkari et du Kurdistan septentrional (Paris: Department de Geographic de I'Universit6 de Paris-Sorbonne, 1985); John Joseph, The Nestorians and Their Muslim Neighbors (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961); John Joseph, Muslim-Christian Relations and InterChristian Rivalries in the Middle East.. The Ca5e of the lacobites in an Age of Transition (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983); G.P. Badger, The Nestorians and their Ritua15 (London, 1892); Marco Polo, Travels, ed. John Masefield (London: Dent, 1975); Basde Nikitine. "Les Kurdes et le Christianisme," Revue de I'Histoire des Religion (Paris, 1929); William Ainsworth "An Account of a Visit to the Chaldeans Inhabiting Central Kurdistan, and of an Ascent of the Peak of Rowandiz (Tur Sheikhiwa) in the Summer of 1840," Journal of the Royal Geographical Society XI (1941).
Sources: The Kurds, A Concise Handbook, By Dr. Mehrdad R. Izady, Dep. of Near Easter Languages and Civilazation Harvard University, USA, 1992
The Kurdish people have a lot of minorities in itself, for example the religious ones. One of them are Christian Kurds. Even at the time of the Ottoman Empire there were Christian Kurds, and today more and more Kurds find to Christianity. Some of them live in Europe.
Dilgohdar, a Kurdish Christian, agreed to tell me about himself and how he found Christianity.
“First of all, thank you for showing interest in the Christian minority among the Kurds. I was born in Europe into an atheist family, only my mother is baptized as a Christian.
I was an atheist for 22 years before I discovered Christianity. For the moment I am trying my best to finish reading the bible (…) My favourite character of the bible is Ibrahîm (Abraham): he left his relatives in Urfa (Northern Kurdistan) for a travel to the Canaan. Then of course Îsa Mesî (Jesus) and his life as god`s only son.
A Nestorian wedding in a village of Kurds and Nestorians
He tells that the basics of Christian Kurds belong to the Nestorian Church. In fact, Nestorians and Kurds lived together for decades of years in common villages of Northern Kurdistan. But later they immigrated to countries of Europe and the USA. Their churches stay empty today, but the Kurds have promise
“I actually don`t care if a Christian is Nestorian, Protestant or Catholic, as long as we believe in the same thing.”
Dilgohdar expresses how serious he takes his choice of being a Christian Kurd.
“I am not baptized yet but this summer I will be baptized in the Caucasian regions of the Middle East.” He knows a couple of Christian Kurds. “We often speak about the bible, Christianity and Kurdistan”, he says. But Dilgohdar regrets that most of the Kurds who convert to Christianity can not tell their choice to their families.
“Their families are Muslims, and it would create problems if they`d tell them. But I have found myself a bride and we will get married soon. So I will reveal to my family and friends then.”
When he was an atheist, he didn`t know what to do in his life, Dilgohdar says. But today he is sure about what he wants. Let`s remember that he said he wants to combine his religion with his Kurdish heritage:
“My marriage and funeral will be in a church in Kurdistan... hopefully the Church of Akhdamar in the Van Province, N.Kurdistan.”
|It should fill us with happiness to know such a Kurd like Dilgohdar, because today, a lot of Kurds don`t know what to do for their life…|
More infos about Christian Kurds: http://www.kurdistanica.com/l
Christianity began to become a main religion in the central part of Kurdish regions from the fifth century onwards. The royal house of Adiabene in central Kurdistan converted to Christianity around this period. Mar Saba succeeded in converting some sun-worshipping Kurds to Christianity in the fifth century.
Many Kurdish Christians converted to Islam after the Arab conquest of Sassanid empire. However there were Kurdish converts to Christianity even after the spread of Islam. In the ninth century, a Kurd named Nasr or Narseh converted to Christianity, and changed his name to Theophobos during the reign of Emperor Theophilus and was emperor's intimate friend and commander for many years.
There were many Kurdish Christian communities and tribes reported by medieval writers as late as 10th and 13th centuries AD. The German physician and traveller Leonhard Rauwolff visited Kurdistan in 1570s and encountered a sizable number of Nestorian Christian Kurds. They have used Aramaic (the language of Jesus) for their religious affairs, and in some cases the Armenian language. The first Bible translation of modern times was conducted in the 18th century in the Armenian alphabet. Kurdish Christians should not be confused with Semitic-speaking Christians such as the Assyrians or Armenian Christians in Kurdish regions.
In the 19th century, several Christian villages existed in Kurdistan, whose inhabitants spoke only Kurdish, and there were Muslim Kurdish tribes that recalled they were once Christians. Kurds who converted to Christianity usually turned to the Nestorian Church. In 1884, researchers of the Royal Geographical Society reported about a Kurdish tribe in Sivas which retained certain Christian observances and sometimes identified as Christian. It is also possible that many Kurdish Christians have been linguistically and hence ethnically absorbed by Semitic-speaking Christians of Mesopotamia, especially after Islamic expansions in Middle East.
In the early 20th century, a Lutheran mission from United States and Germany began to serve the Kurds of Iran. From 1911 to 1916, it established a Kurdish congregation and an orphanage.
governorates. This is the first The Kurdish-Speaking Church of Christ (The Kurdzman Church of Christ) was established in Hewlêr (Arbil) by the end of 2000, and has branches in the Silêmanî, Duhok and Kirkûkevangelical Kurdish church in Iraq. Its logo is formed of a yellow sun and a cross rising up behind a mountain range. Kurdzman Church of Christ held its first three-day conference in Ainkawa north of Arbil in 2005 with the participation of 300 new Kurdish converts.
Martyred Convert Leaves Widow, Five Children in Northern Iraq
by Barbara G. Baker
ISTANBUL, March 14 (Compass) -- Kurdish Christian Ziwar Mohammed Ismaeel was
shot dead in front of his taxi stand last month in Zakho, the northern-most
city in the Kurdish safe-haven of Northern Iraq.
According to local security authorities, the Kurdish convert's self-confessed
murderer believed he was "fulfilling the will of Allah" by killing an apostate
from Islam. "I don't feel guilty for doing it," the killer told police
investigators after his arrest.
A taxi driver, Ismaeel was waiting in a line of taxis on the morning of
February 17 for his turn to load up passengers for the drive from Zakho to
Dohuk. About 8:30 a.m., a stranger approached the station and began talking
Fellow taxi drivers said that Ismaeel offered a cup of tea to the man, who then
began to demand loudly that Ismaeel deny his faith in Christ and come back to
When Ismaeel refused, saying he could not stop believing in Christ, the
stranger asked him to step aside and talk privately with him. Just seconds
later, eyewitnesses said, the man pulled out a machine gun and started shooting
point-blank at Ismaeel. A total of 28 bullets were pumped into Ismaeel's head
and chest before he fell to the ground, dying on the spot.
Throwing his gun at the slain Christian's body, the attacker shouted "Allahu
Akbar" ("God is greater," the first words of the Muslim call to prayer in
Arabic) and fled the scene on foot. Several taxi drivers chased and caught the
assailant, turning him over to local police.
The arrested assassin, later identified as Abd al-Karem Abd al-Salam, has been
jailed under the jurisdiction of the Dohuk governate. Said to be a member of
the Islamic Union, the murderer had spent two years in Afghanistan, and
reportedly carried a photograph of himself taken with renegade Afghan leader
Gulbuddin Hekmetyar. About 40 years of age, he is the father of 10 children.
According to the local chief of police, Abd al-Salam told investigators after
his arrest that the Prophet Mohammed had appeared to him in a dream, telling
him to kill Ziwar. Political and security officials are investigating the
killer's possible links with the handful of radical Islamist movements in the
Because Islamic law requires the execution of apostates who forsake Islam, some
townspeople in Zakho have said they expect Ismaeel's killer to be released
after completion of the criminal investigation. But despite the religious
sensitivities of the case, the local police chief has stated that he will
demand the death sentence for Abd al-Salam.
Northern Iraq's regional Kurdish administration encourages a tolerant form of
Islam, although it is officially secular.
Ismaeel, 38, had converted from Islam to Christianity seven years ago, after
reading a Bible given to him by a friend. "He just grabbed the truth and ran
with it," an expatriate Christian who had lived in the Zakho area in 1998 told
Compass. "He was always exhorting other Christians to be bold, to not be
Ismaeel's openness in talking about his new faith had prompted death threats by
some of his own relatives, who were initially advised by a Muslim prayer leader
that he should be killed as an apostate. But Ismaeel survived their attempts
and refused to go into hiding, declaring that he would never deny Christ, even
if his family killed him.
He was arrested two years ago when policemen found three Bibles in his car, and
again in May 2002 when police interrogators warned him that some people
objected to his Christian witnessing. Charges were not pressed against him in
Ismaeel is survived by his widow Layla and their five children, none of whom
have publicly converted to Christianity. The three sons (Zervan, Nachervan and
Ephraim) and two daughters (Hosan and Lozan) range in age from 18 years to an
infant born last September. The family had lived in a small housing development
on the outskirts of Zakho, where they had started a family project of raising
Local Christians said the three older children all quit going to school soon
after their father's death, intimidated by accusations from their schoolmates
that he was killed for becoming a Christian. "We decided to find them some
other school," a local pastor confirmed yesterday.
In the wake of Ismaeel's murder, the local Christian community has taken
responsibility for the care and support of his family, in mutual agreement with
the family's tribal leaders. Their commitment includes raising finances to buy
a house for Ismaeel's family and cover their living expenses, as well as help
the eldest son find a job.
"This family lost Ziwar because of the church, not because of any other
problem," the tribe told church leaders after the murder.
"So they are considering Ziwar's family as no longer from their tribe, but as a
part of our church," a local pastor explained to Compass. "The church now has a
good relationship with his wife and children, and with his brothers and
The family's agreement on this issue put to rest fears that some members of the
tribe might try to avenge Ismaeel's murder in an ongoing blood feud against
those they held responsible for his death. "When blood is shed here," a close
Christian friend of Ismaeel told Compass, "it is not just a cup of water."