Every second Saturday of the month, 4 pm - Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ. Followed by refreshments.
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Sunday, 30 March 2008

Lady Surma

Fr John Salter writes:

In 1926 Lady Surma d`bait Mar Shimun issued an appeal on behalf of the Assyrian People:

We Assyrians are the last survivors of the ancient and once all-powerful Assyrian civilization. We became Christians at the preaching of the Apostle Thaddaeus – Addai, as we call him.

Our nation and the Church of The East was once like the sands of the sea. We sent missionaries to China and far-off India, where our daughter-Church still flourished in Malabar. We had much literature, art and science. Now we are scattered all over the world, a scanty people – less, perhaps, than 100,000.

Thirty thousand of us are waiting in Iraq and Persia to return to the mountains and plains of our fathers. We love our homelands with a love which even you British cannot understand –its villages and old churches, its trees and rocks and rivers. Yes! It is true we are in exile. We have been massacred and ill-treated. Our women and girls have been taken into horrible and hated slavery. Our nation is nearly dead. But we do not look back. Our ancestors suffered for 1,000 years, because they were stubborn, for the true faith of the Gospel. We knew the risk we ran when we fought for England. We would not take back that which we gave. If the Assyrian name and race must perish because it has been faithful to the Cross and to the Union Jack, we are content. But I speak to plead for our scanty remnant. Surely they have a claim on Great Britain, if not on all Christian civilization. If you can give them back their homeland, give it them back. But at least take care of them.

Our hearts are hot with thanks to the generous people of London for the money they have given to feed and house those of us who have escaped from the Turk and to keep them from dying in the cold and rain of the winter. But give us our land that we may increase and multiply again under the Union Jack and may be saved. We say the Lord`s Prayer often for you in our gratitude. Will you pray it sometimes for my sisters and brothers in their danger and misery? I will say it now in Syriac. The words and my accent are those of a woman who learnt it from Christ`s own lips would have used.
Lady Surma then recited the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic.

The old Princess's speech is as relevant today eighty-two years later as it was in 1926 for the Assyrian people, both the Church of the East and the Chaldeans, are again being persecuted and have no homeland and are fleeing into exile. It is to be hoped that sovereign territory or at least autonomous regions may be provided for this ancient people as it is believed such territory might be set aside permanently for the Kurds, who were not entirely friendly towards their Christian neighbours.
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