Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mingana and Syria

Alphonse Mingana (born as Hurmiz Mingana; Syriac: ܗܪܡܙ
ܡܢܓܢܐ, in 1878 at Sharanesh, a village near Zakho,(present day Iraq) - died 5 December 1937 Birmingham, England) was an Assyrian
theologian, historian, Syriacist, orientalist and a former priest who is best known for collecting and preserving the Mingana Collection of ancient Middle Eastern manuscripts at Birmingham. Like the majority of Assyrians in Zakho, his family belonged to the Chaldean Catholic Church. Alphonse was born to Paolus and Maryam Nano, and had seven siblings. In 1913 Mingana came to England at the invitation of J. Rendel Harris, Director of Studies at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, a Quaker Settlement at Selly Oak in Birmingham. Mingana remained at Woodbrooke for two years where he met his future wife, Emma Sophie Floor, a Norwegian student. The couple were married in 1915. In the same year Mingana was appointed to the staff of the John Rylands Library in Manchester to catalogue the Library's collection of Arabic manuscripts. He lived in Manchester until 1932 during which time his two children, John and Marie, were born. By the time Mingana left John Rylands in 1932 he had risen to the post of Keeper of the Oriental Manuscripts. In 1924 Mingana made the first of three trips to the Middle East to collect ancient Syriac and Arabic manuscripts. The expedition was sponsored by John Rylands Library and Dr Edward Cadbury, the Quaker owner of the famous chocolate factory at Bournville, who Mingana had met through Rendel Harris. A number of the manuscripts he returned with formed the basis of the Mingana Collection at Woodbrooke. Mingana added to the collection with manuscripts acquired on two further trips to the Middle East in 1925 and 1929, both trips were financed solely by Edward Cadbury. In 1932 Mingana moved back to Birmingham to focus on cataloging the collection. The first catalogue describing 606 Syriac manuscripts was published in 1933. A further volume published in 1936 describes 120 Christian Arabic manuscripts and 16 Syriac manuscripts. The third volume, cataloging 152 Christian Arabic manuscripts and 40 Syriac manuscripts was published in 1939, two years after Mingana's death. The Mingana Collection is housed at Special Collections at the University of Birmingham where it is available for study. The collection is designated by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council as being of international importance. A major exhibition of manuscripts from the collection entitled Illuminating Faith was held at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery in 2005. The Mingana Collection is made up of:

  • 660 Syriac and Karshuni (Arabic in Syriac characters) Christian manuscripts including church documents, gospels, works on liturgy, lives of saints and homilies. Among the earliest items are a number of important fragments originating from St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai.
  • 270 Arabic Christian manuscripts including a fragment of the oldest known text of the Acta Thomae, and a very early copy of the Arabic translation of some works by St. Ephrem.
  • 2000 Arabic Islamic manuscripts mainly on religious subjects. There are several copies of the Qur'an, besides two collections of fragments of Kufic Qur'ans, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries AD. Other works include Qur'an commentaries, Hadith, law, literature, science and mysticism.
  • Examples of Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, Greek, Hebrew, Persian, Samaritan and Sanskrit manuscripts.

The manuscripts in the collection have proven to be a significant resource for Western scholarship in regards to the Qu'ran and other religious scriptures. The Virtual Manuscript Room (VMR) project presents full digitized manuscripts from The Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern Manuscripts held at Special Collections in the University of Birmingham. This collection, previously unavailable on the web, has been designated as of national and international importance. As well as high-resolution images of each page, the VMR provides descriptions from the printed catalogue and from Special Collections' own records.

Newsweek Article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Feb 13, 2012)

Both kinds of persecution—undertaken by extragovernmental groups as well as by agents of the state—have come together in Egypt in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. On Oct. 9 of last year in the Maspero area of Cairo, Coptic Christians (who make up roughly 11 percent of Egypt's population of 81 million) marched in protest against a wave of attacks by Islamists—including church burnings, rapes, mutilations, and murders—that followed the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship. During the protest, Egyptian security forces drove their trucks into the crowd and fired on protesters, crushing and killing at least 24 and wounding more than 300 people. By the end of the year more than 200,000 Copts had fled their homes in anticipation of more attacks. With Islamists poised to gain much greater power in the wake of recent elections, their fears appear to be justified.

Egypt is not the only Arab country that seems bent on wiping out its Christian minority. Since 2003 more than 900 Iraqi Christians (most of them Assyrians) have been killed by terrorist violence in Baghdad alone, and 70 churches have been burned, according to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA). Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled as a result of violence directed specifically at them, reducing the number of Christians in the country to fewer than half a million from just over a million before 2003. AINA understandably describes this as an "incipient genocide or ethnic cleansing of Assyrians in Iraq."

Newsweek Cover calls Obama's Critics "Dumb" (January 23, 2012 Edition)

My dear friend, please hear me out on this. In Matthew 5:22, Jesus says that whoever calls his brother "raca" (basically old Aramaic for "dumb") or fool is in danger of God's judgment. In Romans 14-15, Paul warns about judging fellow believers because of disagreements between them. Democrats say that they believe in tolerance. Isn't calling people with whom you disagree hateful names intolerant? How is it possible to hate honest debate and dialogue when you show such disrespect for others that you call them insulting names? 1 Corinthians 2:16 says that as believers we should have the mind of Christ. We shouldn't think like the un-believing world-our thoughts should be spiritually based. Criticism of Obama is based on substance and spirituality. Let me give you one example. Certain Christians believe that abortion is sinful. Obama's healthcare law is forcing Christian institutions to pay for services that violate their Christian beliefs. A Christian hospital should not be forced to pay for abortions. And guess what-they won't. This law is going to force Christian organizations out of medical ministry. They are going to close down before they violate their core beliefs. America was founded so that people could have freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. Obama's mandate forcing Christians to pay for abortions is a violation of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Now, many Democrats who voted for him are criticizing him for that policy. So are these critics "dumb" too? Don't you think that that is wrong to pass laws that will force Christian ministries to close down because they believe that to comply with the law will voilatae their deeply held beliefs? Shouldn't the laws protect religious freedom? Isn't attempting to end all debates and discussion by calling people with whom you disagree hateful names childish? The Bible says that human beings are created in the image of God. The Bible says that "thou shalt not kill." Isn't holding life to be sacred a noble thing? I have a master's degree in theology and I am well read. Jesus and the Apostles, the Apostolic Fathers and the Early Church fathers were all unanimous, you shall not take the life of an unborn child. The Bible teaches the same thing (Psalm 22:10, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:43). This is a free country-you can believe whatever you want, but who is Obama to force Christians to pay for a procedure which they believe to be murder and a violation of their basic Christian beliefs? I was disturbed to see the page after page of the hatred and contempt of Born-again Christians that Mr. Obama wrote of in his books. That magazine cover is an example of why I distrust the Democrat-controlled Liberal News Media and why I will never vote for any democrat. When I was 19 years old voting at my first election, the democrat candidate, Ann Richards, accused Born-Again Christians or trying to overthrow the government and trying to establish a "theocracy." I was disturbed by such hatefulness, deception and scare tactics. What disturbed me more was no one in the Democratic party called her to account for it. After seeing that, I resolved that I would never vote for any Democrat-EVER. And I won't until I see the Democrats moving away from such inflammatory rhetoric. It's been almost twenty-years and the hate from the left still keeps coming-as can be seen in this magazine cover. I want to have the mind of Christ. I want to have my way of thought to be Biblical and pleasing to God. Because of my spirituality-I cannot support Obama's policy. I have thought very long and hard about these moral issues. I am grieved that you would call me "dumb" because I am sincerely trying to do God's will.

The Liberal News Media

I am surprised and please by the Newsweek "Christophobia" article. However, Newsweek is a hard left magazine-as is Time. I thought it was great to see Newt Gingrich take on the News Media in a January debate in which he rightfully accused them of "protecting Obama by attacking Republicans."

Syria: Basic Facts

Syria has great diversity in ethnicity and in religion. Syria is an Arab country but has a large number of Kurds. The Kurdish people are concentrated in the eastern region but they have migrated to all the major cities and have a high birth rate, higher than that of the Arabs. There is also a large number of Armenians and Assyrians. Both the Armenians and Assyrians are Christians. Syria is about 10 percent Christian. The largest group of Moslems are the Sunni. The Sunni do not hold power in Syria. Decades ago Hafez Assad, a member of the Alawite sect, seized power. Hafez Assad died and passed his rule over to his son, Bashir Assad. Bashir Assad is an eye-doctor. Originally, his brother Basel Assad was being groomed for the presidency but when Basel died in an automobile accident, Bashir became next in line of succession. Like Iraq was, Syria is a Ba'athist state. The Ba'ath party was cofounded by Michael Aflaq, a Christian. The Ba'ath party was founded in Damascus Syria. However, Michael Aflaq fled to Iraq and died and was buried there. Syria is officially a "secular" nation but the government favors and advances Islam. Syria has a close relationship with Iran and exerts strong influence in Lebanon. Languages spoken in Syria include Arabic, Kurdish, Armenian and Aramaic, which is spoken by the Assyrians and in three villages near Damascus.

    To understand Syria it is imperative to understand the Alawite religion. Hafez Assad was an Alawite. Alawites are viewed with contempt by most Moslems, especially Sunnis. Alawites are viewed by Moslems as an unorthodox or heretical sect. Alawi beliefs are secret. Apparently, Alawites believe in reincarnation (as does the Druze, a similar sect) and that Ali, a descendant of Mohammed, was Allah incarnate. Only the village elders are initiated into the Alawite belief system. After Hafez Assad came to power, he found a Shiite mullah who he had issue a fatwa for him that stated that Alawites are Shiites and belong to the "Twelvers" branch of the Shiite sect of Islam. (A "fatwa" is an official statement of Islamic doctrine similar to a "papal bull" in the Roman Catholic Church.) Whatever their beliefs were, or perhaps now secretly are, they now identify themselves as Shiites and ostentatiously practice Islam. Alawites are also an ethnicity. They are a tribe of Arabs that live in the region of Latakia along the Mediterranean coast. During the French mandate they were given a favored status and were treated as a nationality and even have their own flag. Before an Alawite took power, the Alawites were widely despised, persecuted and discriminated against. Their assuming power created a Sunni backlash which erupted into a Moslem Brotherhood led revolt. This uprising was cruelly put down by the Alawite regime. In 1982 in the city of Hama, the Alawite government massacred as many as 25,000 Sunnis, men, women and children. For a short period after this mosques were closely monitored. Now the government advances extremist Islam. The Alawite sect and the Syrian government have identified themselves with Shiite Islam and works with Iran to implement Iran's foreign policy agenda. Radical anti-Semitic propaganda is flooded across the country through radio, television and posters. Children are indoctrinated in anti-Semitism in the schools. The Syrian government supports many radical Islamic terrorist organizations and terrorist training camps operate in the country with full government support. Syrian/Iranian backed terrorist organizations include Hamas and Hezbollah. Foreign insurgents are recruited from abroad and are brought into Syria, trained and smuggled across the porous border with Iraq to kill American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. The Syrian government has exerted control over Lebanon for decades. Syria does not recognize the legitimacy of Lebanon and wants to incorporate the country into Syria. President Harriri of Lebanon was assassinated by Syrian agents after pressing for greater Lebanese autonomy. It is common for Christian Lebanese leaders to be assassinated by Syrian agents, since Lebanon's Christian community is viewed as the leader of the Lebanese independence movement. Syria is not, strictly speaking, an Islamic republic, like Saudi Arabia. There are no religious police that force people to strictly observe Islam. However, the government encourages radical Islam and there are many in Syria who are radical Moslems. The Syrian government is building huge new mosques all across the country and builds mosques and settles Moslems in Christian villages. Some people incorrectly view Syria as a secular nation. It is an extremist state, although strict Islamic government (meaning Shairi law) is not enforced by the state. (This means women are not required by law to wear head coverings, although many chose to or are forced to by their families. Also, unlike Saudi Arabia there are not public amputations.) The government is aware that, as it is headed by a hated religious minority, it has serious risks to its hold on power. This explains the brutality in its crushing the Moslem Brotherhood revolt. Syria is a totalitarian police state. The Mukbharat, plain clothes secret police, are everywhere. Those who question the government disappear. They are arrested, beaten, tortured and sentenced to a gulag in the desert near the city of Palmyra. You cannot go anywhere or say anything in Syria without your actions being monitored by the government. Christian churches are of course infiltrated by government agents. In the churches the government agents discourage reading of the Old Testament and spread anti-Semitism among the Christian population. Most people live in fear. Many Syrians cooperate with the government so that they can live out their lives in peace.



The majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims, comprising over sixty percent of the population. While there is a small Sunni majority, Syrian society is consciously inclusive of large number of religious minorities, including, Alawis, Christians (Catholic and Orthodox), Druze, Ismailis, and even the few remaining Jews. Minority religious groups include Alawis, a heterodox Shia Muslim sect (12 percent); Christians (10 percent); Druze, a religious group located in southern Syria whose beliefs contain elements of Shia Islam, Christianity, and paganism (3 percent); and small numbers of other Muslim sects, Jews (who have tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo), and Yazidis (a small religious group whose religion contains elements of Islam, Judaism, and Christainity). The majority of Christians in Syria belong to the Syrian Orthodox Church. There are many Catholic Rite Christians and Greek Orthodox, who are called Rum, or Roman Orthodox.

Sacred Sites in Syria

Syria's historic religious sites easily rival those of its Middle Eastern neighbors Turkey and Lebanon. As a former part of the Roman Empire, a major center of early Christianity and a stronghold of Islam, Syria contains many important religious and historical sites of interest. Within the borders of modern-day Syria is the oldest continuously occupied city, the "Street Called Straight" walked by St. Paul, the best Crusader castle in the Middle East (Krak des Chevaliers), ancient desert monasteries that still receive pilgrims (such as Seidnaya), and the best preserved Roman theater (in Bosra). Other sites include the ancient Christian monastery of Mar Musa (Saint Moses the Ethiopian) and the Islamic "Crusader castle" at Aleppo. The three most important sacred sites are the Christian village of Maloula, the Ummayah Mosque and the St. Ananias church. Maloula is an Aramaic speaking Christian village with important shrines to Saint Tekla, who was a female disciple of Saint Paul. The Ummayad Mosque - one of the largest mosques in the world. It is located in the city of Damascus. The head of St. John the Baptist is kept in a shrine within the Ummayad Mosque. This mosque was a Christian church during the Byzantine period. After a Jihad, it was seized and changed to a church. St Ananias Church on the Biblical Street Called Straight in Old Damascus - place where Ananias is said to have baptized St. Paul as is described in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament.

What political influence do the religious leaders have?

After the 1973 constitution was constructed, Islam was no longer declared the state religion. However, the president of Syria must still be a Muslim, while Islamic law is a major source of legislation. The president has absolute power. He doesn't share his power with any clerics. However, the government promotes the radical leader of Hezbollah, Sheik Nasrallah.

Who the religious leaders and what are the leaders titles?

In theory Sunni Muslims believe that the believer a direct access to God without the need for saints, intercessors or organized clerical hierarchy. Sunni Muslim faith does not recognize Caliphs which means "successor" or "representative" after the four Caliphs of Mohammed, and as such Sunni Muslim is therefore non-clerical. (The first four Caliphs are called "the rightly guided Caliphs.) In practice, however, Sunni Muslims are led by and informal structure of local leaders called Imams.

How are the leaders selected and trained?

Theoretically, Imams are elected yet they may be influential or important men of their communities perhaps having come to position by their influence and respect, generally being well-educated, and involved in political and social affairs. An Imam does not need to have any formal training but often religious leaders have training from Islamic seminaries such as Al-Azar in Cairo.

How many leaders are there and where are they located

Because Sunni Muslims comprise the majority of the Syrian population, Mosques may be found in all parts of Syria. Imams may therefore be found throughout the nation of Syria.

Do these religious leaders have an impact on the Armed Forces

Imams are exempt from military service. All Syrian men are required to serve in the military. The military is secular however the Syrian trains terrorists, including fanatical Moslems and those who have volunteered to become "suicide martyrs."

Important Facts

Syria is diverse religiously. While it is majority Sunni, the Alawite sect, which now identifies itself with Shiite Islam, is in power. The "secular" state of Syria promotes radical Islam but does not implement Islamic law. Non-Moslems are allowed to visit Mosques as long as services are not being conducted. I would recommend that American soldiers avoid entering Islamic mosques unless it is a military necessity. The only exception may be the Umayyad Mosque, which holds the head of John the Baptist. The Umayyad mosque is a historical site and is open to the public when services are not being conducted. All Syrian religious and historic sites should be treated with utmost respect. Syrian nationals may be Moslem or Christian, secular or observant. Even non-practicing Moslem take their Moslem identity very seriously. Therefore we should be very sensitive towards their religion. Chaplains should make contact with both the Moslem and Christian religious leaders.


Syrian Tolerance By David Bender- March 23 2007 New Statesman—Jun 5 2006






My Feelings About Syria

The Syrian regime needs to go! I have lived in Syria. My feeling is that the Syrian regime is evil.

Syria is a satellite or a colony of Iran. Syria does nothing without the approval of Syria. When President Bush said that there was an "axis of Evil: Syria, Iran and North Korea" people mocked him. But I lived in Syria and I know that what he said about this is true. I saw Iranians and North Koreans in Syria. In the Iraq War, Saudi Arabia recruited terrorists from abroad from mosques around the world. They recruits went to Syria where they received their training and were smuggled across the border into Iraq. There they killed thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens in suicide, IEDs and other forms of terrorist attacks. Syria has been behind the assassinations of Christian leaders in Lebanon and the murder of President Harriri of Lebanon. This is a well known fact. Hezbollah is Syrian controlled. Hezbollah started the most recent Israeli-Lebanese War in which many Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, Israelis and Lebanese were killed by Hezbollah rocket attacks and Israeli retaliation. Syria is behind war and suffering in Iraq, Israel, and Lebanon. And so far, Syria does this with impunity and no accountablity. Some Syrian Christians do support the Alawite regime, because they falsely believe that the Alawites keep them safe from Islamic extremists such as the Muslim brotherhood. But the Alawite regime now supports Islamic radicals. They also are planting Islamic communities and are building mosques in historically Christian villages. All churches are infiltrated by Alawite secret police. All schools are infiltrated as well. Syrian Christians are taught to be anti-Semitic and not to read the "Jewish" Old Testament. Not all Christians support the regime or are so corrupted. All the Alawite regime cares about is holding on to power. This is why the promised reforms have never materialized. The Alawites are not going to do anything that threatens their hold on power-such as to allow free and fair elections. Now we are seeing a violent repression. Please pray for the people of Syria. I believe that this repression will fail. Now, the Syrian regimes days are numbered. I believe that before this year is over-the Alawite regime will be.

Please remember my books and my youtube!

Stephen A. Missick www.youtube.com/aramaic12.


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