Assyrian Christians and genocide

Philip Jenkins also wrote at Aleteia that the slaughter of Assyrian Christians (I posted about them earlier today here) by Iraqi soldiers and civilian raiders in 1933 (see here and here for more detail) played a secondary role in the thought of Raphael Lemkin about genocide (the Armenian genocide played the primary role). Lemkin invented this word and called for the crime to be punishable by international authorities:

That paradox continued to trouble him until, in 1933, new massacres of Assyrian Christians in Iraq forced him to define his ideas still further. Using the case of the Assyrians, and of the Armenians before them, he argued for a new legal category to be called crimes of barbarity, primarily “acts of extermination directed against the ethnic, religious or social collectivities whatever the motive (political, religious, etc).” Such crimes, he argued, should be an offense against international law that demanded to be punished by a special court or tribunal.

In 1943, Lemkin coined a new word for this atrocious behavior—namely, “genocide.” For many years, he was the most vigorous and visible campaigner to secure global recognition for the new concept, and finally, in 1948, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. However familiar the notion of genocide might be today, it originated at a specific (and quite recent) historical moment, and was largely formulated by one man, who must be remembered as one of the greatest humanitarian thinkers of the twentieth century.

Assyrian Christians and the Sayfo

Philip Jenkins wrote about the Assyrian Christians recently in The Christian Century:

The Assyrian Chris­tians of northern Iraq are among the people who have been massacred and kidnapped by ISIS militants in recent months. Such accounts are depressingly familiar to anyone who knows the region’s history. In fact, this year marks a grim centennial. Besides be­ing the centennial of the Ar­menian Genocide, it’s the centennial of the year that the Ottoman Turkish regime struck at other Christian minorities whom it suspected of being sympathetic to Russia. The Assyrians call 1915 Sayfo, the Year of the Sword.

Assyrian Christians had very deep roots in the region, and their churches use a Semitic language related to Jesus’ own Aramaic. In late antiquity, believers divided over the Person of Christ. The Monophysite branch evolved to become the modern-day Syrian Orthodox Church. Their Nestorian rivals formed the Church of the East, which remained a flourishing trans­continental institution through the Middle Ages.

See the rest of the article here.

UPDATE (5/26/15): Jenkins also wrote at Aleteia that the slaughter of Assyrian Christians by Iraqi soldiers and civilian raiders in 1933 (see here and here for more detail) played a secondary role in the thought of Raphael Lemkin about genocide (the Armenian genocide played the primary role). Lemkin invented this word and called for the crime to be punishable by international authorities:

That paradox continued to trouble him until, in 1933, new massacres of Assyrian Christians in Iraq forced him to define his ideas still further. Using the case of the Assyrians, and of the Armenians before them, he argued for a new legal category to be called crimes of barbarity, primarily “acts of extermination directed against the ethnic, religious or social collectivities whatever the motive (political, religious, etc).” Such crimes, he argued, should be an offense against international law that demanded to be punished by a special court or tribunal.

In 1943, Lemkin coined a new word for this atrocious behavior—namely, “genocide.” For many years, he was the most vigorous and visible campaigner to secure global recognition for the new concept, and finally, in 1948, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. However familiar the notion of genocide might be today, it originated at a specific (and quite recent) historical moment, and was largely formulated by one man, who must be remembered as one of the greatest humanitarian thinkers of the twentieth century.

A detailed history of the modern Middle East

A History of the Middle East: Fourth EditionA History of the Middle East: Fourth Edition by Peter Mansfield

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was definitely the most comprehensive survey of modern Middle Eastern history that I have seen, making it a good reference. At the same time, there was so much detail that it made it hard for my students to read and obscured some big-picture themes that are important for understanding the region’s history.

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Compelling but not convincing

Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 by Charles Murray

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think that Murray is basically right, but the book is more a compelling essay than a convincing diagnosis. The amount of evidence is not enough to support the ambitions of the book. One of the weaknesses is taking 1960 as a starting point, 27 years after the beginning of the New Deal, making it difficult to argue that changes since 1960 have propelled us toward a more European model of society. Mostly ignoring the positive and/or negative effects of the New Deal leaves, in my opinion, a significant hole in his argument.

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Online shaming

This post by Patrick at Popehat linked to Jon Ronson’s article about the shaming of Justine Sacco for a careless tweet. I read this a couple of months ago, but thought that I would link to it here as well.

War in the Land of EgyptWar in the Land of Egypt by Yusuf Al-Qa’Id

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A really well-crafted novel with a different narrator in each chapter, telling a story of Egyptian hierarchy, corruption, and bureaucracy at the time of the October War in 1973.

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An introduction to presuppositional apologetics

Always Ready: Directions For Defending The FaithAlways Ready: Directions For Defending The Faith by Greg L. Bahnsen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a clear and forceful case for presuppositional apologetics. Bahnsen wants Christians to stand on the ground of the Bible and show how non-Christian perspectives cannot adequately account for their views about reality. One of the aspects that I really enjoyed about the book is that Bahnsen’s commitment to the Scriptures meant that the Christian must love the person he or she is debating, being characterized not by arrogance but by a “humble boldness.”

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