The Aramaic culture is literally intertwined with the culture history of the whole world. The Aramaic people are the heirs of a three thousand year old language, which had been the lingua franca in the Middle East at the time of Jesus, who spoke it himself.
In the Middle East the history of the Aramaic people goes back more than three thousand years, playing a constantly important cultural role. In ancient times the Aramaic language was dominant and outlived empires like the Assyrian.
Although the Aramaic national state has not existed since the seventh century BC, the Aramaic language continued to exist until today in different forms and dialects.
It has been a vehicle of culture and a medium providing the Aramaic people with their identity ever since. We know three important languages of the civilized world in the Middle East: Accadic, Aramaic and Arabic.
Aramaic bridges thousand years between the Accadic of the Assyrians and Arabic
as the dominant language of the region - from 700 BC to 700 AC. It has been
used as an important language in four religions: Judaism, Christianity, Mandaism and Islam.
The main reason for the survival of the Aramaic language: it proved to be a modern effective
medium of communication at historical turning points several times. It became a bearer of new
developments and a language of the people.
This happened after the Assyrians defeated the Aramaics in Mesopotamia in longlasting fights about 700 BC. The Assyrians adopted the modern Aramaic, replacing their old-fashioned Accadic, and made Aramaic the official language of the Assyrian empire for fivehundred years.
It happened again about 300 BC, when Aramaic became the lingua franca in the whole Middle East, replacing Hebrew as peoples' language. So the Aramaic language was dominating at the birthplace of Christianity and became the language of its first preaching.
When Arab became the dominating language in the Middle East -between the seventh and the eighth century AC- Aramaic was spoken in different dialects in the main living places of the Aramaics in the eastern parts of Turkey, in northern parts of Irac and Iran and in parts of Syria.
And -most important- it has been the language of the syriac- orthodox liturgy. So it survived and is still spoken today.
However, this unique language and the immense intellectual and material treasures related to
it are seriously threatened these days due to the exodus of the Aramaic people from their
geographic origins during the twentieth century.
Today the Aramaic people are scattered all over the world. The vast majority of the Aramaic people have been living abroad for decades already where in effect the Aramaic language increasingly loses ground despite the good will of its former bearers.
Tur Abdin - the heartland of the Aramaic language and culture since the birth of Christ - is
reflecting this longlasting dangerous process.
Tur Abdin is part of the thousands of years old cultural landscape of Mesopotamia. Tur Abdin is the place where the Aramaic language has survived
as a living language up to now.
Finally it is the historic site of many important cultural monuments, especially ancient monasteries and churches, the oldest of them built between the fifth and the eighth century.
As a result of the Exodus during the twentieth century only a few thousand Aramaic people are still living in Tur Abdin. Even today there don't exist sufficient conditions for them to live their religion, culture and tradition.
A comprehensive foreign aid to Tur Abdin has to be developed, aiming at the
improvement of economy and agriculture, infrastructure, ecology, education and
health, at the conservation and promotion of Aramaic traditions as well as the syriac-orthodox faith and at the preservation, renovation and maintenance of syriac churches and monasteries.
This would bring about better living conditions for the Aramaic people still living there, prevent a final exodus. This development could open a new dimension for conservation and promotion of the Aramaic cultural heritage. It could contribute to halting the disastrous process of the twentieth century – the ongoing exodus – and to foster even an opposite movement.
At the same time one has to recognise: nearly all the bearer of the Aramaic heritage are scattered all over the world, with bigger groups living in the USA, Australia, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
In the Aramaic community abroad many adults do not speak Aramaic sufficiently anymore.
It is feared that among the coming generation knowledge of the language and cultural habits are going to disappear completely.
Therefore it is most urgent to encourage every possibility to study and speak the Aramaic language as well as to intensify the scientific work on Aramaic.