ISIS Trying to Eliminate Last Christian Speakers of Aramaic, Language That Jesus Spoke

An Iraqi Mandean priest conducts a wedding ceremony for five couples in the ancient Aramaic language on the Tigris river in Baghdad in this undated file photo.
An Iraqi Mandean priest conducts a wedding ceremony for five couples in the ancient Aramaic language on the Tigris river in Baghdad in this undated file photo. | (Photo: Reutuers)

Terror group ISIS has reportedly been trying to eliminate and drive off the last Christian speakers of Aramaic, the ancient language that Jesus Christ spoke.

The Associated Press noted in a report that thousands of people from the ancient Christian communities in Syria, known as Assyrians, have fled the region since February due to attacks by the jihadists.

The terror group kidnapped between 250 to 300 Assyrians, and is asking for $30 million for their freedom, or $100,000 per individual.

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Fleeing from ISIS follows a pattern of mass migration over the past decade, where scores of Assyrians and other Christians have left Iraq and Syria due to persecution by Muslim extremists.

Eden Naby, a Middle East historian and expert on Assyrian culture, told AP that a grave concern in these developments is that Assyrians are some of the last communities in existence who speak Aramaic, and if they are removed from the Middle East, it is unlikely the language will be preserved.

"Assyrians remain the last Aramaic-speaking people of the world. So the disappearance and displacement of these people pretty much spells the closing chapter of Aramaic use in the world," Naby said.

Assyrians trace their roots to the region to 6,500 years ago, and are believed to be among some of the earliest people to convert to Christianity. The first century apostles Thomas, Thaddeus and Bartholomew are said by historians to be among the founders of the Eastern Rite churches, to whom most Assyrians belong to.

Groups of Assyrians are scattered across Lebanon and Turkey as well, but the core of the community has lived in Iraq and Syria. Since the late 1980s, however, their numbers have plunged from close to 1.4 million to an estimated 400,000.

"What we have faced is atrocity after atrocity," said Habib Afram, head of the Syriac League in Lebanon, which represents regional Assyrian issues.

Afram noted that there have been a number of attacks on Assyrians beside the ISIS raid in February in recent years, including the bombing of an Assyrian church in Baghdad in 2010 that killed nearly 60 people.

"They don't want to just take your land or kick you out of your villages; they want to erase your past, your heritage," he added.

ISIS has been engaged strongly with erasing culture and heritage from the cities it has conquered throughout the region.

Back in March, the extremists posted photos documenting their destruction of Christian crosses, statues and icons in the churches in Ninawa, Iraq, and replacing them with their infamous black flags.

"They don't care what it's called; they are just following their ideology and that means getting rid of churches and minorities. It is the Islamic State, and there's no room for anyone else," said MEMRI Director Steven Stalinsky.

"This has been going on for some time, a systematic campaign to rid the region of any vestiges of Christianity."

Previously ISIS also released videos of militants bulldozing and destroying the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq, which was founded in the 13th Century B.C. The jihadists targeted famous statues and archeological treasures, believing them to be "false idols."

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