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10 Facts About Assyrian Christians From History to Everyday Life

By    |   Monday, 11 May 2015 10:00 AM

Assyrian Christians are an ancient race of people hailing from an area around modern northern Iraq. They are ethnically distinct from the other Semitic tribes of Jews and Arabs. Assyrian Christians converted to Christianity in the first century.

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Here are 10 interesting facts about Assyrian Christians:

1. Assyrian Christians trace their beginnings to three Apostles of Christ, St. Thomas, St. Thaddeus, and St. Bartholomew, who founded the church in ancient Mesopotamia. Subsequently, the church spread along the routes of Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

2. Syriac is the official language of Assyrian Christians, though Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ, is still used by some members.

3. Assyrian Christians belong to three separate churches. The majority follow the Chaldean Catholic Church of Babylon, others the Syriac Orthodox Church, with the rest belonging to the Assyrian Church of the East.

4. There are seven sacraments common to Assyrian Christian beliefs. These are priesthood, baptism, the oil of the Apostles, Eucharist, Absolution, Holy Leaven, and the Sign of the Cross.

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5. The Assyrian Empire was a major power in the ancient Middle East and was composed of parts of modern Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Turkey. It existed as an independent state from 2500 B.C. to 605 B.C.

6. Persecution has been part of Assyrian Christian’s lives for centuries, including genocide under the Ottomans during World War I and even today, from groups such as ISIS. Assyrian Martyrs Day is on Aug. 7.

7. Assyrian Christians mark Lent by 40 days of abstinence from dairy products and meats.

8. Though Assyrian Christians mark all the major religious festivals, Easter is seen as the most important one and is called "The Big Holiday," while Christmas is called "The Small Holiday."

9. The Assyrian Christian New Year is observed on March 21.

10. There are between three and four million Assyrian Christians in the world, with the majority living in the ancient homeland stretching across Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

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