The genocide carried out by the Islamic State group (ISIS) has sought to wipe out the Christian peoples of Syria and Iraq from their ancient homelands, but also to destroy the historical identity of the survivors.
Hundreds of ancient Christian monasteries, churches and cemeteries have been leveled and countless manuscripts burned and lost to future generations. Even as it loses its grip on territory with battlefield loses, ISIS has committed military-grade munitions and bulldozers to destroy ancient Assyrian sites such as Nineveh or demolish the famous ruins of Palmyra, once the center of an Aramaean empire that challenged Rome.
But while the miracle of 3-D printing gives hope that even these artifacts, such as Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph or Nineveh’s famous lamassu (huge granite winged bulls), may be restored from the shards and pulverized dust of their originals, the Bible’s most ancient living witnesses — the Aramaic and Assyrian peoples — are completely irreplaceable, and their survival is a matter of grave urgency.
“We are a people on the brink of extinction,” Juliana Taimoorazy, a Chaldean Catholic and ethnic Assyrian, told the Register.
Taimoorazy, the executive director and founder of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, said Assyrians in Syria and Iraq are caught on the one hand between ethnic and religious cleansing in their ancestral lands by Islamic militants, and assimilation into the West on the other hand, if they are extracted from their homelands and not given the tools they need to sustain their language, culture and identity.