The power of a united Assyrian community was realised on Assyrian Martyrs Day, which was commemorated by the official unveiling of the Assyrian Genocide Monument in Bonnyrigg Heights, Sydney on Saturday 7th August 2010.
The monument, the first of its kind for the worldwide Assyrian community, was officially approved by the Fairfield City council on December 15, 2009 and sponsored by the Assyrian Universal Alliance in honour of the 750,000 Assyrians who perished through orchestrated massacres and deportations in southeast Turkey in 1914 and following years of World War 1.
The unveiling was witnessed by more than 2000 Australian and Assyrian community members at a passionate and patriotic ceremony, opened with a smoking ceremony by Aboriginal elders and marked with a one-minute silence of respect for the fallen.
His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia, Metropolitan of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East in Australia and New Zealand, praised the passion of the present generations while leading a prayer for all those who had lost their lives in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
“Bless all this world so that it may comprehend Your will, compassion and Your son’s sacrifice. So through Him we can learn how to live, perfecting Your rule in our lives,” prayed His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia.
“Bless this monument, bless this assembly, bless this nation and protect our country Australia and its people. May this blessed land on which we stand become a beacon of hope, peace and harmony for the rest of the world.
“Heavenly Father, forgive our sins of the past and guide us through the present time so that we may call upon You in our hour of need and You will answer.
“Let us not live with hardened hearts so that our children are not paying for the sins of their fathers but that they may have peace in the land in which they live.
“We ask that You may bestow Your loving kindness to those who gave their lives for the greater good and looked upon the promise of future generations and though they did not see them in the flesh, they welcomed them from afar. May our Assyrian martyrs find rest for their souls in the power of the present.”
Deputy secretary general of the Assyrian Universal Alliance and host of the event, Mr Hermiz Shahen, expressed his appreciation to the honourable members of the Australian parliament that made time to attend the unveiling of the extraordinary monument.
“This is a significant event in the life of our nation and our communities in Australia and abroad – communities that have been established as a direct result of continuous assaults on the Assyrian nation,” he said.
Designed by artist Lewis Batros, the sculpture stands 4.5 metres high and features a hand, holding the planet earth and draped in the Assyrian flag. Figures of young children come together at the base, symbolising the faith in the younger generation to carry the torch for the future of the Assyrian nation.
Mr Shahen added that the monument is a memorial to the Assyrians and all other martyrs in genocidal episodes throughout history that were effectively uprooted and removed from their historic lands.
“The hand of the Assyrian martyrs extends a message of love, peace and appreciation to the many Australians who contributed generously to help the displaced families from World War I by donating supplies and financial assistance through their charitable organisations to help the victims of this Assyrian, Armenian and Greek genocide.”
Mr Sabri Atman, founder and director of the Assyrian Seyfo Centre in Sweden, said the sons and daughters of the Assyrian martyrs and freedom loving people of the world have succeeded their enemies.
“Genocide is a hideous crime. Our children and grandchildren will never forget our forefathers and the trials witnessed by our ancestors. The day will come when the children of Assyria will have a place of their own that they can call homeland again,” said Mr Atman, adding that the near future will see similar monuments erected in Europe and the United States.
Speeches were also made by Mr Nick Lalich MP, State member for Cabramatta and Mayor for Fairfield City; Dr Panayiotis Diamandis, secretary, Australian Hellenic Council (NSW); NSW Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, representing the leader of the Opposition, The Hon. Tony Abbott MHR; The Hon. Joe Tripodi MP, State member for Fairfield; Mr Victor Dominello MP, representing the leader of the Opposition, Mr Barry O’Farrell MP; The Hon. Amanda Fazio MLC, President of the Legislative Council of NSW; and The Hon. Reverend Fred Nile MLC, leader of the Christian Democratic Party.
Performances included Deacon Oliver Slewa and students of the Diqlat School singing “The Assyrian Nation”; a poem by world-renowned Assyrian poet and activist Ninos Aho from the USA; and the song “Simele” by Australian-Assyrian singer George Homeh.[nggallery id=31]