During an official meeting in Sydney, His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia AM, Metropolitan of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon, has discussed the Assyrian Church of the East and its persecuted Christians, with Hon. Michael Atkinson, state member of parliament for Croydon, South Australia.
On a state visit to NSW, Mr Atkinson attended the offering of the Holy Eucharist at St. Hurmizd Cathedral on the morning of 11 March, during which the Eucharistic Liturgy was offered by the newly ordained priest, Rev. Ninos Elya.
Afterwards, Mr Atkinson made his way to the Archbishopric in Cecil Hills to meet His Beatitude.
Upon meeting, His Beatitude explained the status of the Church and its people in Australia and abroad, and the differences and similarities between the Assyrian Church of the East and sister churches, especially those based in the Middle East.
His Beatitude touched on the language used in the Church, being the Aramaic language, which Christ Himself spoke almost 2000 years ago.
He further went on to explain the hierarchy of the Church, as well as political organisations of the Assyrian nation and the challenges they face, especially in modern-day Iraq. His Beatitude highlighted not only the deaths of so many sons and daughters of the Church and nation, but also the lack of security and safety for those who are surviving there. Furthermore, His Beatitude mentioned the lack of education, employment opportunities and the social aspects of everyday living.
After receiving a detailed explanation of the Church, Mr Atkinson asked about the structure of the Church under the leadership of His Beatitude in Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon. In particular, the topics of educational facilities, administration and learning centres were addressed.
His Beatitude explained the achievements of the Church’s faithful in Sydney, mentioning the Assyrian Schools (collectively SHAPS and MNAC), Grace Childcare, the Early Learning Centre, Youth Associations, and Sydney’s English-speaking Ss. Peter and Paul Parish.
His Beatitude made it clear that the church is striving towards two directions: most importantly it is striving for the youth of the church and nation to work together to build up their spiritual characters as sons and daughters of the faith.
Secondly, His Beatitude mentioned that the Church is also striving for improvements among the community’s aged group. The establishment of the St. Mary Retirement Village was mentioned as an example.
Besides these two goals, the Church in Sydney is also extending a helping hand to our brothers and sisters who are in need in the Middle East, through the Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organisation (ACERO).
During the meeting, discussions were raised on the future of the Assyrian Church of the East and the effect of political changes in the Middle East.
His Beatitude recommended that Mr Atkinson pay a visit to Iraq in order to have a primary idea of the lifestyle being lived by Christians and see the disasters they face day after day.
“Only then can one imagine what the reality of the situation is,” said His Beatitude.