His Grace Mar Awa Royel, Bishop of California and Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East, has delivered the keynote address at the annual Christianity in Iraq Seminar Day held in London.
The seminar, on 28 May, was presented by the Centre of Eastern and Orthodox Christianity, Department for the Study of Religions, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, in conjunction with the British Institute for the Study of Iraq and the Jerusalem and Middle Eastern Churches Association.
The Christianity in Iraq Seminar Day this year focused on the Christian library from Turfan and the æmother churchÆ in Mesopotamia. Between 1902-1914 the German Turfan Expedition unearthed a library at the monastery site of Bulayiq in Turfan (north-west China) that yielded over 1000 Syriac, Christian Soghdian and Christian Uighur manuscript fragments written in the Syriac script. This material remains preserved in various locations throughout Germany.
The range of discovered literature, dated between the 9th and 14th centuries demonstrates that Turfan was an important outpost of the Church of the EastÆs legendary missionary enterprise. Amongst the discovered manuscripts were Christian Soghdian translations from the Peshitta, hymns, psalms and importantly, several Hudras (liturgical cycles) that are dated to the 9th or 10th centuries.
Four papers exploring the manuscript discoveries were delivered by Syriac scholars, Dr. Erica C.D. Hunter (SOAS), Prof. Peter Zieme (Berlin), Dr. Mark Dickens (SOAS) and Prof. Nicholas Sims-Williams (SOAS). His Grace Mar AwaÆs keynote presentation addressed the importance and impact of the liturgical texts from Turfan on the liturgy today.
His Grace Mar Awa holds a BA from Loyola University in Chicago (1997), a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein (1999) and a Licentiate of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Oriental University in Rome. In 2007 His Grace took a PhD in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Oriental University in Rome.[nggallery id=207]