Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
1 April 2019
Greg Kandra

Chorbishop Benyamin Beth Yadgar meets with members of the Assyro-Chaldean community in Tbilisi. (photo: Zviad Rostiashvili)

In the March 2019 edition of ONE, Chorbishop Benyamin Beth Yadgar writes of his ministry to the Assyro-Chaldean community in Tbilisi, Georgia:

Most of the Assyrians and Chaldeans living in Georgia are descendants of refugees from Iran. They came to Georgia at the beginning of the last century, as life had become very difficult for them. People died of hunger, exposure, and unbearably difficult conditions. In spite of the obstacles, however, thousands of refugees managed to reach Transcaucasia. I know how important faith was for them. My long suffering people proved it with their lives and sacrifices.

In the life of every Assyrian and Chaldean, wherever they find themselves, no matter what fate has thrown at them, there has always been something unshakable. These strong people resisted pressure, oppression, violence, cruelty and injustice. And what made them survive, what enabled them to endure, was something far stronger than a sense of national self-preservation. It was — and it remains — their Christian faith.

They have prevailed because of the Gospel.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Assyrians and Chaldeans in the revived and independent Georgia were grateful to live in a country with deep Christian traditions, and they gradually regained hope for a peaceful existence. But these hopes were sobered by the realities and results of life after 70 years of Soviet rule, during which society was in a severe informational vacuum. At that time taboos and prohibitions were an integral part of life. These extended to all spheres of social and state activity, including the practice of religion.

Information about religion was scarce and, in most cases, unreliable. While the Communist Party no longer openly persecuted the church, it mocked clergy and actively discouraged religion and the practice of faith. Decades of this numbing activity made clear the priority of our mission: to reaffirm, reassure and support those holding on to their Christian faith. We learned that it was vital to hold frequent meetings, conversations on religious topics and to help explain Christian doctrine, so that the faith did not remain something distant or merely a part of history. And so we began working to make Christianity an integral party of daily life — a code of conduct, a way of living rooted in love.

The primary objective for our mission has always been, and will continue to be, to live and witness the teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ, through Scripture; we draw together communities for the celebration of sacraments and feast days; we foster love and charity among the people; we teach the faith, ethics and morals of the church; and we support the practice and preservation of our cultural heritage.

Read more in his Letter from Georgia.

Tags: Georgia Chaldeans Assyrian Church