If you were to ask 10 different Assyrians about the population of Assyrians around the world, you would probably get 10
different varying answers. And it is likely that none of the answers would be accurate enough. And we can’t blame any of them for such a discrepancy, since there has been no worldwide effort made at counting the true Assyrian population.
For starters, it all depends on how you count and who you are including etc. For example, do you include Assyrians from all church affiliations, including those who don’t admit to their Assyrian ethnicity? Once you have a criteria in place for who should be counted, you then move to the actual step of counting the population. But how do you count them? Even after agreeing on a criteria on who should be included, what is the methodology?
Say hello to ‘crowd-sourcing’, a new phenomenon that is revolutionizing the way we work and interact across cultures and continents. So what is this fancy word and how can it help Assyrians in counting their population accurately? it is simply a process that involves outsourcing tasks to a distributed group of people, for an eventual and unified common goal. In this case, you would leverage the power of online users for the task of counting the population of all Assyrians worldwide.
Given the power of internet and crowd-sourcing, this could be one project we can all work on together. Here is how:
Different people from different cities can volunteer to represent their cities and regions for this project (where significant and large Assyrian populations live) These volunteers will go to their local churches or even social clubs and try to get figures of how many registered members/families/individuals they have. Then we can all add up these figures. For example, the Assyrian church of the East, here in Toronto, has about 1200 registered families in their database. Assuming every family is 4 individuals, that means we have close to 5000 Assyrians going to this church. That would be a good start. Then you have to account for those who are not registered or go to a different church and so on. To make this project more accurate and successful, it would help if the volunteers or at least some of them had a good background in statistics and census-counting.
To ensure accuracy and proper oversight of the data collected, there has to be a central database to gather, manage and tabulate all the data coming from different sources. There would also have to be a system of ‘double checks’ to ensure the data being gathered is as accurate as possible. Slowly but collectively, using the power of online crowd-sourcing, we can come up with a better number and more accurate number.
In addition to some of the issues already mentioned at the top, there would surely be other obstacles facing such a massive project. For one, how do you account for regions that are sparsely populated by Assyrians (less than 100 people)? Another is the issue of getting conflicting numbers from different sources and trying to consolidate them. For example, the church in a certain city may give out one number while a popular social club in the same city may give out a totally different number, even though it is a known fact that the two entities are attended by mostly the same members. This is where more research is needed to reach an accurate figure.
A project to count or estimate the true worldwide Assyrian population would take more than a few weeks or even months to conclude. It could possibly take years, until all efforts have been exhausted to get to every region and center where Assyrians live. And even when that has been done, double or even triple checks have to be done.
Once a good number has been reached, what can we do with such a number and data? To some, it may not be worth all this effort just to get to one number. But in reality, such a number will be of vast importance to Assyrians, for many reasons and implications. To start, it could help their case politically, arguing that Assyrians are not a small minority, but one that numbers in the millions. The bigger the number the more weight it bears on the UN and other humanitarian and political agencies. It would also help us culturally in that it could increase worldwide efforts to save our language and heritage. And last but not least, it is important for us Assyrians. To have a good idea how many Assyrians there are in the world, it will increase our own passion and awareness of our nation and drive the idea that the Assyrian population, despite all the genocides committed against it, has risen again and is alive and well.