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Mar Shimon's Legendary Visit to Baghdad
By: Ashur Sada. March. 25, 2005

Mar Shimon, the revolutionary and religious leader of the Assyrian Church of the East, recorded one major and important highlight in his life, that was already full with great national and religious achievements. This was the time he visited his homeland in Betnahrain. As the tradition has been set, the Assyrian church of the East set the United States as a major base for its operations. Mar Shimon traveled to Baghdad, Iraq from San Francisco to represent the Assyrians to the then president of Iraq Ahmad Hassan Al Bakar. The visit was also considered as a routine visit by the patriarch to Betnahrain, where millions of Assyrians lived then.

On the morning of that day in 1970, Mar Shimon's plane landed in Baghdad and waiting for him was the president and literally thousands of people, including Assyrians, Arabs, Kurds and many more. The people were not only different in their ethnic backgrounds but religion as well-Christians and Muslims were in reception. The man was well-known and respected much like today's Pope of the Catholics. He was not only known to Iraq but to the entire region and the Middle East in general.


Mar Shimon was welcomed by the president and his staff once he got off the plane. Then and in a very powerful witness to Mar Shimon's greatness, the Iraqi president acknowledged Mar Shimon that "these people are all yours..." after seeing the great masses waiting for his holiness. Mar Shimon was generous enough to reply "no Mr. Bakar, these people are all yours, and I am just happy that they are out here to welcome me..." The crew including the president and Mar Shimon left the airport and for many miles, many people could be seen waiting to see the Assyrian patriarch. Some of them waiting for hours.

Mar Shimon visited all major Iraqi cities both in the north and south especially those with concentrated Assyrian populations such as Nineveh, Basra, and the capital Baghdad where he landed. Thousands of Assyrians had finally made their wish come true-to see the great Mar Shimon who was not just a religious leader to them- but a political one as well. After that historic visit, the Iraqi government gave more recognition to Assyrians and were now able to put the word "Assyrian" as their major ethnic denomination, and my own grand father had the privilege of carrying this title on his own ID card.

Narrated: Benjamin Toma
Translated: Ashur Sada



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