The Hon. David Clark MLC
St Hurmizd Cathedral
ANZAC Day 25th April
Your Grace, Bishop Mar Meelis Zaia of the Assyrian Church of the East, Distinguished leaders and members of the Assyrian Australian community.
Today the 25th of April ANZAC Day is a day of deep and lasting importance in Australia’s history. It is a day above all others that is marked indelibly, reverently and permanently in the history and consciousness and memory of Australia and the Australian people.
It is that one time of year when Australians of all ages and of all backgrounds and of all persuasions come together to pay honour and homage to the bravery and sacrifice of those who have fought in wars to protect our nations values, freedoms and our way of life.
And only just an hour or two ago thousands of Australians marched through the streets of Sydney in a great procession, a solemn procession. To commemorate this day and what it means.
But also marching today were contingents representing our Allies, representing those who fought with us in the wars to protect our common freedoms. There were Americans, British, Canadians and new Zealanders. And the French were there as well, and they all had one thing in common. In WWI and II they fought on the same side as Australia. They were Allies together because they shared the same values.
And today there was a contingent marching that represented another nation that fought side by side with Australia.
It is a nation that is not as well known and does not get the spotlight as does America or Britain. But was as much our Ally as was America or Britain.
And who were they? Well my friends they were the Assyrians, and when Australians were fighting in WWI, fighting on the same side and fighting beside them were the Assyrians. And when Australians were fighting in WWII the Assyrians were there again.
Fighting side by side with Australia.
Of all of Australia’s Allies, the Assyrian nation was the smallest. But of all of Australia’s Allies the Assyrian nation was the oldest. And it is the oldest of our Allies because Assyria reaches right back to the Ancient world. It goes back to the holy scriptures. It goes back to the days of Babylon the great. And my friends, you can’t go back much further than that.
And our allies the Assyrians didn’t speak French or English. Being an ancient people they spoke an ancient language.
The language was the language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ himself and indeed to Assyrians were the very first people to be converted to the Christian faith and whilst the Assyrians were known in ancient times as leaders in Science, medicine, Architecture and Astronomy.
They were also known for their superior military skills for their military bravery and for their military chivalry, honour and code of conduct.
The story of our Assyrian allies in both world wars is a story that needs to be told. Australians need to know that when our nation was fighting for freedom and democracy that fighting together with us were the Assyrians as well.
Australians need to know that in 1915 when our troops were fighting against Turkey on the beaches of Gallipolli, the Assyrians had also joined the allied cause by declaring war on Turkey as well and in the very same year.
They need to know that right up until 1918 the Assyrians had been continuously victorious against the Turks in some 14 separate engagements in which Assyrian and Turk came face to face.
In fact history shows that the Assyrians were instrumental in keeping Turkey bottled up and contained on the Eastern front right up until the collapse of Russia in 1918.
And when Russia did collapse the Turks turned with savagery upon the Assyrian civilian population decimating and annihilating 2 out of every 3 of the Assyrian people, men, women and children and they did so without mercy and without compassion.
History shows that no other people suffered such annihilation and destruction in proportion to their numbers as did the Assyrians.
That was the price paid by the Assyrians for their loyalty to the Allied cause in WWI.
That is the burden that Assyria has carried up until the present and yet so great was the reputation of the Assyrians and their fighting skills that the British asked them, at the end of WWI to form in Iraq special units known as the “Assyrian Levies” and when the world was plunged into a 2nd world war the Assyrians were again to be found fighting on the side of the Allies, fighting on the side of Australia and fighting on the side of those who believed in freedom and Christian values.
In fact so great was the Assyrian contribution in the 2nd world War that the Assyrian troops, known famously as “the Assyrian Levies” are recognised alongside the British as defeating the Iraqi army which was then fighting with our enemies, and not only did they help bring about the defeat of the Iraqi enemy but Assyrian Parachutists (as part of the British royal Marine Commando’s) fought in Albania and Greece as well and they went on to see active service in Palestine, Lebanon, Italy and Cyprus.
This is why Assyria is proudly recorded in history as an Ally of Australia in 2 world Wars.
This is the bond that brings Australia and the Assyrian people together. This is the bond that has been sanctified by our fighting together for our common beliefs in freedom and democratic values and our shared common heritage of Christianity and Christian humanity.
And today those Assyrian-Australians who took part in that great Anzac march through the streets of Sydney are living testament to that shared bond of allies in the defence of freedom.
Today I uphold honour and exalt the Assyrian people as our allies in 2 world Wars. I acknowledge the leadership of Bishop Mar Meelis Zaia to Assyrian people in Australia, I compliment the continuing good work of Mr Younatin Afarin president of the Assyrian Australian National Fed and Mr Hermez Shahen representing the Assyrian Universal Alliance in Australia and on this 90th anniversary of Anzac Day I pay special tribute of Mr Gabriel Kiwarkis, President of the Assyrian RAF Levies Association for his research and efforts in highlighting Assyrian and Australian shared bonds in the time of War.
I endorse and pledge my support to his campaign to have Assyrian’s contribution permanently recognised at Australia’s National War memorial in Canberra.
I know that my parliamentary colleague the Hon Charlie Lyn is working to assist Mr Kiwarkis in making that aim turn into a reality and in the Hon Charlie Lynn with his background as a returned ex-serviceman and his national recognition as an advocate of memorialising Australian efforts in time of war you couldn’t have a better person to be behind you.
And today my friends, Australian and Assyrian war dead that are now in the beatific presence of our Heavenly Father would be looking down on the Anzac commemoration throughout our nation and they would be well contented and they would be well pleased.
And in a special way those Assyrians who gave up their lives in those 2 World Wars either as civilians or servicemen would be pleased to see this gathering, this assembly of Assyrians who have come together to remember them and to never let their memory and sacrifice fade away.
And in this 3rd millennium in this year of 2005, Australians and Assyrians find themselves continuing as allies and now facing new dangers and new common enemies. Together we face an enemy that comes in the guise of religious extremism, an enemy that seeks to convert and conquer by use of the sword, an enemy that poses a threat to our Christian way and life and to our very existence.
But my friends just as Assyrians and Australians have overcome common enemies in the past so also we will overcome those dangers that presently confront us now and with that promise we know hell will never prevail.
Our Heavenly Father has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against us and with that heavenly promise we know with certainty that they surely never will.
My wife and I are deeply honoured to be associated with good people on this day of remembrance.