DETROIT, MI – On January 8th and 9th, 2011, youth delegates from across the United States, Canada, and Europe met in Detroit for the Black March Movement’s Inaugural Global Youth Conference. The Conference represented a revolutionary and unprecedented step for the Assyrian diaspora as youths representing various diaspora communities, organizations, and religious sects [including the Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the Syriac Catholic Church] came together to begin connecting the diaspora and to outline the Movement’s goals while stressing and reiterating the theme of unity expressed by the agreement of the Assyrian political parties in Erbil, Iraq.
The Conference included speeches by experts in various fields, discussing topics such as the current political situation in Iraq, the current status of Christian Assyrians in Iraq and their perils, diaspora advocacy, an economic solution, and the importance of transparency. André N. Anton’s film, Defying Deletion, a documentary about Assyrian persecution in Iraq that focuses on their plight since the U.S. led invasion in 2003, was also privately screened.
Furthermore, the Conference included workshops discussing the diaspora communities represented, obstacles to unity, and various other themes. Finally, the Conference concluded with the outlining of five goals for the Black March Movement and the youth of the Assyrian diaspora:
- to connect and strengthen the international diaspora
- to develop a vehicle for economic investment and growth in the Nineveh Plains
- to create a framework to collaborate on advocacy efforts worldwide
- to preserve our culture and language in the diaspora; and
- to create lasting ties to our ancestral homeland
“The Conference was a success and a remarkable step forward for the Assyrian Diaspora as we face dark and turbulent times in our homeland. It is imperative that the diaspora begin to organize and work together, regardless of religious sect, in order to not only ensure our survival, but our prosperity, both in the diaspora and in our ancestral homeland. This onus falls on the shoulders of our youth and this conference saw the youth accept this challenge with open arms,” said Wisam Naoum, a youth community leader in Detroit and student at the University of Michigan Law School.
Leaving Detroit with a pact to continue to work together, the delegates agreed to participate in another conference which would take place tentatively in the late summer of 2011 in Germany with multiple teleconferences to occur in the run-up to this conference. In the interim, the delegates will present the results of the conference to their communities for discussion and begin to organize in anticipation of the next conference. Video of the Conference and major talking points will be released soon.
The Assyrian people are facing the loss of their ancestral homeland, a land they have occupied since the great Sumerian and Aramaean city-states, and the Akkadian, Assyrian, and Babylonian empires. This, in conjunction with the assimilation process in the diaspora and the pervasiveness of religious divisions, threatens to drive the world’s oldest civilization to extinction. Steps must be taken to reverse this trend and the first step has been taken.